Ever since people have gone out into the field, either for work or academic research, being able to report back on their findings has been critical. This method of gathering data and noting observations, known as field reporting, helps companies, research bodies, and other organizations understand what’s happening outside their walls and, in some cases, use the data to make decisions.
What is a field report?
A field report contains the findings from field data presented in a way that can be easily digested by decision-makers. It can include charts and graphs, as well as images, text analysis, and more. The purpose of a field report is to illustrate a point or help a decision-maker draw conclusions.
Why field reporting matters
Field reporting not only provides decision-makers with essential data and observations but can also result in incredible cost savings. In one instance, a private investigator’s field evaluation of a plaintiff resulted in a $265 million court verdict being overturned, so the company didn’t have to pay those damages.
In addition to private investigators, students working on research projects, law enforcement officers, fleet mechanics, sales team members, and other professionals have to file field reports. There are many different uses for these reports that span a variety of industries and professions.
Using data from field reports can make workplaces safer. In the construction industry, gathering data from safety checklists, daily logs, tool and equipment inventory, and labor hours can help track trends like injuries or suggest when to perform preventive maintenance on machinery.
In a research setting, field reporting can validate a hypothesis. For example, if a company is trying to prove that a new pesticide is more effective at keeping bugs from eating corn without being a pollutant, its field workers could measure and report on chemical levels in soil samples. They might also record observations about how well the crops are growing and whether there’s evidence of a reduction of pests.
What goes into field reporting
There are two main components of field reporting: data collection and data reporting. When collecting data, objective measurements, such as how tall something is, as well as subjective observations, like how a subject is behaving, are included.
The data is then put into a format that can be analyzed and presented to decision-makers. This can include creating charts and graphs, adding pictures, writing an analysis of the data, or all of the above.
While it’s easier to present objective data — because it’s based on numbers or responses — subjective data is important and helps with validating a hypothesis or making decisions. A field report lays out the data in a way that makes it as easy as possible to detect trends or prove a point.
But to create comprehensive field reports, you first need to collect enough data. There are a lot of ways to do this, including using paper forms and online forms. These forms help standardize the data you collect so you’re looking at the same metrics and can report on them consistently.
Before you begin to collect and report data in the field, it’s important to know what you’re getting into and what you’ll need to be successful. In this guide, you’ll learn
- Who needs to file field reports, such as researchers, law enforcement officers, and repair workers, and why this is important
- How to collect field data, including how to use forms on mobile devices instead of paper to make the task easier and improve the accuracy of data collection
- What to do if you’re collecting data in an area with an unstable (or nonexistent) internet connection and how to work around this problem
- How to prepare a field report with the data you’ve collected, including ways to turn your data into a professional-looking report
- How to set up forms that you can use for field reporting, as well as automatic reports you can share with those who need to review them
Field reporting can be very valuable to your organization, as long as you collect the right data and present it in a clear way to decision-makers and others in your organization. Let’s take an in-depth look at this process.
Who needs to file field reports
A lot of different industries have field workers — oil and gas, sales, information technology, and construction, among others. Researchers also often go out in the field to collect data for studies. Anyone who isn’t in the home office will usually have to file a field report, particularly if the data is needed quickly.
Field reports are also part of remote work, which can include professionals like home health aides, hospice nurses, or housekeepers who make onsite home visits. For example, home care aides may visit clients at their homes but rarely go to the company’s office. These employees are, for the most part, remote workers, and they file reports on how the client is doing and what they did that day so supervisors can make adjustments accordingly.
Essentially, any company that has employees who don’t work in the office, or any researcher who works outside of a lab and collects data in the field, will need field reports. Here are four use cases for field reports.
1. Academic uses for field reports
As mentioned, a lot of research is conducted outside of a laboratory, classroom, or library. These researchers use field reports to describe what they found in the field as well as analyze it. To do that, they collect data — everything from rain levels to in-person interview responses — and put it into an ordered format.
Sociologists in particular need to survey people for studies they’re conducting. Let’s use the example of a study about people who work remotely in coffee shops. The researcher — in this case, a sociologist — will need to go to cafes to study their subjects and record their findings so they can draw conclusions from their research.
