Formal Reports as Problem-Solving Documents: Criteria & Standards

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  • 0:01 Formal Reports
  • 1:09 Types of Reports
  • 3:27 Standards
  • 5:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

How do organizations solve problems and evaluate solutions? In this lesson, we'll examine the role of formal reports in organizational problem-solving, including the three major types of formal reports and the criteria for a great formal report.

Formal Reports

Haru is confused. He has to write a report for his clients, comparing three different ways of saving their company money and choosing the best one. He's heard that reports can be either informal or formal and that there are different types of both informal and formal reports. Which one is he supposed to be writing?

Haru is probably going to want to write a formal report, or a paper that compares options or evaluates solutions to a problem. Formal reports are usually written for someone outside of the writer's organization, like Haru writing for his client. If Haru were writing a report for his boss or a close coworker, it would likely be an informal report.

Formal reports use specific criteria to judge and figure out the best possible option for an organization. In this way, they are about solving problems by choosing the best product, program, or solution.

To understand how formal reports solve problems better, and to help Haru write his, let's look closer at the types of formal reports and standards for how to judge a formal report.

Types of Reports

Haru's client has come up with three possible money-saving options, and he has to evaluate them and write a report, detailing which one is the best option. He knows that he needs to write a formal report, but he's not sure what specific type of formal report he should be writing.

There are three main types of formal reports. The first is an evaluation report. An evaluation report judges a program or product by set criteria to determine whether or not it is effective. It attempts to answer the question: 'Is this product or program good?' For example, if Haru's client already had a money-saving program in place, Haru might write an evaluation report after six months or a year to judge whether the program was actually saving the company money or not.

But that's not the case for Haru; his client doesn't have a program in place for him to evaluate, so he needs a different type of formal report. Another type of formal report is a feasibility report, which judges whether a product or project is possible, given certain constraints. These constraints may be financial, environmental, legal, or practical. It tries to answer the question: 'Is this product or program feasible?' Hence, it is called a feasibility report.

Evaluation and feasibility reports are similar, but an evaluation report judges a solution based on its past record, whereas a feasibility report judges it based on what the future might hold for it. For example, if his client wanted to put into place a specific money-saving program, Haru might be asked to write a feasibility report to evaluate how difficult it would be to implement the program and if it is possible and worth it to do so.

Again, though, that's not what Haru is being asked to do. His client hasn't chosen a program yet, so he can't try to judge whether the program is feasible. The third type of formal report is a recommendation report, which compares two or more options and chooses the best one, based on criteria. It attempts to answer the question: 'Which option should be chosen?'

This seems like the right report for Haru. After all, he's being asked to compare three different money-saving programs and make a recommendation on which one should be chosen. That's exactly what a recommendation report does!


Okay, Haru has figured out which type of report to write. But he wants to make sure that his report is great. How can he do that? What standards should be met to make sure that a report is well written?

There are certain things that all great formal reports have in common. They are:

1. Engaging

Sure, Haru can write in a fun and interesting way. But he also needs to engage his readers by making sure they understand why the report is important. This is often done in the introduction by carefully outlining the nature of the problem, the importance of the problem, and how the report will address the problem.

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