And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it (Habakkuk 2: 2 ESV).
The word “report” is a polysemous one. In other words, it has the elasticity of interpretations. At one level of meaning, it refers to a written or spoken description of the situation or event, giving people the information they need.
At another level, the word means a piece of writing in a newspaper about something that is happening, or part of a television or radio news programme.
At another level of meaning, which is the one most intended in this discourse, the word refers to an official piece of writing that carefully considers a particular subject, and is often written by a group of people. Individuals, institutions as well as organisations make use of reports in the day to day activities. They use reports as an essential tool for communication.
Importance of Reports
One of the essential functions of reports is that they are meant to inform. For example, members of an organisation need to be notified on a regular basis to perform the duties adequately, and reports tend to meet this need.
From time to time, updates of stored information is required. And the request for a report on the current situation would provide new and more accurate facts to replace outdated ones. Reports serve as a formal means of obtaining reliable information. The report writer must ensure that the information provided is valid and reliable since people in authority require them, and the results often serve as a permanent record. Reliable information is particularly important for use by management for problem-solving and decision-making.
Types of Report
Note that names given to reports vary from reader/writer to reader/writer and may be classified according to content, style, format or any other criterion. The purpose of categorizing report here is to let readers understand reports and the type of information they convey. In other words, the purpose of the classification here is not for readers to memorise report types but just to help provide a basis for the study and use of reports. It should also be noted that there are other types of reports or classifications apart from the ones examined here.
Classification by Degree of Formality
- Formal Reports: These are distinguished by their special format and style of presentation. The method of presentation is usually formal and impersonal. Such reports are carefully structured into sections due to the length of contents. They are arranged into three sections as follows:
- Preliminary (front section): Title page, table of contents, etc.
- Body: Introduction, discussion, conclusion.
- Supplementary: Appendix, bibliography, index.
- Informal Reports: These may be written in an informal They are usually brief, and the body information may be put into a letter or memorandum format, depending on the destination of such reports. Informal reports also referred to as short reports.
Classification by Context
- Technical Reports: A technical report is that which conveys information of a specialised nature among specialist with similar training and experience. The language employed would be to a specific area.
- Non-Technical Reports: These convey information among people with varied training and experience. Such reports can be further subdivided according to the field of subject. Example are accounting report, marketing reports, business reports, et cetera.
Classification by Function
- Information Reports (Fact Finding Reports): These reports present objective information without any form of analysis or interpretation of the facts. In presenting such reports, consideration must be given to the final use the information will be put to, to limit the presentation to the reader’s needs.
- Research Reports: Although reports require some form of data collection, research reports primarily refer to the reporting of information about the quest for knowledge (pure research), or about the practical consequences of knowledge (applied research).
- Analytical Reports: These reports revolve around a problem. Presented along with the basic facts is an analysis and interpretation of those facts, leading to logical conclusions. Here, recommendations are included when they are requested
Classification by Origin
- Assigned Reports: These reports are in response to instructions given by those in authority requesting for information. The request is usually in writing and is incorporated into the final report.
- Justification Reports: The writer voluntarily writes these reports without any directive. They are written because the writer sees the need for them.
Classification by Intervals
- Special Reports: These are produced in response to nonroutine needs. They may be short, providing an update on a special situation or a situation requiring prolonged enquiry and detailed information before reporting.
- Progress (Work) Reports: These convey information about some work or project in progress. At the end of the project, the final report submitted is referred to as a completion report.
- Periodic Reports: These reports are regularly prepared at some specified time intervals such as weekly, monthly or yearly. They include reports made by heads of units on the work carried out in their departments. Examples are the end of the performance reports, activity reports, et cetera. Because of their routine nature, such reports may be formulated in predesigned form for easy and precise reporting.