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Welcome to Writing Commons,

Writing Commons, https://writingcommons.org, helps students improve their writing, critical thinking, and information literacy. Founded in 2008 by Joseph M. Moxley, Writing Commons is a viable alternative to expensive writing textbooks. Faculty may assign Writing Commons for their composition, business, technical, and creative writing courses. We are currently crowdsourcing submissions via an academic, peer-review process (see Contribute).

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Introduction

The body of a formal report begins with an introduction. The introduction sets the stage for the report, clarifies what need(s) motivated it, and orients the reader to its structure.

Most report introductions address the following elements: background information, problem or purpose, significance, scope, methods, organization, and sources. As you may have noticed, some parts of a formal report fulfill similar purposes. Information from the letter of transmittal and the executive summary may be repeated in the introduction. Reword the information in order to avoid sounding repetitive.

Sample Body PageTo begin this section, type “BACKGROUND” or “INTRODUCTION” in all uppercase letters. This functional head should be followed by the information specified above (i.e., background information, problem or purpose, etc.). You do not need to utilize any first-level headings in this section.

Because this section includes background information, it would be the appropriate place to address the needs of audiences that may need additional knowledge about the topic. Provide definitions of technical terms and instruction about the overall project if necessary. If you are uncertain if your audience needs a particular piece of information, go ahead and include it; it's better to give your reader a little bit too much background than not enough.

Discussion of Findings

The Discussion of Findings section presents the evidence for your conclusions.

This key section should be carefully organized to enhance readability.

To begin, type “DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS” in all uppercase letters. Center this and all other functional heads. Follow “DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS” with a brief paragraph that previews the organization of the report.

Useful organizational patterns for report findings include but are not limited to:

  • Best Case/Worst Case
  • Compare/Contrast
  • Chronology
  • Geography
  • Importance
  • Journalism Pattern

 

Use a Best Case/Worst Case organizational pattern when you think that the audience may lack interest in the topic. When examining a topic with clear alternatives to your proposed solution, consider using a Compare/Contrast pattern. Geographical patterns work effectively for topics that are discussed by location.

When describing the organization of the report in the first paragraph, broadly identify how the material in the report is organized rather than state that the report uses a specific pattern (e.g. Chronology, Geography). For example, write, “The research findings address curriculum trends in three states: (a) Florida, (b) Georgia, and (c) North Carolina,” not, “This report uses a geographical organizational pattern.”   

Follow the first paragraph with a first-level heading. Use first-level headings for all other major parts of this section. First-level headings should appear in bold, uppercase letters. Center first-level headings, but align any second-level headings with the left margin. Type any second-level headings in bold, upper- and lowercase letters.

As you present, interpret, and analyze evidence, consider using both text and graphics. Take into account what will be easiest for your audience to understand.

Include citations for all quoted or paraphrased material from sources as well; check with your organization as to whether they prefer parenthetical citations or footnotes.

Integrating Graphics

Formal report authors use graphics to present data in different forms. Paragraphs of text and complex or numerical data tend to bog readers down, making graphics a beneficial enhancement. Graphics also make data easier to understand, so they sometimes make a stronger impact on the audience.

Knowing when—and how—to effectively employ graphics is the key to successfully integrating them. Keeping the audience in mind is also critical.

Figure 1 summarizes uses and audience benefits for the most frequently employed types of graphics. The types of graphics are presented alphabetically to make them easier to remember.

GRAPHIC

Graphic Type

USE

This type . . .

BENEFITS

The audience can . . .

Bar Chart

Represents data with the height or length of rectangular   bars

Compare items

Grasp a series of numbers

Flowchart

Illustrates a sequence of events with shapes connected by   arrows

Grasp a series of steps

Line Chart

Shows changes in quantitative data over time or plots the   relationship between two variables with one or more lines

Compare variables

Visualize change over time

Map

Illustrates activities or trends on a map that represents   geographically organized parts of a region, country, or the world

Compare geographical trends

Grasp geographical relationships

Pie Chart

Depicts distribution of parts in a whole with wedges in a   circle graph

Compare significance of parts and parts-to-whole   relationship(s)

Table

Presents data or values in rows and columns

Compare data or values

Grasp relationships between data or values

Computers have made it easier for professionals to create effective graphics. Most of the graphics in Figure 1 can be created in Microsoft Office Word and Excel.

There may also be some occasions in which a formal report includes graphics from a particular print or online source. In these instances, it is critical to include a caption that presents the source of the graphic.

How to Use Writing Commons

Welcome to Writing Commons, the open-education home for writers. Writing Commons helps students improve their writing, critical thinking, and information literacy. Founded in 2008 by Joseph M. Moxley, Writing Commons is a viable alternative to expensive writing textbooks. Faculty may assign Writing Commons for their composition, business, STEM/Technical Writing, and creative writing courses.

Writing Commons houses eleven main sections: The Writing Process | Style | Academic Writing | Rhetoric | Information Literacy | Evidence and Documentation | Research Methods and Methodologies | New Media Communication | Professional and Technical Communication | Creative Writing | Reviews

The two best ways to navigate through Writing Commons are using the top menu navigation, called Chapters, or the left-hand navigation menu system.

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