1.1 Purpose of this document
This document is designed to help those unfamiliar with the writing of business reports to
understand some of the conventions of writing in this way. It is written as an illustration – not
necessarily as a guide. The reader is advised to pay less attention to the content and more to the
design and style of the document.
1.2 What is a report?
Like essays, reports are often used to present arguments, leading from an initial problem statement
through presentation of evidence and analysis to conclusions and recommendations. They are
commonly used in business to present a range of complex data in a summarised form that can be
assimilated easily by busy managers.
Unlike a normal essay, a report offers additional freedoms in terms of both writing style and
formatting that can help convey a lot of information very quickly. It also makes use of numbered
sections with headings and sub-headings to guide the reader through the document.
1.3 What a report covers
This document is designed to help students understand how to structure and write in report format.
Typical contents and structure of a report
o Writing style.
o Using tables
o Using bullet points
o Using appendices
Using Word to automate formatting.
2. Typical contents and structure
The appropriate content list and sequence for a report will depend on the purpose of the report and
the audience for which it is being written. For this reason, the reader is NOT recommended to take
the examples highlighted in Table 2.2 or Appendix A as a template for his/her own report. There will
be no marks for slavishly copying a given set or style of headings. Rather, they should be treated as a
source of ideas that need to be critiqued in the same way as any other kind of source material.
However, in general a business report might include the elements highlighted in section 1.1 above.
As with academic essays, reports generally build an argument, based on analysis and a robust
critiquing of material that leads to a specific conclusion. The reader should be able to agree that from
the evidence presented that the argument is robust and leads logically to that conclusion.
There are no hard and fast rules as to how a report should be structured. However the following
table which summarises key findings from a review of the contents of a sample of reports suggests
that there are number of common elements:
Table 1: typical report contents
element % sources using
Report summary – at beginning 48%
Report summary – at end 52%
Introduction, including report objectives 90%
Context eg results of a market audit 80%
Analysis and discussion 100%
Conclusions and recommendations including action plans 95%
(Source: author’s own prejudice. In practice, there would be no marks in assessments or business life
for analysis based on assumptions – analysis needs to be based on evidence that is carefully
referenced to source. However, this table does provide an example of how information can be
3. Presentation style
The reader is recommended to read the submission requirements for the MPP assignment. The
notes below offer additional advice but come secondary to the specific submission requirements.
3.1 Writing style
The writing style of a business report has a number of conventions. These include writing in the third
person and the use of a relatively formal style, avoiding the use of idioms. However, the report style
does offer greater flexibility than a standard essay style. In particular, it allows greater freedom to
use bullet points, tables and other devices. These can convey information without using complete
sentences. This can be useful when word count is limited. For an example of the use of bullet points
see section 1.2 above.
Headings can be a useful way of breaking up the text for the reader and for signposting them to the
things that the author feels are important. Headings may be numbered – or not. The author must
choose the format that in his/her opinion makes it easiest for the reader to navigate the content –
the argument being laid out and/or the ideas being developed.
3.3 Using tables and bullet points
As illustrated in 1.3 and 2.2 above, bullet points and tables can be a useful way of conveying a lot of
information in a few words. This is particularly true for statistical information, for example, although
tables can also be used to summarise other types of analysis.
3.4 Using appendices
Appendices can be useful to show supporting evidence and data. The key word here is supporting.
Do not consign key arguments to an appendix as ruse to save word count. Remember too that appendices should always be referenced from the main text.
Appendix A gives a list of further resources for report writing.
As with any other academic submission it is important that correct references are given, for both
academic sources (for example, references to support the use of a particular analytical tool) and the
evidence and data which support the argument and conclusions of the report.
4. Using Microsoft Word to automate formatting
Microsoft Word users can potentially automate the formatting of their document. Further details can
be found at: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Save-a-Word-document-as-a-templatecb17846d-ecec-49d4-82ea-a6f5e3e8b9ae .
The above sections offer advice to the reader that may be helpful in writing a report in business
style. It is not exhaustive and does not set out to offer a ‘perfect model’ for readers to copy. It is
hoped however that it will stimulate readers to consider how they will structure and present their
own work and, more importantly, give them the confidence to do so