A report is a document designed to record and convey information to the reader. Reports are part of any business or organization; from credit reports to police reports, they serve to document specific information for specific audiences, goals, or functions.
The type of report is often identified by its primary purpose or function, as in an accident report, a laboratory report, a sales report, or even a book report. Reports are often analytical, or involve the rational analysis of information. Sometimes they simply "report the facts" with no analysis at all, but they still need to communicate the information in a clear and concise format.
Other reports summarize past events, present current data, and forecast future trends. While a report may have conclusions, propositions, or even a call to action, the demonstration of the analysis is the primary function.
EXAMPLEA sales report is not designed to make an individual sale. It is, however, supposed to report sales to date, and may forecast future sales based on previous trends.
There are two main categories of reports, regardless of their specific function or type. First, an informational report informs or instructs and presents details of events, activities, individuals, or conditions without analysis.
An example of this type of "just the facts" report is a police accident report. The report will note the time, date, place, contributing factors like weather, and identification information for the drivers involved in an automobile accident.
It does not, however, establish fault or include judgmental statements. You should not see "Driver was falling down drunk" in a police accident report. Instead, you would see "Driver failed sobriety tests and breathalyzer test and was transported to the station for a blood sample." The police officer is not a trained medical doctor and is therefore not licensed to make definitive diagnoses, but can collect and present relevant information that may contribute to a diagnosis.
The second type of report is called an analytical report. An analytical report presents information with a comprehensive analysis to solve problems, demonstrate relationships, or make recommendations.
An example of this report may be a field report by a Center for Disease Control (CDC) physician from the site of an outbreak of the H1N1 virus, noting symptoms, disease progression, steps taken to arrest the spread of the disease, and recommendations on the treatment and quarantine of subjects.
The following table includes common reports that, depending on the audience needs, may be informational or analytical.
|Laboratory Report||Communicate the procedures and results of laboratory activities.|
|Research Report||Study problems scientifically by developing hypotheses, collecting data, analyzing data, and indicating findings or conclusions.|
|Field Study Report||Describe one-time events, such as trips, conferences, seminars, as well as reports from branch offices and industrial and manufacturing plants.|
|Progress Report||Monitor and control production, sales, shipping, service, or a related business process.|
|Technical Report||Communicate process and product from a technical perspective.|
|Financial Report||Communicate status and trends from a finance perspective.|
|Case Study||Represent, analyze, and present lessons learned from a specific case or example.|
|Needs Assessment Report||Assess the need for a service or product.|
|Comparative Advantage Report||Discuss competing products or services with an analysis of relative advantages and disadvantages.|
|Feasibility Study||Analyze problems and predict whether current solutions or alternatives will be practical, advisable, or produce the desired outcome(s).|
|Instruction Manuals||Communicate step-by-step instructions on the use of a product or service.|
|Compliance Report||Document and indicate the extent to which a product or service is within established compliance parameters or standards.|
|Cost-Benefit Analysis Report||Communicate costs and benefits of products or services.|
|Decision Report||Make recommendations to management and suggest tools to solve problems and make decisions.|
|Benchmark Report||Establish criteria and evaluate alternatives by measuring them against the established benchmark criteria.|
|Examination Report||Report or record data obtained from an examination of an item or conditions, including accidents and natural disasters.|
|Physical Description Report||Describe the physical characteristics of a machine, device, or object.|
|Literature Review||Present summaries of the information available on a given subject.|
Reports vary by size, format, and function. You need to be flexible and adjust to the needs of the audience while respecting customs and guidelines.
Reports are typically organized around six key elements:
While there is no universal format for a report, there is a common order to the information. Each element supports the main purpose or function in its own way, playing an important role in the representation and transmission of information.
Here is a checklist for ensuring that a report fulfills its goals:
Source: This content has been adapted from Lumen Learning's "Report" tutorial.