6 Unit 40: Report Type and Function: Formal Report

Learning Objectives

Target iconAfter studying this unit, you will be able to

      • understand the function of a formal report


A formal report is a document that analyzes information, determines conclusions, and offers recommendations to solve problems.  Formal reports are the result of the gathering and analysis of large amounts of data.  This data is then presented to decision makers in business, industry, and government to aid in the process of making important decisions.  Formal reports are longer (10+ pages) and are therefore also referred to as long reports.  Long reports have a more formal tone, tackle complex and challenging topics, and are almost always analytical in nature.  Similar to informal reports, formal reports are also organized into sections and utilize headings and subheadings to help readers access information.  The following video provides and comprehensive overview of the long report.


Conducting Research

An informal report may be written without including any research.  However, the same cannot be said of the formal report.  Because of the scope and complexity of formal reports, there is a need for in-depth and extensive data research and analysis.  Collecting research is a critical part of writing the formal report.  The conclusions made and the recommendations that follow should be based on facts, statistics, expert knowledge and other forms of information.   Thus, collecting credible, up-to-date, and reliable information is a critical part of writing a formal report. Given the easy access to research databases, the internet, and other sources of digitized information, collecting information is nearly effortless today.

Table 22.5 Types of Report Data

Note: The table presents various types of data and the questions to ask to ensure the credibility and reliability of collected information (Business Communication: Process and Product , 2017).

Knowledge Check



Whenever research based on other people’s work is included in a report, credit must be given to that work.  This is called documentation.  Proper documentation adds credibility to the information presented in a report and protects the writer against charges of plagiarism.  Famous historians, high-level journalists, politicians, and educators have suffered grave consequences for not providing the required documentation.

To add clarity to writing and avoid charges of plagiarism, document the following:

  • another person’s ideas, opinions, examples, or theory
    Click on the image above for an online module on plagiarism. (Vaughan Memorial Library, 2017)
  • Any facts, statistics, graphs, and drawings that are not common knowledge
  • Quotations or another person’s actual spoken or written words
  • Paraphrases of another person’s spoken or written words
  • Visuals, images, and any kind of electronic media


Refer to Chapter 2 for a full overview of documentation.


Knowledge Check



      1. Select five business articles from a combination of print and online resources.  Using APA, develop a Reference list of those resources.
      2. Select a professional journal for your field of study.  Select an article that is at least five pages long, of interest to you, and provides information on emerging trends in your field.   Write an executive summary of the article for a busy executive who does not have time to read the entire article but who needs to stay current on what is happening in your field of expertise.



Acadia University. (2017). You quote it, you note it. Vaughan Memorial Library. Retrieved on January 14, 2020, from https://library.acadiau.ca/files/sites/library/tutorials/flash/you_quote_it_you_note_it/index.html

GreggLearning. (2019). Writing long reports [Video]. Youtube.  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szFDwdS-D8k

Guffey, M., Loewry, D., & Griffin, E. (2019). Business communication: Process and product (6th ed.). Toronto, ON: Nelson Education. Retrieved from http://www.cengage.com/cgi-wadsworth/course_products_wp.pl?fid=M20b&product_isbn_issn=9780176531393&template=NELSON

Meyer, C. (2017). Communicating for results (4th ed.). Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from https://oup-arc.com/access/meyer-4e-student-resources#tag_case-studies



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