Producing A Research Report
Research reports, particularly end of project reports are an important tool for presenting the research data collected, and also drawing out any relevant implications for policy makers. Writing a research report for the government is not the same as writing an article for an academic journal, or a consultancy report. It has a different objective, and it takes a different approach. Usually the early drafts of a report will be discussed by members of a research advisory group, who may be able to offer guidance on style and language, and what they find most useful.
Reports should be clear and accessible to the reader, and be a maximum of 50 pages (excluding annexes) when finalised in single spacing (some projects managers may request that the page limit is less - check the contract letter). It is a mandatory requirement of our contract with you that final reports do not exceed this limit, apart from when written consent has been given by the project manager 1. The material contained in the annexes should also be formatted in the SR House Style. Annexes can be used to provide the results of detailed analyses, full description of research methods used (e.g. sampling strategies and response rates) and the research instruments used. If your report uses technical terms then a glossary should be included at the end of the document.
To take account of the views of the project manager, policy makers and the advisory group you may be required to produce more than one draft of the final report before a final draft is signed off. All of the drafts should be of a publishable, high professional standard, and the final version should be fully proof-checked and capable of withstanding peer review.
When drafting the report you should consider the following issues (CAR):
- Context: outline the policy issue or managerial problem the research was seeking to address, as well as the aims and objectives of the project. Refer back to these throughout the report, and also highlight if these were redefined at any point. Highlight earlier research and the contribution current research may make.
- Approach: Outline your methods, including the design of the study, the sources of data and details on the sample, the response rate and analysis techniques. You should outline your approach as transparently as possible so that it can be scrutinised for quality / relevance / robustness. There should be clear documentation that the methods were implemented, along with a record of any changes. Describe how you worked with policymakers / decision makers on the project.
- Results: Summarise your results to show how they support the conclusions you have presented highlighting themes and messages. Conclusions should be drawn on the basis of the findings. However if they are inferred from external material / other sources then this should be made clear. Use graphs and tables if they will improve understanding.
Most reports should begin with an Executive Summary, and should usually include a short research methods chapter. There should be summaries at the end of each chapters and clear signposting between and within each chapter. For further advice on writing good research report see guidance on Reader-Friendly Writing produced by the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation:
1 The 50 page final report maximum rule applies to projects for which a contract letter was issued after 15 September 2008.