One goal here could be to find out if doing remote work in a coffee shop makes people more productive. The researcher could go to several different coffee shops, chain and independent, and survey people who are on their laptops. They might ask several questions, like how many hours in a typical day the person spends there and how many words they write at a coffee shop compared to at home.
Researchers need to be able to access and analyze the collected information later, which is where field reports come in. The field reports they file include the responses to the survey. They will use this information to write their final analysis of the data. An example of a final analysis could be “People who work in coffee shops write 200 words more per day than they would if they worked from home.”
Students can benefit from field reports
Students working on their theses can also use field reports. A candidate for a master’s degree in criminal justice could write a thesis about how female inmates perceive their incarceration. They would need to travel to the facility to interview the inmates and file field report findings based on their conversations with subjects as well as their observations.
Similarly, an animal husbandry student writing a thesis about cattle-raising methods would collect data and file field reports. In a case like this, some of the data might need to be visual, like pictures of the animals or video clips of them eating, moving, or interacting with each other.
Each researcher would also need to collect objective data, like numbers. The animal husbandry student, for example, might collect data on the amount of food the cattle are eating and how much weight they’re gaining.
These field reports help organize data for the students and let them analyze their findings once they’re back at their computer. They’ll be able to write their theses much faster with field reports they can reference and even import into their papers.
2. Field reports in the workplace
The cable technician, phone company repair person, and the person installing a dishwasher all have something in common: They need to file field reports. All of them work in different locations, but their home bases each require information on what’s happening during their service calls.
For example, a cable technician arrives at an address to investigate a service outage. Upon arrival, he discovers that the cable providing service to the address has been gnawed on by animals. He’ll need to file a report, likely with a photo of the damaged cable so it can be repaired.
The person installing the dishwasher will need to let headquarters know how the service went, even if the installation went smoothly. The report may include how long the installation took and if any special parts were used. This report will likely need to be completed before the installer goes to the next job.
On a construction site, the supervisor will file a field report every day, noting progress and conditions. What date and time was the foundation poured? How much of the framing was put up on a given day? Was construction ever halted due to an unexpected thunderstorm? The person filling out the report might also want to note if they needed to order more supplies or if something arrived damaged, which would delay progress on the job site.
Upselling with field reports
Out in the field, a salesperson could file a report describing different meetings with clients. For instance, if they’re demonstrating software systems to prospects, they would record what software they demonstrated, what the prospect’s reaction was, and when they should follow up with the prospect.
Sometimes, this is done in a customer relationship management (CRM) system. But smaller organizations may find it helpful to have field reports instead of or alongside CRM software, particularly if they’re moving into a new market and want to analyze trends or consumer feedback about their product or service.
These field reports could even include a series of questions for the salesperson to ask. For example, they could ask about the customer’s budget, when they plan to purchase a new item, and what their current solution looks like.
3. Field reports for public safety
Some professionals, like police officers and private security guards, file field reports for public safety purposes. While they’re patrolling, they need to keep track of incidents and provide that information to their home station, even if the incident is as minor as giving someone a verbal warning about a civil infraction like loitering.
A security guard at a shopping center, for example, spends much of their time patrolling. If they’re called to assist with a shoplifter, they have to document the situation, such as how they stopped the shoplifter, whether the store owner decided to press charges, and what was stolen.
For police officers on patrol, a field report could include observations as well as incidents, or just a summary of their shift. An officer’s field report might include how many calls they responded to and what type of calls they were, or it could be a detailed report of a call they were on and what happened, like whether an ambulance was needed on the scene.
4. Remote employee field reports
A remote employee may need to file a field report. In the case of a home health aide, they need to file a report for every client they visit and include what happened during their visit. What medications did they give their client? What activities did they complete? How was the client’s disposition?
Even someone who has to work from home temporarily during the COVID-19 pandemic may have to report on the status of projects or the time they spent on different tasks. Data like this helps managers know what’s going on, even when they can’t pop over to someone’s desk to ask about a project.
