Formal Report Description
This guide is for formal business reports.
• Formal reports usually include the prefatory pages: title fly, title page, letter of transmittal, table of contents, list of figures, and executive summary.
• The report body includes an introduction, several sections with headings and subheadings, and a conclusion, followed by the reference pages and appendices.
• Acceptable academic research is limited to primary and secondary sources only; tertiary sources, like Wikipedia or any other encyclopedias, are not considered academic sources, no matter how reliable they may be.
• Academic integrity standards demand that students document all references to subjects, objects, dates, names, numbered quantities, or any other information from any source.
• Documentation includes both in-text and reference-page citations following the APA CITATIONS JRSSB STYLE GUIDE.
• Submit the assignment in the Moodle drop box, or hand it in as a printed copy, or both as instructed.
The content and purpose of a specific assignment may dictate some variations (shown in colour) from this standard guide as specified by the instructor. Specific instructions from your instructor supersede any guidelines listed here. Please use the points in this guide as a checklist.
Report Writing is from the Back to the Front
1. The first step in formulating a report is the research and building the reference list, which will end up at the back of the report.
a. Your research may include secondary sources such as annual reports, statistical reports, newspapers, magazine articles, textbooks, other related books, electronic books, film and audio clips, electronic journals, professional journals, industry journals, trade journals, websites, SWOT analyses, company profiles, databases, case studies, or other electronic information.
b. Primary research includes surveys, interviews, and other direct or personal communications.
c. Information taken from the World Wide Web must be verifiable and from an authoritative source. Personal forums and blogs are generally not considered authoritative sources. Be judicious about which websites you cite.
d. Note that dictionaries and encyclopedias, including Wikipedia, are tertiary sources for preliminary background only, but do not count for scholarly research in academic reports, and should not be quoted or referenced in the report.
e. Be sure to record the reference information (author(s), full publication date, title, volume #, issue #, page #s, doi or website address, etc.) as you document your information using APA documentation style reference-page citations.
2. The second step is the report writing, which must include short in-text citations that exactly match to the fuller reference-page citations.
a. Organize the research data into a logical outline.
b. Write the draft paper in a logical flow following your outline.
c. Revise, rearrange as necessary, edit, and proofread the report. Get someone else with good English language skills to proofread it also.
3. The prefatory pages are the last things written but the first section in the final assembly of a report. You cannot write the executive summary and table of contents until the report body is finished.
Formal Report Checklist
1. Word processed and printed on one side only on white 8.5 x 11-inch paper.
2. One inch (2.45 cm) margins all sides (Instructor may require 1.5 inches on the left to accommodate binding).
3. Bound by paper clip, staple, coils, Cerlox, 3-ring binders, or plastic spines as specified by the instructor.
4. The title fly and title pages show no page numbering, but they count. The other prefatory pages are numbered in lowercase Roman numerals (ii, iii, iv, v, etc.). The rest of the document is numbered in Arabic numerals starting at 1 again.
5. Limit the type throughout the document to only two typefaces:
a. Choose one sans serif typeface for all titles, headings, subheadings, and headers (such as Arial, Calibri, Franklin, Helvetica, Gill Sans, or Verdana).
b. Choose one serif typeface for all text, paragraphs, in-text and reference citations (such as Cambria, Times New Roman, Garamond, Baskerville, Bookman, Palatino, or Century Schoolbook).
B. Prefatory Pages
6. Cover (optional). Formal reports often have very conservative covers dictated by the cover material, but some projects may have colorful or visually rich cover pages.
7. Title Fly (this is an optional page) contains only the title and possibly the subtitle, centered both horizontally and vertically on the page in 18-point size, sans serif typeface (see 5a above).
8. Title Page has 4 blocks of type centered horizontally and evenly spaced vertically on the page, including top and bottom spaces. See figure 1.
a. Title block in all caps 18-point sans serif type (see 5a).
b. Designated audience block in upper & lower case 14-point serif type (see 5b).
c. Author block in upper and lower case 14-point serif type.
d. Date due block in 14-point serif type.
