Twc Chapter 13 Formal Reports


In chapter 13 of “Technical Writing for CCNY,” the chapter begins with an overview of formal reports, citing a formal report known as the “Mitchell Report” in which the use of performance enhancing drugs was investigated as to how it should be handled and what the legal and health effects of those drugs are. By doing so, the chapter gives a good insight into an example of how formal reports have a long-reaching impact and can change or address a variety of issues and circumstances in a given situation. Stating that many formal reports are produced each year to address a variety of concerns, the chapter then discusses the distinct difference between a formal report and an informal one, specifically, the length and extent of the problems the report aims to solve. In addition, the chapter addresses the fact that although each report contains certain sections that separate it from other forms or writing or thinking, it isn’t that much different from other methods of thinking and research that people do in their everyday lives. Some of the day-to-day activities they cite include:

- Purchasing a new car, computer, or other product after carefully considering its pros and cons.
- Making a careful decision about whether to go on a trip or vacation during a busy time.
- Reflecting on the outcomes, positive and/or negative, of a big decision that had been made previously, such as choosing a certain college, taking on a new job, or getting involved in a particular activity.

Thus, creating a formal report is simply putting the same ideas and decisions made in everyday life into the perspective a larger, more complex or risky situation. These ideas and decisions can involve making recommendations, seeing if a plan is feasible or not, or evaluating choices, which are key traits that are necessary for developing a formal report.

A key difference between formal reports and everyday decisions is shown in the chapter to be based upon considering an audience versus considering one’s own well-being. In many day-to-day decisions, one would only consider what implications the decision would have on them, rather than how the decision would affect everyone around him, due to the scale and trivial nature of the decision. However, in a formal report, careful and constant consideration must be had for the intended or affected audience, since the formal report is involving their decisions as well as affects others on a much larger scale.

The next section of the chapter begins to talk about a core characteristic between all formal reports, which is a criteria, or set of guidelines, that is used when evaluating or judging something. Going into further detail of what criteria are, the book gives an example of a simple task, such as recommending a good restaurant to a friend, and states a variety of questions that must be considered in order to make a well-informed and valid decision, such as “How much money do you want to spend?” and “How much time do you have to eat?” These questions are necessary criteria that must be considered since a good restaurant could be very much open to interpretation and must be filtered or condensed down into a choice that best reflects the intended situation. All formal reports need a set of criteria since they depend on the particular problem and are needed to make the right evaluations or recommendations.

The book then goes into a second example in which it puts you into the hypothetical role of being in the purchasing department of a company whose manager asks you to recommend a good vehicle that the company executives can use to travel great distances to work, with a budget of $45,000 a vehicle. Such situations require the careful consideration of criteria since many factors such as durability, gas mileage, and luxury are key points that are necessary for choosing the best vehicle. However, even those points are too open to interpretation and thus need further research, since what one may consider “good” gas mileage may not match up with the needs or expectations of another. Thus, while criteria are essential for developing a base from which one can make accurate and informed recommendations, they cannot stand on their own and require careful consideration and research of their own in order to address the situation at hand effectively.


The following section on recommendation reports shows how they derive from situations in which a company or organization needs to make a choice and need another individual to help them make the best choice, basically showing how there needs to be a comparison and contrasting of different choices, drawn conclusions, and an actual recommendation that takes into account the circumstances involved. Offering an example of a formal report known as “The Power of the Internet for Learning,” the book goes into further detail of what constitutes a formal report, paying close attention to its form, its professional manner, as well as the way it clearly conveys its recommendations and ideas to its intended audience. Furthermore, the book states how most if not all formal reports:

- Understand the different facets of the problem at hand.
- Recognize the audience of stakeholders who are influenced by the recommendation report.
- Recommend the choices that beset fit the criteria and suit the needs of the company, organization, or stakeholders themselves, depending on the nature of the problem.


A feasibility report’s purpose is basically to study a situation or a problem and determine whether a plan to address the situation or problem is feasible. Its goal is ultimately to help readers decide whether or not a given plan is possible (technologically, economically, or practically) and to implement the plan. Though they may not always give a clear cut yes or not, they serve the same purpose of a reccomendation report in that they advise the reader of a certain course of action rather than instructing them or forcing them to do what they say. This kind of report can exist in real life, able it in a different form, when trying to consider whether or not it is a good idea to go on a family vacation. The book shows that by considering the money involved as well as how safe the trip is, “feasibility reports” are simply extensions of decisions or advice we may make everyday, only in a more professional and extensive manner. One such feasibility report written by the Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development is listed as an example in the book, as it is written to specialists with particular subject of the issues involved and thus involve a more careful consideration and research than simply stating whether it is possible or not. The book goes on to state that these reports involve large amounts of technical information and money and thus need to be more comprehensive and professional due to its importance. Thus, the book establishes how feasibility reports require plenty of knowledge and research, giving a specific example of one and using the example to show what feasibility reports should be like.


