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Summary

What is it?

Once you’ve analysed your data, the next step is to document your key findings and outline opportunities emerging from your work.

Why use it?

Communicating your findings is a critical step in the research process. Writing doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but by following the steps in this tool you can compile a simple, effective research report.

Before you start

Is this tool right for you? To find out more about selecting the best tool, check out the project planner.


What you'll need

Time: 1 day to draft, 2 weeks to seek feedback, four hours for revisions and finalisation.
Budget: No cost.
Equipment: Computer, internet.

Top tip

Try explaining your research findings to a colleague or even a friend who works in a different field. This can help you identify the key points emerging from the research. Listen to what questions they ask and make sure you cover them in your report.


Step by step

1. Identify your audience

Before you put pen to paper, think about who you’re communicating to. The tone and content of your report will be different if you’re writing an internal document compared with something for public dissemination. There are three common audiences for research reports:

  • For internal staff members you shouldn’t need to include too much contextual information, as they will already know it. Instead emphasise learnings and detailed findings that can be implemented into your work.
  • For your board produce a one-page summary and be clear about what you’re looking for from them, such as a decision or direction.
  • For public documents it can be helpful to include a longer introduction that includes context about the research and how it relates to other parts of your work. It should include less operational-level content and more high-level opportunities.

2. Decide on the format and style

Once you’ve identified your audience, think about the best format and style for the report. Here are some things to consider:

  • Length of the report – 1, 3 or 20 pages?
  • Style – formal or friendly?
  • Format – Word, PowerPoint or PDF?

If you’re new to report writing, ask a colleague or search the web for some examples.

Remember to think about things such as accessibility when deciding on the format. Word documents are usually more accessible for people using screen readers.

Check out the accessibility guide for more information.

3. Structure your headings

Decide on the key components of your report by drafting a heading structure. See the short report template for an example of heading structure and key thought starters.

4. Write a short introduction

In the introduction of your report, write a sentence to cover each of the following points:

  • What the document is
  • Why the research was done
  • What it will be used for.

5. Describe your method

In the methodology section of your report, write a sentence to cover each of the following points:

  • What methods you used
  • When and how the methods were administered and by whom
  • Who was invited to participate in the research
  • How were participants contacted and incentivised
  • How many people were invited to participate and what percentage responded
  • Any limitations of the research and factors that need to be taken into consideration when interpreting the results, such as a small sample size or potential bias.

6. Document the results of your analysis

The next step is to describe the key findings from your research. This could include the following points:

  • Descriptive statistics, such as the range of responses or the average response
  • Themes emerging from qualitative responses.

Check out the short research report template, which will help you begin to draft your report.

7. Write a conclusion

Take a moment to step back from the analysis and ask yourself ‘so what?’. Looking at the results overall, write a conclusion about what you think it all means. List opportunities you think have emerged from the findings, or a list of recommendations.

8. Create a short, sharp summary

Once you’ve completed the first draft of the report, summarise the results in a few sentences. Put the summary at the beginning of the report, so readers who are short on time can read the most important part first.

9. Review and revise

Print your report and read it through from the beginning – with pen in hand to mark up any errors. This is helpful for spotting typos and seeing what is missing.

Send your draft to a couple of colleagues and ask them for feedback. If you’re using Microsoft Word, ask them to use track changes to make revising your document easy.


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