Aiming for a 2700-3000 word report following the given structure…
Title: In a short report this may simply be the front cover. In a long one it could also include Terms of Reference, Table of Contents and so on.
Executive Summary: Give a clear and very concise account of the main points, main conclusions and main recommendations. Keep it very short, about a page or a few % of the total length. Some people, especially senior managers, may not read anything else so write as if it were a short stand-alone document. It isn’t but for some people it might as well be. Keep it brief and free from jargon so that anyone can understand it and get the main points. WRITE IT LAST, but do not copy and paste from the report itself; that rarely works well.
Introduction: This is the first part of the report proper. Use it to paint the background to ‘the problem’ and to show the reader why the report is important to them. Give your terms of reference (if not in the Title Section) and explain how the details that follow are arranged. Write it in plain English.
Current Situation: This is where you report the facts as they are now. It will probably have several sections or sub-sections each with its own subtitle. It is unique to your report and will describe what you discovered about ‘the problem’. Take care to answer the exact question which has been set – if you write about retail outlets when the question is about a specific brand you will lose valuable marks and possibly fail. If in any doubt ask your tutor!
These sections are most likely to be read by experts so you can use some appropriate jargon but explain it as you introduce it. You are supposed to be demonstrating your understanding of the topic so this is a great opportunity to arrange the information logically, putting things in order of priority -- most important first. In fact, follow that advice in every section of your report. You may choose to include a Discussion in which you explain the significance of your findings but remember to use a report style structure throughout your work.
Recommendations: This is the heart of your report. What do you suggest should be done? Don’t be shy; you did the work so state your recommendations in order of priority, and in plain English. Again it will probably have several sections or sub-sections each with its own subtitle
Conclusions: Present the logical conclusions of your investigation of ‘the problem’. Bring it all together and maybe offer options for the way forward. Many people will read this section. Write it in plain English. If you have included a discussion then this section may be quite short.
Appendices: Put the heavy details here, the information that only specialists are likely to want to see. As a guide, if some detail is essential to your argument then include it in the main body, if it merely supports the argument then it could go in an appendix. Make sure you signpost this information in the main body of your report.
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