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Overview of the report. In this recommendation report, the writer has decided to compare sports utility vehicles, with an emphasis on safety. He'll review and compare key details on three or four models and then recommend the best one.
Introduction. Notice that right away in the first sentence this writer states the purpose of the report. After providing a bit of background on the need for the study, he lists the criteria for his recommendation—this list is also the overview of the comparison sections of the report. At the end of this introduction, the writer lists what amount to entry requirements—the minimum features need for any vehicle to be considered in this study.
Options to be considered. In this section, the writer lists the sport utility vehicles he will compare and explains how he narrowed the field to the four vehicles he will compare. this is a good idea; otherwise, readers are likely to wonder why other options were excluded. (In terms of organization, the minimum-features paragraph just above might belong here in that the point of the discussion is roughly the same.)
Second-level headings. Notice that this report has two second-level headings—the first for the comparisons section; the other for the summary section. (First-level headings are not used because they are just too elaborate for a relatively short report like this one.)
Third-level headings. In this report, third-level headings are used for the four ways in which the vehicles are compared: overall driving experience, cockpit, safety, and price. Think of the second-level headings as the roman numeral items of a traditional outline and these third-level headings as the capital-letter items.
Source citations. Notice the bracketed numbers occurring throughout the report. These indicate the source of borrowed information, at each point where it is borrowed. Go to the end of the report to see what source 1 is. This is just one style of source documentation. You may be familiar with the MLA style which use the author's name and page number in parentheses.
Comparison sections. Notice that each of the comparison sections (those focusing on overall driving experience, cockpit, safety, and price) compare all four of the options on a single point of comparison. Thus, the cost section compares the four vehicles strictly in terms of cost. This is the point-by-point approach to comparison, which is usually more effective that the whole-to-whole approach. In the whole-to-whole approach, you'd have a paragraph on each of the vehicles, which would make it difficult to state the comparisons in any organized way.
Individual conclusions. Notice that each comparison section ends with a conclusion as to the best choice in terms of that one point of comparison. When you are writing, the conclusion may seem so obvious to you that it needn't be mentioned. But remember that readers are skimming; you have to do all the work for them—which includes drawing the proper conclusions from your comparisons and stating them directly (and typically at the end of each comparison section).
Summary. This report includes a summary—a numbered list of the key conclusions drawn in the preceding comparison sections as well as the additional conclusions that can be drawn from the initial ones. The primary conclusions are those based on an individual point of comparison: for example, one of the options was best in terms of overall saefty. Secondary conclusions are those that address conflicting primary conclusions. Notice that in this report, one option is the best in terms of comfort but also the most expensive. Which to choose? A secondary conclusion would state that decision and explain why. This summary must end with the secondary conclusions; the very last conclusion must the final conclusion which states which option is the overall best choice (but notice it is not the recommended choice).
Summary table. This report is a good example of how seemingly repetitive technical reports can be. The summary section repeats the conclusions drawn in the comparison sections. Now, this summary table repeats the key comparative information but in table form rather than textual form. We structure reports this way to ensure that readers see the important information, whether they are reading closely or just skimming. Some readers might do no more than reader the recommendations and glance at the summary table. Other readers might question one of the conclusions and read just that related comparison section. But as a writer, you have to design the report for all readers—from the most hurried to the most deliberate.
Recommendation section. It's important to create a separate recommendation section in which you state your recommendation. After all, some readers might want nothing more than to see the recommendation—you have to make it easy for them to find.
Information sources. At the end of the report, we have the list of information sources. This report uses the number system in which the sources are numbered, and these numbers are used along with page references in the body of the report to indicate the source of borrowed information.
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