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The last step in the research process is the preparation and presentation of the research report. The best of research efforts will be of little value unless the result can be summarized and communicated to marketing management in a form that is both understandable and useful. Preparation and presentation of the research report is the most important part of the research process. If the report is confusing or poorly written, all the time and effort spent on gathering and analyzing data would not bring any result.
The purpose of this section is to give guidance in preparing a research report, which is simply the presentation of research findings to a specific audience. We will discuss two vital ingredients of this communication process: (1) the written research report and (2) the oral presentation typically provided for those who occupy executive positions. Along the way, we will review some of the more popular devices for graphical and visual support and how statistics can be used or misused to suit your needs.
Types of Research Reports
Depending on its intended audience, the research report may by either technical or popular in orientation. While both approaches describe the research study, its methodology, findings, conclusions and recommendations, they can differ considerably in terms of detail, writing style, use of technical terms and length. In general, the higher the executive status of the audience, the shorter the report will tend to be.
Technical Report :The technical report is generally intended for other researcher, or for research managers. The report should enable another researcher to be a critic of methodology, check calculations and accuracy and to follow everything which is done on a step-by-step basis. A brief definition of any technical term should be given.
The Popular Report : The popular report is intended for a more general audience, one that is not conversant with the details of research methods and terminology. Compared to the technical report, the presentation will be a bit more lively with increased attention to headlines, flow diagrams, charts, tables and occasional summaries for the purpose of stressing major points.
Since, different kinds of audience may be interested in the results of the same research study, it is sometimes necessary to write both a technical report and a popular report.
Guidelines for Writing a Report
Researchers who are effective in report writing agree that there are a series of guidelines which should be followed.
Consider the Audience: Make the report clear; use only words familiar to the readers and define all technical terms. To make the comparison of figures easier, use percentages, rounded off figures, ranks or ratios; put the exact data in a table within the text or in appendix. Use graphic aids (charts, graphs, pictures, etc.) wherever they help clarify the presentation of data.
Address the Information Needs: Remember the research report is designed to communicate information to decision makers. Make sure it clearly relates the research findings to the objectives of management.
Be Concise, Yet Complete: Most managers will not want to read about the details of a research report. Knowing what to include and what to leave out is confusion.
Steps in Report Writing Process
Two main attitudes must be cultivated while preparing to write a project report.
Attitude 1: Adopt the fresh mind approach (FMA).
Attitude 2: Adopt the kiss approach (keep it short and simple).
Fresh Mind Approach (FMA)
Normally, we proceed with a preoccupied mind as if the solution is available and the report is to be made suiting that solution. It is essential that a researcher must clear his mind of all preoccupations about the solution to the problem. If the data collection, investigation and analysis are done properly, the interpretation and recommendations may be quite different from what the researcher expected. Developing the fresh mind approach will help in avoiding the mindset about a situation, which is too common when dealing with a familiar work situation. We are always able to find fault with someone else's work, while we fail to see what is wrong with our own. In light of this, the person who is going to assess your work will adopt the above strategy of evaluating your work if sufficient originality, genuineness and a fresh approach has not be adopted by you. The project assessor certainly possesses the skills of assessing whether the work is done with FMA or otherwise.
Kiss Approach (Keep it Short and Simple)
Your project work is going to be read and evaluated by someone who:
Maybe outside your organization.
May not be quite familiar with the field of study.
May not be conversant with technical terms.
Therefore, you must write the project study such that :
It is understandable.
It is simple.
It provides sufficient background information.
It creates a clear picture in the mind of your work environment.
It helps him understand the problem under study.
For the above you must :
Use short sentences.
Use simple language.
Short sentences will help in avoiding grammatical mistakes, thus creating a good impression of the researcher. Avoid use of technical jargon. This may cause harassment to the assessor. If the use of technical terms in unavoidable, it is desired to include glossary of terms in the project report. Sometimes the researcher uses abbreviations. It is recommended that a page explaining the full form of abbreviations may also be included. In a nutshell, short sentences and simple language should be used throughout the report.
Tips to be followed :
Use a friendly and informal tone.
Explain things clearly.
Avoid overloading with information.
Use relevant anecdotes.
