Front matter is an extremely important element to writing any report. Whether its for a specific company research or for other personal reports. Specifics such as the size of the font, font type, formatting, and organization also need to be taken into consideration when creating the front matter of your report.
The first few pages of a report are essential. An abbreviated abstract will assist the reader in finding what the main points of the report will be about.
These elements are often referred to as “Book Elements”, as they are commonly found in larger works.
Important considerations should be made on how your publication will be used. To increase usability, you should consider how your readers will be using the report, and what they will be looking for, and focus on making this easy to find.
A cover page is a very simple, precise, brief way to introduce your report to the reader. This should contain:
- A large specific title
- Company name
- Name of the author(s)
- Date of the report
- Relevant picture
The use of a relevant picture or two can help reinforce the subject of the report. One goal of the cover page is to be informative and scalable because once it is filed, it will need to be easy to pick out of a stack of other reports. A second goal is to make the report stand out. If the report cover looks bleak and dull, the reader will start reading with a negative outlook. Think of the cover page of a report like what is worn to an interview. The cover page is the first thing that is seen. It will be the foundation for first impressions, for better or worse. One easy way to make the report stand out is to use a theme for the report that your audience can connect to. For example, if a report is written to McDonald’s, the cover page will be in yellow and red with the golden arches as a picture. It is important that the reader believes that he or she is the most important aspect of the report.
A title page will be very similar to your front cover and it repeats the information on the cover, but adds more important details. This may include a report number, date, title, the names and addresses of authors, specific contract information, the name and address of the supervisor, and the name and address of the organization who supported the report (Technical Communications, p.312)
The title page is an opportunity to provide specific, detailed information about the document and its authors to its intended audience.
Executive Summary or Abstract
Abstracts are an important element in the business world. This will help a manager learn the main points of your document, and help the reader determine if the entire report is relevant to what they are looking for. Charts and graphs that show factual data are helpful visuals that can be implemented into this section of the document.
Major topics should be mentioned, but not the main points of each. This will be where most of the key words of your report are used, and will be a preview of the information to be covered. Often, summaries are used when representing a report in a database, so illustrating the main topics of your report in this segment can be useful.
The abstract should always be a page or less, especially in informative situations. Typically an abstract should not be more than 15 percent of the total report.
According to the Technical Communications text,
- Identify the intended audience
- Describe Contents
- Tell the reader how the information is presented
Table of Contents
In any report or analysis, a table of contents is helpful to navigating the report. Some lengthy reports may also include a table of graphs and/or a table of figures.
In addition to the summary, this will allow the reader to quickly scan the topics you have covered. This will also help if they are looking for something particular. Use of proper headings and sub-headings give readers a good overview of all the information contained in your document.
Table of contents are usually extremely generic and similar to each other. This is for ease of navigation to the user. Table of contents can be formatted from Microsoft Word.
Lists of Figures and Tables
This is a useful section to include because your images or tables are referred to repeatedly throughout your text. Include Figures and Tables lists when your article is over about 15 pages. This also allows for easy comparison between images when they are grouped together.