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Report Structure

It is important to follow your course guidelines or company /organisation instructions for your industry projects as guidelines for how to present your report are generally given to you. However, if you have not been given instructions about the format of your report, below is listed the structure of a business report.
Reports are generally divided into the following sections:-

  • Cover sheet (use the RMIT cover sheet as per your course guide)

  • Title page

  • Acknowledgements (if necessary)

  • Table of contents

  • Executive Summary

  • Introduction

  • Main section(s) of the report

  • Conclusion

  • Recommendations

  • Appendices

  • Glossary

  • Reference List

Table 17 covers each part in detail.

Table 17

Sections of a report


Cover sheet

Download from the Course Guide

Every assignment must have the cover sheet stapled to the front of your assignment.

See <>.

Title page

The title of the report copied from the Course Guide.

If you have created your own project then the title needs to be a clear explanation of what the report is about

The title page also includes:-

  • Student name and number

  • Lecturer’s name or the manager who requested the report

  • Date the report was submitted

  • Name and number of the course

Table of Contents

The Table of Contents provides the reader with an easy guide to where information is located in the report.

Any report that is longer than a few pages needs a Table of Contents.

The Table of Contents lists

  • sections, sub-sections of the report and the corresponding page numbers.

  • diagrams and appendices.


The Table of Contents should be written when the final draft has been completed to ensure that the page numbers and headings match.

All numbering must be consistent and accurate.

For instructions on how to generate an automated Table of Contents in Microsoft Word go to <>. This enables you to match headings and page numbers into your Table of Contents.

Abstract/ Executive Summary

In companies and organisations, the Executive Summary is critically important as managers tend to read this section first to gain an overview of the whole report.

The Executive Summary

  • provides a short and comprehensive summary of the whole report.

  • gives the bare facts of the report including the findings and conclusions.

  • provides enough detail for the reader to have a clear understanding of the main facts and critical findings.

  • is typically very short.

  • is written in the past tense as it is a record of what has been done.

Although the Executive Summary appears at the beginning of the report, this section should be written after the report has been finalised and you have had time to reflect on the report as a whole.


The Introduction provides a brief, accurate background for the main section of the report.

Introductions typically include

  • the purpose of the report/ background

  • the scope, methods used – issues covered/not covered

  • the limitations of the report and outlines terms of reference/definitions

Questions to be considered-

What is the situation that has made an investigation into the issue or problem necessary?

How will the research be carried out?

What are the aims/ objectives? What are you setting out to do? (These objectives will be addressed throughout the report and provide the framework for the research and the conclusions).

Often an issue will be extremely broad and you will need to narrow the focus to the specific areas to be investigated.

There will be other factors that limit the scope of the report. State what they are e.g. time, budget, geographical location, client availability, a particular company …
Terminology -

If there are terms or words that are critical to an understanding of the report but may be unfamiliar to the reader, introduce them and define what they mean as used within the report.

Main section(s) of the report

may include:

  • a literature review (optional depending on assessment instructions)

  • Methodology

  • Findings

  • Analysis

There is no particular formula for this section of the report. What you are required to do is to thoroughly investigate, examine and analyse the factors that impact the current situation.

There is often a Literature Review as a component of your report.

The research methodology(ies) and the reasons why you have chosen them need to be explained.

A variety of methods can be used depending on the problem being investigated.

Examples of methodologies include questionnaires, focus groups, interviews, experiments, literature searches.

The findings / results from the research are documented and analysed.

Your research needs to be presented in a logical sequence using numbered headings that clearly show the reader what information is contained in each paragraph.

Note: Refer to your Course Guide to ensure that your report meets the assessment criteria.


The conclusion summarises the main points investigated and comments on the significance of the findings.

The conclusion/s are based on the results of the research you have conducted and not on your personal opinion. All the conclusions must be supported by the material / facts you have presented in the report.

Remember the conclusion/s should always relate back to the stated objectives of the report.

Do not introduce new ideas /theories/ issues in the conclusion.


The recommendations are based on the conclusions and provide possible solutions or courses of action to resolve the problems examined in the report. when and how action should be taken

Having completed the report, recommendations may include any of the following

  • what action should be taken and who should be involved in its implementation

  • what could have been done differently to achieve better more comprehensive outcomes

  • what possible costs or risks are involved in carrying out your recommendations

  • what makes this the best solution

  • what further research might be conducted for continuous improvement

Appendix / Appendices

Information that is not essential to the general understanding of the report but may be important in supplying further information for the reader is placed in an Appendix:

  • a copy of the questionnaire you have used when interviewing

  • a financial statement / annual reports

  • technical data

The information in the Appendix must be discussed in the main part of your report and the reader directed to both the Appendix number and the page where it can be found.


If you have used words, phrases and terms which may not be familiar to the reader, you need to place these in an alphabetical list accompanied by a short explanation.

If they are unusual or essential to an understanding of the text, such terms should be defined at the beginning of the report or the reader should be directed to refer to the glossary.

Reference List

All the references used n your report must be documented fully in the reference list using the Harvard system used by RMIT College of Business.

The guide to RMIT referencing can be found at <>.

If you have not used Harvard referencing before, the online tutorial on <>. will help you.

Step 10 Using your plan to start writing

In Step 8 you wrote a detailed plan which included the various sources, texts, websites, surveys, interviews that you researched for your report. Your plan has identified the main ideas and the evidence that supports those ideas.
Sort your plan into sections so that you know what you want to include in the introduction, the various paragraphs in the main part of your report, the conclusion and recommendations. The more organised this plan is, the easier it will be to write the report.
Step 11 Writing the first draft

Using the detailed plan you have now developed, set aside a block of time to write the first draft of your report. Aim to write the whole report in the time you have set aside as this will give your work a clear flow. Do not be concerned at this stage with headings, numbering systems, correct grammar, spelling, or referencing as this will be done at the editing stage.
Once you have written this first draft it will be much easier to see where evidence is lacking, and where information could be more logically re-organised. Then you can start to create headings and subheadings related to each section of information.
Leave the numbering of each section until you have a final draft.
As you will probably need to write several drafts before the report is ready for submission, make sure you have allowed sufficient time to do this.

When you write your essay, you will need to use techniques such as paraphrasing and synthesising.
Paraphrasing is expressing in your own words the ideas of another writer.
Synthesising is the ability to express in your own words the similarities or differences in the ideas of a number of authors.
You must always acknowledge the sources for your ideas even when you use your own words. For more information on how to paraphrase and synthesise go to <>.
For more information on how to reference when paraphrasing go to <>.

Direct quotations are when you use the exact words of the author/source.
You may use direct quotation in your assessment tasks, but these should be kept to a minimum.
Whenever quoting from any source you must correctly reference the work. For further information on how to reference direct quotes, go to <>.
For more information on direct quotes, go to <>.

Step 12 Formatting your report


A report is divided into numbered sections using headings and subheadings which highlight the main parts and ideas within the report. Headings need to be brief and informative.

Headings are used to:

  • separate the text into smaller, more manageable units that summarise the content of each headed section.

  • assist the reader to find information quickly and easily.

  • present a new idea / aspect of the content.

A sub-heading is used when this idea is extended and further explored.

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