Factors Determining the Structure of a Report
With regard to structure, reports are classified as long formal reports and short reports. In a long formal report some pages come before the body of text material. These pages serve useful purposes and they also dress up the report. But in a short report, mostly the title page comes before the text of the report. Sometimes in the short reports, executive summary and letter of transmittal are combined. So the question arises whether to write a full-dress long formal report or a short report. There is no straight way answer to this question. The choice of structure of a report needs to be adjusted with some factors. Some of these factors are highlighted below:
Formality of the situation: Degree of formality is the primary determinant of the structure of a report. A formal report needs to be written if the situation is formal or official. For example, a committee investigating the feasibility of starting a new business is likely to submit a long, formal report to the top management of the company. However, short report is best suited if the situation is informal.
Length requirement: Length or the number of pages greatly determines the structure of a report. Sometimes reports are prepared containing materials over hundred pages. In this case, the report must follow the formal structure with adequate preliminary contents. But a short report is written when the report material is short. It should be mentioned that a short report might also follow the formal structure if it is presented to outside parties.
Nature or complexity of the problem: Some reports deal with complex problems while some other deals with easy and recurring problems. If the report problem is complex in nature, structure of the report will be long and formal. In this case, sufficient prefatory materials need to be presented to make reader familiar with the report text. Short reports are suitable for recurring and routine problems.
Reader’s need: The ultimate structure depends on the reader’s need. If the reader already knows the problem and only wants the findings and probable solutions, a short report is suited in this case. However, a long report is need if the reader wants elaborate presentation of facts and findings.