Letter of authorisationis necessary if the terms under which the study was made should be recorded. It is written by the person who requests or orders the study to the person who is to be responsible for the work and the report. Some letters of authorisation contain detailed suggestions or instructions for the work; most do not.
Cover letter.A cover letter may be separate from the report. If it takes the place of the preface, it becomes part of the report. Cover letters may be addressed to the person or group that authorised the report (this letter becomes part of the report), to a special reader in order to call attention to subjects of interest to that reader (this letter is not part of the report), to a reader who has requested a copy of the report (this letter is not part of the report). Cover letters may be needed when action is requested of a reader, when reports are sent to the divisions of a company, when writers wish to remind readers of their previous connection with the project or with the writers.
A cover letter may include the main points of the report, the scope, the material of interest to the reader or readers addressed, acknowledgements, the need for and use of the report, major conclusions and recommendations, personal comments of the writer. It should not have the same wording as the summary (abstract).
Preface or Forewordcontains the same or similar information; therefore only one need be used, although occasionally works have both. A foreword is written by someone other than the author who knows and is willing to admire publicly the author and his or her work. A foreword may include the background of the development of the report, the report writers’ qualifications, the introduction of the subject to the readers, references to related literature, evaluation of the work. A preface is written in a personal style by the authors and may include any of the material appropriate for the foreword, the authors’ reasons for writing, their ideas about using the report, and their acknowledgements of help given by people and organisations.
Acknowledgements,however, are best presented in a separate section. Removing them from the other material or a preface gives acknowledgements more importance and is therefore more generous. This section should be revised with extra care to be certain that names are spelled correctly and titles are given accurately. Acknowledgements are, of course, optional except when writers must recognize the financial contributions of persons or organizations. It is wise to have the organization or person or both approve the expression of gratitude. We can think of occasions when for one reason or another acknowledgements have come as unpleasant shocks to those named.
Table of contents should give the main sections of the report in the order in which they appear, together with their page reference. Table of Contents is essential for long reports or major topics, but is not necessary for short reports.
Summary. The purpose of the summary is to allow busy people to get the gist of the report, without having to read it all. It should be an “independent” statement of the content of the report, including:
- a brief statement of the purpose and scope of the report;
- a brief outline of what has been done and how it was done;
- the findings;
- the conclusions;
- and the recommendations.
It should contain only the essential information which the reader will need.
It should be written after completion of the rest of the report. Summary may precede or begin reports. If these summaries precede, the reports may begin in any way that the writers think will meet the needs of their readers.