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Informational Reports

What They are and How to Write Them

What is an informational report? An informational report is as the name states, a report that contains information. There are several different types of reports, such as analytical, proposal, periodic, and functional. All these reports contain information, so what makes an informational report worthy of its moniker? Unlike many reports which aim to persuade a reader or propose an idea or solution to a problem, informational reports do not contain any bias or persuasive verbiage. These reports are strictly informational. An informational report provides facts so that a reader can make her or his own decision given the information. The writer must maintain a neutral stance for whatever topic the report covers.

What type of work goes into an informational report? As stated previously, the writer is not the focus of an informational report. The information and the audience the report targets are the focus. A writer should remember that the audience will make a decision that could likely impact a company’s net negatively or positively. The writer needs to gather effective information for their report. A writer should only use credible, unbiased sources and information in their report. Informational reports present accurate data and maintain a neutral stance so that the audience does not get pushed into an answer, but instead decides for themselves. The writer, having the best understanding of the research in their report, now needs to write and format the report itself.

To start an informational report, the writer needs to find out who their audience is. Is their audience co-workers, or is the report going up the chain of command to executive status? Without knowing who the audience is, the writer may find it hard to even get started. An author should, if at all possible, talk to their respective audience. Talking to the audience helps to ascertain the motivation for the report as well as what topic it will cover. Corresponding with the audience helps the writer discover any specific formatting requirements as well. Formatting requirements may state that the report needs certain visual aids or specific information related to the topic. Topics for an informational report could include:

  • Sea creatures
  • Aircraft
  • The titanic
  • Rome
  • Pollution
  • Computers
  • others

An informational reports do not come in one standard format like a high school English paper. Informational reports take on different formats depending on their topic and contained information. For example, a lab report gets a different format than the high school English paper. Informational reports tend to be in three different categories:

  • Scientific reports
  • Technological reports
  • Social studies reports

Given that the information in an informational report gets structured differently, some similarities are consistent in all informational reports. There should be an introductory paragraph, sometimes referred to as a classification. The classification conveys the topic the report  will cover. The information following the classification contains the bulk of the information gathered. This section is the body of the report. The body of an informational report is similar to that of any other report. The body paragraphs are the facts and information that the writer gathered, and this information gets presented in paragraph structure. The body of an informational report might contain information related to a topic, in this example, Amelia Earhart, such as:

  • When and where was the plane Amelia flew built?
  • What materials was the plane made from?
  • Who was her navigator and were any other significant people involved?
  • Explain the facts around her many flights, such as locations and dates.
  • What caused her to disappear (remember, no opinion only facts here).
  • Any important dates and statistics associated with Amelia Earhart, such as her previous flight experience?

Each paragraph should be a separate fact with all relevant information about that fact. Each paragraph gets preceded by sub-headings so that a reader may find certain information in the report quicker. Within the body, there may also be visual elements such as graphs, figures, drawings, diagrams, plans, or maps. Towards the end of a report, it may be a good idea to include a glossary of technical terms used in the paper. Even though the paper addresses a specific audience, using certain technical terms may be unavoidable and not everyone reading the paper may be familiar with them. The conclusion of the paper comes last and gives any final details not given in the body and to provide a summary of the paper. Also, do not forget to include a reference page, as the information used in an informational report must come from credible sources or research. Once a report gets written, a writer should read through it several times to determine if the report contains any bias opinion, facts, or information.

A small factor to keep in mind when writing an informational report is the time it takes to put one together. A writer will likely have a deadline for their report and as such, should make sure to plan their time wisely. Research is likely to take almost half of the time spent working on a report and should not be put off until late but instead started as soon as possible. When it come to the use of visuals, though highly recommended, they can be left out until after the first draft gets written and edited. The visuals are only there to support a strongly written report, not to be the focus of the audience’s attention.

Yellow: Writing time

Orange: Research

Blue: planning

Green Editing

By now, it should be pretty evident that an informational report contains information that helps make a decision. But there is another type of report that accomplishes this same task, an analytical report. Where an informational report contains only facts, information, and data, an analytical report contains facts, information, data, and recommendations. The offering of recommendations in an analytical report and the exclusion of recommendations in an informational report is the key difference between the two.

What do you think?

Written by Sean Dodson

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