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Chapter 11: Business Report Basics

Informational reports
Informational reports focus on facts and are intended mainly to educate (inform) readers, so they contain no analysis or recommendations.
Analytical reports
Analytical reports provide data analyses, interpretation, and conclusions, so information plays a supporting role (as a means to an end rather than as an end itself).
Report Formats
1. Letter format
2. Memo format
3. Manuscript format
4. Printed forms
5. Digital format
Use the Direct Pattern when:
– Readers are informed
– Readers are supportive
– Readers are eager to have results first
Use the Indirect Pattern when:
– Readers need to be educated
– Readers need to be persuaded
– Readers may be hostile or disappointed
The Writing Process
– Analyze the problem and purpose.
– Anticipate the audience and issues.
– Prepare a work plan.
– Implement your research strategy.
– Organize, analyze, interpret, illustrate the data.
– Compose the first draft.
– Revise, proofread, and evaluate.
Define the Problem
What needs to be determined?
Why is this issue important?
Who is involved in the situation?
Where is the trouble located?
How did the situation originate?
When did it start?
Define Your Purpose
Your statement of purpose:
Should be as specific as possible
Should be double-checked with the person who authorized the report
Can be used as the basis for your preliminary outline
Creating a Working Outline
Think of it as a working draft that you will revise and modify as you go along
Use the same grammatical form for outline headings of the same level
Choose whether to use descriptive (topical) headings or informative (talking) headings
Work Plan for Reports
1. A statement of the problem.
2. A statement of the purpose and scope of your investigation.
3. A discussion of tasks to be accomplished
4. A description of any products that will result from your investigation.
5. A review of project assignments, schedules, and resource requirements.
6. Plans for following up after delivering the report
7. A working outline
Researching for Reports
When looking for secondary information, you’ll find:
Reference librarians are a helpful resource.
Business books are less timely than journals, but they provide in-depth coverage.
Electronic databases offer a large amount of articles.
Newspapers may be found in the library, in a database, or on the Internet.
Periodicals include popular magazines, trade and academic journals, and business magazines.
Almanacs and statistical sources provide facts and statistics about countries, politics, the labor force, population patterns, and so on.
Government publications offer information on law, court decisions, current population patterns, and business trends.
Five methods of collecting primary information:
Examining documents
Making observations
Conducting experiments
Surveying people
Conducting interviews
Good interviews have:
An opening that establishes rapport with the interviewee and orients the person to the rest of the session
A body that is used for asking questions
A close that summarizes the outcome, previews what will come next, and underscores the rapport that has been established
Visual aides:
Convey important ideas
Help audiences understand your message
Make your report more interesting
When preparing a table, be careful to:
Use common, understandable units and clearly identify them
Express all items in a column in the same unit (rounding for simplicity)
Label column heads clearly (using a subhead if necessary)
Separate columns or rows with lines or extra space so that the table is easy to follow
Provide column or row totals or averages when relevant
Document the source of the data below the table
Bar Charts
Bar charts may be vertical, horizontal, grouped, or segmented. Avoid showing too much information, thus producing clutter and confusion.
Keep all the bars the same width
Space the bars evenly
Place the bars in logical order
Use spreadsheet programs to create charts from tables
Dollars or percentages should start at zero.
Pie Graphs
Generally begin at the 12 o’clock position, drawing the largest wedge first.
Include, if possible, the actual percentage or absolute value for each wedge.
Use four to eight segments for best results; if necessary, group small portions into one wedge called “Other.”
Distinguish wedges with color, shading, or crosshatching.
Keep all labels horizontal
When referring to visuals in text, be sure to:
Introduce each visual before it appears
Emphasize the main point of the visual without simply repeating the data already shown in it
Reasons for crediting sources:
Strengthens your argument
Gives you protection
Instructs readers
Learning what to document
Another person’s ideas, opinions, examples, or theory
Any facts, statistics, graphs, and drawings that are not common knowledge
Quotations of another person’s actual spoken or written words
Paraphrases of another person’s spoken or written words
Good paraphrasing
Is shorter than the original text
Is presented in your own words
Doesn’t alter or distort the meaning of original text

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