Before collecting any data, you must define the report purpose and analyze the intended audience. Then you must determine what data is needed to solve the problem. You should use data-collection method that will provide the needed data with the least expenditure of time and money but at the level of completeness, accuracy, and precision needed to solve your problem.
The two major types of data you will collect are secondary and primary data. Secondary data is data collected by someone else for some other purpose; it may be published or unpublished. Primary data is collected by the researcher to solve the specific problem at hand. The three main methods of primary data collection are surveys (questionnaires, interviews, and telephone inquiries), observation, and experimentation.
Secondary data is neither better nor worse than primary data; it’s simply different. The major advantages of using secondary data are economic: using secondary data is less costly and less time-consuming than collecting primary data. The disadvantage relate not only to the availability of sufficient secondary data but also to the quality of the data that is available. Never use any data before you have evaluated its appropriateness for the intended purpose.
When evaluating secondary data take into account the following:
· What was the purpose of the study?
· How was the data collected?
· How was the data analyzed?
· How consistent is the data with that from other sources?
· How old is the data?
With the increasing availability of data managers sometimes tend to generate every type of report possible and then submit them all to higher-level management. Some managers seem to devote more energy to generating reports than to analyzing and making use of their contents. Thus, someone in the organization should be assigned the task of controlling reports. This will guarantee that business reports continue to serve management rather than the reverse.
Topic 13a. SHORT REPORTS AND PROPOSALS
1. The general structure of short reports.
2. Report-writing style.
3. Specific examples of short reports.
The general structure of short reports
Reports are more or less formal presentations of information, informed opinion, and analysis written to help people who must make plans or decisions.
TYPICAL REPORT SECTIONS
1) Title Page.
2) Letter of Transmittal.
3) Letter of Authorization (depending on situation).
4) Table of Contents.
5) List of Illustrations, List of Tables (optional).
6) Executive Summary.
7) Body of the Report:
· Approach to the Problem.
· Recommendation (optional).
1) Bibliography / Works Cited (depending on sources used).
2) Appendices (optional).
There is a convention to writing reports, which distinguishes them from essays. A report should be written in the third person – this means not using ‘I’ or ‘We’. It should be written in sections which have sub headings and which are numbered. The following information shows how this format works.
Unless it is a very short report, you should include a contents page listing all the main section headings, and the page numbers where they can be found.
It is good practice to provide a brief summary of the main contents, findings, conclusions and recommendations in the report. This should normally not be longer than one side of A4.
This should introduce the main part of the report. It lets the reader know what the report is about; it outlines the key issues and concerns.
2. Research Methods/Background
In some reports it will be necessary to describe the method by which the writer has gathered information and conducted the investigation. This section might include where the investigation took place, how the information was gathered, how the information was analyzed.
Depending on the nature of the report, in addition to the general introduction, it may be necessary to set the report in context, giving general background or history.