The bottom line is, anyone who does any kind of work outside a traditional office may have to file field reports. Rather than being limited to repair technicians and salespeople, field reports can be helpful for a variety of professionals who don’t work at a traditional office. Collecting field data and sending it back to the home office provides those who aren’t in the field with a picture of what’s happening.
Field data collection
Because data is such an important part of the field reporting process, workers and researchers in the field need an easy way to collect and store it for later analysis. While some data is based on observation, like the perceived body language of two study subjects, other data requires surveying people and collecting their responses.
However, observations alone won’t provide enough data to draw sound conclusions, particularly when it comes to studying humans. Workers and researchers will need to use surveys, quizzes, and questionnaires to interview people so they can understand how their subjects view a particular situation.
For example, the sociologist interviewing customers who work remotely from coffee shops will need to ask a set of standard questions. These questions should be formatted as a survey that the researcher can use to interview the customer or that the customer can answer themselves, using a paper survey form, a tablet supplied by the researcher, or their personal device.
For the field worker collecting data, like water levels or crop growth, a questionnaire that includes everything they need to measure or record is a must. This can help remind them to obtain certain metrics so that the information they collect is consistent, as well as provide a standard reporting structure.
Where paper forms fall short
In the past, companies used paper forms to collect data, but this presented a series of challenges. For starters, field workers may need to include images with their reports, like pictures of crop growth or damage that needs to be repaired. Today, when workers can snap a photo with a mobile device, paper forms make including this information increasingly difficult.
Additionally, paper can get lost or damaged during the data-collection process. Workers in the field can misplace a stack of forms, or a form can blow away in a strong wind. They can spill something on the forms and render the information illegible.
Finally, paper forms need to be input into a database before the data can be analyzed and turned into a report. If the field worker’s handwriting is hard to read, this can make it difficult to record accurate data in the system. People can also make typos while inputting data, further rendering the data inaccurate.
Data-collection methods with online forms
Thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets — plus the wireless coverage that spans most of the United States — one of the easiest data-collection methods is online forms. There are many advantages to using online forms, particularly if you’re collecting a lot of information.
Online forms evolved from paper-based forms. They provide workers with the questions they need to ask or answer themselves so that they don’t forget anything. For example, an incident report for a security guard would include fields like what type of incident occurred, who was involved, and who witnessed it.
Collecting this information on paper could be very time-consuming, and that information could be difficult to interpret. Any decisions based on data that wasn’t accurately input could be flawed, and in some cases, cost a company a lot of money. In research settings, incorrect data could result in development of the wrong solutions.
As mentioned above, paper can also be lost. All it takes is placing the completed form in the wrong folder, and the data that was painstakingly collected is gone. That’s why online forms are a better choice for data collection. Information is stored in one place, not on multiple sheets of paper.
With online forms, you can send the data directly to the cloud storage service of your choice. This not only backs up the data but also makes it easier to access for analysis later. For example, if you’re trying to analyze trends in crop growth, you’ll be able to quickly call up the data to start modeling when you get back to your office, rather than having to input the information you collected on paper.
This is especially important in the field, where workers often need to quickly input answers or observations. They’re able to type answers into a device, which can not only be faster but also eliminates the problem of illegible handwriting.
Online forms in action
There are a lot of different ways to use online forms for field reporting. Often, it’s more convenient for an employee or researcher to collect data electronically than to write it down.
Consider the security guard who is filling out an incident report. They’re in the middle of their shift and detaining someone who vandalized the building. They need to take down all the data they can: what the vandalism was, who the suspect is, and how long it’s taking for the police to get there. They may also need to include photographs of the damage.
If they use a paper form, the information they write down will have to be entered into a database later. If the security guard is responsible for this step, it might pull them away from responding to another incident, like a shoplifter.
An online form allows them to collect data, which is automatically uploaded into the system. The security guard doesn’t have to go back to a desktop computer or try to read a hasty scrawl from when they were trying to get down all the details as quickly as possible.
