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Writing a research report

Writing a research report
A research report is a question-answering or problem-solving document. It informs
the reader of the problem the researcher initially used and the researcher’s findings.
A report should present data fully and adequately, include accurate interpretation of
the analysis of such data and should relate findings back to the objectives, hypothesis
or research questions.
A research report should be formal, precise, economical, consistent and orderly with a
flow of ideas from the beginning to the end of the document.
In addition, various sections of the document such as main headings and sub-headings
must be well co-ordinated often in a linear progression.
Parts of a report
Title: The title of the research report should be short and simple and informative. It
serves two main functions:
It gives the reader some initial information about an area of research the
report has covered and it is therefore a pointer to the content of the report.
The title also gives an indication of the major variables of the research, the
target population and if possible the geographical location of the research.
It is used for indexing once the document becomes official, (for the library
or documentation).
Dedication: Some authors of research reports dedicates their work to a
person/persons whom they deem special in their lives. They could be spouses,
children, parents or friends. They are common in masters/doctoral dissertations. It
could be statements like to my wife, children, father, mother, etc.
Abstract: An abstract contains the meat of the research report. It is therefore a
reflection of the salient findings of the research study. An abstract should be placed at
the front of the report preferably after the dedication, but on a separate page. A good
abstract presents the reader with the purpose of the study, the population studied, the
major results and conclusions of the study. An abstract should not be more than half a
page long.
Table of contents: A table of contents is like a map that guides the readers in locating
various sections of the research report. A table of contents contains the chapter
headings, main headings and sub-headings and the corresponding page of each in the
body of the document. A table of contents helps the reader to locate the desired
sections quickly and easily.
List of tables: a researcher uses tables to summarise information in a logical format
or sequence. For example, a researcher may wish to summarise the educational levels
of various age cohorts in a frequency table. The information in a table needs not be
quantitative, qualitative, information can also be summarized in a table. A list of
tables follows the same format as the table of contents. The number and title of each
table appearing in the body of the report is listed together with the corresponding page
number. The list of tables section helps a reader to trace a particular table faster.
List of figures: A figure is any pictorial representation used to clarify specific points
in a discussion. Example of figures commonly used in research reports are graphs,
charts, diagrams and photographs. The researcher should include a list of all figures
that appear in the body of the report. This list should clearly give the number and title
of the figure and the page number on which the figure is located in the report.
List of abbreviations and acronyms:
In some research reports, abbreviations and acronyms are used, especially when a
word or group of words is repeated several times in the document. An abbreviation is
a short form of a word e.g G.O.K, F.A.O.
The researcher should give a lot of all abbreviations and acronyms used in a report
and explain in full what each abbreviation or acronym stands for. Abbreviations and
acronyms are not appropriate in formal writing and should be used only when
necessary. It is always advisable to write the word or words in full. The following
are pointers:
Executive Summary: An executive summary is a short version or summary of the
research report. The summary provides redears with a concise and accurate picture of
the entire document. The executive summary is an economical way of
communicating one’s research report. It saves time and energy for readers who do
not have time to read the entire report. In this regard, the executive summary must
provide the salient points from all the major component of the research report.
A good executive summary begins with a clear and brief statement of the problems.
Details from the body of the report are then presented in brief and the summary ends
with conclusions and recommendations. Researchers should avoid use of technical
terms in the executive summary. Therefore in meaning as well as in style an
executive summary should stand alone a self-contained and easy-to-understand
Introduction: the introduction to a research report has several components that
include the background of the study, the problem statement, objective hypothesis or
research questions and limitations of the study. The major role of the introduction
section is to outline the gap or gaps that exist in the area of study and present the
rationale of the study. This leads to the statement of the problem. The researcher
should quote existing studies and theories to support the problem statement. Since
there is a section in the research report that deals with previous studies, literature cited
in this part of the document should be limited to the most relevant and current.
Literature Review: Review of related is very important because it provides the
needed support to the researcher’s rationale for undertaking research in a certain area.
A literature review is a researcher’s critique of findings from other studies done in
related areas. The critique should include an assessment of the methodologies used in
these studies, theoretical or conceptual frameworks and the relationships or
differences between the researcher’s study and the studies reviewed.
The most critical aspect of reviewing the literature on the subject is the clear and
systematic analysis of existing studies that a researcher must engage in to identify the
missing gaps in a specific area of study and hence justify the need for another study.
This exercise also assists the researcher in making a strong case for the study’s
objectives, research questions or hypothesis. Literature review should be relevant to
the topic. How broad the review ought to be depends on the degree to which a
specific area has been studied. All the studies referred to in the literature review
section must be well referenced.
The methodology section gives details regarding the procedures used in conducting the study.
Pertinent issues discussed in this section include the population, sample and sampling
techniques, the research design, a description of instruments or tools used to collect data, the
measurement of variables and the technique to be used analyzing data. If hypothesis are to be
tested, the researcher must state the level of significance to be used in such tests.
The most important point to bear in mind when writing the methodology section of your
report is that details given regarding the procedures used in conducting the study should be
precise enough to enable other researchers to replicate your study.
Results and discussion
The main purpose of the results and discussion section is to present the results of the data
analysis in a systematic way. If the study is empirical in nature, the researcher uses statistics
to summarise the results and to make generalizations on the population. The use of
computers and statistical packages has made data analysis easier and faster.
The basic principles in presenting results is to give all the evidence relevant to the research,
objectives and questions, if any. In quantitative research, the researcher is sometimes
expected to test hypothesis. In such, the researcher should address all the hypothesis posed in
the introduction chapter and give the results of such tests stating whether each hypothesis is
supported by data or not. It should be borne in mind that a statistical test is done on the null
hypothesis and the research hypothesis is supported by the data only when null hypothesis is
affected at the significance level initially stated by the researcher in the methodology section.
Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations
In this section, the researcher summarises the study undertaken, conclude and make
recommendations based on the study findings. The summary reminds and informs the reader
about the purpose of the study, the process used to collect and analyse data and the major
findings of the study.
The conclusion is of utmost importance to your readers because it answers the questions that
sparked the collection and analysis of the data in the first place. It is important to discuss the
practical application and implications of your findings in the real world. Although you are
supposed to have interpreted evidence at every step of your analysis, your conclusions pulls
the stands together in a broader perspective and indicate possible action where appropriate.
Your summary and conclusions should lead logically to your recommendations.
Recommendations must be consistent with the purpose of the study, its objectives, the
evidence presented by the data and the interpretations given. Recommendations should be
practical and achievable.
Acknowledgements – people, institutions who helped research assistants.
Appendices – instruments used in collecting data, statistical tables from data analysed, letters
of respondents, consent to participate in the study and letters of approval to