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Report Writing Guidelines

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REPORT WRITING GUIDELINES
ACADEMY OF HOTEL MANAGEMENT & FACILITY MANAGEMENT NHTV BREDA UNIVERSITY OF APPLIED SCIENCES By Marina Brinkman (Brinkman.M@nhtv.nl) Alinda Kokkinou (Kokkinou.A@nhtv.nl) Jelmer Weijschedé (Weijschede.J@nhtv.nl) Version 1.0 08 September 2011

Summary The purpose of this document is to provide you with information on report writing and serve as an illustration of what your report should look like. The document also addresses the content and style of your report and how you should reference others’ ideas and information.

Table of Contents Acknowledgments ................................................................................................................................................................... 4 1. 2. 3. 3.1. 3.2. 3.3. 3.4. 3.5. 3.6. 3.7. 3.8. 3.9. 4. 5. 5.1. 5.2. 5.3. 5.4. 5.5. 5.6. 5.7. 6. Introduction ..................................................................................................................................................................... 5 Types of Reports ............................................................................................................................................................ 5 Structure of a Report .................................................................................................................................................... 5 Cover Page, Title of the Report, & Title Page ................................................................................................. 5 Executive Summary/ Abstract ............................................................................................................................. 6 Table of Contents ...................................................................................................................................................... 6 Foreword, Preface & Acknowledgements ....................................................................................................... 7 Introduction ................................................................................................................................................................ 7 Main Body of the Report ........................................................................................................................................ 8 Conclusions & Recommendations ...................................................................................................................... 8 References .................................................................................................................................................................... 9 Appendices .................................................................................................................................................................. 9 Layout of the Report ................................................................................................................................................... 10 Best Practices for Report Writing ......................................................................................................................... 11 Purpose of the Report ........................................................................................................................................... 11 Audience ..................................................................................................................................................................... 11 Constraints & Planning ......................................................................................................................................... 11 Information Collection & Analysis ................................................................................................................... 11 Structure of the Report ......................................................................................................................................... 12 Writing the Report .................................................................................................................................................. 12 Proof‐Reading the Report .................................................................................................................................... 13 Referencing .................................................................................................................................................................... 13 .

References ................................................................................................................................................................................ 15 Appendix 1 ‐ Other Resources .......................................................................................................................................... 16

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Acknowledgments We would like to thank our colleagues at the NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences for providing valuable help during the writing of these guidelines. We would like to acknowledge Dr. David Rudd’s “Report Writing: a guide to organization and style” as a source of the idea of using a report to illustrate report writing. Finally, we would like to thank the students at the Academies of Hotel Management and Academies for Facility & Real Estate Management at the NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences for providing the feedback necessary to improve these guidelines.

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1. Introduction During your studies at the Academy of Hotel Management and the Academy of Facility Management you will oftentimes conduct a project or research investigation and present it to a commissioner in a formal write‐up: a report. A report is comprised of clearly defined sections presented in a standard format. The present document provides general information about reports and their presentation, and highlights some important style issues. However, it does not address report content as this is oftentimes theme and report specific. The document also shows examples of how not to write your report. By reading the guidelines below carefully, you should avoid having your work included in the next version of this document… 2. Types of Reports There are many types of written reports depending on the purpose of the report. For example, public companies report their financial performance to their owners in the form of annual reports. Managers use appraisal reports to report employee’s performance. Budget reports are used by organizations to present an overview of their expected revenues and expenses. Other reports consist mostly of numbers. For example, the typical hotel daily revenue report includes the day’s occupancy, average daily rate, revenue per available room, and how they compare with the previous year’s performance (DeFranco and Lattin, 2007). The present document presents guidelines for professional reports used to report on a project or investigation. Another type of report that you will most likely encounter during your studies at NHTV are academic reports. While academic reports follow many of the same conventions as professional reports, they are different in certain key points. Therefore, should you need to prepare an academic report, you will need to consult specialized resources. 3. Structure of a Report The way a report is structured is very important as it influences the ease with which the reader will be able to find information. This is why professional reports are written according to certain conventions. For example, most reports will start by introducing the topic, and follow it by a body of information about the topic (for example a review of the literature, an account of the analysis conducted…). Most reports then present conclusions and when applicable, recommendations. Many reports, especially the longer ones, also provide a summary of the report so the reader can decide whether they are interested in reading the complete report. Similarly, many report authors choose to list information relevant but not essential to the report in an appendix. The most common report sections are discussed below. 3.1. Cover Page, Title of the Report, & Title Page The cover page should include the title of the report and information about the author(s). You should not underestimate the importance of a good report title. The title should give a clear picture of what information will be presented in the report and pique the interest of the reader. You can also include a title page (also known as the first page) that includes additional information such author contact information (in your case oftentimes your student number) and the name of your commissioner. 5