Once the data has been uploaded from the form, their supervisor can review it. The information from this report, as well as other reports, will help the security company notice and track trends, like an uptick in shoplifting at a particular store.
Similarly, a graduate student working on a thesis is likely already swamped and doesn’t have time or an assistant to input all the data from paper forms. An online form lets them collect relevant data and automatically uploads it so that it’s waiting for them when they’re ready to start analyzing it.
Mobile forms assist in the field
Solutions like Jotform Mobile Forms let field workers gather and upload data without having to be tethered to a computer. They can use a smartphone or tablet to answer questions or survey interview subjects, and the data is uploaded into the system of their choice.
One practical application is for a nonprofit employee conducting surveys on community needs. The employee can take a tablet door-to-door or to a community event and either ask questions and input the data themselves, or have people take the surveys on the device. The same goes for sociologists interviewing subjects. They can hand over the tablet for someone to complete a survey or questionnaire.
In some cases, interview subjects can even use their personal device to take a survey. The researcher can provide them with a URL, QR code, or email invitation to take the survey, and the subject can respond to the questions at a later time.
Mobile forms are also useful for transportation fleet workers to report on the status of vehicles. For example, they can note how many miles were on the vehicle before it left the depot, how many miles it traveled, and if there were any incidents, like a flat tire, during the trip. (Bonus: They can fill out a separate incident report about the flat tire from a mobile form too.)
Another particularly useful feature is the ability to assign forms to different employees. This allows employers to send forms to different workers to make sure they’re collecting the right data for the task at hand.
Consider a cable repair person on a service call for a faulty cable box who gets a new assignment to check a wiring issue at a different location. The issue at the second location requires the repair person to collect a different set of data. The supervisor can assign the appropriate form to the employee from their office, and the worker will have it on their device.
These are just a few of the ways organizations can use online forms to collect field data. Online forms make it much easier to upload the data into a database, as well as to organize the data later, particularly if you’re preparing reports on them.
But what if your internet connection drops while you’re collecting data, or you don’t have an internet connection at all? Here’s how you can still use online and mobile forms in the field, even without reliable internet access.
What if you are disconnected?
Unfortunately, there will be times when field service workers don’t have reliable internet access or cell phone service to connect to the internet. While most of the U.S. has wireless coverage, U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) maps show that there are still areas of the country that don’t have signals, particularly rural ones.
Even when there is wireless coverage, it can be spotty. Mountains and other natural landscape features can block signals, as can tall buildings and other construction. In urban areas, particularly if the field worker is inside a building interviewing people, they may be able to connect to a Wi-Fi network as a workaround, but that’s not always the case, and valuable data can be lost if the connection suddenly drops.
In some cases, workers may be using a device that’s entirely offline and unable to connect to a Wi-Fi network. For example, the tablet they’re using may not be able to use a cellular network.
Fortunately, there are ways to use mobile forms, even without an internet connection or cellular service. And the best part is that there’s no data loss.
Workarounds for offline data collection
Not having internet service or wireless connectivity doesn’t mean field workers have to return to paper and pen data collection. There are some workarounds you can use so you don’t have to resort to analog methods — granted, some are more effective than others.
The first workaround is to prepare a standard set of questions in a word processing document, then make a copy every time you need to collect data. A worker can fill out a copy of the document with the data they need, then save it, and repeat the process with the next set of data they need to collect. While this method will save the information to the device’s memory without needing an internet connection, it does have some drawbacks.
The biggest drawback is how much space this may take up on a mobile device. If the device is a tablet with limited storage, and the worker also has to collect images, they will need to regularly back up the data (e.g., on the hard drive of a computer or in a cloud storage service) and remove it from the tablet.
The other question is whether or not the data will sync to the cloud. If you’re using an app like Dropbox, this might make uploading data easier, as a lot of cloud storage services have mobile apps for iOS and Android devices.
However, even if the cloud file upload goes smoothly, you’ll still need to format the data for analysis in a spreadsheet or database.
Another workaround is to place the questions in a spreadsheet, then make copies as you would with the word processing document. Again, you run into the problems of available space on the device and syncing the data to the cloud. You’ll also have to figure out how to combine that data into your existing database or import it spreadsheet by spreadsheet into the system you’re using to analyze your data.
