Analytical reports try to understand and fix problems. As a specific genre of reports, analytical reports are a hybrid between an informational report and a proposal. Analytical reports' goals are not only the identification and analysis of a problem and previously tried solutions but also the proposal of evidence-based recommendations to solve that problem where past attempts failed.
Identifying the Problem
Analytical reports start by identifying a problem and explaining whom that problem affects. In describing the problem, the report includes information about where the problem started, what methods have been used in the past to solve the problem, and how well those past methods have fared. For example, a school might ask for an analytical report that examines the problem of student tardiness. Such a report would indicate that this problem affects students, as well as parents and teachers, and that in the past, the school instituted a rewards system for students who were consistently on time, but this tactic did not significantly change the student population’s overall tardiness rate. Any primary or secondary research sources referenced in the description of the problem and previously tried solutions appear in a works cited section, or bibliography, that immediately follows the recommendations or conclusion section.
Explaining Your Methods
After describing both the problem and how past attempts to solve it have fared, an analytical report will then describe the methodology its authors used to evaluate past tactics, as well as consider alternative approaches. For example, an analytical report about the failure of a company’s advertising campaign might indicate that information about the success and failure of advertising was gathered through surveys distributed randomly to a sample population. In this instance, the research method described in the analytical report was the representative sampling of a random population.
As its name suggests, the bulk of an analytical report presents a detailed and careful analysis of data gathered through the research methods employed by the report’s authors. Because analytical reports are about problems, their former proposed solutions and potential alternative solutions, the analysis focuses on the success or failures of those solutions to fix the problem. For example, an analytical report on drivers’ abilities to obey speed limits might examine and compare the relative success and failure of methods such as posting speed limit signs, constructing speed bumps, or using police traffic stops to enforce speed limits. The comparative analysis of these three different approaches aims at determining which of the three or what combination of the three is most effective at solving the problem of speeding. Any surveys or questionnaires used to gather data would be part of an appendix at the end of the report.
Ultimately, an analytical report builds towards recommending solutions to the problem under scrutiny. These recommended solutions, found in the report's conclusion or recommendations section, would be those found to be most effective or successful at fixing the problem. For example, if an analysis of a variety of proposed tactics for losing weight found that people who combined moderate diet with moderate exercise were the most successful at maintaining weight loss, the report would use this evidence to recommend that those confronting the problem of weight loss combine a moderate diet with moderate exercise.