An evaluation report basically involves answering the question “Was it the right choice?” While recommendation and feasibility reports give an assessment of the situation and offers a possible course of action, an evaluation report’s main goal is to see if the actions that were taken were effective or not. Also known as assessment or performance report, they are used to see how a plan or solution worked during the time in which it was in effect. The book then states that we do this kind of evaluation all of the time, using our firsthand experience with certain things such as a new video game or a fellow colleague in order to gain a sense of whether they are good or not, and links this game by stating that evaluation report accomplishes a similar task, only on a larger, broader scale. It then offers an example of an evaluation report from Duke University after it had given all of its students ipods, breaking down this example by showing what it aims to show and giving several other examples of scenarios in which evaluation reports would be effective, such as:

- An engineering firm that has stockholders who need to know about the company’s recent successes and failures. The firm would then compose an annual report as an evaluation report to assess the firm’s performance.
- Hazardous contaminants are found in soils and groundwater and different bioremediations techniques are used to remedy the problem. A study is then done to assess the effectiveness of these techniques, thus resulting in an evaluation report.
- The Securities and Exchange Commission works to ensure fairness and well-being in financial trading and investments in the U.S. Since the commission’s cases involve a lot of money, the Office of Inspector General of the United States regularly evaluates the commission’s ethical standards and integrity. In this situation, an evaluation report would then be needed.

Although recommendation reports, feasibility reports, and evaluation reports are all different in their own right, they are often produced in cooperation with one another simply because they are effective when combined together and are often combined for more complex and important formal reports.


Rhetorical strategies are of key importance when constructing a formal reports, and key parts that are necessary to focus on when developing a formal report include:

- Address audience needs
- Conduct necessary research
- Include helpful visuals
- Collaborate, Draft, and Revise
- Distribute Professionally

-Front Matter
o This includes information such as the title, byline, date, as well as the table of contents and list of all tables, figures, and symbols used in the report.
o In addition, an appealing front cover is also a required part of the front matter of a formal report.
o An executive summary, though it is not always required. It is more in-depth and longer than an abstract, and encapsulates the report into a smaller amount of space.
o An introduction, which indicates what kind of document the audience will be reading, such as a recommendation report, feasibility report, and/or an evaluation report. It also alerts readers of the report’s overall purpose.
o Since formal reports are problem-solving documents, many of them state the particular problem the report addresses in order to bring out the true purpose of the document.
o Some form of technical background that will give the report some meaning and will aid those who may not already possess the required level of technical understanding.
o An outline of criteria, which can involve numerical values, yes/no values, and ratings values.
o A discussion of possible options in order to allow the reader to understand later on in the report why one course of action was taken over the others.
o A comparison between the various options that allows the audience to understand your way of things and rationale for the decisions you made. Most evaluation reports lack this section simply because they are studying the effectiveness of something that has already been done rather than a proposed decision.
o Some conclusions or summaries of the previous sections, with the primary purpose of resolving any confusions that may have been caused by the previous sections.
o Any final recommendations or opinions offered as a result of the study’s outcomes.
-End Matter
o A list of references used within the report.
o An appendix, which contains support material for the body section of a report. Information that would otherwise break the flow of the body section would end up here.
o A back cover that outlines contact information and is appealing, similar to a front cover.

Formal report writers should practice a code of honesty despite the outcome of a report being the opposite of what the audience hoped to achieve. Though it may not benefit the immediate good of a company, honesty is important to go by in both formal and informal reports.


The chapter effectively begins by giving an exaggerated example of the problems that could arise with formal documents. The authors did a good job of stressing the topic of formal reports to the readers by disregarding the lack of attention the public gives to these genres. Another effective strategy is the listing of the following goals in the beginning of the chapter: “to cover what formal reports are, what different types exist, who they are written for, when they are needed, and the kinds of problems they can explore and solve” (pg. 359).

The authors do a good job of encouraging the audience that formal reports aren’t as painful to compose as they seem. The thought process and sections are very similar to everyday decision-making skills. It’s very helpful how they first lay out the similarities between everyday decisions and formal reports (so the audience can understand better), and then list what the main difference is (which is the audience and targeted concern).

The organization of the chapter is very helpful for readers who are skimming for specific information. After the beginning of the chapter, the first instructive section is appropriately named “Criteria,” which gives one component found in all formal reports. The next three sections, then, go into specific types of reports. The readers might find this formatting helpful when scanning for overarching topics and more specific topics.

A list of tips or to-do items are listed in the section labeled “Guidelines for Composing Formal Reports,” which gives the readers an easy way to evaluate their own writing in a short amount of time. The next section deals with the components and organization of the document. It is very helpful because it speaks about formatting, components of the body, and how to conclude the packet of information. Not ignoring the important topic of ethics in writing, the authors did a great job of reminding the readers the importance of honesty in all genres of writing, extending beyond the limits of the chapter focus.

Overall, the organization of the chapter is very good. The reading is a little dense, with almost 20 pages of reading, but the authors make it easy for the reader to get the essence with their effective components and divisions. There are small chunks of example documents in the sections about specific types of formal reports. Not to mention, the end of the chapter includes an extensive and complete formal report about Salmon protection. It has all the parts so that the readers can see what a completed formal report looks like.

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