These workarounds to collect data when you don’t have a stable internet connection can be more frustrating than the missing or dropped signal itself. And there’s always the risk that you’ll lose the signal before you can save your data — losing your work in the process.
Using mobile forms offline
Some mobile form providers have capabilities that allow you to fill out the forms offline and store data locally if your connection drops. The information then automatically uploads once you’re reconnected to the internet via a cellular signal or Wi-Fi.
That’s the case with Jotform Mobile Forms. Offline capabilities are baked into the system, so if you don’t have a reliable internet connection, you can still use your mobile forms to collect data. Jotform stores the data on your device, and then uploads it once you’re reconnected so that you don’t have to rely on a Wi-Fi or cellular signal.
If you’re in the middle of collecting data and the signal drops, Jotform Mobile Forms will automatically save your data. Then, when you’re back online, it will sync your data with your Jotform account. You won’t lose the information you’ve collected, and it will be available for analysis right away.
Even if you’re disconnected or can’t get a signal, you can still collect data, no matter where you are. And you won’t have to input data from paper forms or copy and paste from word processing documents or import individual spreadsheets. Your data will be ready to go when you are.
How offline data gathering works
Instead of using paper to gather data offline, workers can bring a tablet to the site, then connect to a reliable Wi-Fi network later to upload the data. For example, a hospice nurse uses a tablet that doesn’t have a cellular signal to report on the patients they see throughout the day. The hospice nurse calls up the Jotform app on their tablet, then goes about their visit. They record the patient’s symptoms and disposition, how much medication the patient is taking, and anything else relevant to the visit.
Once the nurse is in a place where they can securely connect to Wi-Fi, like their home (or even a coffee shop if they have a virtual private network, or VPN, installed on their device), they can upload the form data. This saves a trip to the office and saves the organization money on cellular-enabled devices.
What happens when the signal drops?
In other cases, a worker may have a cellular-enabled device, but the signal drops. Say a cable technician is onsite noting the problems that a customer is experiencing, but because they’re in an area with many tall buildings, the cellular service cuts out just as they’re about to complete the form.
In some circumstances, this could be disastrous. But with Jotform, the data will be stored temporarily on the technician’s device. Once they get a signal, the data will automatically upload to their account. Most of the time, the tech won’t even notice that there’s been a service interruption.
Being able to collect data without worrying about losing it will be incredibly important as you start creating reports.
So what goes into a field report?
Field report formatting
Now that you’ve collected your data, you need to put it into a report. While the information you’ve collected using online forms will be helpful, others may need to analyze it and make decisions. That’s incredibly difficult to do with raw data.
For example, you may have collected a lot of data regarding how long each fleet vehicle travels during a shift. However, to find out how many miles are traveled on an average day, you’d have to go through every single form and calculate the amount by hand.
A field report can perform those calculations automatically. You can even do things like compare the average miles traveled in July vs September or calculate the average miles per shift, all without having to pore through hundreds of pages of raw information.
Using Jotform makes report formatting easier
If you use Jotform, you’re already ahead of the game. Jotform Report Builder lets you convert the information you’ve gathered through online forms into charts and graphs to present data visually, creating professional-looking reports that help decision-makers better understand the collected data.
You can also add explanations of your data. Here’s an example: “In July, the company had fewer orders and therefore fewer deliveries. When orders for the new Widget Appliance picked up in September, we noticed a significant increase in miles driven because more deliveries had to be made.”
And if there’s a particular color scheme or font you want to use so that your report is consistent with company branding, you can do that too.
Why formatting matters
Raw data is interesting, but it’s not very good for analyzing trends or creating forecasts. Putting data into a field report helps decision-makers view data easily, and it helps illustrate the points you’re making with your research.
For instance, the sociologist who is trying to see how people who work remotely from coffee shops perceive their productivity levels conducts the survey and finds that 60 percent of those surveyed state they’re slightly more productive or significantly more productive in a coffee shop. The researcher can write this down in the report.
