Making decisions requires the vigilant evaluation of options. A recommendation report proposes multiple potential solutions to a problem and concludes by recommending the best one. Compared to white papers, recommendation reports are more overtly persuasive, since they make a final recommendation that is informed by research and evidence. Read our advice all the way to end to download our free recommendation report template. Or better yet, if you’re ready to level-up your professional writing game, definitely check out our expert-crafted recommendation report template pack—an exclusive item in our Templates for Busy Professionals™ series. Watch our video about the reasons why you should write a recommendation report plus get a sneak-peak into our templates. If you’re ready to propel your professional potential, be sure to check out our online, on-demand writing course, Wordsmith: A Grammar & Writing Course for Busy Professionals. Now let’s jump into recommendation reports…
What sections are typically included in a recommendation report?
Begin with an “executive summary” that briefly introduces and summarizes your purpose for writing this report. This section establishes reader expectations for what is to follow. Make sure to state clearly here your reasons for writing this report, and what is contained within the report.
All recommendation reports address a real and important problem. The Problem Statement is perhaps the most important part of the report because it articulates this problem clearly, providing a strong sense of need for the options you will explore in the rest of the report. The Problem Statement is where you justify the purpose of this report.
To justify the options you recommend, you must first understand the specific needs of the business, organization, or stakeholders you are writing for (i.e. What does the organization need? Why? What is the background of this problem? Who are the major stakeholders? What has been tried in the past? Why didn’t it work?). Your Problem Statement will serve as your introduction to the options discussed in this report.
Description of Options
This is the heart of a recommendation report. In this section, you describe a set number of possible ideas (typically 3) for solving the problem cited at the beginning of your report. Your ideas should be creative and well-planned. Each option (which should be described in 1-2 paragraphs) should include the following information:
- a cohesive, comprehensive overview of this option/idea;
- information about how this option answers the need cited at the beginning of your report;
- specific details about how this idea could be implemented; and
- justifications as to why this option will work.
Evaluation Criteria & Evaluations of Each Option
After describing the three options, you should outline criteria for evaluating those options. The criteria should be based on the information outlined in your Statement of Need. After listing and justifying evaluation criteria, you should evaluate each option based on its ability to answer your criteria.
After describing and evaluating your options, you will recommend the one you think is best and provide a discussion of the reasons why you recommend it. In other words, defend your recommendation thoroughly in this section.
The conclusion to a recommendation report should re-emphasize the final recommendation and offer suggestions about how the audience/reader could move toward implementation.
Recommendation reports sometimes require in-depth research that can range from conducting interviews and surveys to reading peer-reviewed journal articles or other related documents. You should cite this information so that future readers can find the articles and resources you used. The citation style you use should be based on the industry you’re writing for; the chemical industry will expect ACS Style, medical professionals will expect AMA, humanities audiences will expect MLA, social sciences will expect APA, and so on.
Point of View: Should I Use Third Person or First Person?
Like most business reports, this should be written professionally. This usually means avoiding too much personal narrative, and instead relying on third person. For example (third person): “This report overviews three options for community partnership with Feed My Starving Children.” However, it is perfectly fine to use the collective first person sparingly throughout the report, especially to indicate something practical that you did. For example (collective first person): “We designed this campaign with a special emphasis on bold color in order to draw the viewer’s attention to the innocence of childhood imagination, and in order to contrast that with the hopelessness of hunger.” OR “In this report, we overview three options…” Notice that these three examples are not opinionated (as one might fear when using first person). Instead, they merely acknowledge that a real, living, breathing human wrote this report and developed these options. For this reason, first person is great when it’s used for these rhetorical purposes.
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If you’re ready to start building a professional-quality recommendation report, be sure to get our Recommendation Report Template Pack—a robust set of highly designed report templates with expert writing advice built right in. If you’ve ever found yourself needing to argue for a specific course of action in your organization, a recommendation report will help you analyze a problem, product, population, or process and make clear recommendations about the best path forward.
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