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Report Writing
Organising and numbering your report
 

There is no one ideal strategy that can be used to organise the information of your report as this will vary and be dependent upon the information you are presenting. A logical and clear organisational strategy, however, is a key ingredient to a good report. It is important to include a consistent numbering system for the headings and subheadings, or to use the layout (indenting) of the report's headings to indicate the sections and sub-sections; for example, the following heading and subheadings have been taken the report of a university library.

1. CLIENT SERVICE SATISFACTION
  1.1 Client Feedback System
    1.1.1 Interlibrary Loans
    1.1.2 Shelf Tidiness
    1.1.3 Three Day Loans
  1.2 Materials Availability Survey
  1.3 Online help service
     
2. INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
  2.1 The library system
    2.1.1 Use
    2.1.2 Maintenance
    2.1.3 Future directions
  2.2 Databases
    2.1.1 Use
    2.1.2 Access
    2.1.3 Expansion

Below is an extended example of a report structure that looks at how you might arrange the hierarchy of headings and subheadings.


The first order numbering identifies the main sections:

1. HEADING FIRST MAIN SECTION
2. HEADING SECOND MAIN SECTION
3. HEADING THIRD MAIN SECTION

A second order system of numbering is used for the subheadings or subsections that come under each of the main headings:

1. HEADING FIRST MAIN SECTION
  1.1 Second order heading
  1.2 Second order heading
  1.3 Second order heading
2. HEADING SECOND MAIN SECTION
  2.1 Second order heading
  2.2 Second order heading
  2.3 Second order heading

The sub sections may then require further sub dividing into a third order system of numbering:

1. HEADING FIRST MAIN SECTION
  1.1 Second order heading (sub-heading)
  1.2 Second order heading (sub-heading)
    1.2.1 Third order heading (sub-sub-heading)
    1.2.2 Third order heading (sub-sub-heading)
2. HEADING SECOND MAIN SECTION
  2.1 Second order heading (sub-heading)
    2.1.1 Third order heading (sub-sub-heading)
3. HEADING THIRD MAIN SECTION
  3.1 Second order heading (sub-heading)
    3.1.1 Second order heading (sub-heading)
  3.2 Second order heading (sub-heading)
    3.2.1 Third order heading (sub-sub-heading)
    3.2.2 Third order heading (sub-sub-heading)

(Adapted from Dwyer, J. (1991) The Business Communication Handbook (2nd Ed.). Sydney: Managing Business Communication.)

In general, your table of contents will only show the first two levels of headings. The headings should appear in the table of contents exactly the same way as they appear in the text of your report in terms of numbering, capitalisation, underlining etc. (Weaver & Weaver, 1977).

 



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