How to Format a Formal Report

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Formal reports are important documents, and as such, they are relied upon to contain specific information, written in a specific format for quick, easy reference and use. Most formal reports follow a set order of contents naming an issue or problem, suggestions for remedy and/or remedies already applied, the consequences of actions taken to resolve the issue or problem addressed and any other pertinent details.

Depending upon the subject matter of the formal report, these central components may be differently ordered with varying focus. Throughout the report, you should be brief, make the content easy to read and avoid including any unrelated information. Following a few steps ensures a correctly formatted report.

Create the Cover Page

Create the cover page first. List the project title, your name/the preparer’s name, the type of report prepared and the date of the formal report. Center this information on the page and use larger but formal fonts.

Write an Executive Summary

Executive summaries are terse statements of compiled data.
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Write the “Executive Summary.” Keep it to a single page in length. Include a forward stating the problem or issue and its context. State any associated technical problem, the assignment or the task completed or in the process of being completed. Enumerate the technical questions associated with the task and the rhetorical purpose for the undertaking of the problem or issue.

Create a Project Summary

Finish the “Executive Summary” with a brief summary. State the hypothesis or objective of the project, the methods or procedures for addressing it and the results. Include conclusions drawn, organizational recommendations and any follow-up activity required, and describe all associated benefits and their costs.

Make the Table of Contents

The table of contents is a quick reference guide through the body of the report.
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Construct the “Table of Contents” next. Use the standard rules for writing the Table of Contents. Center the title, list the content referenced and its accompanying page location.

Write the Introduction

Use the next page to write the "Introduction." State the problem or issue that precipitated the action originally, and that is the cause of this report. Write the body of action or assignment that is the source for the report. Reveal to the reader the format/structure of the remainder of the report.

Write the Background Section

The background section is a synopsis of actions taken to this point.
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Entitle the next page “Background.” State here the actions taken so far to address the problem/issue. Include any literature sources that are the background for or substantiate the statement of the problem/issue. Write here also how what has been done is in keeping with prescribed efforts for addressing it, and mention here any set instructions you have followed.

Write a Discussion of Results

Write the next page to include a “Discussion of Results.” State what was learned, or needs to be, and justify your conclusions based on “Background,” theory and procedures followed.

Create the Conclusion or Synthesis

Conclude the main body of the report with a “Conclusion” or “Synthesis” page. Simply restate the problem/issue that caused the action and report, and bullet the main points and recommendations. Include the last page entitled “References” and optionally, if needed, “Appendices.”