Reports are one of the most common documents NGOs produce. They summarize and
convey information and often call for more research to generate the material reported.
Key Elements of a Report
- A tightly focused topic. The goal of this kind of writing is to inform readers about something without digressing — and without, in general, bringing in the writer’s own opinion.
- Accurate, well-researched information. Reports usually require some research. The kind of research depends on the topic. Library research might be necessary for some topics. Very current topics may require Internet research. Other topics may require field research — interviews, observations, focus groups, surveys and so on.
- Various writing strategies. Depending on your purpose, you may explain a process, describe an event, analyze data, classify types of things, etc. It is common to employ more than one writing strategy to produce a report.
- Clear definitions. Reports need to provide clear definitions of any key terms that their audience may not know. Make sure that all acronyms are spelled out at least once before they are abbreviated.
- Appropriate design. Some information is best presented in paragraphs, but some may be easier to present (and read) in lists, tables, diagrams and other visuals. Numerical data, for instance, can be easier to understand in a table than a paragraph. A photograph can help readers see a subject. Multimedia design is a possibility with web-based reports.
Organizing a Report
- Begin with an executive summary. Many readers will look at nothing else. Include your main points and recommendations, if any.
- Hook the reader. Start the main body of the report with an anecdote, quote, good story or other engaging line.
- State your lead sentence or thesis/main idea.
- Describe your topic, defining any key terms.
- Provide background information and explain it by comparing, giving examples, classifying, analyzing causes or effects, describing processes, evaluating findings, etc.
- Conclude by restating your lead sentence or main idea, referring to your beginning, presenting any material for further investigation, and making recommendations for next steps based on the results of your research.