3.2. Executive Su E ummary/ Ab bstract Executive e summary a and abstract a are two term ms used to ref fer to the sum mmary prese ented to a reader at the beg ginning of a r report. The term ‘executive summary y’ is more com mmonly used d for professional reports, w while ‘abstra act’ is more co ommonly used for acade mic reports a and articles. However, bo oth terms are e used interchangeably so o it is not unu usual to find d an abstract included in a a professiona al report. The execu utive summa ary should be e short. As a rule of thum mb, your executive summa ary should no ot exceed 5% % of the leng gth of your re eport. For ex xample, if you ur report is 1 10 pages long g, your execu utive summary y should be a approximatel ly half a page e. Obviously, this is only a a rule of thum mb and you should de eviate from it as necessar ry. You shoul ld write the e executive sum mmary after r you have finished w writing your paper. The execu utive summa ary should be e a self‐conta ained summa ary of the con ntents of the report. Therefore e, it should in nclude an ou utline of what t you investig gated, an ove erview of the e information n that you c collected, the e analysis tha at you condu ucted, and the e conclusion ns that you re eached. When n applicabl le, you should d also includ de in the exec cutive summa ary your recommendatio ons for your commissi ioner. Note that the execu utive summa ary should ON NLY include content. BAD Exam mple (Try to Avoid This) #1 The p purpose of th his document is to do resea arch on the n new concept w we came up w with during th he them me Imagineeri ing. By postin ng a survey an nd analyzing t the results we e find out wh hether or not the new concept is su uitable. This w we do by analy yzing a mode el and telling t the sampling method. Why is it BAD? executive sum mmary shoul ld be a self‐co ontained sum mmary of the e CONTENTS S of the repor rt. The e The a above example describes the process, but does no t provide any y informatio on about the actua al information n collected (a a survey abo out what?), th he findings o of the analysis, or the recom mmendations s made to the e commissioner. A busy e executive sho ould be able to only read d the execu utive summary and know w exactly wha at your proje ect was about t. Also, not th he rudimenta ary English. You shou uld be able to o do much better! 3.3. Table of Con T ntents The table e of contents gives an ove erview of the contents of y your report. It consists o of a list of all t the headers ( (sections and d sub‐section ns) included in your repo rt with refer rences to the page numbe ers. In order t to ensure cla arity, you sho ould choose a a simple layo out. BAD Exam mple (Try to Avoid This) #2

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Why is it BAD? The correct sequence would be executive summary, table of contents, preface, and introduction. The executive summary should always be presented first, and be directly followed by the table of contents so that our busy executive can scan the contents of your report and quickly find the sections he would like to read more carefully. 3.4. Foreword, Preface & Acknowledgements A foreword, a preface, or acknowledgements are sections that can be found in the beginning of books and reports. They differ slightly from each other. A preface is defined as ‘an introduction at the beginning of a book explaining its aims’ (Cambridge, 2005, p. 992). Similarly, a foreword is also located at the beginning of a book, but can sometimes consist of ‘praise by a famous person or someone who is not the writer’ (Cambridge, 2005, p. 496). Both preface and foreword can contain acknowledgements, but these are sometimes presented in a separate section, either at the beginning or the end. The author typically uses this section to name friends, family, or others who have helped them through the process. This section is also used to name other works that were used, perhaps as inspiration, but are not cited specifically in the text and reference list. You can choose to include either a foreword or a preface, but they are not mandatory. Oftentimes, a short acknowledgement section will suffice. Note that the foreword, preface, or acknowledgement should NOT include content. 3.5. Introduction The introduction gives information to the reader about the content of the report. In professional reports it is customary to describe the purpose of the report and explain how the report is structured (Vlisteren, Hummel, Berkhout and Slootmaker, 2003). Furthermore, you may use the introduction as an opportunity to explain what will, but also what will not be included in the report. The introduction of an academic report contains different information that the introduction of a professional report. Specifically, in addition to information about the purpose of the report (often in terms of a problem statement and research objective), the introduction of an academic report will also provide background information and arguments as to why the problem should be studied (Sekaran and Bougie, 2009). Because providing this information can make the introduction more interesting, it is sometimes recommended to include this information even though you are writing a professional report, and not an academic report. This not‐so‐subtle difference between introductions to professional report and academic reports can be confusing. As a general rule, unless you have received specific instructions, you should decide on what to include in your report based on “what would my reader want to know from the introduction that will make them more likely to read the rest of the report?”. BAD Example (Try to Avoid This) #3 For the theme of the second year Imagineering we were divided in group [number]. Group [number] consists of [student name 1], [student name 2], [student name 3], [student name 4]and [student name 5]. In this theme we combined all the knowledge we obtained during the 7

