Recommendation reports are texts that advise audiences about the best ways to solve a problem. Recommendation reports are a type of formal report that is widely used across disciplines and professions. Subject Matter Experts aim to make recommendations based on the best available theory, research and practice.

Different disciplines and professions have different research methods for assessing knowledge claims and defining knowledge. Thus, there is no one perfect way to write a recommendation report.

As always, when composing—especially when you’re planning your report—it’s strategic to focus on your audience, rhetorical analysis, and rhetorical reasoning. At center, keep the focus on what you want your audience to feel, think, and do.

While writers, speakers, and knowledge workers . . . may choose a variety of ways to organize their reports, below are some fairly traditional sections to formal recommendations reports:

  • Letter of transmittal
  • Cover
  • Title page
  • Executive Summary (may also be called Abstract)
    • In 200 words or less summarize the gist of your Recommendation Report. Have about one or two sentences for each major section of the report.
      • Introduction to the problem
      • Potential solutions to the problem
      • Empirical Research Methods used to investigate the problem
      • Results*
      • Recommendations
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Illustrations

Report Body

Note: your specific rhetorical context will determine what headings you use in your Recommendation Report. That said, the following sections are fairly typical for this genre, and they are required, as appropriate, for this assignment.

SectionAnswers the questionNotes
PurposeWhat is the purpose of this piece of communication?Succinctly explain the purpose of this document, not the purpose of the project.
Organizational SummaryWhat content is included in the memo?

Key Terms.
Provide a brief overview of the report’s main sections for readers who may only read the summary. 

Are there any key terms or concepts that the audience may need defined?
Introduction What problem(s) does the report address? What is the context?Be interesting.

Introduce the problem definition. (You may use boilerplate from the Client Proposal and Progress Report)

Provide all of the background and rationale for pursuing this study. [Here you may repeat some language from both the letter of transmittal and the Executive Summary.]

Engage in Rhetorical Reasoning: Provide the background information your reader needs to understand the problem, stakeholders, and potential solutions

Appeal, if appropriate, to the benefits for the audience
Research Methods*

If your team used empirical methods, your report needs a Results section.
1. What textual research or empirical research was done? How? Why?Here your aim is to define the research methods you employed.

Use task orientation: Describe the exact tasks you performed and the rationale for each task.

What roles were assigned: Project Manager, Analysis & User Research, Interface Analysis, Deliverables Specialist?

Include a Gantt Chart to identify the work actually conducted as opposed to what was originally planned.

Demonstrate to the reader that you followed the plan outlined in the research proposal. If you made deviations, identify why.
Results (for empirical contributions to knowledge)What did you find out from your research?The Results section is the writing space reserved for reporting discoveries. This space is reserved for investigators who are employing empirical methods. If you did not use empirical methods, you do not need this section.

Note: A Results section is not equivalent to a review of literature section.
Scope or Limitations of the Study (optional)What are the shortcomings of this study? Did anything go wrong?Optional section. Include if you encountered any problems that might limit your recommendations
Conclusions (for empirical contributions to knowledge)What do your results mean?Your research won’t “speak for itself” to the client. You have to tell the client what your results mean. Draw conclusions and implications based on what you have learned. Explain the relationships between pieces of data/information. Describe trends. If there are anomalies, explain what seems wrong or different from what was expected. 
RecommendationsWhat recommendations can you offer based on your conclusions?Tells the reader what steps, measures, actions they should take in light of the conclusions you have reached.

Substantiate the value of your recommendations by grounding them in textual research and empirical research.

Explain how the recommendations might be implemented. 

Explores how implementing the proposed recommendations benefits the audience.

Report back matter

Collect material for the appendices as you go. The report back matter will include:

  • Bibliography, which is sometimes referred to as Works Cited or References (Use a citation format appropriate for your field (APA, MLA, Chicago, IEEE, etc.)
  • Appendices, if necessary (e.g., letters of support, financial projections)

Formatting and design

Employ a professional writing style throughout, including:

  • Page layout: Appropriate to audience, purpose, and context. 8.5 x 11 with 1-inch margins is a fail-safe default.
  • Typography: Choose business-friendly fonts appropriate to your audience, purpose, and context; Arial for headers and Times New Roman for body text is a safe, neutral default.
  • Headings and subheadings: Use a numbered heading and subheading system, formatted using the Styles function on your word processor.
  • Bulleted and numbered lists: Use lists that are formatted correctly using the list buttons on your word processor with a blank line before the first bullet and after the last bullet
  • Graphics and figures: Support data findings and arguments with appropriate visuals – charts, tables, graphics;  Include numbered titles and captions
  • Page numbering: use lower-case Roman numerals for pages before the table of contents, Arabic numerals; no page number on the TOC.

Additional Resources

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