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HOW TO WRITE A RESEARCH REPORT

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Introduction/ HOW TO WRITE A RESEARCH REPORT

Writing research report is not a new phenomenon but, rather an integral part of scholarship, industrial and academic world. Carrying out a research is not completed until it is reported or disseminated in order for others to benefit i.e. the need to communicate a research work or studies to other interested parties in the form of; conference/seminar/workshop papers; as articles in journals or magazines; reports to funding agencies and thesis or dissertation for degrees in tertiary education institutions.

Thus, writing research reports is a necessity among undergraduate, postgraduate students, academics, industry professionals and researchers. Also, one of the characteristics of a research is that it must be “organized” and in order to make a research well organized, it must be writing and reported carefully. Writing research reports often influence by the nature of research, guidelines of institutions or organizations etc.

Objectives of Writing Research Report

There are lots of objectives for writing research reports but for the purpose of this assignments few will be mentioned:

  1. The core purpose of a research report is to communicate it to others people who may benefits from it
  2. To serve as bulk literature or empirical studies available in the aspect of study which others may use as reference material or start point.
  3. Because research cyclical in nature, suggestions and recommendations offers by earlier researchers may be the beginning of another research problem for other.
  4. To know what has been done and gaps in the area of the study
  5. It helps reduce duplication of research efforts.

What Research Reports Must Explain

Essex University, (2016). Explains that research reports must explain to others the following

i. What was done?

ii. Why it was done?

iii. How it was done?

iv. What was found?

v. What it means?

Format, Language and Structure

A key feature of writing research report is that it must follow a formal structured in sections. The use of sections makes it easy for the reader to jump straight to the information they need.

Unlike an essay which is written in a single narrative style from start to finish, each section of a research report has its own purpose and will need to be written in an appropriate style to suit. For example, the methods and results sections are mainly descriptive, whereas the discussion section needs to be analytical. Understanding the function of each section will help to structure our information and use the correct writing style.

The standard format allows people to read the work selectively: for example a reader may be interested in just the methods, a specific result, the interpretation or perhaps just the abstract. The structure and style of a research report are therefore very important and should conform to the specific requirements of institution or organization of interest.

The norms in research report writing are; standard format of presentation and formal language or style of communication. The obvious reasons for these are promotion of clarity, conciseness, completeness and accuracy of the reports. Unfortunately, there are no universally accepted formats of presentation of research reports, but only general guidelines, with several variations specific to individual organizations or institutions. 

DRAFTING AND EDITING A RESEARCH REPORT

1st draft (Put each section together for the first time)

2nd draft  (Put each section together for the second time)

1st editing (Getting your paper into shape)

2nd editing (what is on top and what lies beneath)

NOTE: Always use the guideline provided to you

Although, there is no universal format that a dissertation must follow but there are acceptable standard that is peculiar to every format. For convenience, the general content of a thesis or dissertation has been categorized by Darwish (2016) as follows:

A). FRONT MATTER OR COVER PAGES OR PRELIMINARY PAGES

i.          Title page (it contains the title of the research, name of the researcher and degree involved)

ii.         Certification page/Affirmation page (It contains statement indicating that the student actually carried out the study with the signature of the

            supervisor and other examiners)

iii.        Dedication Page (often dedicated to God or parents).

iv.        Acknowledgements page (greeting include appreciation of scholars whose works were cited or consulted during the research)

v.         Table of contents (list of all chapters/section and the pages they fall) it help easy navigation of the paper.

vi.        List of tables (it contains the list of the tables used in the study so they readers can locate them easily)

vii.       List of figures (same as figues.)

iv.        Abstract: The abstract is often required to be no more than a given maximum number of words, usually between 100 and 300 depend.  It should describe the most important aspects of the study, including the problem investigated, the type of subjects (sample) and data collection method involved, the analytical procedures used, and the major results and conclusions

An abstract is a concise single paragraph summary of completed work or work in progress, of about 200 to 300 words. It should contain a brief account of what was done and why, the method employed, results obtained and conclusion reached. An abstract should stand on its own, and not refer to any other part of the paper such as figure or table. It should focus on summarizing results\, with background information limited to a sentence or two; if absolutely necessary. What is reported in the abstract must be consistent with what is reported in the thesis. Correct spelling, clear sentences and phrases and proper reporting of quantities (correct units and significant figure) are very essential. Abstract is usually written in a single line space.

B). BODY OF THE REPORT/ MAIN PART

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background to the study (usually 2 pages)

1.2       Statement of the research problem (establishing the gaps to show there is a problem to solve)    

1.3       The research Objectives (developed from the problem) it is usually between 3-5

1.4       The research questions/Hypothesis- (questions/predictions from the problem/objectives of the study)  and it usually the same number with                  objectives.