Keep sentences, and paragraphs, short.
Choose simple and familiar words.
Avoid long phrases. Say although' rather than "Inspite of the fact that".
Explain jargon and technical terms clearly.
Size of Report
Size of report will depend upon the subject matter and what is involved in the study.
All India Management Association, Centre for Management Education, suggests that the report should be covered between 60 to 100 typed pages (double space). Each page must be typed only on one side leaving a wide margin.
School of Management Studies, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) suggests that the length of the report may be about 50 to 60 double spaced typed pages not exceeding 18000 words (excluding appendices and exhibits). However, 10 per cent variation on either side is admissible.
Faculty of Management Studies, University of Rajasthan suggests an average size of the report is between 100 -150 typed pages in 3/2 space.
Bearing in mind the time available to students to complete the report, and to facilitate the understandable anxiety of students who are doing this exercise for 'the first time, the size of the report is fairly good.
In practice, there is no mandatory length and the students should be guided by their project guides on this matter, in fact, the researcher should deal with the report without regard to its length ensuring that all the information is recorded and the report produced conforms to the requirements of the objectives of the study.
Check list :
Check whether all essential information is included.
Check for proper structure.
Check for clarity.
Check for completeness.
Check there is no unnecessary pending.
Check that it essentially contributes to the objectives.
Check if anything can be curtailed if it is too voluminous
In other words, write everything about the subject under study and structure it with the help or your guide. It is desirable to get the first draft typed in double space with a two inch margin on the right hand side of the page. This will give the opportunity to see:
What the report looks like?
What modifications are necessitated?
The margin and the spacing help in entering corrections and additional information if desired. This also facilitates editing of the report.
Steps in Writing Report
The method of carrying out the study, assembling of data and compiling of a report should be carried on in the following eight (8) stages:
Gathering the information
Sorting, selecting, arranging and recording the material
Writing the introduction
Preparing the report presentation
Typing the report
Ready yourself mentally for the task of project writing as explained in fresh mental approach (FMA). Be sure you accurately understand the purpose of your report and its objectives as defined in the project synopsis or terms of reference.
Put yourself in the position of the evaluator and ask yourself these questions :
What information, i.e., evidence and justification, would I require to arrive at a logical inference and make the right decision?
As an evaluator, how much, if anything, do I already know about this subject? Decide on the following issues.
Method of study
What information do you need?
Who is going to be involved?
With whom you going to carry out your study?
When are you going to carry out your study?
Project plan-time schedule to complete the task.
It is extremely useful to relate the plan to a time schedule so that you know what to do and when, in order to complete the report by the required deadline (Prepare a CPM by breaking down the project activities into sub-tasks and allocate a duration to each sub task).
Gathering the Material
At this stage, don't attempt to write the report. Collect all the information i.e., facts, figures and ideas, about the subject by whatever means available. Some of the means used in gathering the information are briefly given as under.
Don't rely on your memory. While observing an operation or coincidence or a situation, record the sequence in detail. Look at it, watch it, time it and record everything you see.
Published work of other researchers on similar issues, factual documentation produced within the organization (if the study is about an organization), and documentation of professional bodies will often provide enough information relative to your subject. Give credit in your report to the source of such information.
Interviews can be formal or informal depending upon their nature and the person being interviewed. Keep the following points in mind:
Plan your interview
Give your interviewee notice of your subject
Prepare your questions beforehand
Don't rush an interview
Focus on substance
Hold discussions with your colleagues, guide, and any interested person in the subject. Respect their views.
Surveys are carried out to assess customer opinion and reaction. These are also useful in understanding people's attitudes. Questionnaires are useful instruments in carrying out surveys. Care must be taken in preparing the questionnaire and, if in doubt, seek the advice of your guide. Include copies of the questionnaires and of their analysis in your report.
By Secondary Sources
Enquiries can be made from manufacturing or service industry through letters, fax or telephone.
Who you are
Purpose of your enquiry
Be polite while asking for their help. Generally you will receive a favourable response and these sources of information can be most valuable. Give credit to such informants and always thank them for their help. Acknowledge their support in your report. Use your knowledge and experience.