Imagineering lectures, Imagineering articles, tutor sessions, consultancy hours, and the hotel [name] visit. We worked this out in the form of an advisory report for the Hotel [name]. We had a range of ideas and values, which we have worked out and implemented in our report. Our concept is based upon research and creativity of our group. We would like to thank our tutor [name] for her time, support and useful information. Same goes for [name] and [name’ who provide us with specific information of Imagineering. Furthermore we would like to thank [name] the contact person of Hotel [name], and the entire staff of the Hotel [name] who welcomed us into their beautiful hotel. Why is it BAD? The introduction should be about the content of the report. In this particular example, the students seemed to have confused the introduction for the preface. Introducing the group is redundant, since the information should already be presented on the cover page. Describing the project’s steps is similarly redundant since these were established by the commissioners. Finally, this introduction does not do what it is supposed to do, which is introduce the content for the report! 3.6. Main Body of the Report The main body of the report should include all the information necessary for the reader to understand and evaluate your activities. What information you should include will depend on the purpose of your report and the activities you undertook. For example, if you conducted a literature review as part of your project, it should be included in a section labeled literature review. Similarly, if you collected data and analyzed it, a description should be included in the main body of your report. 3.7. Conclusions & Recommendations Conclusions are typically presented in a separate section but should ‘arise naturally from the evidence presented in earlier sections’ (Rudd, 2005, p. 7). This means that you should not draw any conclusions that are not supported by your data, and you should not introduce new information. Depending on the purpose of your report, you may need to present recommendations. Recommendations can be incorporated with conclusions, or presented in a separate section. However, your recommendations should be based on your conclusions. BAD Example (Try to Avoid This) #4 . . Why is it BAD? A quick survey of six randomly selected IMA advisory reports showed that only 1(!!!) had included a conclusions & recommendations section. If you are preparing an advisory report, you should ensure that it contains a clearly labeled recommendations section. 8

3.8. References R Following g your conclu usions and re ecommendat tions, but be fore your appendices, yo ou should inc clude a list of re eferences me entioned in t the text. Prop per referenci ng will be discussed in se ection 7. 3.9. Appendices A You shou uld include in nformation re elevant, but n not essential l for understa anding your report, in th he appendic ces. For exam mple, if you ha ave conducte ed a SWOT an nalysis of a c company and d used the conclusio ons to formul late recommendations to o the compan ny, you may w want to inclu ude your conclusio ons in the ma ain body of th he report but t list the info ormation that t you collecte ed in a separ rate appendix x. You shou uld number and label each h appendix a and include it t in the table e of contents. Also, make s sure that the r reader is refe erred to each h appendix in n the main bo ody of the rep port, when th he information is relevant. You should b be very critic cal of which i information to include in n the main bo ody of the rep port, formation to include in th he appendice es, and which h information n to omit alto ogether. which inf BAD Exam mple (Try to Avoid This) #5

. Why is it BAD?

.

This r report starts with 17 pag ges of prelimi inary analyse es. These ana alyses were i important to o under rstanding the context in w which the co ompany oper rated, but we ere not direct tly supportin ng the 1. This report would have been in purpo ose of the rep port nfinitely bett ter if the stud dents had synth hesized the co onclusions of their prelim minary analy yses in one se ection, and in ncluded the comp plete analyses in an appen ndix.
1 The purp pose of the pro oject/report w was to improv ve a particular customer exp perience from the Imaginee ering

perspectiv ve. It was ther refore importa ant to underst tand the curre ent customer e experience (an nd context). However, this analysis w was not the pr rincipal topic of the report, an important distinction. t

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4. Layout of the Report The layou ut of the repo ort can be as essential to the clarity an nd ease of re eading of you ur report as t the writing it tself. For the report, use h headers to di ifferentiate b between sect tions and sub b‐sections. Numberin ng the sectio ons and pages is also help pful for longe er reports. Make sure you u use a font size that is lar rge enough fo or your reader. Try to avo oid using too o many differ rent fonts an nd colors… A As a general rule, use your r professiona al judgment w when laying out your rep port. Think of your audien nce r particular n needs. For exa ample, if you u are writing your report for a senior (both in age and and their rank) ma anager, you w would probab bly choose a larger font s ize and avoid d using crazy y colors and images on n the cover p page. Sometimes, an image can be worth h a thousand d words. So y you may cho oose to conve ey some of th he ion contained in your rep port in the form of tables,, graphs, and d other figure es. When doing informati so, make sure you lab bel your illust trations appr ropriately an nd list them i in a separate e list of tables s al when selec cting how to present you ur informatio on. and/or list of figures. But again, be very critica mple (Try to Avoid This) #6 BAD Exam

. Why is it BAD?

