Use this checklist to ensure your report is ready to go
- Purpose and content
Is the purpose/objective of the report included at the beginning and is it clear and unambiguous?
- Overall, have I done what I set out to do and achieved the purpose/objective?
- Does it take the readers’ needs and likely reaction into account?
- Have I answered all questions, addressed likely concerns and counter-arguments?
- Does the Introduction set the scene and give people all the information they need before reading the rest of the report? (The WWWWWH of the report?)
- Could the background section be cut shorter – is it all absolutely ‘need to know’?
- Style and readability
Can anything be cut out that is not needed? Can it be said more simply?
- Have I written in plain English?
- Can anything else be changed from passive to active?
Have I used actions instead of nouns eg ‘more resources’ rather than ‘an increase in resources’; ‘we decided’ rather than ‘a decision was taken’
Are any sentences too long? Is the average number of words per sentence around 15-20? (Clue: watch out for too many commas)
Could long lists and paragraphs be replaced by bullet points?
If I have used a ‘big word’ would a shorter one be just as good?
Have I made instructions clear and unambiguous?
Is the Flesch score about right for the anticipated reader?
- Credibility and accuracy
Are there any ‘facts’ where I have not stated where they came from? ‘According to a survey by …. Etc Have all references to publications, websites etc been cited and listed in footnotes or at the end of the report?
- Have I been objective and presented all sides? Is there any danger I could be accused of bias or being wrong? Is the information accurate, objective and complete? Is there anything missing that needs to be included? Is my evidence strong?
- Have I explained and expanded upon the points I make? (the ‘PEE?’ or ‘so what?’ test)
- Do my conclusions flow from the findings without any new surprises?
- Do recommendations flow from conclusions? Are they appropriately worded?
- Does the summary:
- Include enough information to stand alone for busy people?
Include key findings and conclusions?
Grab attention and seem exciting so people will want to read more?
- Could anything be made easier to understand by tables or charts or diagrams?
- Technical and layout aspects
If used, is the paragraph numbering correct?
- Have I double checked spelling and grammar? Are all apostrophes correct?
- Are all bullet points and punctuation consistent?
- Are all abbreviations consistent? Do I need a Glossary if I have used a lot of jargon? Is each abbreviation spelled out in full the first time it is used?
- If there is a Table of Contents (TOC), are all headings and page numbers correct in it?
- If Appendices are included are they all correctly labelled and included in the TOC?
- Has someone else critiqued the report and have I used their feedback?
- Have I done a final, detailed, word by word proof-read?
All ticks? Job well done!