A report is the formal writing up of a project or a research investigation. A report has clearly defined sections presented in a standard format, which are used to tell the reader what you did, why and how you did it and what you found. Reports differ from essays because they require an objective writing style which conveys information clearly and concisely
Structuring Your Report
Most reports include the following sections:
- This should be short and precise. It should tell the reader of the nature of your research.
- Omit any unnecessary detail e.g. ‘A study of….’ is not necessary.
The Abstract is a self-contained summary of the whole of your report. It will therefore be written last and is usually limited to one paragraph. It should contain:
- An outline of what you investigated (as stated in your title)
- Why you chose to look at that particular area with brief reference to prior research done in the field
- Your hypothesis (prediction of what the results will show)
- A brief summary of your method
- Your main findings and how these relate to your hypothesis
- A conclusion which may include a suggestion for further research
The Introduction ‘sets the scene’ for your report; it does this in two ways:
- By introducing the reader in more detail to the subject area you are looking at
- Through presenting your objectives and hypotheses.
Explain the background to the problem with reference to previous work conducted in the area (i.e. a literature review).Only include studies that have direct relevance to your research.
Briefly discuss the findings of other researchers and how these connect with your study.
Finally, state your aims or hypothesis.
The Method section should describe every step of how you carried out your research in sufficient detail so that the reader understands what you did. Information on your experimental design, sampling methods, participants, and the overall procedure employed should be clearly specified.
This information is usually presented under the following sub-headings:
Your Results section should clearly convey your findings. These are what you will base your commentary on in the Discussion section, so the reader needs to be certain of what you found.
- Present data in a summarized form
- Raw data
Do not over-complicate the presentation and description of your results. Be clear and concise.
- Describe what the results were, don’t offer interpretations of them
- Present them in a logical order.
- Those that link most directly to your hypothesis should be given first.
Presenting Data in Tables and Graphs
- Do not present the same data in two or more ways i.e. use either a table or a graph, or just text.
- Remember that a graph should be understandable independently of any text, but you may accompany each with a description if necessary.
- Use clear and concise titles for each figure. Say which variables the graph or table compares.
- Describe what the graph or table shows, then check that this really is what it shows! If it isn’t, you need to amend your figure, or your description.
Statistical Analysis: If you conducted a statistical analysis of your results:
- Say which test you used
- Show how your results were analysed, laying out your calculations clearly (ensure you include the level of probability or significance p or P, and the number of observations made n).
- Clearly state the results of the analysis saying whether the result was statistically significant or not both as numbers and in words.
The Discussion section is the most important part of your report. It relates the findings of your study to the research that you talked about in your introduction, thereby placing your work in the wider context. The discussion helps the reader understand the relevance of your research to previous and further work in the field. This is your chance to discuss, analyse and interpret your results in relation to all the information you have collected.
The Discussion will probably be the longest section of your report and should contain the following:-
- A summary of the main results of your study
- An interpretation of these results in relation to your aims, predictions or hypothesis, e.g. is your hypothesis supported or rejected?, and in relation to the findings of other research in the area
- Consideration of the broader implications of your findings. What do they suggest for future research in the area? If your results contradict previous findings what does this suggest about your work or the work of others? What should be studied next?
- A discussion of any limitations or problems with your research method or experimental design and practical suggestions of how these might be avoided if the study was conducted again
- Some carefully considered ideas for further research in the area that would help clarify or take forward your own findings
The Conclusion section briefly summaries the main issues arising from your report
- Give details of work by all other authors which you have referred to in your report.
- Check a style handbook or journal articles for variations in referencing styles.
The Appendices contain material that is relevant to your report but would disrupt its flow if it was contained within the main body. For example: raw data and calculations; interview questions; a glossary of terms, or other information that the reader may find useful to refer to. All appendices should be clearly labelled and referred to where appropriate in the main text (e.g. ‘See Appendix A for an example questionnaire’).