Check whether your
organisation uses a
particular structure for
reports. If not, then
include the following,
in this order.
List of Contents
List of tables and illustrations
Review of the literature
Present the results
Discuss the results
Title: Write this on its own in the centre of the first
page, with your name, the title and the date.
Acknowledgements: List people you wish to thank
for help given.
Abstract: Give a brief summary or overview of
your report, including its conclusions. Restrict this
(usually) to one paragraph. Omit details or
examples, except main experimental data.
Report abstracts may be reproduced and read
separately from the rest of the report, so they
often contain information also included on other
List of contents: List the main sections of the
report and the page on which each begins
(including any appendices).
List of tables and illustrations: List any
illustrations, charts, maps and so on, giving the
page number for each.
Introduction: Briefly discuss what the research
is about - why is it important or significant?
State your proposals or hypotheses briefly:
what are you going to show or prove?
Review of the literature: Discuss briefly some of
the most important writings on the subject,
discussing other researchers’ main findings. Do
you agree or disagree with them? Focus on how
previous research connects with and leads up to
your research. Introduce your experimental
hypothesis, if you have one.
Method: How did you conduct your research?
What methods did you use? Did you replicate
methods used by other researchers? Even if you
are told to use certain methods, include these in
the report. Exactly what were the conditions of
the experiment? How many people or items were
included? How did you select them? What
instructions did you give to participants?
Measurement criteria: Discuss the kinds of data you
gathered. How did you analyse them? How reliable or
accurate are your data?
Present the results: Present your main findings briefly,
under headings if appropriate. Give results in the
order in which you conducted any experiments or start
with the most important.
Discuss the results: This is a longer section. Analyse
and explain your findings. Were they what you had
expected? Did they fit the theory or seem to disprove
it? Were they consistent with your hypothesis? How
are they significant? How could the research have
been improved? What follow-up research would be
Conclusions: In some subjects, a conclusion is
inappropriate. Otherwise, summarise your key points
and show why your hypothesis can be maintained or
Recommendations: In subjects such as social policy
or health, you may be asked to give a numbered list of
suggestions for action to resolve problems.
References: List all your sources, in alphabetical
Bibliography: If required, list relevant further reading,
again in alphabetical order.
Appendices: Present together any essential extra
material, such as instructions to participants, copies of
materials used, or tables and graphs of data. Number
each item. Do not include items unless they are
mentioned in the report.
Writing the report: Opening
States the problem or issue covered by
Summarises the main themes in the
research literature, drawing out the main
points and showing how each piece of
research builds on previous work
Shows how your project uses and builds
upon previous research
section of a
Writing the report: opening
The following introduction would suit a report of
1500-2000 words. A longer report might refer to
more sources, but would not usually include more
about each, unless some were very highly
Example: an introduction to a
It has been argues (Ayer 199, Bea 1992) that diet can be affected by the colour
of food. For example, Bea found that 15% of participants in a series of six
experiments, showed strong aversions to certain food colour combinations.
People were less likely to eat food if they disliked that colour combination. Dee
(1994) found that food colour preferences are affected by age, with green being
the least popular food colouring amongst children. However, Evans challenged
Dee’s results. Evans (1996,1997) found that children's preferences for colour
only applied to certain types of food. For sweet food for example children showed
a strong preference for red products but chose green as frequently as other
colour options. Jay extended this area of research to non-natural food colours.
Early indications (Jay 2000a) suggest children are likely to select blue coloured
foods even though blue foods do not occur naturally. This research was
replicated by Kai (2001). Similar results were also found for adults (Jay 200b).
However, Jay’s research included only sugar-based products. As Evans has
shown here are different colour preferences for sweet and savoury produce, Jay
and Kai’s finding may not hold true across all food products, especially for
Jay’s research (2000b) indicted strong adult preferences for sweet food
coloured blue: Jay argued this was probably due to its ‘novelty value’. The aim of
the current research was to see whether adults showed the same preferences for
blue food colouring when presented with savoury food options. The research
hypotheses were that … [see section below]. It was assumed that the ‘novelty
effect’ would hold true for savoury products.
Other types of Introduction
If your report was
comissioned by a
business or an
usually give more
Who commissioned the report
Why the report was commissioned
The scope of the report: what it will
Definitions of any terms
An overview of finding and
The research hypothesis
The research hypothesis must be worded very
clearly and precisely. It usually states that
something will or will not happen.
Example: research hypothesis
The research hypothesis was that adults
would show a preference for savoury food
coloured blue over savoury food coloured with
food dyes simulating natural colourings. The
second hypothsis was that there would be no
significant difference in the preference of men
Methodology or ‘research
The methodology section gives the details that
the reader needs in order to know how you
gained your data and analysed it. You should
provide sufficient explanation that readers
could repeat your research for themselves if
they wished to. The writing is descriptive and
follows the order of your own actions “First this
was done, then that was done…”
The research participants were 32 adult students, all aged over 25.
There were equal number of men and women.
Four types of food were pre[red (potato salad, chapati, rice,
couscous) and each was divided into 4. Four different food dyes
were used: three were dyes used in the food trade designed to look
like a ‘natural’ food colour, the fourth food dye was pale blue. A
quarter of each of the four food types was dyed a different colour so
that all foods were available in each colour, to give 16 possible
Firstly, participants were told that all of the food was coloured using
artificial dyes. Each person was then allowed to choose three items
to eat. This meant they could not select one of each colour. A record
was kept of the colours selected by each person. The results were
then calculated according to food colour preferences overall and
preferences by gender.
