Writing a formal business report starts from the planning stage before the actual writing and does not end until proper editing of drafts and the final copy is done.
That is to say those activities in the pre- writing, writing and post-writing stages must be carefully observed or carried out. Below are the steps involved in writing a formal business report.
1. Statement of the Problem and Purpose
There cannot be any solutions or recommendations for solving a problem unless the problem is first of all identified.
At the first stage of writing a report, the following questions must be asked:
What is the problem that must be solved?
Where is the fault?
Why is the report necessary, why did they initiate the writing of this report and what is the report out to satisfy?
Thinking-through the problem involves mental efforts and can take days or more before it could be successful.
2. Know the Readers/Audience of the Report
Every good formal report is written for a specific audience.
As a report writer, you must conduct research on the audience with the aim of understanding the psychographic, demographic and other variables of the audience.
When a writer is able to understand the needs of the audience, he or she is well positioned to package a report that will satisfy this group of people.
More importantly, the writer must understand the sex, age language competence, economic status, specialised training on the subject matter possessed by the audience, worldview, educational level and religious compositions of the audience in order to serve them better.
3. Gather Materials from Sources
We have said that formal reports rely on facts and facts that can influence decisions. There are established internal and external sources of information available to a researcher or report writer; these have been classified under two major headings: primary and secondary sources.
Primary Sources: The primary sources of information for a report writer include:
- Interview and other forms of oral evidence;
- Focus group discussion;
- Visits to sites;
- Personal and organisational files;
- Personal Diaries;
- Minutes of meetings and directives;
- Questionnaires- mailed, telephoned, self or interviewer administered
Secondary Sources involves information that you did not generate by yourself but from other persons’ thoughts and ideas to assist your research work.
Secondary sources of information are not as reliable and credible as your primary sources because you were not there when they compiled their ideas.
Therefore, you must subject the information you get from secondary sources to critical questioning or review to sieve the facts from the chaffs. Some of the secondary sources of information are:
- Archives or media resource centre for journals, books newspapers, magazines, pamphlets and government publications
- CD ROM, Computers, softwares, internet etc.
4. Sort, Analyse and Interpret Data
If care is not taken, voluminous levels of data can overwhelm a report writer when information sources are many.
The way out is for a writer to code, sort or group these data into sections or boundaries in order to simplify the information.
Data have to be grouped based on their degree of relatedness.
Data have no meaning unless they are carefully analysed, selected and interpreted within the context of the report.
5. Prepare the Drafts and the final Report:
The best writer is prone to making mistakes.
You have to draft, re-draft, write, re-write, edit and write the final copy.
The more you review, re-draft, write and rewrite, the better your report.
Interactive-cooperative writing is better because two good heads are better than one. Allow other people to criticize and edit for you.
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