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Overview of the report. In this recommendation report, the writer compares several models of laptop against specific requirements and then recommends one.
Introduction. Right away in the first two sentences this writer states the purpose of this report. For the remainder of the first paragraph of the introduction, he provides some technical background, discussing MMX technology and the advantages it provides. The second paragraph provides an overview of the contents of the report—specifically, the main points by which the laptop computers will be compared.
Options to be considered. In this section, the writer explains how he narrowed the field to the four laptop computers he plans to compare. In a longer report, he could provide more detail, specifically as to how their performance and value made them stand out. In any case, readers need to know how you narrowed the field of options down to the ones you actually compare.
Second-level headings. Notice that this report has five second-level headings—for the options section, comparisons section, the conclusions section, the recommendation section, and the literature-cited section. These headings are like the roman numerals in a traditional outline. (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 features, performance, and cost. Think of these third-level headings as the capital-letter items in a traditional outline.
Bulleted lists with labels. Notice that the features and performance sections are divided into subsections which are discussed in bulleted-list items. Notice how the specific feature or performance item is italicized: this acts as an informal fourth-level heading and is a good technique for labelling important bulleted or numbered lists.
Source citations. The bracketed numbers occurring throughout the report 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 another style, the MLA, which use the author's name and page number in parentheses.
Comparison sections. The comparison sections (those focusing on memory, weight battery, applications, processor, and cost) compare all four of the options one single point of comparison at a time. Thus, the cost section compares the four laptop computers strictly in terms of cost. This is called the point-by-point approach, which is usually more effective that the whole-to-whole approach. The other approach, the whole-to-whole, would discuss each laptop in a paragraph of its own, which would make it difficult to state the comparisons in any organized way.
Individual conclusions. Each comparison section ends with a conclusion as to the best choice in terms of that one point of comparison. As a writer, you may find these conclusions to be so obvious that they needn't be stated. But remember that some readers are skimming; you the writer 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 table. This report is another 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. Write reports to ensure that readers see the important information—whether they are reading closely or just skimming. Some readers might do no more than read the recommendations and glance at the summary table. Other might question one of the conclusions and read just that related comparison section. As a writer, you have to design the report for all readers—from the most hurried to the most deliberate.
Conclusions. This report includes a a numbered list of the key conclusions drawn in the preceding comparison sections. These primary conclusions are based on the individual points of comparison: for example, one of the options was best in terms of memory. Secondary conclusions are those that address conflicting primary conclusions. Notice that one option is the best in terms of performance but also the most expensive. A secondary conclusion explains which option is preferred and why. Conclusions sections must end with a final conclusion which states which option is the overall best choice (but notice it is not the recommended choice).
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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