Learn how to write … right! Whether you are a student or business professional, report writing will often form part of your study or working life. This course will teach you how to write a research report, including confidently navigating the area of professional research.
In our Professional Research and Report Writing course, you will learn to plan and conduct research for any industry and discipline, and discover how research can improve your student results or the performance and sustainability of your organisation. You will also learn about statistics, research methods, and the fundamentals of research report writing.
Outcomes achieved by undertaking a course on how to write a research report include:
- Learning how to identify research needs, the research goal and the research question
- Exploring sources of information, what information is required and the depth and breadth of data
- Gaining an understanding of realistic research parameters and constraining factors
- Studying how to write a report and examining the introduction, method, results, references, glossary and appendices
- Exploring how to search for information and the kinds of exploratory research
- Gaining an understanding of primary and secondary data research
- Studying literature reviews and the steps of a literature review
- Examining referencing
- Understanding research methods, key research terms and methodology
- Attaining knowledge of experimentation, controlled environments and field trials
- Gaining insights into the collection and analysis of data
- Learning about running a crop trial and setting up a comparison trial
- Exploring records and recording and interviewing skills
- Gaining an understanding of asking questions, the different types of questions and ways of handling difficult questions
- Studying the definition of statistics and official statistics and why they’re important
- Examining the reasons and advantages for using statistics
- Understanding that statistics are about our previous experience and are useful guides and motivators
- Attaining knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of statistics and what issues to consider
- Gaining insights into descriptive statistics, observed and expected rates and confidence intervals
- Learning about standardising (by age), the reliability of statistics and presenting statistics
- Exploring pie charts, bar charts and histograms
- Gaining an understanding of descriptive statistics and the standard error of the mean
- Studying standard deviation, the coefficient of variation and probability
- Examining how to conduct statistical research, collect quantitative data and conduct a survey
- Understanding exploratory research attitudes and the procedure to develop a survey
- Attaining knowledge of forms of data, designing a questionnaire and common mistakes in questionnaires
- Gaining insights into research reports, report writing tips and the structure of a report
- Learning about front matter, the body of a report, the introduction, background, method and results
- Exploring discussion, references, glossary and appendices
- Gaining an understanding of the report outline, research papers and referencing
Tips on how to write a research report
Report writing is common in a vast range of disciplines and professions. Reports are a specific form of writing typically organised around identifying and examining events, issues or findings from research. They often involve investigating and analysing a problem and coming up with a solution that follows clear reasoning.
Regardless of the type of report, it should be clearly structured, well-written and targeted at the right audience. Analysis and results should be clear, accurate and objective, and the structure should support the key message.
However, how to write a research report can vary greatly depending on who you are writing for and the purpose of the report. For example, writing a government report can be different from writing a formal business report. Student reports can differ again (including between learning institutions), but here is a basic guide.
There are typically three main phases in reporting writing: preparation, analysis and writing.
This is where you clarify precisely what is required in terms of the end result, and it could range from analysing something to solving a problem. If you are working in a group, this phase is also where you agree on the group’s communication plan.
This phase is where you conduct research, gather evidence and data, and come up with your key message — the answer to a question or a solution to the problem. Your key message will then determine your report’s structure, enabling you to complete the writing phase. Reports often require you to combine your own analysis and gather research from existing sources. Some examples of sources used in reports can include:
- Books or chapters in a book
- Journal articles
- Government reports
- Newspaper articles
Determining how you’ll structure your report will make the writing phase smoother and more efficient. Once this has been determined, it’s time to get going! Key points to focus on include:
- Setting up your key message in the introduction.
- Developing your key message through your sections and topic sentences.
- Supporting your ideas with evidence.
- Summarising your findings in concluding sentences and in your conclusion.
This phase also involves considering your report’s structure. Common sections include:
- Title page. This includes the report title, the report writer’s name, the receiver’s name and the date.
- Table of contents.
- Executive summary. This briefly outlines the purpose, key message, findings, conclusions and recommendations.
- Introduction. This gives the report’s aim, scope and background and may include a suggested solution.
- Main body. This section details your findings and analysis and needs to develop the material logically, clearly and coherently. Your findings should justify your recommendations. Subheadings can make this section easier for the reader to follow, and the structure should reflect what is outlined in your introduction.
- This is a summary of your main findings and conclusions based on these findings. It should outline the key findings and state the recommendations from your analysis. Recommendations also often form part of the conclusion.
- These provide details of any external evidence that’s been cited, and the style you use depends on a range of factors. Some examples of university referencing styles are covered below.
- These include any information (like charts, tables, graphs or other data) that you’ve referred to in your report, but not included in the main body.
The “main body” section is your report’s primary element
The body can be lengthy, it’s important to break it up into manageable “pieces” for the reader. These can include:
- Points – break each section and sub-section into points
- Paragraphs – these are points that are the building blocks of your report and should contain one main idea. Each should develop the idea in three parts:
- Topic sentences. This is typically the first sentence in a paragraph. It should indicate your position and be clear, as it will give insights into what the reader should expect next.
- Supporting sentences. These support and develop the main idea. Each should connect to the others to create a logical flow. This is where you incorporate your analysis and research and support it with evidence (and make sure it is referenced!)
- Concluding and linking sentences. This final sentence should summarise the idea you introduced in the topic sentence. It can also lead to the next paragraph by developing a logical link to the next main idea.
Common referencing styles
In terms of how to write a research report, referencing is a vital component as it allows you to acknowledge the contribution of other writers in your report, give credit to writers from whom you have borrowed ideas and words, and ultimately, avoid plagiarism! Some common styles used by universities include:
- American Chemical Society (ACS). Widely used in chemistry and related disciplines.
- Australian Guide to Legal Citation (AGLC). The standard Australian guide for referencing in law.
- Academy of Management Journal style (AMJ). Based on the style guide for the Academy of Management journal.
- American Psychological Association (APA). The standard style used in psychology but also widely used in other disciplines, including the social sciences.
- Chicago Manual of Style. This footnote referencing system is widely used in the arts and humanities.
- Council of Science Editors (CSE). Widely used in the life sciences.
- Not an official referencing style; however, many universities base this on other referencing style manuals.
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Widely used in the fields of computer science and electrical engineering.
- Modern Language Association of America (MLA). Widely used in the fields of linguistics and contemporary literature.
- A generic term for a style of referencing widely used in the health sciences.
Gain a comprehensive understanding of how to research and write reports for professional or academic success with a course on how to write a research report, such as our Professional Research and Report Writing.