Formatting the Report
While analytical reports may vary slightly based on need and audience, they often share common elements: a title page, a table of contents, an introduction, a methodology section, body sections, conclusions and recommendations, a bibliography, and an appendices section. Each section is noted by a heading, and subheadings are utilized when necessary. Page numbers are also attributed to each page, either centered or right-side aligned on the bottom of the page. Most analytical reports follow MLA style.
Writing analytical reports goes beyond descriptive writing toward synthesis and critique. To achieve this end, begin by collecting data and gathering resources. The research process should produce sufficient information that you feel comfortable with all aspects of concept: the pros and cons, counter-arguments, and proposals. Quality research will enable you to analyze the information and put forth quality recommendations and solutions to problems. Research should be compiled from high-quality, industry-relevant sources.
Organizing, Analyzing, Synthesizing
After collecting the appropriate research, synthesize the information. Synthesis involves critiquing a source’s argument, validity or methodology based on your own research and findings in an effort to present new information, draw conclusions, or present findings. Report information accurately and in context. Synthesized research should result in clear and logical findings, with recommendations if called for. In this stage, you should also determine how to organize and present the information: chronologically, geographically, spatially, categorically, or by importance or comparison.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Once the data is collected, the information is processed, and conclusions have been drawn, the composition process begins. While the bulk of the report will present and analyze your findings, most reports focus on one of three elements: conclusions, an argument's logic, or recommendations. For example, a mining geologist's field report analyzing drill-hole data will most likely focus on recommendations regarding the material available to be mined. The audience determines the degree of formality in language and tone. Technical jargon should be avoided when a report is issued beyond technical support personnel. The information should be presented using simple sentences with clear, common language.