How to Write an Inception Report
Organizations use inception reports to account for progress on particular projects or jobs after activity has begun. Although not all projects require inception reports, their use is particularly recommended for complex or high-budget projects to ensure that all parties involved understand their roles, activity timelines and any compliance requirements.
The inception report is prepared by the person or persons who will be evaluating the project and its progress. The evaluators establish the conceptual framework of the evaluation, including important evaluation questions, data sources, sampling and key indicators.
You can use the inception report World Bank format, accepted as a standard throughout the world, or the inception report ADB format, which is readable with Ability Database software when it is necessary to use files containing structured data, such as inventories, customer lists, product lists and detailed records.
Components of an inception report can vary somewhat depending on the type of project or job being evaluated. Common elements for any inception report generally include the following:
- List of report authors and relevant credentials.
- Table of contents: With page numbers for the beginning of each section and, if applicable, subsection
- Forward: Written for the intended readership of the inception report; may contain the organization's mission and vision statements
- List of abbreviations: Provided for reference at the beginning of the document so that abbreviations and acronyms do not have to be defined over and over again within the document
- Lists of figures, tables and appendices
- Introduction: Succinctly describes the project and its purpose, summarizes background and context and outlines the scope of the evaluation
- Methodology: Includes evaluation questions, indicators, methods of data collection and analysis, sampling, evaluation matrix, preliminary findings and explanations of any limitations to the evaluations
- Work plan: Details of how the project will be executed, including timelines
- Logistics and support: Includes credentials of relevant personnel, both within and external to the organizations, and should also include details about the financial management of the project
- Compliance details: Provided when activities must comply with organizational guidelines and any applicable federal, state or local requirements
- Summary: A concise evaluation of the project to date
Like any business communications, an inception report requires that the writer set forth ideas simply, clearly and precisely. Keep these points in mind when writing an inception report.
- Plan your writing: Spend time collecting your thoughts. Make notes or an outline to help organize your ideas.
- Be direct: As they say in the newspaper business, "Don't bury the lede". State your point at the beginning of each section of the inception report and then provide supporting details.
- Be concise: Don't use several words when one will suffice. For example, instead of saying "at the present time," you can simply say "now." Keep sentences short and to the point.
- Skip the $10 words: It's not a sign of intelligence to use a big word when a simpler one will do. The same is true of industry jargon and overused business buzzwords, such as "core competency" and "thinking outside the box".
- Re-read what you've written: Put your writing away for a day or two if you can and then re-read it to be sure it makes sense and communicates your ideas clearly and effectively. Check for spelling and grammar errors; don't assume the word-processing software will correct all errors for you.
The inception report should be used throughout the project period to track progress and inform decisions. The inception report is an important tool in evaluating all aspects of the project. The inception report can help determine whether personnel, finances, timelines and other components are adequate for successful completion of various activities.
The inception report is used to write the final report after project completion. The inception report sets forth timelines, benchmarks and tools for project evaluation. Evaluators can assess final outcomes using measures that were determined when the project was conceived and before it was executed. The inception report ensures greater objectivity in evaluating project activities and their results.