Try something and see if it works. Record the details and verify the results. If there is any doubt about the accuracy of the information, try and check and verify it from another source. If it is not possible to verify the information, discard it or quote it as uncorroborated. Always be sure of the facts. Make liberal use of visuals, i.e., diagrams, maps, charts, photographs, statistical tables. Even sometimes it may be appropriate to attach sample products to illustrate and explain your text. This will make your report visually attractive and interesting. Avoid using memory and prejudice. These can often lead to distorted facts. As a report writer always carry a notebook with you and note down pieces of information or ideas or things to do at the time they come to you, instead of relying upon the memory. Once you have written it down you can concentrate on something else. At this stage you will have sufficient information in the form of notes, collections from various published data, survey data and so on. The next step is to sort it all out.
Sorting, Selecting, Arranging and Recording Material
Having assembled all your material, check to ensure that you have all you need to support your arguments. Arrange it in logical sequence, start to finish, ensuring a natural flow. The questionnaires, surveys and any other similar document should be explained properly. To ensure clarity to the readers adequate notations should be used for visuals, i.e., diagrams, maps, charts, photographs, statistical tables. If illustrations are used to explain a particular part of the text and are not going to be referred to several times, insert them in the appropriate position in the text. If the evaluator needs to refer to these illustrations several times or if they form a supportive material it should be put in the appendices section at the end of the report.
At this stage, clear your mind and go through what you have written. Put following questions to yourself :
Is it clear?
Does it make any sense?
Does it clearly specify or indicate problem areas?
Does it lead you to the "conclusion" section logically?
Writing the Introduction
While writing the introduction take following points into consideration:
Create a background of the organization and work situation for which the project work is being done.
Describe the purpose of study.
Describe the method of study.
Explain difficulties encountered in the preparation of report.
Introduce yourself, your institution/organization briefly.
Ensure continuity between all sections.
The conclusions or findings should flow from the outcome of the investigations. These findings should lead to concrete recommendations. While writing conclusions, the objectives of the study should be kept in mind. This will facilitate in understanding the quality of investigations and gauge the success of work. Summary of the problem areas followed by explanation of the various alternative solutions to the problem should be undertaken and the reason for accepting or rejecting the possible alternative should be explained logically.
While writing recommendations you must adopt a positive attitude and enlist those points first, which you really want to be done. You must adopt a constructive approach. This section may be started as follows.
It is recommended that (provide a list of recommendations or action you feel should be taken)
If the recommendations involve financial figures of statements, these should be shown against each item. Don't repeat what you have written. In conclusion, you may give a cross reference of a relevant paragraph if you want to include something in this section.
Give your Report a Positive Ending
At this stage the text of the report is complete and you are ready to go the next stage i.e. presentation of the report.
Stitch together all the different threads of information into a coherent whole. Present the data in the form as suggested in the chapter plan. Write the first draft. Discuss with your guide and incorporate the suggested modifications. Revise the document and type it finally.
The graphics play a significant role in report image and care must be taken about the visual aspects of the report.
Visual Aspects of the Report
Many reports require communication of voluminous and complex information. It is not possible to do this job with words only. Graphics portray things that would take volumes to explain through words. Technical reports, in particular, cannot be completed without use of graphics.
The main role of graphics in a report is:
To support text to communicate report content.
To emphasize the key points.
To make the report attractive.
To add interest.
To save time.
To increase credibility.
To add variety.
To create impact.
To help the reader to remember main points.
Before organizing the report, you must think and plan :
What graphics are to be used?
How many graphics are to be used?
Where to use graphics in the text?
The graphics used in reports are normally:
How many graphics are to be used
Each graphic should be selected such that it serves to communicate a specific point of the report. Random use of graphics should be avoided. There is no set rule to determine the number of graphics. However, plan what is required to be communicated effectively through graphics and include these graphics only.
Where to use graphics in the text
The graphics should be placed in such a position that they are likely to be there where they are required to be seen.
Consider following points while placing graphics:
Place them close 'to the related text.
If the graphic is large, and is of full size, place it on the page following the text.
If the graphic is small, place it appropriately and surround it with the related text.
Graphics which are not discussed in the main report but support the discussion should be appended.