1.5       Rationale and significance of the research (indicating why it is worth doing, who benefits from the study)  

1.6.      Scope of the Study (it is about the limitation or the research covering area e.g Unilorin students).

1.7       Definition of key concepts (i.e explanation of the key variables as used in the study).

ii. Literature Review: Some authors present the material included here as a separate section under its own heading (as it is shown here), while others present it as part of a longer INTRODUCTION section.  In either case, the review of the related literature describes and analyzes the published studies that are directly related to, and/or have some relevance to, the topic and research questions at hand.  Related literature should be integrated with, and weaved into, the material in this section and not be simply cataloged. Again at the undergraduate and many postgraduate thesis, whole CHAPTER TWO is called LITERATURE REVIEW and in most cases sub-divided into 3-4 depends on the institution. It often has the following sub-heading:

2.1       Conceptual Review: This offers definitions and meaning of major variables in the topic and other related scholarly point of view related to the

            focus of the study. E.g

2.1.1    Meaning of Social Media

2.1.2    History of Social Media

2.1.3    Forms of Social Media etc

2.2    Empirical Studies/Review: This includes the review of research by earlier researchers that is related to the current study. i.e review of what earlier researchers have done in the area of your problem in terms of topic, name of the researcher(s), year of the study, objectives, theories used, methodology used, findings/conclusion, recommendations and what the empirical work offer the current study. Note: two or more empirical studies is fine but some supervisor may demand for 10 and above. Empirical studies format usually take this form.

2.2.0    Empirical Studies

2.2.1    Factors influencing online shopping…

2.2.2    Website Credibility and Online shopping experience of …

2.2.3    …………………………………………………………

2.3       Theoretical  Framework: This sub-head introduces the theory(ies) that are relevant at explaining the research problem. Often two theories are common. The theories explain the problem in relation to other related variables and current circumstance. Theories like Agenda Setting, Uses and Gratification, Source Credibility are often used in media researches. 

Wong (2016) highlighted the functions and pit falls to be avoided in literature review. The functions include: 

i. Ensures that one is not “reinventing the wheel” 

ii. Acknowledging those who have laid the groundwork for the research 

iii. Demonstrates ones knowledge of the research problem. 

iv. Allows for critical evaluation of relevant literature information 

v. Provides theoretical framework upon which the conceptual framework for the

Study may be developed.

vi. Indicates the potential of the proposed study for contributing significantly to

Existing knowledge (by resolving an important theoretical issue or filling a major

gap in the literature). 

The pitfalls to be avoided are: 

i. Lack of organization and structure 

ii. Lack of focus and coherence 

iii. Being repetitive and verbose 

iv. Failure to cite influential papers 

v. Failure to keep up with recent developments 

vi. Failure to critically evaluate cited papers. 

It is advisable to make use of subheadings in the organization of the literature Review as it brings order and coherence to the review.

iii. Methodology: The methodology section includes a description of the research sample (subjects), data collection method, measurement instruments, and data analysis procedures.  The description of sample/subjects includes not only the sample size and statistics regarding the subjects but also a definition and description of the population from which the sample was selected.  This section also describes the method used in selecting the sample or samples.  In the case of questionnaire surveys, information on response rates also should be provided. The description of instruments should identify and briefly describe all instruments used to collect data pertinent to the study, be they tests, questionnaires, interview or observation forms, or unobtrusive data such as absenteeism reports or productivity figures.  When possible, information on validity and reliability of the measures used should be reported.  Also, sources should be cited for measurement instruments/procedures (e.g., scales) developed by other researchers.  The method section is usually concluded with a few statements about the analysis procedures utilized to test the study’s hypotheses.

iv. Results and Discussion: Some authors use a single section to both present and discuss the data analysis results.  Others deal with the two issues in two separate sections.  In either case, the statistical techniques that were applied to the data must be mentioned and the results of each analysis summarized, tabulated, and then discussed.  For each research hypothesis, the statistical test of significance selected and applied to the data is briefly described, followed by a statement indicating whether the hypothesis was supported or not supported. Tables and figures are used to present analyses results in summary and/or graph form and to add clarity to the presentation.  Good tables and figures are uncluttered, self-explanatory, and non-redundant. In addition to simply presenting the results in a straightforward manner, the author also has to provide the readers with his/her interpretation of the results, implications of the findings, conclusions and recommendations. Each result is discussed in terms of the original hypothesis to which it relates and in terms of its agreement or disagreement with results obtained by other researchers in similar/related studies.  If the results are consistent with the theoretical model, researcher’s expectations, and/or findings of other researchers, explanations must be provided as to what the results mean and what their theoretical and practical implications are.  When the results do not support the hypotheses and/or contradict previous findings, not only their meaning, but also possible reasons for the discrepancies must be discussed. Often during a study apparent and/or interesting relationships will be noticed that were not hypothesized by the researcher.  These unforeseen results should be acknowledged and discussed. Such results often form the basis for future studies specifically designed to examine the issue more carefully. Finally, the researcher should address the study’s limitations and make recommendations for future research.  It is notable that in the discussion portion of this section the researcher is often permitted more freedom to express opinions and reasonable speculations/assertions that may be rather indirectly and implicitly based on data analysis results

v. Conclusion and Recommendations: This section is very similar to the abstract section except that it appears at the end of the report (preceding the REFERENCE section).  It summarizes the study’s findings in an easy to understand manner.  It also explains the practical implications of those findings, and points to recommended directions for future research in that area.

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