Recommended Headings for Business Reports and Readers Need

Sections of this topic

    Recommended Headings for Business Reports

    Contributed by Deane Gradous, Twin Cities consultant

    Meeting reports

    Chart of follow-up actions and persons responsible by
    Those present (those absent*)
    Agenda items
    Discussion of each agenda item
    · Background
    · Discussion
    · Action plan
    Next meeting and proposed agenda

    What is the meta-message? “We make well-considered and important decisions.” “This group accomplishes a lot.”

    Progress reports

    Projects completed
    · Final against the plan (data)
    · Learning to be shared
    Projects in process
    · Status against the plan (data)
    · Issues/concerns

    What is the meta-message? “I add value to the organization and am a learner/achiever.”

    Research reports

    Executive summary
    Research methods: design/activities/ costs, etc.
    Research findings/results
    Implications of these results
    Appendices (data, graphs, tables, charts, etc.)

    What is the meta-message? “I follow good scientific methods.
    You can trust my work, which is reliable and valid and the foundation for sound decisions.”

    Trip reports

    Date of trip/destination
    Purpose of the trip
    · Who
    · What
    · Findings/results
    · Implications
    Follow up

    What is the meta-message? “I am a good investigator/ambassador.”

    What Report Readers Want to Know From Research/Activity Reports

    1. Do I need to read your report? Does the title indicate a subject that is relevant to my responsibilities? Is the title
      accurate and descriptive? Does your report look interesting and readable?
    2. Give me a quick overview. Does your report have an executive summary so I can decide whether or not I need to read the whole thing?
    3. Why did you undertake this research/activity? Fill me in on the context and the background. Explain the relevance of your research/activity to our larger organizational goals.
    4. What purposes or accomplishments did you aim for? What were the major objectives and sub-objectives of your research/activity? What questions did you ask?
    5. What methods, processes, and procedures did you use? Because I and others may need to make decisions on the basis of information in your report, I expect to see a detailed description of what you did to obtain your results/findings. What obstacles and surprises did you encounter in the process?
    6. What are your results/findings? I don’t want to know everything you know about your research/activity. I do want to know what you discovered/accomplished. I hope you have included negative as well as positive results, so I and many others can learn from your research/activity.
    7. How do you interpret your results/findings? Your facts are interesting and important, but they also require some heavy thinking to interpret. Don’t leave all of the difficult, interpretive work to me. Give me tables, lists, charts, and/or graphs, and point out the patterns in the data. Turn the data info information.
    8. What are the implications of your results/findings? What do your results/findings mean in terms of others’ activities? Turn your information into knowledge. Go beyond your interpretation to explain the significance of these results/findings. Do also express the limitations of these results/findings.
    9. What follow-up research/activities do you recommend? Because you have studied and explored the context, the background, and the results/findings in some detail, I look to you to offer recommendations on related decisions and future research/activities.

    In short,

    • What are the facts?
    • What do they mean?
    • What do we do now?

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