Pro Bono Economics (PBE) works with a wide range of charities in our core areas.  Most projects fall into one of the following areas:

  • Analysis of a charity’s work (e.g. evaluation of economic costs and benefits).
  • Advice on what evidence and data a charity should collect and use to demonstrate the impact of its work.
  • Advocacy usually involving quantitative analysis of a specific policy issue (e.g. the cost of public services used to support children with mental health difficulties).

Our projects typically result in an independent report that is shared with the charity client and published on our website. PBE’s reports help charities understand and communicate the value of their work and contribute to raising the standard of economic assessment and evaluation in the sector. We place great importance on ensuring that all our reports are prepared to a consistently high quality in terms of both the substantive content and the presentation.

This document provides guidance on how to produce a high-quality PBE report which meets the expectations of our charity clients and is suitable for publication on our website.

What makes an effective PBE report?

Our reports have a broad reach that includes charities, policy makers and journalists, as well and researchers and economists. It is important that our reports are written in a clear and accessible way that speaks to readers who do not have a technical background in economics or evaluation. In practice, this means:

  • Writing in plain English, using short simple sentences and with minimal use of technical jargon.
  • Using a logical structure with clear signposting to guide the reader.
  • Foregrounding the main points and using footnotes and annexes to deal with detail.

At the same time, it is crucial that our work can stand up to rigorous scrutiny. In practice, this means that our reports must be independent with conclusions and recommendations based on reliable data and sound analysis.

What should a PBE report cover?

Although the project-specific nature of our work means that that not two reports will be identical, all of our reports should:

  • Give a clear and punchy summary of key findings and recommendations, which is particularly important to communicate effectively with journalists.
  • Explain the study approach and the supporting data and analysis.
  • Give a balanced view on key areas of uncertainty and any study limitations (e.g. study design or data availability), ideally with some ideas on and how these might be addressed in further work.

Report formats

We have developed three basic report formats that provide guidance on the expected structure and content of PBE reports. These are shown in the Table below with more detail in Annexes A and B.

These formats provide a flexible framework that can be readily adapted to fit different projects. They are also important in helping us maintain consistency in presentation and approach across diverse projects and project teams. We ask that you please discuss and agree significant departures from the formats with the Economic Associate assigned to your project.



High level briefing/executive summary

1-2 page summary of key points aimed at journalists and policy makers

Technical report (to support briefing document)[1]

15-20 page report that sets out the background, methodology, data and analysis, and key findings from the study.  Usually includes one or more annexes with supporting material

Short-form analysis

5-10 page succinct summary of discrete smaller pieces of analysis and research

Producing an effective PBE report

Our experience shows that the following process can really help in getting to a high quality final report efficiently.

Step 1: Develop a high level outline for the report study as early as possible
  • It is a good idea to develop a written outline (i.e. 1-2 pages) of how you plan to address the questions in the study terms of reference. This should set out the core methodology/approach, and consider what data is needed and available. 
  • The step will help identify any problems early on and reduce the risk of roadblocks later in the project. It also can help keep the project focused on the core aims, and ensure that expectations and understanding are aligned, both in the project team and with the client. 
Step 2: Agree what type of report format is needed and develop a detailed skeleton outline
  • Set out flow of key points in bullet points in sufficient detail to ensure the argument flows and there are no missing links.
  • Highlight where you will refer to supporting evidence e.g. in technical annex.
  • Discuss and agree with the EA and the client.
Step 3: Fill out the skeleton outline to get to a working draft to share with the client
  • Please ensure that you give the PBE EA assigned to the project an opportunity to review and comment on the draft report before sharing with the client.
Step 4: finalising the report
  • The final step involves revising the working draft to take account of the client’s feedback to produce a draft final report for review by PBE’s Chief Economist and sign off by the client.
  • At this stage, PBE will prepare the report for publication. This involves putting the report into our report format, final proof-reading.  In addition, we will usually make any final editorial changes that improve the presentation and impact of the report if necessary.

Report formatting

PBE will put your working draft into our report templates and modify the formatting to conform with our house style, so don’t worry about this.  There are a few things that we would like you to do that will help us to do the formatting.

Headings, font size, etc

  • Use a clear heading/subheading structure with no more than three levels so we can see where sections begin and end.
  • Use bullet point format to set out lists clearly.
  • Stick to a standard font size throughout.
  • Avoid the use of underlining, italics and bold to emphasise particular words or phrases.
  • Don’t use page breaks or landscape pages within portrait reports as these commonly cause formatting difficulties.

Tables and charts

  • Ensure that your tables and charts have title captions above them, and source captions below them.
  • Make sure that tables & charts are created in a form that we can edit (preferably using data in excel). Please do not include as jpegs.

Referencing style

  • Use the Chicago referencing style to provide the reference in footnotes for sources cited in the text. Please provide the full reference the first time a source is cited, and a shortened citation in subsequent citations.  Reference should include specific page numbers where relevant. For example:
  • Full reference: Pro Bono Economics (2018): Reading Recovery, p. 3.
  • Shortened reference: Pro Bono Economics (2018), p.3.
  • Footnotes should be placed after commas and periods.

[1] Note that in examples 1 and 2 the executive summary is integrated with the technical report.