.

In thi is situation, t the students copy‐pasted a model from m the lecture e. However, t the model w was merely described in the repor rt, with no co onclusions pr resented. It w would have b been much m more tive to includ de the actual analysis con nducted using g the model h here, instead d of referring g to effect the ap ppendix. No caption was provided for r the figure. 10

When including images in your report that you have not created yourself, be aware that you may be infringing someone else’s copyright. 5. Best Practices for Report Writing The following are meant to help you with the process of preparing, writing, and finalizing your report. You may also want to consult the resources listed in Appendix 1. 5.1. Purpose of the Report It is very important that you formulate the purpose of your report before starting the writing process. The purpose of the report will, to a great extent, determine which information you should include and which you should omit. For example, if you are writing a descriptive report, you should focus on the provenance of the information you used. However, if you are writing an advisory report you should also emphasize your analysis and your recommendations. 5.2. Audience Identifying who the audience of your report is can help you structure your report and adopt the appropriate tone. For example, if your report will be read by busy managers, you should include an executive summary at the beginning to allow them to quickly get acquainted with the essence of the report. The table of contents will then help them identify which sections of the report they are more interested in (Sekaran and Bougie, 2009). 5.3. Constraints & Planning Before starting your project and writing your report, acknowledge your constraints. For example, if you only have six weeks to conduct the project and write the report, you probably should plan ahead and not spend six weeks collecting information only to start writing the report the night before it is due. Similarly, if the report limit is 1,500 words, you probably would not want an introduction of 1,000 words. A good rule of thumb would be for the introduction to account for 10%, the main body for 80%, and the conclusions and recommendations for another 10% of the report. 5.4. Information Collection & Analysis After finalizing the purpose of the report, identifying your audience, and acknowledging your constraints, you should start collecting the information necessary for the execution of your project. This can include collecting literature about the topic of your report, collecting primary data through surveys and interviews, and examining secondary data. When collecting information, it is important that you keep track of where you first found it for the purpose of referencing2. This is also the stage where you should conduct any analysis required to fulfill the purpose of your project. Oftentimes, writers list all the information they have found about the topic but fail to explain to the reader how it all fits together. For example, if you are conducting a SWOT analysis, you will collect information about a particular firm’s strengths and weaknesses (internal analysis),
2 A useful tool for this is Endnote. The library can provide you with further information.

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and information about potential opportunities and threats in the market in which it operates (external analysis). However, your SWOT will not be complete unless you discuss how the company can match its strengths to the opportunities in the market (Kotler, Bowen and Markens, 2003). 5.5. Structure of the Report Once you have collected the information and conducted the analyses necessary to fulfill the purpose of your project, you should focus on the structure of your report. The structure of your report will depend on its purpose and its audience, and should allow the reader to quickly find the information he is seeking. 5.6. Writing the Report You should not start writing the report unless you have a satisfactory structure already in place. This is especially true for when you are writing a group report where each member may be working on a separate section. While it is not recommended, it is possible to work in such a manner, as long as you have a strong structure and have agreed on what content to include in each section. During the writing stage you should also pay close attention to keeping your report clear, concise, and coherent. You can achieve this by organizing your paragraphs in a meaningful way within sections (Sekaran and Bougie, 2009). Transitions between topics, between sections, and between paragraphs should be smooth. Paragraphs should be structured using topic sentences3. Also, try to limit your use of jargon to what you know your audience will recognize and avoid rambling on… BAD Example (Try to Avoid This) #7 Since you are the general manager of this hotel, you know best what is going on with the hotel and therefore this will be kept short. The hotel has recently been taken over by S. and because of that the hotel does not have its full potential at the moment. Some rooms have already been refurbished whereas others are still in their old condition. This is just an example which shows that the hotel is not an entity yet. Because the hotel is not an entity the following challenge question has been thought of: How can we make this hotel an entity again. The solutions resulting from this challenge question range from removing the musical piece of art at the entrance to refurbishing all the rooms. To give you a better idea of what my group and I are working on, I will elaborate on one of the ideas. This creative solution to enforce the unity of the hotel is to breed a saltwater fish on the premises and to make this fish the face of the hotel. It will be used in the hotel’s logo. Each room will be equipped with an aquarium containing this fish and it will even be served in the restaurant. It is specifically a saltwater fish to bring back the salty history of the hotel. By implementing this solution the hotel will have its entity back.