However, it’s much more effective if that data is presented in a chart, particularly a bar chart. It’s more powerful to separate how many people said they were slightly more productive vs significantly more productive and add in the percentages of those surveyed who said they were just as productive, slightly less productive, or significantly less productive as a contrast.
If you’re looking at trend data, it’s harder to describe the trend than to display it in a line graph. For example, if you’re talking about crop growth, you’d have to write, “Group A grew 5 millimeters in March and 4 millimeters in April, and Group B…” It’s unwieldy, and the information is difficult to grasp.
But by using a graph, you can show a logical progression. The line directs the reader’s eye to the next data point, showing peaks and valleys, making the data easier to digest.
What field report formatting includes
How you present the data in your field report depends on the type of report it is and the subject you’re studying. It also depends on the preferences of your organization. For example, if you have a lot of survey results, you might choose bar and pie charts to illustrate responses by percentages, e.g., 50 percent answered “yes.”
You may also want to include explainer text with some reports, like research reports, to describe what’s in the chart. In many cases, including the question asked will be enough, but you may want to provide a short analysis, like “over half of people who bring their laptops to coffee shops report that they are significantly more or somewhat more productive than they are at home.”
Images might also be helpful to illustrate your points. If you’re reporting on common problems at construction sites, you can add pictures to your field reports with descriptions, such as, “During hurricane season, new home construction tends to flood unless an adequate retention pond and a drainage system have been installed well in advance.”
Finally, if you want to get really detailed with your report formatting, consider colors and fonts, as well as headings. You might use a palette of greens for a report on crop growth. If your company uses specific colors as part of its brand, you can use those to keep the report consistent with other company materials, especially if you plan to present the data to more than just a few people in your organization.
The importance of charts and graphs
Charts and graphs are expected in reports because they help show data visually, which can make it easier for the person reading the report to draw conclusions from the data and make informed decisions. In addition to considering the preferences of the reader, you also need to decide what type of chart will present the data in a way that’s easiest for someone to understand.
If you’re presenting survey results, a bar graph allows you to display percentages regardless of whether or not the subjects could pick multiple responses. For example, you might ask incarcerated females what illnesses they’ve experienced in prison. Choices may be the common cold, flu, food poisoning, or other issues, which requires giving them several options.
However, if you’re showing how people responded to a question with just one choice allowed, a pie chart works well. You might ask inmates how long their sentence is or what age range they fall into.
Meanwhile, line graphs help you identify trends. They’re perfect for showing how numbers have changed over time, such as how tall crops grew. You can overlay that line chart with another that shows what the average temperature was on that day to provide even more context.
Customizing your reports
As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Part of preparing a professional-looking report is customizing it. In addition to using graphs to present data, you should add icons, images, and other visuals. This helps drive home different points.
For instance, if you’re preparing the field report for the fertilizer study, take pictures of crops in different stages of growth, and then upload those photos and add them to the report. This helps illustrate your findings, such as the fact that crops grow taller if they’re given organic fertilizer.
You might also want to add icons to illustrate your point or provide a way to classify questions and responses. A green checkmark could show that something has been verified, and a red octagon could indicate that the data set was corrupted. For instance, a green check could appear next to the crop height measurements, while a red octagon could indicate that someone needs to go back and check the average daily temperature for a certain time.
Picking a layout
Not all reports have to look alike. When you’re formatting a field report, you can change the layout options to present your data in the most understandable way, whether that’s with more images, more graphs, or a lot of explainer text.
If you’re creating a report on how productive people are when working remotely from coffee shops, your layout might include images of the people you’ve interviewed, as well as bar charts and pie graphs. You might also include vignettes about the people you’ve interviewed, or quotes from them, such as, “Hunter S. is a graphic designer who says the hum of chatter in the coffee shop helps inspire logo creation.”
But if you’re reporting on trends in shoplifting from the security office, your layout will be more straightforward, with line graphs and fewer images, and maybe a little explainer text. For example, underneath a line graph showing shoplifting at a particular store, you could write: “Theft has decreased at Acme Widget Emporium ever since exploding ink tags were placed on garments.”
