Research reports

Purpose of the assignment

The research report summarizes your work and presents your findings in a way that your client can easily understand. Usually research is presented as a phase of a larger campaign proposal, or as a baseline situation analysis to determine future directions. For the purpose of this class, the reports will not include any strategic suggestions or programming, and be limited to a situation analysis-style document.

Report content

Specific details will vary considerably based on the type of research conducted. For more specific examples of how to report different types of research, see those provided. In any case, each report should contain the following elements:

TITLE PAGE

This page should include a meaningful name for the study, an indication of the type(s) of research conducted, and the names of the students who participated in the project. Team names for group projects are optional.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Make it easy for clients to find the information they need in your report with a clear table of contents, including page numbers.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The executive summary should be a one-page overview of the situation, the research conducted, and the findings. It is usually one of the last parts of the proposal to be written, although it is included in the proposal immediately before or after the table of contents.

problem statement & research questions

Summarize the reason the research is needed, and specify your research questions.

SECONDARY RESEARCH

This section includes the background research you did to gain better understanding of the situation. You should include a brief description of the context, as well as any library or online research that supports your choice of methods, framing of the research question, or other decisions made in the research process.

METHOD(S)

In this section, briefly describe your method in clear, general terms that a client would be able to grasp. Do not repeat or closely paraphrase the description from the assigned readings: write in your own words.  Also avoid mentioning any aspects of the method that you would be unable to clarify to a client during a face-to-face presentation, in the event there are questions.

In addition to the basic description of the method, this section is where you detail how you applied it in your specific context. Make sure to include the following information:

  • Sample. This might include a description of the documents, for content analysis, or the participants in your survey or qualitative research. Make it clear why the participants you chose were appropriate for helping to answer the research questions. Include how many people participated, how they were selected, your recruiting process, and any other relevant information (such as the completed sample and response rate for surveys). If you have tables or graphs showing your demographics, include those here;
  • Time frame. For interviews and focus groups, indicate when they were conducted (“between (date) and (date),” and the duration. For surveys, use the same format to indicate when the survey was in circulation. For content analysis (including social media research), indicate the dates of the documents or online information you used as a data source (e.g., tweets between date x and date y; all news releases and brochures published between date x and date y)
  • Method specifics. You do not need to list the questions you asked, but you do need to explain, for instance, what kind of survey you administered (phone, online, etc.), what style of interview you conducted (e.g., structured, semi-structured, unstructured), the number of coders used for content analysis and the intercoder reliability; etc.

FINDINGS

This is where you report the results of your research, using a combination of text, tables, and graphs as appropriate. Do not make the client do all the work of interpreting your tables and graphs: you should explain them in a preceding paragraph. Give each table and figure a sequential number (Table 1, Table 2…; Figure 1, Figure 2…) for easier reference.

You do not need to engage in lengthy analysis here, as that goes in the next section.

DISCUSSION & CONCLUSIONS

This section is where you briefly summarize your findings and explain what they mean in context. For example, if the number of Twitter followers went up during the period observed but the number of @mentions decreased, what does that suggest? This is where you draw on your knowledge of the research problem and context, as well as the secondary research you conducted. Also include a subsection on Limitations, in which you transparently note the limitations of your research, and one on Future Research Directions, in which you suggest what further data could help to answer the research questions or address the problem/situation.

Appendix

This final section should include your complete survey, coding scheme, interview or focus group schedule, etc. In other words, your instrument(s). It should also include any findings that did not make it into the report, such as statistics that you ran but that were not significant enough to include in the body of the report.

Report Format

Research reports should be professional in appearance. You do not need to produce bound reports of the level required in JMC 417 Campaigns, but they should be presented clearly, with no long, unbroken blocks of text. Use headings, subheadings, bulleted and numbered lists for clarity. Visual elements such as tables and graphs should be included where they enhance the content. All written sections should be grammatically correct and free of spelling or punctuation errors.

You must submit a PDF of the file per the instructions given in class.

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