The good news is there’s no need to reinvent the wheel; there are plenty of good reports to draw ideas from.
To save your time and energy, here’s a tried and tested template that works!
Contents for a project research report
This should include:
- title of the research
- who commissioned the research
This is a list of all the sections of your report. You may wish to include sub-sections for a long report.
The aim of your Introduction is to introduce your project, and the research, to someone who knows nothing about your project. It is likely to include:
- background to your project: its aims, partners, activities to date etc
- broad reason(s) for the research
- the research brief
The Executive Summary is a very concise summary of your whole report, usually between 1-4 sides, depending on the extent of your research. It is usually the last section of your report to be written.
Some people will only ever read this part of your report; it may be circulated as a separate document. It therefore needs to include a brief introduction setting the context, and a very brief description of research aims and methods, and then the key results and conclusions. Recommendations are usually given in full, since they are often the main focus of interest for readers.
In this section you describe the methods you used to collect data, including desk research, surveys and consultations. If relevant, include quotas set, samples achieved, number of people consulted. If there is extensive detail, consider separating it into an Appendix.
For a small research project, you include a summary of all your results here. For a larger project, you would separate the full results into an Appendix, with a summary, or series of summaries, in this section.
Where possible summarise your results as lists or tables, perhaps enriching with some quotes from respondents.
7.Conclusions and recommendations
Your conclusions summarise the main points emerging from your results, in relation to the research brief.
Your recommendations specify the recommended actions, which emerge from your research, justifying why they are being made. They are usually numbered, and made to stand out using bold or a different font.
Appendices are used to ‘house’ detailed information, which only some people will need to read. This often includes: detailed methodology, and detailed results.
The rest of the report should make sense to a reader without reading the Appendices. The main part of your report may well end up being circulated without them.
But don’t write it in order!
While the above list defines your content, the order in which you write the sections of your report will probably be quite different – it’s often easiest to start in the middle!
Some organisations have a house style for reports, if that’s the case, check it out as it may require some variations to the structure suggested here.
The bottom line: Outline the structure of your report, before you start writing, and it will be straightforward to slot everything in the right to place, to produce a digestible report.© May Johnstone, 2009, Project Perspectives.co.uk. Please feel free to circulate this article provided it is used in its entirety, including this acknowledgement.