How to Write a Comprehensive Report

by Sarah Kuta - Updated November 08, 2018
Portrait of laughing businessman with documents looking at tablet

By definition, a comprehensive report is intended to explore a topic or an idea in great detail. In business, comprehensive reports are often used to evaluate and discuss a company's financial situation. Comprehensive reports may be used for other purposes as well, such as summarizing a new business trend or describing a new target market. Learning exactly how to write a comprehensive report can be a useful business skill for employees at any level.

Before You Start Writing

Before you start writing your comprehensive report, gather all the relevant information, data, charts, tables and documents you'll need to reference as you write. You should create an outline, a writing tool that can help you organize your thoughts into a structured format. An outline typically consists of short sentences or phrases that can serve as starting points for the various sections of your report. Though these sections will vary depending on the type of report you're writing, they may include an executive summary, an introduction, a table of contents, several main body paragraphs, a conclusion, an appendix and a references section.

Writing the Report

Using your outline to guide you, begin by writing a first draft of the comprehensive report. Begin with the introduction, which will tell readers what they are about to read and explain the main points that will be made in the report. After the introduction, add several paragraphs, or specific sections that address the key points of your report. At the end of the report, write a conclusion that summarizes the report. The conclusion should consolidate all the main points you made in the report. It may include your recommendations or opinions on the topic at hand.

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The Executive Summary

Once you have written your report, it's helpful to write the executive summary. This consists of several paragraphs that summarize the entire report. The executive summary should give the reader a condensed preview of the comprehensive report so they can pick out the highlights. This section of the paper is often useful for busy executives who want to preview the report to get an understanding of what it’s about. One short sample of an executive summary might be:

Example:

Digital Shirts, Inc. offers high-end bespoke shirts fitted with a proprietary algorithm. Our stores are situated in some of the finest malls in the country, almost exclusively in higher-income neighborhoods. Our sales teams are well trained to create an artisan shirt-buying experience for every customer.

This report has been commissioned to describe the details of a proposed new wing of the company.

Drawing on figures from the past five years, the report shows that income has become stagnant, while other high-end retailers are seeing record increases. After extensive research, the investigative department has determined that every company with a reported rise in income also had an increase in digital content connecting them with their customers.

R&D has determined that a digital fitting app, designed to give every shirt a perfect fit without extensive personal fitting visits, would create a substantial increase in income. This report further details how the app would be used, the amount of hands-on research that has been done, and the projected results of adopting this technology.

It is recommended that all stores begin to incorporate the new digital fitting technology and that training and marketing materials should be created in time to take advantage of the coming holiday season.

Supporting Documents are Helpful

List the source of any charts, tables or graphics you used in the report in the appendix and add your research sources to the references page. These supporting documents will add weight to your arguments.

The Editing Process

After your first draft is complete, go back through the comprehensive report to make changes and additions as you see fit. You may end up with several drafts by the end of the writing process. Throughout the writing process, keep your target audience in mind. The type of language you use will vary depending on who will be reading the comprehensive report. For instance, if you are writing for an expert in the field, you may include complex, industry-specific terms. But if you are writing for a layperson, avoid using jargon and confusing acronyms. In some instances, it may make sense to write a different comprehensive report for each group of stakeholders.

After You Finish Writing

Once you have completed the writing process, it's important to proofread your work several times, making any corrections as necessary. Before you send the comprehensive report to its intended audience, consider asking a member of your company's communications department to proofread and edit the document. This step is crucial if the comprehensive report will be read by members of the public in the future.

Accuracy, proper grammar and spelling are key, especially if the report will be read by upper-level managers at your company. While your work won't be read by every member of the company's corporate office, a great comprehensive report can only make you look better when promotion time comes around.

About the Author

Sarah Kuta is an award-winning Colorado writer and editor with a journalism degree from Northwestern University. She regularly writes about personal finance, saving for retirement, business, startups and saving money. Her work has appeared in Don't Waste Your Money, The Penny Hoarder, the Associated Press, the Denver Post and other publications.

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