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Writing reports – part 1



Structure

Report writing is a specialised section of the wider use of writing techniques.
This will include writing for essays and dissertations at various levels of education.
Project management will require them at some point.


The aim of this section is to focus on techniques that may help you with your reports but may well apply equally to the other areas.

In general a report has an aim and contains a collation of data and research that supports this aim.
The report will discuss the relevance and implications of the information and derive conclusions and make recommendations.

Reports are also used in scientific circles for experimentation etc. and tend to be governed by local requirements and procedures.
Scientific reports will not be covered here.

A typical report might contain the following sections:

Introduction

This is where you would identify the purpose of the report, its aims and objectives

The context

Here you may wish to identify external aspects that influence the nature and circumstance for the report.

Implementation

This is where you describe what you did, what you researched, what evidence you gathered and the process you went through.

Evaluation

The evidence is assessed to ascertain if you met the aim for the report.

Comments

You can discuss the factors that influence the report and their possible effects on the outcome for the report.

Conclusion

This contains an objective view of the success of the report given the data and evidence together with any recommendations of what to do next as necessary.

For many reports, they will have a wide circulation list.
This can be rather informal or with the help of more formal archiving and circulation systems covered by specific procedures.

Many of the people who read reports will have very little time to read all of the details as their time will be at a premium.
In these cases readers like to see and ‘executive summary’.

The executive summary

This quickly tells the reader the key facts. It will give the objective, the result and conclusions and recommendations.
Having read this the person can then delve into the detail of the body of the report as necessary to obtain any particular facts.
This can be very important in project management.

This may just be called the summary or the abstract.

As well as the above a ‘contents’ page is usually desirable.

Learning and development

As for many things in life the more practice you have the better and faster you get.
Writing reports is another of these cases.
If you know your own character well, and in particular your learning styles, you can decide how you can develop to improve.

These have close links to personal styles when assessing motivation as in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI).
These are discussed in more detail in 'The Complete Leadership package' and the 'The Complete Motivation package'.

Peter Honey and Alan Mumford

Particular learning styles have been discussed by Peter Honey and Alan Mumford who identified four main learning style preferences.

These were:

Reflector

Reflectors like to stand back, observe and look at a situation from different perspectives.
They like to collect data first hand and from others then think about it carefully, cautiously taking a back seat before coming to any conclusions.
They like to postpone for as long as possible.
They enjoy observing others and will listen to their views before offering their own.
They collect and analyze data about experiences and events and are slow to reach conclusions.
They use information from past, present and immediate observations to maintain a big picture perspective.

Theorist

Theorists adapt and integrate observations into complex and logically sound theories.
They think problems through in a step by step way in a logical manner; they value rationality and objectivity.
They tend to be perfectionists who like to fit things into a rational scheme.
They tend to be detached and analytical rather than subjective or emotive in their thinking.
They tend to be perfectionists.
They tend to avoid lateral thinking and being flippant.
They assimilate disparate facts into coherent theories.
They are disciplined, aiming to fit things into a rational order.
They are keen on basic assumptions, principles, theories, models and systems thinking.

Activist

Activists like to be involved fully in new experiences.
They are open minded and enthusiastic about new ideas but get bored with implementation.
They enjoy doing things and tend to act first and consider the implications afterwards.
They like working with others but tend to hog the limelight.
They enjoy the here and now.
They will enjoy a brainstorm.
They like to get on with a fresh challenge.
They are open minded, enthusiastic and flexible.
They often act first then consider consequences later.
They will often seek to centre activity around themselves.

Pragmatist

Pragmatists are keen to try things out, apply theories and put techniques into practice.
They want concepts that can be applied to their job.
They tend to be impatient with lengthy discussions and are practical and down to earth.
They like to search new ideas and experiment.
They return from training raring to go with new ideas.
They act quickly and confidently on ideas, getting straight to the point.
Endless discussion can irritate them.

Project management will improve if you can recognise and adapt learning styles.

Non - PRINCE2 information