The purpose of this manual is to provide information on how to write a research paper and a research report. With the help of information provided here, students and researchers will get in-depth information about the principle of writing effective research papers and reports of empirical studies. Particularly, the guidelines will come in handy for those people who are well-versed in academic writing but who are not experienced in writing specific types of research reports.
How to Write a Research Report: Tips and Guidelines
It is crucial to know how to write a research report for all students and researchers. Therefore, we have provided this manual with the core purpose of easing the process of writing research papers for students and undergraduates and pinpointing to the importance of report writing. These guidelines for effective report writing serve not only as tips what to do but they also provide information what should be avoided at all costs.
Students and researchers who provide reports of empirical studies should fully realize the significance of report writing as they also need to submit theoretical papers, book reviews, position papers, methodological papers, and other types of scholarly articles. So, some pieces of advice mentioned in this manual may assist students how to cope with specific kinds of articles and will shed light on the core characteristics of a good report writing.
The guidelines provided below do not present specific requirements but they serve the role of a synthesis of valuable tips. The manual comprises a lot of fundamental tips that have been devised over the years. Despite the fact that it has been composed by one person and contains rules and tips from personal perspective, it is worth taking into account as it can be helpful in research.
Below you will find the main characteristics of a good report writing
- It contains focus. In other words, a successful report should be united by a single topic or a specific aspect/ issue.
- It is accurate. An effective report provides the information clearly and concisely, so it does not misguide or confuse the reader.
- It is clear. A successful report provides explanations and interpretation of information if needed. Besides, it given sufficient background information on the topic.
- It is succinct. It is written to the point and does not provide wordy and lengthy statements.
What is a Research Report?
Before writing a research report for your major or any other subject on your curriculum, you need to know the fundamental points and aspects of what is a research report. Regardless of the types of research report, the general structure, or layout, is more or less the same. So, read on and find out important information about the basic sections of the research report.
According to the standards of APA Publication Manual, the text of a research report should begin with an introductory section, where you first mention a specific issue/ problem of the study, highlight the significance of the research problem, and provide brief background information on the topic. Moreover, it is crucial to outline the research strategy that you have chosen for your paper. All in all, since the introduction is the very first section of the paper, it should include all the necessary information that will provide context for your research and draw attention to the problem.
When providing background information, make sure it is relevant and worth consideration. When we say “unnecessary background information” we mean the following:
- evident facts known to the general public;
- information that is not important for understanding the report.
Also make sure to introduce the main research questions. As a kind of a thesis statement provided at the beginning of the introductory paragraph, be sure to put forward a claim/ argument relating to the research hypothesis answering the given questions. Here it is advisable to provide the thesis at the beginning of the introduction since this is the most important part to pinpoint. Besides, introductions in research reports are rather long, so a thesis should be one of the first parts to address.
When it comes to formulating research questions, make sure you do in in a clear way. They should not be confusing to a reader, and thus should be formulated in plain language that is easy to understand. Technical language or specific terms should be used only in cases when it is impossible to omit them.
Pay consideration to the types of report in research methodology. According to the classification of methods, choose the ones that are most appropriate for your research paper or report.
For most students, the methodology section is the hardest and the most tedious one. Sometimes it can even be confusing as a student may fail to understand all the peculiarities of specific methods.
Start with explaining the logic that lies behind your choice of research design. Never switch to the discussion of details if you have not outlined the general aspects and have explained in what way each of the research questions will be answered. Only after you have provided information about the methods in general can you switch over to identifying measurement instruments, participants, ways of data collection, etc.
When talking about details, make sure you identify those that are crucial for understanding the design and research method. Imagine that you are a reader: which information would you definitely like to know? Make sure that the methodology is provided in great details so that another researcher could be able to repeat your study or experiment with the help of the research design outlined. If many details are necessary to provide, place them in an appendix.
In case there has been a transformation of any variables, provide a clear and detailed explanation why. Make sure you give reasons for every transformation that took place.
It is one of the most important sections in the contents of research report. Make sure you demonstrate the results step by step. The organization of the results discussion should be logical as one step should smoothly flow into another. It should be clear for the target audience how you arrived at such results and where you derived them.
