Reports may be oral or written. An oral report is piece of fact-to-face communication about something seen or observed. Unless tape-recorded, it is as ephemeral as any other oral communication. Though it saves the reporter’s time, it is more time-consuming for the receiver as he has to listen to every word of the report. A written report is relatively more accurate and permanent. In certain cases the reader may just skim through it, or read the abstract or the conclusions or recommendations only. It can be referred to again and again and is by its very nature more formal than an oral report.
There are, however, certain types of written reports also which like oral reports, are comparatively informal. For example, the manager of a firm may write a report giving his assessment of the working of the branches he visits on a tour for the information of the proprietor. Generally, such reports are written in the form in the form of a memorandum and range from a few lines to several pages of detailed information. Sometimes they are written in the letter form too.
Formal reports vary a great deal according to their purpose and contents, and different organizations have different ways of classifying them according to their source or frequency of appearance others by their length or degree of formality or physical form. Whatever is the basis of classification, there is one thing common to them all – they follow more or less a similar pattern. We can classify these reports into the following two broad categories:
Both kinds of reports are the result of an analysis, investigation of a problem, survey of a situation, or a piece of research. An informational report contains only the data collected or the facts observed in an organized form. It presents the situation as it is and not as it should be. It does not contain any conclusions or recommendations. It is useful because it presents relevant data put together in a form in which it is required by the management to take decisions.
An interpretive report, like an informational report, contains facts but it also includes an evaluation or interpretation or analysis of data and the reporter’s conclusions. It may also have recommendation for action. An interpretive report which consists principally of recommendations is called a recommendation or recommendatory report.
There are some reports which are written in a prescribed form. All that that the report writer has to do is to put a tick mark against certain items listed in the form or write very brief remarks against them. These reports are written usually for recording routine matters at regular intervals e.g. confidential reports on employees, periodic reports on the progress of projects, reports on inspection of equipment etc. Though these reports are formal and contain information and sometimes recommendations also, they are called routine reports.