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General Reports

In this lecture you will learn:

•Varieties of report-writing situations

•How your readers want to use the information you provide

•The questions readers ask most often

•Sample outlines

•Planning guide

•Sample reports

•General superstructure for reports


–Method of obtaining facts





Varieties of report-writing situations:

•Reports come in many varieties such as

–A hone-hundred-page report on a seventh-month project to test a special method of

venting high-speed engines for use in space vehicles

–A twelve-page report based on research to determine which long-distance

telephone company provides the most reliable service

–A two-paragraph report based upon a manufacturing engineer’s visit to a new plant that is

about to be put into service

–A two-hundred-page report addressed to the general public concerning the environmental

impact of mining certain portions of public land in Balauchistan

How readers want to use the information you provide:

•Example: Your readers may want to use your information to solve

An organizational problem: Where typical goals are to increase efficiency and profit

A social problem: Where typical goals are to improve the general health and welfare of

groups of people

A personal problem: Where typical goals are to satisfy individual preferences and values

The questions that readers ask most often:

What will we gain from your report?

Are your facts reliable?

What do you know that is useful to us?

How do you interpret those facts from our point of view?

How are those facts significant to us?

What do you think we should do?

General superstructure of reports:

•The general superstructure of reports contains six elements, one for each of the six basic



–Method of obtaining facts






•In the introduction of a report, you answer your readers’ question, “What will we

gain by reading your report?”

•In longer reports, your explanation of the relevance of your report to your readers may take

many pages, in which you tell such things as

–What problem your report will help sole

–What activities you performed toward solving that problem

–How your audience can apply your information in their own efforts towards solving the


Method of Obtaining Facts:

•It also suggests to your readers how they can gain additional information on the same


•If you obtained your information through reading, for example, you direct your readers to

those sources, if you obtained your information through an experiment, survey or other

special technique, your account of your method may help others design similar projects.


•Your facts are the individual pieces of evidence that underlie and support your conclusions

and recommendations.

•If your report, like Ayesha’s, is based upon interviews, your facts are the things people told


•If your report is based upon laboratory, field, or research, your facts are the verifiable

pieces of information that you gathered.


•Sometimes, writers have trouble distinguishing between a presentation of the facts and

discussion of them.

•The following example may help you to make the distinction clear:

–Imagine that you observed that when the temperature on the floor of your factory is 65F,

workers produce 3 percent rejected parts; when it is 70F, they produce 3 percent rejected

parts; when it is 75F, they produce 4.5 percent rejected parts, and when it is 80F, they

produce 7 percent rejected parts.


•Like interpretations, conclusions are general statements based on your facts.

•However, conclusions focus not simply on interpreting the facts but on answering the

readers’ question, “How are those facts significant to us?”


•Just as conclusions grow out of interpretations of the facts, recommendations grow out of


•They answer the reader’s question, “If your conclusions are valid, what should we do?”

•Depending on many factors, including the number and complexity of the things you are

recommending, you may state your recommendations in a single sentence or in many


A note about summaries:

•The preceding discussion concentrates on the elements found in most reports written on

the job.

•Many longer reports share another feature: they are preceded by a separate summary of

the report overall.

•Such summaries are often called executive summaries because they usually are addressed

to decision-makers.

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