Those components which are usually included in a technical report in business and industry are:
- Letter of transmittal
- Title page
- Table of contents
- List of illustrations
- Executive summary
- Glossary and list of symbols
Also See: Purpose and Uses of Technical Reports
The components of a report are not written in the same order in which they appear e.g. the letter of transmittal is the first thing the reader sees, but it is probably the last to be created. It introduces the purpose and content of the report to the principle reader. It gives you an opportunity to emphasize whatever you think, your reader will find particularly in the attached material. It enables you to point out any errors or omission in the material. Transmittal letter contains the following element.
- A statement of title and purpose of report.
- A statement of who authorized the project and when
- A statement of method used in the project or of the principal results, conclusion and recommendations.
- An acknowledgement of any assistance you received in preparing the material.
Usual elements are
- Name and position of writer
- Name and position of principle reader
- Date of submission
A good title must be informative. It. answers two basic questions:
- What is the subject of the report
- What type of report is it? E.g. sea pollution - control devices
Define the type of report by using a generic term such as analysis, recommendations e.g summary, review etc. For a simple title page, centre the title (typed in full capital letter) about a third of the way down the page, then add the readers and writer's position, the organization’s name and date.
It’s like a brief technical summary, usually not more than 200 words of the report. Its directed to readers who are familiar with the technical subject and need to know whether to read the full report or not. This can use technical terminology and refer to advanced concepts. Basic types of abstract are descriptive and informative abstracts. The descriptive abstract sometime called topical or table of contents abstract. It does not provide the import results, conclusion or recommendations. It lists the topic covered giving equal coverage to each. The informative abstract states the problems the scope and methods, and the major results, conclusion or recommendations.
It enables different readers to turn to specific pages to find the information they want. Well organized report becomes ineffective if table of contents, is not clear. T.O.C provide only guide to report's structure, coverage and pagination. The headings that appear in the report are listed in T.O.C. For effective T.O.C make sure the report has effective headings.
It is a T.O.C for the figures and tables of a report. If the report contains figures but not tables, it is called the list of figures. But if the report contains tables but not figures so is called the list of tables only. List of illustrations may be on the same page as the table of contents, or may be on the separate page. If it begins on a separate page, it should be listed in the table of contents.
Sometimes called executive overview or the management summary. It is a one page condensation of a report. Managers don’t need a detailed and deep understanding of various projects undertaken in their organization because of limitations in time and specialization. The background of the project is also discussed clearly herein. The specific problem that is to be solved through the project is clearly discussed; also the conclusion and recommendations are discussed in a full separate paragraph.
A glossary is an alphabetic list of definitions. It is useful if you are addressing a multiple audience that includes readers who will not be familiar with the technical vocabulary used in the report. An asterisk or any other notation can be used along the word to tell the audience that the word is defined in glossary. It is generally placed at the end of the report just before the appendix. Though if the glossary is a brief one, so can be placed right after the table of contents. A list of symbols is structured like glossary, but rather than defining words and phrases, it defines the symbols and abbreviations used in the report. Like glossary, the list of symbols may be placed before the appendices or after the table of content.
An appendix is any section that follows the body of the report (and the list of references or bibliography, glossary or list of symbols). Appendices provide information that is too bulky to be presented in the body or that will interest only a small number of readers. For conciseness in the report, this information is separated from the body. Examples of the kind of material that are usually found in the appendix include maps, large technical diagrams or charts, computations, test data and texts of supporting documents. Appendices are usually lettered, rather than numbered and are listed in the table of contents.