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Writing a Business Report: Structure & Examples

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  • 0:00 Writing a Business Report
  • 0:53 Parts of a Business Report
  • 4:25 Informational Reports
  • 5:41 Analytical Reports
  • 6:46 The Writing Process
  • 7:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lucinda Stanley

Lucinda has taught business and information technology and has a PhD in Education.

In this lesson, you will learn why businesses need reports, what the parts of a typical business report are, some types of reports that may be needed, and a simple process for writing a business report.

Writing a Business Report

Do you panic at the thought of writing a business report? If you feel yourself panicking, just remember the immortal words of Joe Friday from the TV show Dragnet: 'Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts.' Business reports are all about the facts. And with an ample supply of data, the reports will pretty much write themselves.

A business report is a written document that provides information, and sometimes analysis, to assist a business in making informed decisions. The main purpose of a business report is to make data that is relevant to the company, such as information regarding efficiency, competition, or procedures, easily available to everyone in the company. The report needs to make this data easy for the reader to understand. The best way to do that is to have clearly defined sections with labels and headings.

Parts of a Business Report

Let's say Michael wanted to share with his principal information he has accumulated regarding best practices for teaching Latin. He could write a business report which may include some of the following fairly standard sections:

Executive Summary

Michael would likely start his report with an executive summary. Think of it as the Cliff's Notes of the business report. Michael would summarize the main points of the report, such as the report topic, the data obtained, the data analysis methods, and recommendations based on the data. The summary could be as short as a paragraph or as long as four pages, depending on the length of the full report. If Michael's principal is short on time, Michael would provide the executive summary to him so that he doesn't have to read the entire report. While the executive summary comes first in a report, it is written after the main part of the report has been written.

Table of Contents

If the report is lengthy, Michael will include a table of contents. The table of contents lists the main topics the report covers and the page on which that information may be found. If Michael's principal is looking for specific information, he can go straight to the page that contains it.

Introduction

When it comes to writing the report, Michael will probably start with the introduction. The introduction sets the stage for what is included in the report. It highlights the major topics that are covered and provides background information on why the data in the report was collected. For example, Michael might state that the report describes the two most common teaching philosophies when it comes to teaching Latin and why he felt there was a need for a change from the teaching style usually supported by administration.

Body

Michael is now ready to address the body of the report. The body of the report describes the problem, the data that was collected, how the data was collected, and discusses the major findings. The body may be broken into subsections, with subheadings that highlight the specific point to be covered in that subsection. Michael could use headings such as 'How Do We Acquire Language' or 'Input Versus Output.' This additional structuring will make the report easier to read and understand.

Conclusion

Finally Michael will bring it all together with the conclusion. The conclusion explains how the data described in the body of the document may be interpreted or what conclusions may be drawn. The conclusion often suggests how to use the data to improve some aspect of the business or recommends additional research. For example, Michael may recommend that the principal allow him to remove the desks from his room, based on his research that suggested taking notes can sometimes detract from the language learning process.

Reference

If Michael used other sources of information to help him write his report, such as a federal database, he would include that in the references. The references section lists the resources used to research or collect the data for the report. References provide proof for your points and enable readers to review the original data sources themselves.

Appendix

Lastly, Michael may want to include an appendix. The appendix is optional and may include additional technical information that is not necessary to the explanation provided in the body and conclusion but supports the findings, such as charts or pictures, or additional research not cited in the body but relevant to the discussion.

If Michael isn't sure how to structure his report, he may want to investigate the wide variety of reports that many businesses use. Business reports generally fall into two categories: informational and analytical.

Informational Reports

Informational reports provide factual information and do not include any analysis or recommendations.

There are many examples of informational reports:

  • Financial reports include cash flow statements, balance sheets, or the annual financial report required for publicly traded corporations, so stockholders can see how the company is fairing financially.
  • Business management reports include reports about labor expenses, web traffic, or customer satisfaction survey responses.
  • There are also compliance information reports. In these reports, a company demonstrates it is complying with required regulations, for instance those regarding financial management.
  • Present research from a study: This report generally summarizes a research study that has information or findings that relevant to the business.
  • Situational reports are generally written to a supervisor regarding a business situation, including what it was, how it was handled, and how it impacted the business.
  • Improve polices or processes: These are periodic reports such as employee handbooks that provide employees with guidelines and procedures for their organization.

Analytical Reports

Analytical reports provide data as well as an analysis or interpretation of what the data means. Analytical reports may also include recommendations.

Here are some examples of analytical reports:

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