A research report's meaning varies based on what you’re actually researching and what industry you’re working in. In the medical field, the purpose of a research report might be to show off the results of a clinical trial for a new pharmaceutical drug. In an ecological field, the purpose of a research report might be to examine the cause and effects of the giant trash island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Most likely, as a small business owner, you’ll be using a research report for market research, which has a completely different purpose.
A research report’s significance shouldn’t be underestimated. It can really help make or break a small business. They can act as a window into the soul of the consumer and help you make informed decisions about your brand. It’s a meaningful way to present new ideas to shareholders and board members. It’s hard to refuse tried and tested data.
In layman's terms, a research report is a written presentation of the findings of a research study in a way people can digest and learn from. These types of reports also make suggestions about how to use the data.
Basically, research reports identify a question and show the answer through clearly explained data (though in some cases, there is no conclusive answer).
Beyond a research report’s definition, research reports have major significance to small businesses. The main purpose of a research report for a small business is to examine market research. It can help you understand:
- Customer satisfaction: You can increase satisfaction if you know what's wrong.
- Marketing strategies: What is effective and what isn't?
- Your business’s target market: Who is buying your product and who should you market to?
A research report typically includes 11 sections:
- Table of Contents
- Aims and Objectives
- Literature Review
- Account of Investigation
Start with a title, then include the abstract. This serves as the summary. It lists out the point of the research, the sample size and other quantifying factors of the study. This is where you tell your audience the who, what, and where.
For example: you run a candy company and you’re introducing a new candy bar. After running a focus group, you find that the new candy bar is favored by millennials. You want to show this to your ad team so they can successfully target the most receptive market. In the abstract you'd outline the fact that you surveyed 100 people from varying generations.
The abstract is followed by the Table of Contents and Aims and Objectives. The table of contents directs a reader to what pages they are looking for. The Aims and Objectives is where you'd include the whys of your research report. What is the purpose of research report and what do you hope to find?
The literature review examines any sources that have previously delved into your topic. The Account of Investigation is where you explain, in deeper detail, everything about your participants, research procedures and materials. You glossed over this in the abstract.
Follow the Account of Investigation with your Findings. Going with the previous example, the findings is where you’d include the fact that 10% of millennials reported that your candy bar was too sweet, while 50% said they would buy it at the movies.
The Discussion section further dives into your findings. It frequently includes graphs and other visual representations of your data. This is where'd you talk about whether your findings were in line with your original theories or if other research studies have come up with similar results. This is also where you'd justify future research.
The Conclusion sums up your entire report and examines its larger significance. Following the previous example, this is where you’d sneak in the recommendation to take out ad space on a movie-centric website that has a millennial audience.
The References and Appendices are the last sections of a formal research report. This adds to the research report’s significance because it lists out all the works you've drawn information from and a full detail of your results, including any questionnaires you may have given.