Elements of a Research Report
Research reports follow a standard format. An annotated outline of the elements appears below. You should develop an outline that follows a logical sequence and uses headings and subheadings to guide the reader through the paper. Note that the Roman numerals do not appear in the final paper. The outline serves as a guide to organize the paper as you are writing. LRTS’ preference is to use third person, not first—although this is not a rigid requirement. At a minimum, do not mix use of first and third person. Do not use contractions and take care to avoid conventional phrases (e.g., “for the most part,” “by all accounts”) that do not add substance to a sentence.
Follow George Orwell’s advice:
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” in his Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell, eds. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1968): 139.
The introduction is one of the most important parts of a paper. Not only does it explain what will be presented, it also serves to capture the reader’s interest. The introduction should present the research question(s) that will be answered or the hypotheses/assumptions that will be tested. Equally important, the introduction explains why the reader should care about these findings. (Will they inform practice in other libraries? Guide solving a common problem?) The introduction often provides a mini-outline in prose describing the elements of the paper that will follow.
Put the research into context by providing a review of relevant literature. Make sure citations are accurate, complete, and follow the latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style. Highlight important findings reported in the literature. Endnote numbers follow the final punctuation in a sentence. Only one endnote is used with a sentence. If more than one source is cited in a sentence, the citations are separated by colons in the endnote. Double check all citations for accuracy.
The research method section should fully explain the methods or procedures used so that readers can judge the validity of results. If the paper describes a research study that uses statistics, consult with a statistician to ensure that the statistics are handled correctly. If the research used a survey instrument, it should be provided as an appendix.
Results (or Findings)
This section reports the quantitative and/or qualitative data revealed by the research. Spell out percent (do not use %). Illustrations, tables, and figures often will enhance or illustrate the points and concepts presented in the paper. Be conservative, however; use no more than six to eight. Do not repeat within the paper every data point in a table; highlight the significant findings in the prose and refer the reader to the table or figure for more information or the details.
Discussion and/or Analysis
Develop your argument based upon your findings. While the data may seem clear, you need to interpret for your readers. Explain how the findings answer your research question/s or prove your hypothesis (or assumptions), what falls outside of validity, and how your findings relate to the literature cited in the literature review (Are your results different from what others found? Do they confirm earlier research?). If you encountered problems with your research method, report these here. You also can note where further research is needed.
The conclusion is as important as the introduction. You should reiterate what you intended to discover and what you found. Briefly restate and summarize your findings and discussion. Remind the readers why your findings are important and why they should care.