Formal Report Elements


Formal technical reports usually contain the following elements:

Letter of Transmittal

A letter of transmittal is usually the first thing one sees in a technical report, unless the report has a cover. This letter is addressed directly to the person who commissioned the report. It reminds that person about when the request was made and what the details of the request were. The letter goes on to describe the report briefly. It ends on a positive not and usually assures the reader that the writer is available for further assistance should any be needed.

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The Title Page

The title page usually has more white space on it than print, and the print is balanced on the page. The first entry on the page is the title of the report, which is usually bold-faced, centered, and about 1/3 of the way down the page. Next comes a statement something like, "Prepared for Jane Doe, Maxim Corporation" and then by the author(s) name(s). The submission date also appears here. Usually these entries appear on separate lines and are centered on the page. Sometimes all of the entries seem to cluster together in the vertical center of the page. Other styles disperse the entries down the page with several blank lines between entries. The title page should looked balanced.

Example of a Title Page









       DATA SURVEILLANCE:  The Threat to Personal Privacy






                               by 
                             Sandra
                          Blickenstaff









                          Submitted To:
                        Rep. Pat Roberts
                     United States Congress









                         Date Submitted:
                          July 23, 1984

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Table of Contents

The words Table of Contents are centered at the top of a table of contents, which lists the major heads that are distributed through the report. These heads should reflect the report's hierarchical structure: The first-level heads should appear on the left margin or the table of contents, and second level heads, if listed, should be indented. The effect will be that of an outline without the Roman numerals and capital letters. From each head, a line of dots should cross the page to a column of page numbers near the right margin. The page numbers in this column should be the number of the pages on which the heads appear.

Example of a Table of Contents



                        TABLE OF CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION....................................................1

  Purpose.......................................................1

  Problem.......................................................1

  Scope.........................................................1


THE CONCEPT OF PRIVACY..........................................2

  Privacy is a Basic Need.......................................2

  Privacy in Modern Society.....................................3

  A Definition of Privacy.......................................3

  The Importance of Privacy.....................................3   


DATA SURVEILLANCE...............................................4

  Government Agencies...........................................4

    The IRS.....................................................5

    The FBI.....................................................6

    The Census Bureau...........................................6

  Private Industries............................................7

    Credit Bureaus..............................................7

    Banks.......................................................8


CONCLUSIONS.....................................................9

  The Threat to Privacy.........................................9

  The Impacts on Society........................................9


RECOMMENDATIONS................................................11

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List of Illustrations

If you have used tables or figures, you should list them in a separate table of contents called the list of illustrations. This list, like the table of contents, has its title at the top and the names of illustrations along the left column with page numbers to the right. However, a list of illustrations is divided into two parts. The first subpart lists all the tables you have used in the report. The second subpart lists all the figures (any graphs, drawings, or photographs) you have used.

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Abstract or Executive Summary

An abstract is a summary of the report; therefore, it is best to write it last. It simply reduces the length of the original consistently all the way through.

Example of an Abstract


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The Introduction and Sections

The main body of a formal report is divided into the introduction and the sections. The intro is usually divided into a purpose statement, a problem statement and a scope statement. The purpose statement indicates what the purpose of the report is; the problem statement explains the situation in the world that called for the writing of the report; and the scope statement indicates what will and will not be covered in the report. The scope statement also serves to preview the sections of the report.

The sections of a report are like chapters. They are usually a shorter than book chapters and they are introduced with headings that indicate their nature. Different kinds of reports call for different kinds of sections. For a list of typical formal report formats, see the templates listed on the page linked in this line. Each section should start with a topic sentence that explains the section's purpose. The rest of the section should develop the message of that topic sentence in detail.

References

References are a list of all the outside sources used in the report. Different disciplines use different reference systems. For instance, some use the MLA format, some the APA format, and some the Chicago style. Technical reports, however, often use a numbering system. The first citation to appear is reference one, and the second is reference two and so on. The number appears on the page where the citation appears (right after the cite) and then again on the reference page, which appears at the end of the report.

Example of a Reference Page


REFERENCES

1. Westin, Alan F. Privacy and Freedom. New York: Atheneum, 1967.

2. Samuels, D.J. "Privacy in 1984: The Dark Side of the Computer," USA Today, 112(March,1984), 32-36.

3. Wellborn, Stanley N. "Big Brothers Tools Are Ready, but," US News and World Report, 52(Dec. 26,1983; Jan. 2,1984), 88-93.

4. "Computers Threaten Your Privacy," US News and World Report, 52(April 30,1984), 45-46.

5. Smith, Robert E. Privacy, How to Protect What's Left of it. Garden Cuty, New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1979.

6. Miller, Arthur R. The Assault on Privacy. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1971.

7. Burnham, David. "Tales of a Computer State," The Nation, 236(April 30,1983), 537-541.

8. "The Right to Privacy," USA Today 112(April,1984)2467, 6-7.

9. "Science, Technology, and Human Rights," UN Monthly Chronicle, 4(April,1983), 53-62.

10. Evans, Christopher. The Micro Millennuim. New York: The Viking Press, 1979.

11. "The High-Tech Threat to your Privacy," Changing Times, 37(April,1983)4, 60-63.

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Appendices

Appendices (or appendix for singular) appear at the end of a report and contain material too bulky for the report proper. Often technical reports must contain extensive data tables or design drawings that would break up the flow of the report if they were inserted in the body. Even though this material is not very readable, it needs to be there for documentation purposes. Thus, appendices are almost like files to be consulted for specific information. The page numbering which began in the report continues through the appendices, but each new appendix receives a new letter. The first appendix is Appendix A, the second Appendix B, and so on.

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