The Structure of the ReportA research report needs to have a clear and logical structure, so that the reader is able to follow the discussion easily. A typical structure for a research report is:
Title page— This should include the title of your project, your name and the date.
Acknowledgements— It is customary to thank those people who have helped you during the course of your research project; for example, people who supplied you with data, people who gave you access and people who gave you advice.
Abstract— This is a very important item — it may determine whether people actually read your report or not. It is a brief summary (one or two pages) describing the aim of your research, the approach you took and what you found out. It must accurately reflect the content of your report.
Contents page— The list of contents comes after the preliminary information (title page, acknowledgements and abstract) and before the main body of your report.
Introductory chapter— This chapter should provide the reader with a clear statement of your research question and your research objectives. It should also describe why the research question is important. Saunders et al (2000) suggest that if your research is based within an organisation, it is also useful to provide some details about the organisation at this point.
Literature review chapter— This chapter should provide a background to your study. As we said earlier, it should be a critical review and it should only discuss the literature which is directly relevant to your research. It should help to provide support for your own research question.
Methodology chapter— This chapter describes, in detail, the approach you took in investigating your research question. This should include a description of the research strategy (seeApproaches to Research), the method(s) of data collection, and a rationale for why the particular method was chosen.
Details concerning the size of the sample and the sampling procedure used should be included, as should details concerning the choice of variables. If your research focuses on a particular organisation, it is also necessary to describe the research setting and why you chose it.
Data analysis and results chapter— This chapter presents the reader with the facts your research has brought to light. In the case of quantitative data, you should make use of tables and charts to present them. If you have qualitative data, then direct quotes from, for example, your interviewees will help you to illustrate what it is that you discovered.
You must ensure that you highlight all the important aspects of the data in this chapter. You should provide a commentary on the findings, but your judgments as to what the results mean should be left until the concluding chapter.
Discussion of results chapter— This chapter gives you the opportunity to discuss your findings in their fullest context and in relation to the work that you cited in your literature review; eg, do your results confirm what others have found? Have you found something that was not known before?
Conclusions and recommendations chapter— In this, the final chapter of your report, you need to discuss what you have found out with respect to your research question. This involves interpreting the results of the analysis of your data and discussing the implications of the findings.
References— This section should list all the books and articles which have been cited in the report. We recommend that you use the Harvard referencing system, full details of which are given in the ‘Referencing’ section of ‘Study Skills’ (accessible through the ‘Resources’ view).
Appendices(where necessary) — You should put a blank copy of the interview schedule/questionnaire/ observation schedule that you used for collecting your data in an appendix. You should also include an appendix with any graphs, tables of data etc, which will be of interest to the reader, but which are not sufficiently important to demand inclusion in the main body of the report.
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