The main role of the research report is to communicate the findings of the research project. The project should answer the questions raised in the statement of objectives of the study. The researcher should be clearly aware of the purpose of the research when preparing the report. A research project can bring out a lot of information but much of this information may not be relevant to the problem initially defined. Only information that is likely to be useful to the decision maker in decision making should be included in the report. The researcher will need to use his own judgement in deciding what information should be omitted.

For the report to be of maximum use to the decision maker, it must be objective. The researcher should therefore have the courage to present and defend their results as long as they are convinced that they are valid. They should also clearly indicate any limitations of the study.

Research Report Criteria
The main criteria by which research reports are evaluated are communication with the reader. The report is prepared for a specific purpose and for a specific type of audience. It should therefore communicate effectively with the intended audience. The report should be written with due consideration for the readers, their level of interest in the subject, understanding of technical terms and what they will make of the report.

In order to tailor the report to meet the needs of the readers, the researcher should understand the readers’ preferences. One may find that different readers have different preferences and this may at times bring conflicts. Some readers may want to have the basic information only while others prefer to have the technical details clearly brought out in the report. One way to reconcile these
conflicting interests is to prepare a basic report with a minimum detail and to have appendices that give the technical details. Again, in some cases, the researcher may indicate that certainly details have been omitted but are available upon request.

Another point to consider regarding the report’s ability to communicate with the intended reader is whether the reader has to keep referring to the dictionary as this may seriously interfere with the flow of information and thus affect communication.

Writing Criteria
A report should satisfy the following criteria to improve its chances of communicating effectively with the reader:

  • Completeness.
  • Accuracy
  • Clarity
  • Conciseness

Let us now discuss how each of these criteria enhances communication.

A report should provide all the information that readers need in a language they understand. This means that the writer should continually ask himself whether all the issues in the research objectives have been addressed. The report should not be too long as to include findings that are not relevant to the study. Yet, it should not be too short as to omit necessary definitions and explanations.
The abilities and interests of readers should be considered in determining completeness.

2. Accuracy
The preceding steps in the research process provide the basic input for the report. This means that the data generated at the data collection and analysis steps should be accurate in order for the report to be accurate.

3. Clarity
Writing clearly is not easy. Clarity is achieved by clear logical thinking and precision of expression. The way the report is organised may contribute to clarity or affect it negatively.
Some principles of writing clearly are:

  • Use short and simple sentences.
  • Use simple words which the reader is familiar with.
  • Ensure that words and phrases express exactly what the writer means to say.
  • Avoid grammatical errors.
  • Use uniform style and format. It may help to write a first draft and then have another person review it before preparing the final report.

4. Conciseness
The criteria of completeness should not be complemented by conciseness. The writer should be concise in his writing and selective with regard to what to include in the report. The report should be brief and to the point – this means that the report should not include everything that has been found but only what is relevant to the study. The writing style should render itself to conciseness. The findings should be expressed completely and clearly in the fewest words possible.

Report Format
The organisation of the report influences its ability to meet all the criteria of report writing. There is no format that is appropriate for all reports. A report should use a format that best fits the needs of its readers.

The following format may be used for most types of reports. It should be seen as flexible and open to changes and adjustments depending with needs of the reader.
1. Title page
2. Table of contents
3. Summary/Abstract/Executive Summary
4. Problem statement
5. Statement of objectives
6. Background
7. Research methodology

  •  Research design
  • Data collection method
  • Sampling
  • Fieldwork
  • Analysis and interpretation

8. Limitations of the study
9. Findings of the study
10. Summary and conclusions
11. Recommendations
12. Appendix

  • Copies of data collection instruments.
  • Details of sample size determination.
  • Tables not included in the findings.
  • Bibliography.

Let us briefly discuss each of these terms.

1. Title Page
The title page should indicate the subject of the report, the name of the organisation for whom the report is prepared, the name of organisation or person who prepared it and the date the report is prepared. If the report is done by employees of the company, then the names of the people or departments preparing the report are given.

2. Table of Contents
As a rough guide, any report of several sections that totals more than 6 to 10 pages should have a table of contents. This shows in order of appearance the topics and subtopics of the report with page references. It also includes tables and charts and pages where they may be found.

3. Summary/Abstract
Some authors consider the summary to be the most important part of the report. This is mainly because most executives read only the summary or they us it to guide them on what areas of the report to give more attention. It should contain the necessary background information as well as the important findings and conclusions. Two pages are generally sufficient for executive summaries. Write this section after the rest of the report is finished.

4. Problem Statement
It contains the need for the research project. The problem is usually represented by research question(s). It is followed by a more detailed set of objectives.

5. Statement of Objectives
This states the objectives of the study and should clearly indicate the purpose of the study and what the report tries to answer.

6. Background
Background material may be of two types. It may be preliminary results of exploration from an experience survey, focus group, or another source. Alternatively, it could be secondary data from the literature review.

7. Research Methodology
This section describes the research procedures or methods used. It should indicate the research design, sampling procedures, data collection and data analysis procedures used. This section provides information on the manner in which the findings reported were gathered, analysed and interpreted.

8. Limitations of the Study
This topic is often handled with ambivalence. Some people wish to ignore the matter, feeling that mentioning limitations detracts from the impact of the study. This attitude is unprofessional and possibly unethical. Every research project has limitations and the research should call the readers attention to them. This gives the reader a more accurate picture of the study and helps him to interprete the findings more objectively.

9. Findings of the Study
In this section which makes the bulk of the report, the results of the study are presented. The specific objectives of the study should be kept in mind and the results should be presented in a logical manner. Only information that contributes to answering the questions posed in the study objectives should be reported. Tables, charts and figures should be presented in a logical manner to facilitate flow of thought and appreciation.

10. Summary and Conclusions
The summary is a brief statement of the essential findings. Sectional summaries may be used if there are many specific findings. They may be combined into an overall summary. In simple, descriptive research, a summary may complete the report, because conclusions and recommendations may not be required. Findings state facts, conclusions represent inferences drawn from the findings. Conclusions should be drawn with reference to the objectives of the study. The researcher should show the step by step development of conclusions and state them with some detail. Conclusions may be presented in a tabular form for easy reading and reference.
If for some reason the study does not obtain adequate data on which to make conclusions, this should be acknowledged.

11. Recommendations
There are usually a few ideas about corrective actions. In academic research, the recommendations are often further study suggestions that broaden or test understanding of the subject area. In applied research the recommendations will usually be for managerial action
rather than research action. The writer may offer several alternatives with justifications. It is therefore, not always possible or necessary to make recommendations. However, in some cases, the researcher may be asked to make recommendations. In this case, he will need further information on the background of the organisation and its policies.

The appendix provides a place for material that does not fit in the other parts of the research report. This may be because its too detailed, technical or specialized, or is not absolutely necessary for the text. The appendix normally contains details on sample design and sample size determination, an exhibit copy of the data collection instrument; maps used to draw up the sample; detailed
statistical tables and figures. The appendix helps those interested in the technical details to find them easily.

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