Communication Skills Part 12 Reports and Proposals
Reports Reports are prepared after some task is given and it is completed. Report includes all the details of how the work was done and it is also a declaration that the work is done. A report can be as small as one sentence and it can be as big as several hundred pages.
When a staff tells his boss, ‘the job is done.’ This is also an example of report. In every organization hundreds of reports are prepared and submitted. A sales performance report, financial performance report, manpower requirement report, materials requirements report, annual report, report on completion of some event; are some of very common examples of reports.
There are four main types of reports – 1. Status Reports
These reports give information on the state of affairs of some events or activities. The user may or may not take any action on this.
2. Decision Reports These reports are used by the users for making some decisions. If we read in the news papers that the petrol prices have gone by Rs 5/ then this is a report. Those who do not have any vehicles, for them this is only a piece of information. But people having vehicles may decide to reduce the usage of their vehicles because of this price rise. Thus for the first category this is a status report and for the second category this is a decision report.
3. One Time Reports
Reports which are generated very occasionally are called one time reports. It is not certain if such reports will be generated again.
4. Periodic Reports These reports are generated at a certain intervals, viz. every week or month or quarter etc. They are concerned with such activities that require regular reporting. Format or Structure of Reports
Different reports may take different formats but there is a general format which is used for most of the reports. Little modifications may be required in this standard format to suit some specific reports. This format is usually applicable for reports which are very big and run into several pages. It may not be applicable for one or two page report. Similarly, the format may also change depending on the objective and the user.
1. Covering Letter
Every big report should have a covering letter which tells the user that such and such report is being sent with the letter.
2. Title page The first page of the report is the title page. This is also called ‘cover page.’ This page gives the brief heading or title of the report, who has prepared it, whom it is being submitted to, the date or the period etc.
3. Table of Contents
This is the page on which information about different parts (topics/chapters etc) is given with their page number. This information saves the time of the reader. He does not have to go through every page when he wants to see a particular topic. Based on the information given in the table of contents he can directly go to the desired page.
4. Executive Summary
Executive summary is a summary of the report which gives at a glance picture of the report to the user. The summary should be very brief but complete. The executive summary should be written in such a way that the user gets a complete idea of the report. After reading the summary he would decide whether he should read the complete report or not. It should also create interest in him to read the complete report.
This part of the report gives a brief introduction of the topic on which the report has been written. If the report is very big then the introduction should also give the chapter-wise arrangement of the report.
6. Main Body
This is the main report. This part covers all the contents of the report. Depending on the nature of the report the contents may be analytical wherein some analysis is done or it may be a simple descriptive content.
Based on the main contents finally the findings or the conclusions are included in this part. This part should also include some suggestions or recommendations.
8. Appendix Any information which does not find place in the main report is included in the appendix. For example, if a questionnaire was designed to collect information then the questionnaire can be given in the appendix.
9. Reference list/bibliography
In some cases the report is based on some research or survey and the reader may be interested in additional reading related to the topic. The reference list and bibliography include the list of such sources. Qualities of a Good Report
1. Reader Oriented Every report should be made keeping in mind the user or the reader. Every reader will have his preferences, likes and dislikes, particular requirements etc. The reporter should place himself in place of the reader while preparing the report.
The report should be precise and concise. This does not mean that it can be incomplete. One has to carefully decide the contents of the report so that one does not include unnecessary details but includes all the required details.
3. Well Sequenced
The report contents should follow in a logical sequence. If the sequence is not maintained then it may become difficult for the user to understand the report.
4. Complete A report is complete if it has the following attributes – A. Credibility and Supporting Evidence A report will gain credibility if it has sufficient supporting evidence. The basis on which the contents have been included in the report should be clear, the data which is part of the report should have proper supporting information, it cannot be based on merely opinion of the reporter. For example, if a market survey report is prepared then it must be mentioned from where the data has been collected.
B. Sources of Data
Most of the reports require a lot of data. The quality of data will depend on the source from where the data has been collected. If the source is not authentic then the genuineness of the data may be questionable.
C. Relevant Data
A report should give all the relevant data. If the data is incomplete or not very relevant to the report then it may not make much sense to the reader. If a company wants to open an office in a different country then it will require all the data regarding real estate market in that country which is the main data. Apart from that a lot of information will be required about the country like, its political situation, economic condition, demographic information etc.
D. Acknowledging the Source
It is required to mention or disclose the source from where the data has been taken or reproduced. If it is not done then it goes against ethical and fair practices. Sometimes it may also amount to copyright violation. 5. Appropriate Language
To ensure that the reader finds the report easy to read and understand a few points about the language are important – a. To improve the readability it is always better to use small sentences. Long sentences usually become complicated and sometimes difficult to understand.
b. Like sentences the text of the report should be broken into small paragraphs. Wherever there is a small change in the context or the topic the paragraph should be changed.
c. Unless we are sure about the knowledge level and other background of the reader it is better to avoid jargon and technical words. If these words are not understood by the reader then the purpose of the report will be defeated.
d. Like jargon and technical words it is strongly advisable to avoid uncommon abbreviations. If there are too many abbreviations and it is necessary to use them then in the beginning of the report a list of such acronyms with their long form should be given.
e. Depending on the contents and nature of the report if it is possible to present certain part in a tabular format then it should be done that way. This improves the presentation and makes it simple to understand. This also reduces the length of the report.
6. Your View Point
At the end of every report the reporter should give his opinion or views or recommendations or suggestions. Since you have prepared the report after collecting and using all the information your view point is very useful for the reader.
The major difference between a report and a proposal is that a report is prepared after the event is over whereas a proposal is prepared to start an event. Through a proposal we try to convince somebody to do something. For example, a proposal may be submitted to the management of a company to start a new manufacturing unit. The HR department of a company may give a proposal to the management to offer a particular training programme to its executives.
Except this major difference there is hardly any difference between a report and a proposal. Especially in the format or structure there is no difference. The most important aspect of a proposal is to convince the reader to accept the proposal. Therefore, there should be certain attributes in a proposal. 1. Credibility of the Source
Who is submitting the proposal is very important. Someone who does not have any exposure or knowledge or background of an activity or function submits a proposal related to that activity then nobody will take it seriously. Thus, the credibility of the person or the organization submitting the proposal is very critical.
2. Reasonableness of the Message
Are you submitting a proposal which is feasible to execute or implement? Or it looks impractical? If the user finds your proposal very difficult to implement then he will not be convinced and will not accept your proposal. Therefore, the idea proposed should be practical and feasible.
3. Emotional Involvement
The person submitting the proposal himself should be passionate about it. If it appears that the proposer is reluctant to work on the proposal and giving only an advice then others will also not be very excited about it. Thus, emotional involvement is very important.
4. Attractive Presentation
Like any other written document the rule of attractive presentation applies to proposal as well. If the presentation is not proper then the reader may lose interest and may not read the proposal. ------------