Business/Case Report

A business/case report is a type of term project in Commerce. It is an opportunity for students to engage in team- and problem-based learning. These reports are often written to solve problems and provide direct recommendations; they are written in clear language in a tone that is respectful but authoritative. Completion of a report involves research, synthesis, analysis, and critical evaluation of a topic. These reports employ a formal style and are often accompanied by a presentation and/or include a case study.

PURPOSE. The purpose of a business/case report varies, depending on the specific goals of the assignment and/or the professor’s expectations; it could be to inform, to problem solve, or to report on a system, theory, or idea. Generally speaking, its purpose is to assist in making decisions.

NOTE. There are general principles of business/case reports, but they are not without variation. When in doubt, or if something conflicts, check with your professor.

Plan your assignment now:

Add your assignment plan to your calendar or download a PDF copy:


Business/Case Report

Because business/case reports are usually completed by teams, it is essential to assign specific tasks to each team member at each step of the process. Use this assignment calculator to support your group’s planning and communication (e.g., consider not only the deadlines but also the person or people responsible for each task).

Step 1: Establish group

This should take about 3% of your time

Group formation should happen as soon as possible in the semester, ideally within the first two weeks of classes. Most often, teams are assigned by the professor and are structured to be diverse.

Start by getting to know your group—their experiences, their strengths and weaknesses, their scheduling needs and working preferences, etc. Discuss roles, responsibilities, goals, and timelines. Best practices for your group’s first meeting include

  • establishing ground rules and/or writing up a group contract,
  • explicitly defining responsibilities,
  • setting guidelines for group meetings, and
  • being aware of potential challenges and planning how the group will resolve them.

Teamwork is an essential skill for the business environment. Excellent planning and communication make excellent teams.

Teamwork resources: five ways to be a better team playerhow to work with someone who isn’t a team playerthe secrets of great teamworkconsensus building, and conflict resolution.

Step 2: Read the specifications

This should take about 1% of your time

Before you start working, make sure you understand every word of the instructions. Look at the verbs: what are you being asked to do? (See common assignment terminology.)

Carefully read the details of the assignment (e.g., in the syllabus and the course learning objectives, in additional documents). Consider things like:

  • the elements of a formal business/case report,
  • document length,
  • group work considerations, and
  • how the presentation and report are connected.

Finally, make sure you’re clear on the minimum requirements. Which aspects of the assignment are mandatory and which are non-mandatory?

If you have questions, check with your professor or TA.

Step 3: Select a topic

This should take about 3% of your time

Sometimes you are assigned a topic and sometimes there is some freedom to select your own, with limitations (e.g., choose from a list of possible topics; choose something that is reasonably current; topic is subject to approval by the professor).

Try brainstorming (or brainwriting, or add SCAMPER (infographic)) with your group members. Be sure to do some initial research to make sure it’s a workable topic with an issue/problem that exists!

Step 4: Set your calendar

This should take about 2% of your time

Term planning is essential for successful teams. As a group, assign roles and responsibilities. Set specific target deadlines (with buffer room) for assignment milestones. Deadlines can be set/adjusted based on group member commitments and other events during the semester.

Try the task analysis chart to break down and track your group’s work. Both what you were told in class and the output from this assignment calculator can serve as a guide. You may also find it useful to develop an outline or structure for the report.

Step 5: Define the problem

This should take about 10% of your time

Define the problem that your report will set out to solve. Because your report will be framed around this problem, it is essential to select a problem that is

  • detailed
  • granular (i.e., there are multiple facets of the problem, different components that contribute, sub-issues, etc.)
  • measurable (i.e., how will you know when the problem has successfully been solved?)

See also: SMART goals in business

Step 6: Conduct research

This should take about 15% of your time

Conduct research on each sub-issue of the problem you’ve defined.

Develop a research strategy. Here are some resources to help:

Step 7: Draft analysis

This should take about 20% of your time

As you draft your analysis, use what you learned from your research to demonstrate that you understand the context, the problem, etc. Data and theoretical backing are required for your analysis. Without the analysis, your recommendations will be of little use!

Common writing problems experienced by Commerce students include:

  • Concision: it’s much more difficult than you’d think to write clearly and concisely (e.g., eliminating wordiness and use of the active and passive voice).
  • Overuse of jargon: the temptation is to use “business speak” but what you’re really doing is obscuring your point. Use plain language; be direct; don’t obfuscate.
  • Paragraphing: get help with paragraph structure and coherence.
  • Concreteness: this is especially important for recommendations and how you link them to the research/analysis you’ve done. Be clear: what are you recommending and why? Whenever possible, don’t tell your reader something when you could show them.

Step 8: Draft recommendations

This should take about 10% of your time

Based on your analysis, outline your recommendations. It is critical that your recommendations align with both the initial problem (and sub-issues) and the analysis. Your recommendations should also reference theoretical material from the course content.

Step 9: Draft ancillary material

This should take about 7% of your time

Write a conclusion, significance statement, and executive summary (if required).

  • See strategies for writing satisfying conclusions.
  • Significance statements are brief (approximately 120 words) explanations of the importance and relevance of the report’s analysis and recommendations.
  • Executive summaries are normally 1-2 page distillations of the entire contents of the report. They are written for busy people who have not yet been able to read the report in its entirety but need to understand its main messages. (See how to write better executive summaries.)

Complete your references page. (Academic integrity matters!)

Step 10: Aesthetics

This should take about 5% of your time

Take the time to format your report, to add figures, illustrations, charts/graphs, etc. Visual appeal is an essential part of persuasion!

Resources: How to incorporate visuals into your report, the effect of visuals in business operations, and how to transform boring and dry reports with data visualization.

Step 11: Compile appendices

This should take about 3% of your time

Add appendices as necessary: include any information that is important, but too long for inclusion in the main body of the report. Be sure to summarize the key takeaways from any appendix item in the body of your report.

Step 12: Revise content

This should take about 8% of your time

Teams often decide to make individual members responsible for different sub-sections of the report—an efficient strategy for drafting the document, but one that results in problems with the document’s logical consistency and writing style. Revision is a vital part of the process. Reports should read as cohesively as possible. Editing for consistent voice takes time, but it is an essential step that will greatly improve the quality of your report.

  • Revision happens in stages. To focus the task and make it more efficient and effective, pick a specific goal each time you revise (e.g., “This time, I’ll check for gaps in logic between the analysis and recommendations.”).
  • TIP: Focus on content during the revision stage. Don’t worry about length or more fine-grained details like grammar—those come next, in the editing stage.

Step 13: Edit

This should take about 6% of your time

Once you’ve finished revising, you can narrow your focus to your paper’s sentence structure, word choice, and grammar. Here are some of the most common errors in style, grammar, and punctuation and some ways to address these issues.

Group writing often produces extra-long reports, especially after group members’ sections have been compiled. Go through the report as a group: cut out unnecessary elements, focus on cogent writing and adhere to the requirements set out by your professor.

Step 14: Finalize your report

This should take about 2% of your time

Proofread for a final sweep! This is your last chance to find that typo that’ll haunt you if you find it right after your group submits their report.

Step 15: Submit and debrief

This should take about 5% of your time

Congratulations—you did it!

Time to debrief. What worked? What didn’t? What did you learn? Take some time to reflect on the performance of your group, give each other feedback, and learn from the experience.