Figure 1: Example of a title page and letter of transmittal
Source: Green, 2018.
9. Formal Letter of Transmittal or transmittal memo (optional).
a. This may be the first numbered page in lower-case Roman numerals (usually ii or iii, title pages count but no page numbers appear on them).
b. This is a personal note from the report writer to the person who assigned the report.
c. Business block format: flush left/ragged right, paragraph spacing, no indents.
d. Single spaced 12-point serif font (see 5b) and signed on the hard copy.
e. Introduce the report and its purpose, and possibly preview the conclusions.
f. Acknowledge who assigned the report and the nature of the assignment.
g. Express appreciation for being given this opportunity to exhibit your skills in research and writing, and for any contributions or assistance you may have received from others.
10. Table of Contents includes all subsequent headings and subheadings.
a. TABLE OF CONTENTS title should be centered, all caps, 14-point sans serif (see 5a).
b. Report headers and footers begin on this page (see 13a and b).
c. List of headings separated by period leader from the column of page numbers.
d. 12-point serif font.
e. Indenting and/or capitalization can indicate subordinate headings.
f. Table of contents may be optional in a report less than 6 pages long. Ask instructor.
11. List of Figures includes the figure number and title of any tables, illustrations, graphics, photos, logos, and graphs. See figure 2.
a. List must match the style and tab settings of the table of contents (see 10a-d).
b. It may be placed on the same page as the table of contents if there is room.
c. List is optional in a less-formal report less than 6 pages long.
d. In Canada, the fair dealing principle applies to the educational use of copyrighted images or images on a copyrighted page. Images with a watermark should not be used without purchase.
e. Registered trademarks and logos may be used only to represent the entity for which they are registered. They may be resized but must not be stretched, squished, or in any way distorted in proportion.
Figure 2: Example of a table of contents and an executive summery
Source: Green, 2018.
12. Executive Summary contains a short summary of all significant points in the report.
a. Title: 14-point sans serif centered in all caps (see 5a).
b. Summary: text 12-point serif (see 5b).
c. Summary includes the purpose of report, the findings, and the conclusions.
d. Half page single spaced (or a single page double spaced at the discretion of instructor).
e. Options: restricted to 200 words, or 1/10 of the report word count, at discretion of the instructor.
f. The final prefatory page numbered in lower-case Roman numerals.
g. Less-formal report option: a single paragraph, sometimes titled ABSTRACT, before the introduction heading, at discretion of the instructor.
C. Report Body
13. Headers and footers
a. 10 or 9-point size sans serif font (see 5a).
b. Includes report title and author’s name and section #.
c. Page numbers beginning with 1 in Arabic numerals.
14. Appropriate section breaks with headings and subheadings. See Figure 3.
a. Headings may include “introduction,” “background,” “history,” “findings,” “conclusions,” “recommendations,” or other appropriate short phrases.
b. Major headings: centered, all-capitalized, 14-point sans serif font (see 5a).
c. Subheadings: upper-and-lower-case 14-point sans serif aligned left.
d. Headings are NOT part of the sentence in the subsequent paragraph.
15. Short single-themed paragraphs (not every paragraph needs a heading).
a. 12-point serif font (see 5b, same as letter of transmittal & executive summary text).
b. Double spaced for marking purposes (instructor may request 1.5 spacing, real-world business reports would often be single spaced).
c. No indents, 8-point extra spacing between paragraphs.
16. All figures (graphic, photo, statistical graph, table, or chart).
a. Must have an introduction in the text prior to the occurrence of the figure.
b. Must be labeled with a figure number above the figure.
c. Must be titled (if it doesn’t come with a title, give it a descriptive one).
d. Must have the word “Source:” followed by the in-text citation information underneath the figure.
