A good report “sells” the results of the study, but it should not oversell. Every project has limitations. The competent researcher does not attempt to gloss over these points but instead calls them to the attention of the readers. This helps readers form a more accurate interpretation of the results than they would otherwise do. It has the added advantage from the researcher’s standpoint, of giving confidence in the results presented. If readers find limitations that the report does not point out, they are apt to wonder how carefully the research was done.
Limitations may be of several types. One that should always be emphasized is the degree to which one may generalize from the results. If the universe studied is Cleveland, Ohio, readers should be cautioned not to generalize about the United States at large. If the study is an exploratory one designed to find new hypotheses, readers should be warned not to conclude that the results are an accurate measure of the phenomenon studied.
If particular questions in a survey seem to have confused respondents, the readers should be warned to use particular care in interpreting the results of these questions. If many not-at-homes were encountered in the fieldwork and substitutions were made, readers should be cautioned as to the effect this could have on the results. In short, researchers should note any weaknesses in the research methods used.
In describing the limitations of the study, researchers should point out the degree to which they could affect the results. If limitations are overemphasized and not put in their proper perspective, they may tend to destroy confidence in the valuable parts of the study instead of increasing confidence.
Findings: Findings are the results of the study. This article makes up the bulk of the report. It is not just an assortment of statistical tables and charts but an organized narrative of the results. Summary tables and graphics methods of presentation should be used liberally. Highly detailed tables should be relegated to the appendix. The specific objectives of the study should be kept in mind and findings presented with them in view. Too often, writers feel they must present all findings regardless of their bearing on the objectives of the study. The list of information needed to achieve the objectives, which was prepared in the problem formulation step, should limit the scope of the findings presented.
Conclusions and Recommendations: Conclusions should be drawn with direct reference to the objectives of the study. The readers should be able to read the objectives, turn to the conclusions section and find specific conclusions relative to each objective. If, as sometimes happens, the study does not obtain satisfactory data from which to draw a conclusion relative to an objective, this should be acknowledged rather than disguised.
While it is almost always necessary for the researchers to draw conclusions, it is not always possible or advisable for them to make recommendations. On occasion the researchers may be specifically asked not to make recommendations. In other situations where the researchers have worked on one problem but have limited knowledge of the company’s background and general operating policies, they would be unwise to recommend definite courses of action even if asked to do so. Making recommendations assumes considerable knowledge of the total picture, including the resources of the firm and all the alternative courses of action. Often research workers do not have this knowledge.
Appendix: The purpose of the appendix is to provide is to provide a place for those report items that do not fit in the main body of the research report because they are either too detailed or too specialized. For example, the appendix may contain a detailed statement of the sample design, the formula used to determine the sampling error, detailed statistical tables, and the various research forms used, such as the questionnaire and the written interviewer instructions. Nothing should be relegated to the appendix if its absence from the report will make it difficult for the readers to understand the results. If certain data are discussed in any detail, the tables containing such data should be included in the report at that point. In many cases the main ideas can be presented graphically in the findings section. In this case the tables on which the charts are based should be included in the appendix. This permits anyone who wishes to check the details to do so.