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Organizing and reporting research results

66 Comments · Marketing Research

The information you have found through diligent and skilled research techniques brings the most value to your organization when it is analyzed, summarized, and organized into a useful report. 

Analysis should begin with the retrieval of the first bit of research results and continue throughout the process. 

As a researcher it is your responsibility to evaluate the information you retrieve to determine its validity and relevance for the questions you are trying to answer. 

In the end, you will analyze the information you have collected to identify the components that help answer the questions at hand.  Look for patterns, trends, quotes, and statistics relevant to your project.

A useful research report contains an executive summary.  This is usually a one- to two-page discussion of the analysis and the findings. 

A summary can include recommendations, observations, and suggestions for future research. 

The summary is supported by the attached articles ad reports that were found during the course of the research effort. 

A carefully written summary adds significant value to the research report, since it helps the reader get to the bottom line. 

Although you may be totally immersed in the particulars of the topic and think every detail is important, the client may simply want to know “What does this mean to me?”

Formatting for function and readability is important; in fact, it can almost be considered a courtesy to the reader. 

Type sizes should be large enough to read easily.  Try to avoid going below 10 point, unless it is required to maintain formatting of a table or a downloaded article. 

In some cases a fixed-width font is required for proper formatting, in which case Courier New works well. 

Times New Roman is a traditional variable-width font that most people can read easily in 12 point.

White space on a report offers visual relief.  You can achieve white space by using one-inch margins and bullet points when appropriate. 

Your report will likely include bibliographic citations and full-text articles or tables.  Watch how these things fall at the end of a page, so that you don’t have to split a table or place the first few lines of a citation on one page with the rest on the next page.

Inset page breaks as necessary to begin new articles or main topics on a new page.  (Hint:  To easily insert a page break in Microsoft Word, press Ctrl-Enter.)
Reports with more than two or three articles benefit from a table of contents.  This helps the reader see what the report contains and how it is organized. 

Plus, newer versions of most word-processing programs will create links from the table of contents to that point in the document. 

If you use this feature and use headings for article titles, those titles become part of the table of contents.  The reader can then click from there directly to the beginning of the article in question.

Packaging is an important component of the reporting process.  If your company has a corporate style guide, letterhead, or document template, then it should be used as appropriate. 

If not, consider creating one.  As a researcher in your company you may want to create a brand for yourself or your department. 

You do this by making each report look similar – using the same font, headers, footers, logos, and style for each report you produce. 

By making each report visually consistent, you begin to create a brand so that clients and users recognize the source of the information in hand.

Sample report outline and template


Here you will restate the research questions, specifying what you were looking for.  For example:

We need to understand the United States market for blood oranges, including where they are grown, how many are grown in terms of boxes or pounds, what products use blood oranges, who buys them, and what the market trends are.

Research Results Summary
Here you will summarize the findings.  This section includes the executive summary and generally consists of no more than two or three pages.  For example:

The United States market for blood oranges is growing.  Last year xxxacres were in production, yielding yyyy pounds of oranges, compared with ten years ago, when . . .

Table of Contents
The contents page lists the main headings present in the report.  For example:

Research Results Summary
Table of Contents
Research Results
Organgina Rouge Light Sparkling Fruit
Carbonates:  Losing Fizz?
Frieda’s Moro (Blood) Oranges:  Gift Box
1998 California Citrus Acreage Report
Stonewall Kitchen Dessert Topping
Earthbound Farm Organic Fruit

Research Results
This section would include the full text of selected articles. 


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