Pulling it all together
Formatting your field reports helps present data visually, which makes it easy to understand. Choose the visuals, colors, and fonts to make the report fit your company or organization’s branding.
If you use Jotform, you can use the drag-and-drop Report Builder to build a report from scratch or use a template that can be customized to fit your needs. There are templates for a wide range of use cases, including poll data, market research, and product order reports.
Forms for field reporting
When you’re ready to start using forms for field reporting, there are several options available. You can build the forms yourself, but it’s much faster to either use an online form builder or ready-made form templates.
An online form builder lets you completely customize your forms. You can drag and drop fields, including multiple-choice questions, radio buttons, or text fields, to your form. This lets you start from scratch and build the form as you envision it.
But if you’re looking for a faster way to build your forms, or you’re not sure where to begin, you can also use prebuilt form templates. These templates are customizable as well, allowing you to choose which elements to keep and which to change or delete. Here are a few types of forms you can use for field reporting.
Types of field report forms
There are many different types of field reports. Depending on the company’s requirements and the job being done, field reports may need to be filed just once a day to once per incident. For example, a construction site supervisor may file both types: a daily report regarding who was on shift, what work was done, and if any problems arose, as well as an incident report if someone was injured on the job.
Daily field report form
When you have to file reports every day, a daily field report form can streamline this process. Supervisors will be able to review what employees completed in the field, and employees will be able to track their progress on certain jobs. Here are some sample fields that can be included on a daily field report form:
- The name of the person filling out the report
- Who was on shift that day
- What work was completed
- What still needs to be done
- Any incidents that occurred (an incident report can be filled out separately)
- Any repairs that need to be made
- Measurements of oil levels, water levels, or other fluids
Police incident report form
As mentioned in a previous section, police officers and security guards need to file incident reports as things happen. A police incident report form can be customized for officers to fill out or for citizens to complete as they report non-urgent matters. This type of report can include questions relating to everything from vehicle descriptions to stolen merchandise. Some of the fields to include are
- The dispatcher’s name and identification number
- The officer’s name and badge number
- The address of the incident
- The names of the parties involved in the incident
- What the incident was
- What the result was, e.g, an arrest or a citation
- What kind of damage was done, if any
Other types of field report forms
While daily field reports and police incident reports are two important types of field reports, there are many field report templates focused on other professions.
Shift report form
Another useful form is a shift report form. The example shown is for airlines, but it can be customized for almost any company with field workers. You can use this simple form to note who was on duty, who called out, and any information that someone on the next shift might need, like checking a squeaking sound on a turbine.
Guest room report
In the hospitality industry, housekeeping can also use forms to verify that a room has been cleaned after a guest checks out. A simple guest room checklist not only reminds the staff what they need to do but also lets housekeeping report anything that needs to be fixed in the room.
For example, a housekeeper may note on the form that the remote control for the television is missing or that the faucet in the bathroom isn’t working. A simple form that immediately uploads the data to the housekeeping supervisor can speed up the time it takes to resolve the issue.
Fleet inspection form
Transportation companies can use a fleet inspection form to make sure vehicles are in working condition. Workers can check off various boxes relating to fuel or fluid levels and tire pressure, for example, and if something isn’t working, describe the problem in a text input field. Here are some fields this type of form might include:
- The vehicle’s fleet identification number
- How many miles are on the vehicle
- What the fuel level is, e.g., full tank or three-quarters full
- The tire pressure
- How much oil is in the engine
- If the vehicle has any damage, such as dents
Building field reports
With Jotform, you can essentially collect any type of field data in a form, then turn that data into a professional-looking report. Jotform Report Builder lets you create a lot of different reports, whether it’s a straightforward data presentation or a more creative analysis of the information.
This tool lets you customize the report any way you need to, with different fields, charts, graphs, and even fonts and colors. You can align reports with company branding — or just make them easier to read for decision-makers.
Jotform Report Builder also allows you to set up automatic reports. If you collect a lot of numerical field data, once it’s uploaded into Jotform, it can be automatically presented in a report. This is ideal for reporting daily measurements or results from surveys.
