Professional Communication

Professional Writing

Clear Communication is a key element of professional writing, and a skill that employers value. Being able to write clear, effective research reports will position you as articulate and well-informed.

Business Writing: Clear, direct and brief

Business writing must flow well. Because people are busy and distracted, you must be brief, clear and direct.

  • Use few adverbs or adjectives
  • Organize your ideas and make sure they progress logically
  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short
  • Use lots of space between paragraphs
  • Proofread your writing, and if possible have someone else proofread it also to make sure that your grammar, punctuation and formatting are correct.

How to Write a Research Report

Most business reports are research reports — reports that start with a thesis or topic statement, present key points supported by evidence, and conclude with recommendations. Because people are busy, they tend to scan, not read closely, so reports must be clear, brief, and well-organized. Businesses depend on these reports and their recommendations, so research sources must be valid and current.

The Parts of a Research Report

  1. Thesis statement
  2. Overview
  3. Key Point 1, with supporting evidence
  4. Key Point 2, with supporting evidence
  5. Key Point 3, with supporting evidence
  6. Summary
  7. Recommendations/Next Steps
  8. Bibliography

Thesis Statement: What is this report about?

The thesis statement is the report’s foundation. It tells the reader what your report is about, and provides a clear path for the reader. The thesis statement starts with your main recommendation, followed by three key reasons. It looks like this:

[Recommendation] because [Reason 1], [Reason 2], and [Reason 3]

Here are three different thesis statements:

We should hire three new customer service representatives because they will decrease customer wait times, increase sales, and keep the store tidier.

Trello is the best task management app for our company because it’s online, easy to use, and stakeholders can see and share all parts of the project.

I will seek work as a digital marketer in the video game industry because I have 3 years of experience in digital marketing, a great professional network of people in video game companies in Vancouver, and my strengths and career goals are consistent with the local industry’s needs and practices.


Overview: Provides context and why it’s important

The Overview starts in a new paragraph after the Thesis Statement. The Overview provides background information that the reader needs to know, but only information that’s absolutely necessary for the reader to understand the report.

For example, from a report stating the need to replace an electrical power system in Vancouver:[1]

Here’s a longer example, from a report on the livability of Vancouver:[2]


The Body: Reasons, supported by evidence that proves the reasons

The body of your report provides evidence that supports your recommendation and reasons. Start with the strongest reason and then provide evidence to convince the reader. Then move to the 2nd most important reason and evidence to support it. Finally, write the third reason and provide evidence for it.

  • The Body is the longest part of the report
  • Divide the body into one Key Point for each reason; give each Key Point a descriptive heading
  • Divide each Key Point and supporting evidence into short paragraphs
  • Evidence must be valid, current and appropriate. Include citations for all sources, including conversations and social media. Almost every sentence might be cited

Lead the reader carefully. Describe the reasons and evidence so clearly that the reader agrees with your recommendation and believes it to be appropriate and viable.


Summary: Summarize the Reasons and their evidence

The Summary summarizes the recommendation, 3 Reasons and their supporting evidence. It reminds the reader of your reasons and why they’re valid. (Repetition adds clarity and helps convince.)

  • No new information is presented in the Conclusion
  • The summary is typically 1-3 paragraphs

This is the Summary from the report on Vancouver’s livability:[3]


Recommendations/Next Steps: Now what?

Recommendations/Next Steps are the final section of your report. They are clear, logical results of the 3 Key Points and their evidence. Typically written in a numbered or bulleted list, Recommendations/Next Steps must be clear, precise and actionable.

Here are two examples:

Next Steps

  1. Sales managers meet with Customer Service managers to define skillsets of the new positions
  2. Customer Service provides HR with preferred skills, traits and qualifications of potential employees
  3. HR recruits and screens qualified applicants
  4. Sales, Customer Service and HR representatives interview short-listed applicants
  5. Customer Service managers confirm their preferred applicants to HR
  6. HR contact, hire and onboard the new employees

Recommendations

  • Join 3 networking clubs or events before the end of semester
  • Research the qualities of successful LinkedIn profiles
  • Update my LinkedIn profile
  • Sign up for daily or weekly job posting notifications
  • Research 1 possible employer each day
  • Do volunteer work that’s related to my industry
  • Look for social and career-related Meetups
  • Take the Project Management certification

Bibliography: Your sources

The Bibliography is on a separate page following the report. It’s an alphabetical list of your research resources. See the Example Assignment for details


Formatting your Report

Please see the Style Guide for details. Organizations have different style guides for their publications. If your organization doesn’t have style guide, use the one provided here.


  Self-assessment 


  Canadian Workplace Quiz 


  1. BC Hydro, “West End Substation Community consultation report,” p. 3, June 15, 2018, https://www.bchydro.com/content/dam/BCHydro/customer-portal/documents/projects/west-end-substation/west-end-substation-community-consultation-report.pdf
  2. Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, “Greater Vancouver Economic Scorecard 2018”, 2018, p. 7,  https://www.boardoftrade.com/scorecard2018/assets/pdf/summary-report.pdf
  3. Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, “Greater Vancouver Economic Scorecard 2018”, 2018, p. 34,  https://www.boardoftrade.com/scorecard2018/assets/pdf/summary-report.pdf

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Professional Business Practice by Lucinda Atwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.