Always make reference of the graphic in the text to invite the reader to refer it.
Always use rules and borders to enhance presentability.
Use colour if you have access to colour printers.
Number graphics and title appropriately.
Types of Visual Aids/Graphics
The common type of visual aids used in communicating data are :
Line or area charts
The graphics illustrations should include :
Appropriate title and units
Scales or labels on axes
Source of data (if from outside source)
Caption to the chart
Bar charts are:
Easy to draw
Familiar to all
Good for making comparison
While using bar charts ensure
The order of categories should be logical and match any tallies of the same data.
The width of all the bars should be kept same.
Start the vertical axis at zero (O), if possible.
If it is unavoidable to start at other than zero (0), indicate this clearly by a break in each bar or in the vertical axis, with a zig-zag or wavy stroke across each end of the break.
Stacked Bar Chart
These charts show the rota1 well. It is difficult to compare heights of the sections with stack bar charts. The stacked bar charts should not be used if the total height has no meaning.
Line or Area Chart
Line and area bar charts are used when there is logical order of points. The order of North
(N), South (S), West (W), and East (E) could be changed giving a completely different pattern to the graph so it is not a good chart for this data.
A picture or symbol standing for a word or group of words A chart on which symbols are used to represent values.
Pie charts are the commonly used visual aids. The disadvantage of pie chart is that it is not possible to show any category that has zero (0) frequency.
Use a pie chart when you want to compare a number of elements to each other and in relation to a whole. If you compare the same information expressed as regular rectangular blocks to a pie graph, you see that the bars are more precise in comparing elements to each other, but that the pie graph is much more effective comparing elements to the whole. One of the fundamental rules of using pie chart is "Never include more than 6 elements." If you have more than this number only show six main elements and include the others under a diverse heading. If necessary, break down the diverse category into a second pie graph.
The pie graph can be made more attractive by :
Adding pattern to each part
Two Variables Diagrams
These diagrams are very important when illustration of more than one variable is needed. It is of great significance to determine, which variable should be put on which axis. They illustrate the total number of each sex respondents questioned, but this may not be what you want to illustrate. They also illustrate the total number people of in each category clearly.
It is more logical to have 'sexes' on the horizontal axis for a percentage stacked bar chart where the responses of sex are being compared. Illustrates a percentage stacked bar chart where responses of the sexes are compared.
For showing the comparison, multiple bar charts are constructed. Always provide a gap between the bars for clarity.
Area charts illustrate how it stacks the data like a stacked bar chart and so indicates total record data.
Typing the Report
For report typing, A4 size of paper is recommended. It is of a standard size and will present no difficulty with covers, binding, photocopying and dividing cards between the sections. The margins should be kept as suggested earlier in this chapter.
Each section of the report starts on a new page.
Indicate where capitals, italics and underlining are required.
If using DTP indicate bold, capital, front type and font size required.
All headings and sections and subsections are clearly indicated.
Indicate where any indentations of the text are required for the ease of reading.
It is recommended that a clear system of identification is issued for sections, subsections and paragraphs for the speed of reference. A typical example is as follows:
Section Headings 1 2 3
Sub-sections 1.1 2.1 3.1
1.2 2.2 3.2
1.3 2.3 3.3
Paragraphs 1.1.1 2.1.1 3.1.1
1.1.2 2.1.2 3.1.2
1.1.3 2.1.3 3.1.3
1.2.1 2.2.1 3.2.1
1.2.2 2.2.2 3.2.2
Sub-paragraphs 1.1.1(a) 2.1.1(a) 3.1.1(a)
(b) (b) (b)
(c) (c) (c)
To submit the report, the prefatory parts should be added in the main report. The typical sample of a prefatory part is given in the book at appropriate places.
Check List for project report before final binding (Typical) :
Ensure the prefatory parts are enclosed in the following sequence after the title page.
Approved project proposal proforma
The certificate of originality of work
Letter of authorization
Letter of transmittal
Ensure the main report contains :
Table of contents
Table of illustrations, glossary of terms, abbreviations, executive summary, introduction, main report with chapter plan recommendations and limitations.
Ensure appended parts contains :