A research report is a document that summarizes and provides an analysis of the findings of a research project. It is an important document that serves as a first-hand account of the research process, data, and findings of a research study, and it is typically considered an objective and accurate source of information.
There are a few questions a research report should answer:
- What are you researching?
- What is the goal of your research?
- What are your methods for researching?
- What did you find in your research?
- How does this compare to other findings?
- And what is the impact of this finding on the world?
A research report is normally organized into three broad sections. First, an introduction provides a brief background on the topic and introduces the reader to your perspective. The second section is the body of the report, which should include the research findings and supporting evidence. Finally, the conclusion, which summarizes your arguments and the implications of your study for future research.
Every year, GeoPoll carries out hundreds of research studies and produces reports on several topics, both for clients and internally commissioned studies. In this article, we highlight some tips for writing great reports from our experience.
Tips for writing excellent research reports
- Start from the basics – with an outline – It is a good idea to outline the research context and findings before taking the plunge, as it helps with the flow and structure of the research report. Once you have the broader information well documented, filling the gaps with the content and findings becomes more straightforward and sets the tone for the report.
- Consider the target audience – To guide the report, always keep the target audience in mind and then select a format that is clear, logical and obvious to the audience. A report meant for top decision-makers, for example, could be more concise than one meant for other researchers. Writing for the audience ensures that the research findings help the cause, so consider writing in their language to make it easy to understand at their level.
- Answer the research questions – Every effective research starts with a clear objective. In writing the report, make sure that the data provided contribute to the goal, which is, in reality, the real purpose for conducting the research in the first place.
- Be simple and clear – Research reports need not be complicated. Aim to write the report with an accuracy of details and language that is simplest and clearest to the reader. Use clear titles that clearly describe the following section in a way that readers will want to get into.
- Provide the methodology implemented – Researchers should also include a summary of the methods used to conduct the research, which provides the overall approaches and perspectives of the research process. The methodology details aspects such as the research objectives, the sample used, broken down into demographics such as gender, location, age, and other sample characteristics, data collection modes used, and data analysis methods. Sharing your methodology gives legitimacy to your research.
- Choose graphs correctly – Research reports often feature graphs to bring out data clearly. To fulfill this purpose, the graphs you use in your report must be clear enough so that the readers understand them themselves. Use clear titles, try and include the original question, and choose the best chart types to represent the data.
- Remain relevant – Not everything is genuinely essential to a research report, and you should aim at prioritizing only the significant discoveries. The idea of a research report is to present an abridged yet impactful version of your research, and it’s OK to exclude irrelevant information while highlighting only essential data and findings.
- Grammar and spelling are imperative – Even more important than most writings, research reports need to be written following the best language practices to help to understand the report and not unconsciously water down the seriousness of the information. Read aloud while writing to put yourself in the shoes of the reader. Use grammar and spell-checking tools and engage other people to proofread the report to ensure it reads well for the target audience.
- Choose an impactful title – A good research report title is brief, precise, and provides a clear idea of the underlying research so that readers can grasp the entire focus of your research from the title.
- Shoot for a strong conclusion – The conclusion in the research reports is primarily important because it summarizes the information and recommendations, and often, some readers skim through to the conclusion. Make a precise summary, highlight the findings that stand out, and provide the implications or courses of action derived from the research findings.
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