Organize the results in the following way:
- Results pinpointing to the variables that were plausibly measured and that the samples taken properly represent the populations;
- Results highlighting that the information corresponded the initial assumption of the statistical procedures mentioned in the core analysis section;
- Results that provide clear answers to the research questions. It should present the information succinctly and logically.
When providing the result section, start with writing the most important points. Just imagine that your readers will read only the first paragraph of the section. What information would you like them to learn for sure? Include this information at the beginning!
Contemplate what statistics to provide. Make sure you choose only the most relevant and important statistics for the body of the results section. Do not cram the paper with excessive statistics. It will bore your readers or even confuse them. If you have a lot of statistics, choose the least important one and provide it in the appendices. Instead of worrying how not to leave anything significant, work diligently on choosing the most relevant data to present. If your report is too long and exceeds the required number of pages, your readers will most probably not read it.
It is also a good point to know exactly how to organize and present the gathered statistics. You may choose some visuals, such as graphs, tables, diagrams, etc. Some information may even be provided in form of text (if it is more descriptive). Some particularly important information may be provided in tables or graphs and then verbally interpreted or discussed in the body paragraphs.
If you wonder what the right way of presenting statistical information, is consider using visuals first. Begin with providing the information in graphs, tables, and diagrams. Some tables united by a single topic may even be organized as a set. After you have provided all the important tables and figures, it is high time to discuss the information verbally and provide a coherent text of the results section. Provide a discussion and interpretation of what each diagram, table or figure shows. Make sure the text just provides more specific details. Still, the visuals should be understandable even without reading the descriptive text. To check whether you have been successful in this task, ask someone of your friends or group mates to look through the graphs, tables or diagrams and ask them whether they understand what you have depicted there.
What is really important is the scope of the effects. The crucial statistics used in your results section is the scope of the effects but not of the statistical levels of importance. It is crucial to provide detailed descriptions of the effects even if they seem not much significant. In case similar results were obtained from previous studies, your explanation will help the readers know what you have done differently.
I do not claim that statistical importance levels should not be reported on. Importance levels ensure that the described effect is not merely an outcome of a sampling variability. Nonetheless, please consider that the statistical importance levels do not bear as much importance as the scope of the effect or the contrasts between the answers to the research questions.
Do not provide a report of meaningless importance levels as it mostly does not make sense and does not provide any originality or novelty to the research. Provide statistics that interprets your results in a clear manner.
There is no one universal answer regarding what statistical evidence will present your research results in the best manner. However, there are a few principles that you need to consider when demonstrating the statistics part of the research. First of all, the statistics should clarify the overall picture of the results discussion and not confuse the reader. As such, the statistics should be easy to interpret and explain.
Factual information that clearly provides answers to the research questions is represented by numbers (10 in 15 students, 25 in 35 applicants, etc.). Thus, such kind of data might be provided in numbers or be transformed into percentages. There are cases when percentages are more suitable: as in the example of large numerical data (hundreds, thousands, etc.). Still, when numbers are small, such as 3, 5, 9, then it is better to leave them as they are.
What is the total percentage does not comprise 100%? As a rule, report questions can be addressed masterfully by providing percentages of specific categories, for instance, a percentage of applicants who fall into classifications of mediocre, advanced, basic or proficient. Mainly, category percentages are used to denote different demographic groups. If the total sum is less or more than 100%, provide it as it is but write a detailed explanation why it is so. The explanations might be briefly provided in footnotes or parentheses.
Graphs or tables? Many researchers find it rather complicated to decide whether the results will better look when presented in graphs or tables. To choose the best means of conveying information and presenting results, identify what you are trying to convey: the actual percentages and scores or the relations between the numerical data. If you need to provide numerical data, prefer tables but if you want to pinpoint to the correlation between the data variables, please use graphs.
The most widespread usage of tables is to provide information in numbers. As such, the usage of tables in research report perseveres two core aims:
- Convey the major study results to the target audience.
- To design a reference document with detailed study outcomes.
