Whether you scramble to compile a 100-page sales assessment for your supervisor or you cram to finish a 10-page analysis for your marketing class, you will include very similar elements in your business report. While the preferred format can vary from organization to organization, formal business reports often contain a number of typical components.
Begin most business reports with a title page that contains the full title of the report, the name of the author or compiler, the name of the intended audience and the date of submission. A title page may also include the name of the organization for which the report has been prepared.
Highlight the main purpose and the primary points of a business report with a 200- to 250-word "abstract" or a one-page or shorter “executive summary.” Abstracts and executive summaries usually follow the title page on a separate page and highlight the purpose, methods, scope, findings, conclusions and recommendations of the report.
List the contents of a business report on a separate “Table of Contents” page. The table of contents page may precede or follow the abstract and should identify each primary section of the report by page number and in order of appearance.
If you include more than five figures or tables, list these items by page number on a “List of Figures” or “List of Tables” page following the table of contents. If the report uses several abbreviations or symbols, identify these as well on a separate “List of Abbreviations” or “List of Symbols” page.
Begin the body of your report with an introduction that presents the purpose and scope of the report. Any background information or research necessary for understanding the rest of the report should be presented here.
Identify primary sections of the body of the report with appropriate headings. These sections will cover the central content of the report, whether you are reporting on a current problem, a potential solution or some other subject of interest to your audience. Compliment this material, where appropriate, with illustrations and tables as well as with research and sources.
At the end of the body of the report, present your concluding ideas and arguments in the “Conclusions” section. If appropriate, state your “Recommendations” as well, indicating the course of action you suggest in light of your arguments in the body of the report.
If you do not include footnotes in the body of the report, you may find it helpful to include “Endnotes” or “Explanatory Notes” after your conclusions section. These notes provide additional helpful information for your readers that may be distracting if it were included in the body of the report.
List the references that you use either to prepare your report or to support the argument and ideas in your report on a separate “Bibliography,” References” or “Works Cited” page after the endnotes section. Include any research sources, such as websites, books or interviews, that you used during your research or referenced directly in the text of your report.
If helpful for your readers, you may also want to include an “Appendix” or a “Glossary” at the end of your report. An “Appendix” provides information that is too detailed or involved to be included in the body of the report, but that may be helpful as additional reading. A “Glossary” alphabetically lists specialized terminology with definitions.