Reports usually include a table of key results.
Other data and tables are attached as an
appendix. The results section simply presents
the data: the data are not discussed. Keep this
section short; include only relevant and
State whether or not your results support your
research hypothesis. Often results do not
support the hypothesis: this is neither ‘good’
Example results: Graphs/Charts
Test 1 Test 2 Test 3 Test 4
24 of the 32 participants (75%) did not select a
blue food item. The findings do not support the
research hypothesis. However, 7 of the 8
participants who did select a blue option were
women. 44% of women selected a blue option
to 6.25% of men. This does not support the
Critical, analytical writing is used in the discussion
section. The discussion section analyses the data
and draws out interesting findings. It includes:
The significance of your results and whether these
confirm or differ from previous research.
Your conclusion and the evidence for these
A note of whether or not the research hypotheses
Any improvements that could be made to the
research method and further research that is
How your results could be applied elsewhere.
For the research described above, for example the
discussion might include an analysis of:
The sample: was it representative? Could the ethnic
mix or age range have made a difference?
The method: Could this have been improved? Did the
blue food look unpleasant rather than simple
‘unnatural’? Is blue just an odd colour for food? Would
there have been different responses to an unnatural-
Future research: What research is needed to clarify
these results further? For example, do colour
preferences apply to all foods or only to some? How
long does the ‘novelty factor’ last?
Example: part of the discussion
The research indicated that even when
participants were told that all food options
were artificially coloured, they still choose
savoury food that looked ‘natural’ rather than
food dyed blue. This suggests that adults
havea preference for food colours that look
natural. However, blue is not a colour
associated with food; this might have distorted
Conclusions sum up your research, setting out its
significance and your findings. No new information or
references are included. The conclusions are also
included in the abstract, the introduction and the
For the research above, the conclusions might
A note that your research findings are not consistent
with previous research findings
A brief summary of why your results may be different
(for instance, adult participants rather than children
and savoury food rather than sweet.)
Notes of any shortcomings of the research (the use of
blue colouring may have distorted results).
The research suggests that adults do not
select savoury foods dyed blue, if given the
choice of of other options of dyed food. The
‘novelty effect’ of blue products, suggested by
previous research, did not hold true for
savoury foods. The research suggest that
people choose savoury food on a different
basis to sweet food. However, this hypothesis
would need to be tested further by researching
the choices made for sweet and savoury
products by a single group of participants (etc.)
The purpose of recommendations is to
suggest ways forward. They might propose
how to improve current ways of working, or
action that needs to be taken. They are
For example, if you were undertaking research
for an agency, your recommendations might
1. Undertake further research using a larger
2. Avoid use of blue food dyes in the
manufacture of savoury food products for
The abstract is placed before the contents
page of the report. Although it is presented at
the beginning, it is usually easiest to write if
you leave it until last. Leave plenty of time to
write it – it usually takes longer than expected.
The abstract sums up your aims, your
research hypothesis, your methodology, your
findings and your conclusions. An abstract
needs to be both brief and concise.
Example 1: Abstract (50 word limit)
This report suggests that research into truancy has neglected the
critical role of school play-time. In depth interviews with 6 former
truantism now students, highlight the pivotal role of group dynamics
within the playground. The interviews suggest that ‘feeling like an
outsider’ at play-time encourages initial acts of truancy.
Example 2: Abstract (100 word limit)
This report presents an analysis of adult responses when given the
choice of foods dyed blue, or foods dyedd with traditional
colourings. The initial hypothesis based on research by Jay
(2000b), was that adults would show a preference for food dyed
blue over foods that looked more natural. This project replicated the
methods used by Jay, by substituted sweet for savoury foods. 32
adults, all aged over 25, were asked to select three items from a
selection of 16 possible choices. Their responses indicate that
adults are less likely to select blue food for savoury items. The
results were statistically significant.
Some subjects require a summary rather than
an abstract. This is usually longer than an
abstract but still no more than a page.
The summary contains the aims and
objectives, a brief outline of the research
problems, the methodology, the key findings,
the conclusion and the main
Reports: layout, presentation and
Presenting the text
Number the pages in order. On the contents page,
give the page number for each section.
Use fonts that are easy to read.
Leave clear margins at each side.
Avoid fancy graphics, unless the project brief
Use a clear layout. Avoid cluttering the report with
tables and diagrams unless these are essential.
Place most tables, data and examples of
materials (if these are needed) in the appendices
at the end of the report.
Reports: layout, presentation and
All writing in a report is:
Formal – avoid slang and abbreviations
Focused – address only the project brief
Concise – avoid tangents and unecessary
Subject-specific – follow the style appropriate
to your subject
Reports: layout, presentation and
Writing for a purpose
The contents will depend on the purpose of the report. For example,
the report above is written about research undertaken on campus.
However, if you undertook similar research for a company or
organisation, the research and report would reflect those different
purposes. For example:
The introduction would state briefly what the organisation wanted
the research to achieve
The sample would possibly be bigger, focusing on members of the
If the sample were bigger, the method should be simpler, and
followed by fewer questions.
The discussion would focus on future implications of the results for
any proposed changes.
You would probably make recommendations.