Preparing Your Recommendation Report
Here is a list of what you need to include, in the order they should appear. This is NOT a prioritized list!
- Front Matter (the material which precedes the body of the report)
Front matter traditionally has been numbered with lower-case Roman numerals. That isn’t necessary, but it should be clear that front matter isn’t part of the body. You may also number the front matter 1.1, 1.2, etc. (Many reports have more front matter than you are going to provide here.)
- Letter of transmittal. This is a document which accompanies the report. Technically, it isn’t part of the report, yet no formal report ever is issued without one. (Online, it may be an e-mail with the report as an attachment.) Do NOT count this page when assigning numbers, since it is not part of the report.
Like all correspondence, it should have three sections: an introduction, letting the reader know what is attached, a message, in this case a very brief summary of the report, and an offer to answer questions.
- Title page. This page must have the title, of course. The title should be transparent (in other words, it should fit the subject of the report). No creativity is needed or wanted in this!
The title page also should list the person to whom the report was submitted (or for whom it was prepared), who submitted (or prepared) it, the date it was due or submitted, and lastly, a one-sentence summary of the report. This last piece is called the “abstract” and should go at the bottom of the title page.
The title page is part of the report, but don’t give it a number or count it when assigning page numbers. It is easiest to make the letter and title page a separate file from the rest of the report, one without page numbers. Then your pages will be numbered correctly.
- Table of Contents. This should list each section of your report, beginning with the executive summary, and continuing through the body of the report and any end matter.
- Executive Summary. This is a summary of the entire report which should list all the main points. In real workplace reports, this can be a challenge, for the summary is never more than one page long.
Note: it is not the “Executive Summery,” which implies warm weather.
- Report Body (or the actual substance of your report. For this class, it should be at least five pages in length.)
I can’t prescribe a certain way to break this up. Just please remember that a distracted reader won’t be likely to read page after page without something to divide it up. The main purpose of breaking up text is to make it easier for the reader. Anything that goes over a page and a half or so should be its own section. (This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but an approximation.) The way most reports develop:
- (In other words, why is this recommendation being made?) This may not be an actual section, or it may be. It may be labelled something else. However, it’s important to start off with a clear statement of why someone is being asked to spend his or her time reading this material. What is the problem, and (if applicable), how did it come to be a problem?
- What solutions are possible? Which are you recommending? Make it clear why you feel you have the best one.
- This may be as simple as saying “I called several firms and spoke to their sales departments to learn the prices.” It also may be very complicated, laying out just what tests or experiments were conducted, how, and why. This latter isn’t very likely for most of the reports people write in an introductory course, however, and usually the brief mention of what was done is enough.
Data. What were the results of the research? Again, this might be a few prices or other simple things for comparison, or it could be a compilation of answers from a survey questionnaire given to many people. In the latter case, there is more to discuss, and more likelihood that it would need its own section.
- Interpretation of data. This is where you would explain your results to the reader. It could be very simple or very complicated, depending upon what you are recommending and to whom. An engineer will probably grasp another engineer’s information quickly, even from another field; an accountant, a lawyer, a teacher or a shopkeeper might not.
- Recommendation. This is where you state your recommendation in full. You’ve given the summarized version of it already, and the results of your data should be able to speak for themselves, but people don’t read in a straight line. It’s necessary to have sections people can read as they need to, and one labelled as the recommendation is the closest thing to a mandatory section I can think of. Some people might provide a different heading, but the final section of the body must make the recommendation. It also should provide a brief summary of the report—not to cover all the points, but so the “jumping around” reader will see that the recommendation really does relate to everything else in the report.
III. End Matter (Things which follow your body)
I don’t require end matter for your report, except if logic demands it. Some reports do need it. In books, end matter can take many forms, but for your reports, two kinds are conceivable:
- If you cite from three or more sources in your report, you should provide a reference page (a citation page). I don’t care which format you use, MLA, APA, or anything else. Just be consistent. This page should be after the end of the body, numbered as the next page—if your report ends on page 8, the references would begin on page 9.
- An ppendix is, literally, something hung on the end of something else. In a report of the nature that you’re writing, an appendix is a little section of information possibly of interest to someone, but not to the primary reader of your report.
In othe words, if the primary read is likely to be interested in it, don’t put it in an appendix. If a secondary reader, or one reader of a group, will be interested, the appendix is helpful by removing that information and placing it in a special section at the end. This way the body is more streamlined for other readers, but the person who wants this information can find it easily.
You might use an appendix if the actual collection of your data would distract your primary ready—supposing that you distributed a questionnaire among students here on campus and got 100 responses, the main reader might want to know the overall results, but not really care about the comments five or six people wrote extra. Those comments, if relevant, could go into an appendix.
Or if you wanted to show the results of using a program, you could put the results in an appendix (as the “Court” writer did to show how ProText succeeded in reducing the size of the needed records).