3 You can find more information about topic sentences at:

http://www.ems.psu.edu/~schall/Paragraphing.html

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Why is it BAD? There are several things wrong with the above paragraph. First, the student rambles on. Try reading the paragraphs without the underlined sentences. Do you notice how these sentences do not add any information? Second, the students use “IMA‐jargon”. Unless you have taken IMA, would you know what a challenge question is? Third, the paragraphs are poorly structured. It would have been better if the first paragraph started with “the hotel does not achieve its full potential due to the lack of a sense of unity” and went on to explain why that was the case. The second paragraph should explain how the fish concept can restore the sense of unity. Fourth, the student’s tone is inappropriate. Addressing the general manager with “since you are the general manager” is not very polite. 5.7. Proof‐Reading the Report It is very important that you proof‐read the report to eliminate grammatical and spelling errors as these will make you look unprofessional. Also, should you have the opportunity, it may be a good idea to ask a third party (someone that is not in your group and is not the intended reader of your report) to read your report and provide you with feedback regarding the clarity, conciseness, and coherence of your report. 6. Referencing When using others’ ideas to support your work, it is necessary to acknowledge this fact by referencing their work in your report. At NHTV, we use the Harvard System of Referencing, also known as the author‐date system. The author‐date system entails that, in a report, references to sources must appear in two places: in the text and in a reference list. ‘Citations in the text are shown as the surname of the author(s) and the date of publication, plus the page number if a quotation is used’ (Collis and Hussey, 2009, p. 96). The citation needs to appear close to where the idea/image/quotation was first used, and NOT in a footnote. For each citation in the text, you need to include a complete reference to the work at the end of your report (but before the appendices) in a reference list. The references typically follow the format: author(s), year of publication, title of publication, information about the publication. The specific format of the reference will depend on the type of publication. For example4, a book will be listed as
Author, Initials., Year. Title of book. Edition. (only include this if not the first edition) Place of publication (this must be a town or city, not a country): Publisher.

A journal article will be listed as:
Author, Initials., Year. Title of article. Full Title of Journal, Volume number (Issue/Part number), Page numbers.

You need to be aware that there are many different variations of the Harvard System of Referencing. The following are all correct:
Bryman, A. & Bell, E., 2007, Business Research Methods, 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

4 These examples are taken from http://libweb.anglia.ac.uk/referencing/harvard.htm

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Bryman, A. & Bell, E., 2007. Business Research Methods. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press. Bryman, A. & Bell, E. (2007), Business Research Methods, 2nd ed, New York: Oxford University Press. Bryman, A. and Bell, E., 2007. Business Research Methods. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

So, as a general rule, we recommend you use the guidelines provided by the Anglia Ruskin University (2011) at http://libweb.anglia.ac.uk/referencing/harvard.htm unless your instructor has given you specific instructions. Ultimately, what matters is transparency. Your reader should be able to find your references easily. Which style you choose is not as important as being CONSISTENT and not mixing styles.

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References Anglia Ruskin University, 2011. Harvard System of Referencing. [online] Available at [Accessed 01 September 2011] Cambridge, 2005. Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Cambridge, UK : Cambridge University Press. Collis, J. and Hussey, R., 2009. Business research: A practical guide for undergraduate & postgraduate students. s.l. : Pallgrave MacMillan. DeFanco, A.L. and Lattin, T.W., 2006. Hospitality financial management. Chichester, UK : John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Kotler, P. Bowen, J. and Markens, J., 2003. Marketing for hospitality and tourism. Upper Saddle River, NJ : Pearson Education Ltd. Rudd, D., 2005. Report writing: A guide to organisation and style. s.l. : University of Bolton, 2005. Sekaran, U. and Bougie, R., 2009. Research methods for business: A skill building approach. Chichester, UK : John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Van Vlisteren, P. Hummel, H., Berhout, J. and Slootmaker, A., 2003. Rapporteren: De basis. Groningen, NL : Wolters‐Noordhoff.

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Appendix 1 ‐ Other Resources   The following site provides some further information about report writing: http://www.canberra.edu.au/studyskills/writing/reports Use the resources provided by the English department, available from N@tschool. Remember that the quality of the report will depend to a great extent on the quality of your writing…

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