Sunday, January 14, 2007

Highlights of a good Research Report

Business and technical research is a process that requires considerable upfront planning. I use a rule of thumb to spend 1/3 of the total project time planning the research. 1/3 of the time in the phase of collecting data and analysis. And finally 1/3 of the total project time drawing conclusions and implementing the results of research.

This is especially important with survey research. Survey instrument design requires up front planning and in addition a beta test to ensure that results will be usable. I recommend online or internet based survey technology to help with design and implementation surveys. Online services promoting surveys and collecting your research data have really improved the ability to conduct research and analyze results statistically.

A good research report will also be formatted to provide an easy to read analysis of research results that can be conveyed to all levels of management. A good standard outline for a research based technical writing document will follow the following format

Problem Statement - This section is utilized to present an introduction to the business problem that requires the research.

Background and Literature Review -A good literature or background evaluation recognizes what has been accomplished to date prior to conducting this new research activity.

Research Questions - Now it is time to present the hypothesis or objectives of the current research study.

Methodology -This section outlines how the study was conducted. Is it survey based or experimental in nature? Will beta testing be required? How large of sample size is required and what is the expected margin of error? What is the test design? Is there a control group and how will it be identified? Is randomization or replication of the experiment or survey required?

Statistical Analysis - This really is the easy part. What software will be used to calculate the results of the research? What is the proper statistical test being considered? Here is where tables, figures and analysis of the final data should be presented.

Conclusions and Recommendations - A short summary wrapping up the results of the project and recommendations for implementation of findings. Will future research also be required? What can be done to extend or build upon the results of this project.

References - Acknowledge where your resource material came from. What groups may have provided assistance with your project.

When all is said and done a good well written technical research report will provide valuable information for decision making. There is no purpose to conduct survey research or experimentation if the results will not be utilized for improvement in your organization.