When you intend to include the core study results in the tables, be so kind to provide them in the body of the paper. Therefore, such tables should be brief and concise. They should not be crammed with numerical data and they should not confuse the reader either. On the contrary, it is vital to make the tables as short as possible in order to help the target audience extract the information as quickly as possible. If you need to provide tables just for reference purposes, and thus need to provide a lot more numerical data than needed, be so kind to place such tables in the appendices at the end of the report. If you want to refer to the table in the main body, define appendix in a report. As a rule, such tables are long and not easy to comprehend.
Regarding the tables that you include in the body of your report, ensure that it is as concise as possible. Include only the most crucial numbers that convey some specific information to the readers and make some facts clearer and easier to understand. In other words, each number you include in this table should convey a specific message. To make the tables legible, approximate the precision: instead of writing 4.78645 prefer the option of writing 4.8.
Label the tables in a distinct and clear way. Make sure the name of the table corresponds to the core purpose or message it intends to communicate. Besides, the very structure of the table should be easily comprehensible: the rows and columns need to be understood even by people who do not specialize in the given subject and are not well-versed in the topic of research. Avoid terms, professional jargons, acronyms, abbreviations or symbols as such things may be an obstacle on the way to understanding the core message of the report table. Further and more detailed information on how to present different types of data and findings in tables can be found in Presenting Your Findings guidebook presented by the APA.
Tables can also be used for presenting non-numerical data as well. Here one should keep in mind that the information should be presented briefly and clearly: do not use whole sentences but prefer short phrases or separate words denoting something important from the results section. The information presented in tables should be merely summative.
How to Make a Project Report Discussion Section
Writing a discussion section is another big step on the way of your report completion, so it is crucial to know how to make a project report discussion part. After providing a research methodology part and the results section, you might probably think that there is nothing harder than these parts. However, a discussion section is yet to come. It is one of the most challenging sections despite the fact that you do not need to organize any statistics or present some other research information but just synthesize everything into a logical part.
A discussion section in a research report is a summary of your study results along with the discussion of their correspondence to the research questions that you had an intention to answer at the beginning of the study. Therefore, before you start discussing the results, take some steps back to the list of research questions and see whether you have managed to follow the hypothesis format and prove the hypothesis outline previously mentioned.
As such, it is advisable to start discussing your results and the study overall by restating the research questions, but this time also providing a brief description of relevant evidence alongside with this. It may happen that not all questions are answered. It can also be possible and for some kinds of research it is perfectly normal. Still, if it happens in your case, make sure to provide an explanation why it was impossible to gain a clear answer to the research question even after conducting the whole study.
When discussing the results, make sure to highlight not only the strengths of the report but also its weaknesses, also known as the study limitations. It is one of the inherent parts in the research reporting format. It will be hardly believable that your study was so perfect that it contained no limitations underlined. Therefore, it is important to be objective and critical of the study you have conducted and let your target audience know that you are well aware of the study’s weaknesses as well.
Another aspect of following the research format of such reports is to provide a paragraph where you compare and contrast the results of your study to the results of similar studies provided on the same or adjacent topic. Make sure to narrate about it in a comprehensible manner so that readers who did not read the other studies will understand what you are talking about.
In the conclusive paragraph, make sure to pinpoint to the significance of your study. What effect have you gained? What are the results and implications? Which recommendations can you make? Can you suggest any guidelines or practical tips for the future research?
How to Write Abstract for a Project Report
If you think that the abstract is easily written and it is not important to have sufficient time for abstract writing, you are deeply mistaken. The abstract is actually the most crucial part of the paper as it serves the role of a so-called “face” of your research report. Keep in mind that there will be many people who will read only the abstract without paying attention to the body of the paper, so make sure the abstract contains the most sufficient information necessary for overall understanding of the report’s importance, background, results, and implications. Even though the abstract is provided as the very first part of the paper, it should be written after all the other sections were fulfilled.
When constructing the abstract, make sure to keep it brief and correspondent to the required word limit. Also include brief descriptive information of what the study was about and what research questions it had the aim to answer. Afterwards, write a few words about the study type, the methodology, and the other most important findings.