You can also dynamically change the report by changing the date interval, which helps you compare data from past reports. For example, you might want to look at data collected over the last seven days or the last 30 days. That’s easy to do with just a few clicks. You can even narrow down the information to look at particular trends with one parameter, like a particular department.
Jotform Report Builder also makes it easy to share reports inside or outside your company. With just one click, you can create a link to share your report or send an email invitation to others to review it.
You can even embed reports on your website or your company’s intranet. Jotform provides the code you need to do this. All you have to do is copy and paste it into the relevant field. This is ideal if you’re sharing research reports with the public.
Keeping reports safe from prying eyes
Of course, there are times when you don’t want the reports you’ve created to be available to just anyone. Jotform Report Builder lets you restrict access and keep private reports from being seen by the wrong people.
This is also fairly easy to do. Under Settings, you can choose to make the report available only to certain people, such as the ones you invite to view it.
For instance, your report might include proprietary data that could tip off a competitor about what you’re researching, like a way to improve an existing service. By locking down your report so that only invited people can view it, you minimize the chance that your hard work benefits another company.
Using Jotform for both data collection and report creation streamlines the process for field reporting and helps you create both forms and reports much faster than you could by hand.
Gathering data, on and off the field
The importance of field reporting can’t be understated. All kinds of organizations use it to gather data, from academic institutions to law enforcement organizations and large enterprises. These reports help decision-makers analyze trends, allow scientists and researchers to come to important conclusions, and keep employees and the general public safe.
Field reports have a lot of uses, and almost any company that has employees working outside the office can benefit from them. Whether an organization is a nonprofit trying to figure out the needs of the people they serve, or a company that has a large, traveling sales force, field reports provide a way for managers to see what’s happening outside of headquarters.
Finding reliable data-collection methods
Field workers need a reliable way to collect data. With so many employees out in the field these days, and the need for real-time or near real-time information to make informed decisions, organizations need more functionality than they can get from paper forms.
Often, paper can get lost or damaged, either in the field or in transit. Workers or researchers also need to input that information into their systems once they return to the office so that they or someone else can analyze the data, which is difficult if the writing is illegible or someone spills their coffee on a survey.
As a result, organizations are increasingly turning to electronic methods for collecting data. These methods make it easier to collect and transmit data back to the home office, rapidly replacing paper forms.
Electronic data-collection methods differ
Not all electronic data-collection methods are created equal, particularly for field workers who don’t have reliable internet access. Some workarounds may create more problems than they solve.
For example, using word processing documents requires saving individual documents on a mobile device, then re-inputting data. These documents can also quickly eat up space on a device.
Solutions like Jotform not only let you create custom forms for your workers to use, but also save your data to your device as you collect it, then upload it when you’re connected to the internet.
Making data presentable
Once the data is collected and uploaded, workers and researchers need to be able to present it in a format that makes it easy to understand. By using Jotform Report Builder, they can create professional presentations with a minimum of effort.
Jotform Report Builder allows users to create charts and graphs, add images, and even set up automatic reports. This is very useful for employees and researchers who need to show trends or illustrate survey responses. You can also change reports to include data in different ranges, such as different date ranges.
Any form or field report that a company or researcher needs can be created with JotForm. You can assign forms to certain people, and share reports with only the coworkers or managers who need to see it.
As long as companies have workers outside headquarters, and researchers need to leave classrooms or labs, field reports will be a necessity. Jotform can meet the requirements of a variety of institutions to collect and report data.
I’m a student working on my graduate thesis, and I need to interview people to get most of the data I’ll be analyzing and using to support my thesis. After reading this guide, I downloaded the Jotform Mobile Forms App and plan to bring my iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard instead of printing out paper surveys. Depending on who I interview, I might hand over the iPad to my subject, or I might just ask the questions and record the answers. It’s a relief to know I won’t have to bring a notepad or try to decipher my hasty scrawl when the interview subject is speaking too fast. And I won’t have to worry about my data in case the Wi-Fi cuts out.