Figure 3: Example of 2 body pages, 1.5 spacing, with headings and subheadings
Source: Green, 2018.
D. In-text Documentation
17. Every paragraph containing summarized or paraphrased research data must have at least one correctly formatted in-text citation. Every sentence must clearly indicate the source of the information. Multiple sources require multiple citations.
[The colour code is for pattern recognition only: Who, When, What, and Where.]
a. (Author’s last name only, year), in parenthesis before the period or other punctuation. The where portion is encouraged but optional in summarized or paraphrased information.
b. If no known author, use the “First Two or Three” words from the title of the work in quotation marks and title case. It MUST match the first words in the Reference!
c. Year or if no known date, use n.d., to match the second section in the Reference!
18. Every quotation must have a correctly formatted in-text citation including page or number (Author, year, p. #) immediately after the quote and before the period or other punctuation.
a. If the document does not have numbered pages then count the paragraphs or name the section (Author, year, para. # or section title).
b. The where section of the in-text citation is not optional for quotes.
19. You must indicate any edit or alteration of quotes.
a. By ellipses . . . for deleted words (space period space period space period space).
b. Or [square brackets] for substituted or inserted words.
20. Each source listed on the reference page must have at least one in-text citation.
a. The last name of the author(s) in the in-text citation must exactly match the alphabetical listing by author’s last name on the reference page.
b. If the author is unknown, the “First Two or Three” words of the title must exactly match the alphabetical listing by work title on the reference page.
c. The year or n.d. must match the date section on the reference page.
21. For further details see In-text Citations, pp. 9-14 of APA CITATION JRSSB STYLE GUIDE.
E. Reference Pages
22. REFERENCES should start on its own page.
23. REFERENCES section title should be centered 14-point size sans serif type face (see 5a)
24. Each reference should be 12-point type single-spaced serif type face (see 5b) (with 6 or 8-point line space between each).
25. References must be in alphabetical order
a. By first author’s last name
b. Or if the author is unknown, by the first word in the title of the work.
c. The articles, “A,” “An,” or “The” do not count when alphabetizing.
26. All citations must use hanging indents, so the first words stick out on the left (see FRigure 4 on page 9).
27. Reference syntax answers Who, When, What, and Where in that order, each section separated by periods:
a. Who: author(s) by last name, and initials. Last author after an ampersand &. If there is no known author, the Name of the work. Each reference must have a unique beginning to which the in-text citations can exclusively match.
b. When: (year, month spelled out, day). Date is always second and in parenthesis. If the date is not known use (n.d.). Do not use the date you retrieved the information. If the name and date of two or more references are the same, differentiate them by adding a, b, c, etc. to the year to differentiate them.
c. What: Title of article or webpage in sentence-style capitalization. Book or periodical or website title in italics, Volume # in Italics (issue # in parenthesis) first and last pages #-# separated by a dash if these numbers are available, example: 48(6), 8-12.
d. Where: Publisher (if a book), doi or URL (if electronic source). Add retrieval date only if the source is subject to regular or frequent changes. The URL is always last. An unidentified URL is not a citation.
Figure 4: Example of a reference page (first of three)
Source: Green, 2018.
An appendix may be necessary for various kinds of related documents that are not part of the report or assignment, such as copies of related personal e-mails, permissions to use copyrighted images, oversized images (full page), or statistical tables from which figures in the text are derived.
Ackroyd, R. C. (2019). JRSSB documentation and document style guide. JR Shaw School of Business, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.
The American Psychological Association. (2020). Concise guide to APA style: The official APA style guide for students (7th ed.). American Psychological Association.
Green, K. (2018 March 16). Reputable accounting firms [Unpublished formal report]. Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.
Johnson, D. (2018, June 26). Can I use one citation at the end of a multiple sentence paragraph, or do I have to cite for every sentence? Library and Learning Services, Rasmussen College. http://rasmussen.libanswers.com/faq/32328
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