A lot of reports are written daily. Some of them are intended to document the progress of some activities, feasibility reports, investigation reports, some of the reports are for monitoring purposes, some are evaluation reports but it is clear that all the reports have some objective and purpose behind it. That objective and purpose can only be achieved if a report has the following qualities and characteristics:
- It should be factual: Every report should be based on facts, verified information and valid proofs.
- Clear and Easily understandable: Explained below
- Free from errors and duplication
- Should facilitate the decision makers in making the right decision:
- Result focused and result oriented
- Well organized and structured
- Ethical reporting style
Readers are various stakeholders who receive reports generated by M&E. If reports are reader-friendly, they are likely to be read, remembered and acted upon. Following decisions need to be made by CSOs to make their reports reader-friendly:
- What do they need to know?
- When do they need to know?
- How do they like to know?
Easy, Simple Language
M&E reports are meant to inform not impress. Using easy, simple language, be it Urdu or English makes the report friendly on reader. To do this, here are some useful tips:
- Write only what is necessary
- Avoid repetition and redundancy
- Give interesting and relevant information
- Avoid preaching or lecturing
- Compose short and correct sentences
Each report has some objective(s) to meet. The “objective” comes from analyzing the needs of the reader. A CSO is working for a project that has several donors, and is channeled through an agency that needs to be informed about some specific things going on in the field. CSOs reports are the main pathways or channels of information to the people who decide to fund this and other such projects. Similarly, field reports are the amin vehicles for the management of the CSOs to make decision regarding the project itself. A good report presents facts and arguments in a manner that supports the purpose of the report.
Organized and Well-Structured
Each CSO comes up with a format of internal reporting to suit its requirements. Reporting to donors is done on their prescribed formats. The M&E system should be able to generate information that can be organized using different formats. In the annex, this manual provides some useful formats that can be customized by a CSO.
In general, all readers are interested in the RESULTS. Therefore, one over-riding principle that CSOs should aim for in all report writing is to report on the results of their activities. This requires some analysis on their part that goes beyond a mere description of their activities. Result-focused means that description of activities is liked with the project objectives. This aspect must be addressed especially in the project progress reports. According to Phil Bartle, “A good progress report is not merely a descriptive activity report, but must analyze the results of those reported activities. The analysis should answer the question, "How far have the project objectives been reached?"
Timely Prepared and Dispatched
M&E generate “Information Products”, a customized set of information according to needs to a defined group of users. M&E’s information products are time-bound for both internal and external stakeholders. Reports, in suitable formats, need to be timely produced and made available to the readers. It is useful to develop an Information Product Matrix (IPM) like the one described below:
A good report is straight forward, honest description. It contains no lies, no deception, no fluff. It is neat, readable and to-the-point. It is well spaced, has titles and subtitles and is free of language errors.