How to Write a Comprehensive Report

by Gail Marie; Updated September 26, 2017
Research may be required

A comprehensive report is a formal report that completely covers a specific topic. The extent of research required for the content depends entirely on the reader's expectations and intended use of the report. For example, a law officer may be asked by her supervisor to write a comprehensive report on her observations about an arrest made during her shift. Compare that to a comprehensive report on climate change written for senior policymakers. Both reports are considered comprehensive, but one requires much more research and will be much longer than the other.

Confirm what the reader wants the report to cover and how the reader will use the information in the report. This is critical. Discuss specifically what issues it must address, what questions it must answer and what guidance it is supposed to give. Ask if you are to provide recommendations or if the report is to contain only facts, not opinions.

Outline the report's contents before starting your research to help guide the research process. The contents usually include a version of these sections: a discussion of the problem, how it has been addressed in the past, the results of the procedures and methods used, the conclusions drawn from the results and recommendations for future actions.

Conduct the necessary research. Depending on your subject and your readers' expectations, this may involve simply reading a few background documents; it may also involve developing questionnaires, conducting detailed interviews with people around the world and using the Internet to find resources.

Organize the information, once you have gathered enough, by moving from general information about the topic to more specific information. Using clear headings and subheadings throughout will help you do this effectively. If each section of your comprehensive report is multiple pages long, start each section on a new page.

Follow standard report-writing formatting guidelines. For example, keep your page margins wide to allow your reader to take notes on the report while reading. Also, bold the text of important points so that the most important information is easy to find. Use clear, simple graphics if you are reporting complex information, making sure that each graphic communicates only one idea. Provide a table of contents listing all headings and subheadings if your comprehensive report is longer than 10 pages.

Share report drafts with your reader, if possible, to help ensure you are providing exactly what is needed.

Write the report summary, abstract and transmittal letter (if required) last. Though these are the first pieces of a report, they are most easily written after the report is completed.


  • Carefully proofread your report before submitting a final version.

About the Author

Gail began writing professionally in 2004. Now a full-time proofreader, she has written marketing material for an IT consulting company, edited auditing standards for CPAs and ghostwritten the first draft of a nonfiction Amazon bestseller. Gail holds a Master of Arts in English literature and has taught college-level business communication, composition and American literature.

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