Conducting research and report writing

When asked to do research and write a report refer to this advice first by Lesley Phillips

It is likely in the course of your work and learning that you will be asked to undergo research projects, and produce reports based on your findings. There are several types of research, for example descriptive research is more fact finding about an existing scenario, compared to analytical research, where the collected information is analysed and critically evaluated. Regardless of the type of research, the basic principles remain the same and projects need to have a defined starting point, followed by presentation of relevant facts, and a conclusion. It is important that the process is well organised, systematic, and that the finished article is concise (not too ‘wordy’) and well reasoned.

The first step of a project is to define or identify your ‘problem’ or topic. This is a critical point, as it determines the need and objectives for the research, and gives the project its focus and scope. At this stage ensure that you have isolated the problem itself and not one of the many symptoms of the problem. For example decline in demand for a product is very much a problem to a business, but it is the cause or causes that must be isolated and examined, before a solution can be found.

The following is an outline of steps that provide structured way to approach any research project:-

Step 1:    Define the problem, or the aim of the project.

This is often the most difficult part, but is also the most important as it provides the central focus, or objective/s.

Step 2:    Decide on a timeframe for the project.

This will be driven by your deadline, or submission date. You will need to set mini deadlines for yourself so that you keep your project on track.

Step 3:    Locate and evaluate the resources you will need.

Decide what information you will need, and where you will gather it from. Prepare any questionnaires in advance. Make sure that you take note of all of your sources for referencing purposes.

Step 4:    Gather and organise the information.

Collect all of the information that you need, and organise it to correspond with your sections or chapters.

Step 5:    Analyse and present findings.

Look for patterns in your research and describe results. Use     graphs and tables to organise numerical (empirical) data, and include illustrations if they will add clarity or interest.

Step 6:    Draw conclusions and make recommendations.

A final section should be included in which all findings are summarised by means of concluding statements. These could include any commendations for further research.

Step 7:    Reference all sources of information.

This is where you will acknowledge the ideas, input and work of others when you did your research.

If you use these steps as a framework your approach to research and reporting will be systematic, and you will avoid losing valuable time.
writing reports
Your writing will improve and develop over time with practice and below are some helpful tips

Tips for good writing:

  • Use an appropriate writing style. This is the choice of words, and the ways the words are sequenced to convey meaning to a particular group of readers (the audience).Examples of styles that you may be familiar with are journalistic style (newspapers, magazines) or report style (annual business reports). Each has its own particular ‘voice’ and level of formality that is suitable for its audience. Academic writing is formal and requires an impersonal style, for example it would be incorrect to write: “I saw that our sales figures fell in July because of the guys being on leave”. Instead this could be written:  “It was observed that income figures declined in July due to the sales employees being on leave”.
  • Avoid long sentences and long complex paragraphs.
  • Avoid generalising, e.g. “Most people”
  • Use headings and sub headings to break up your writing.
  • Avoid slang or jargon terms.
  • Use correct punctuation and grammar.
Oct 2013

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