No two people will prepare a written report in exactly the same way. Situational differences in the personality, background and responsibility of the researcher and the manager to whom the report is addressed should conspire to give each report a unique flavor. But even so, most agree that the following principles should be kept constantly in mind.
Many reports fail to achieve their objectives because the writers do not consider their market – the individuals who will read the report. Failure to understand the nature and capacity of these individuals, their interest, or lack thereof, in the subject area; the circumstances under which they will read and evaluate the report; and the uses they will make of the report may doom the report before it is written.
Being technical people themselves, researchers often tend to write reports as if they were intended for other technical person. They tend to discuss the research problems involved in the project and to use the technical terms common to them but to the reader. The result is often misunderstanding suspicion, and even hostility.
Executives have individual preferences that must be considered. Some executives demand a minimum report; they want only the results not a discussion of how the results were obtained. Others want considerable information on the research methods used in the study. Many executives place a premium on brevity, while others demand complete discussion. Some are interested only in the statistical results and not in the researcher’s conclusions and recommendations.
Thus, the audience determines the type of report. Researchers must make every effort to acquaint themselves with the specific preferences of their audiences. They should not consider these preferences as unalterable but any deviations from them be made with reason and not from ignorance.
Different readers may present conflicting demands. For example some persons may want more data on the technical aspects of the research process than others. These different interests are often hard to reconcile and may, in extreme cases, require the preparation of more than one report. In other cases, require the preparation of more than one report. In other cases, the basic report may include a minimum of detail but have appendixes that cover the technical details for the benefit of those who are interested. Obviously, this problem of conflicting demands has no easy solution. Researchers have to be aware of such conflicts and use their ingenuity in reconciling them.
Adhere to the Study Objectives:
A good report seeks to achieve certain results consisting primarily of answering the questions that derive from the statement of objectives. Merely to report the findings without reference to the objectives is to produce a sterile piece of writing. This requires researchers to be on intimate terms with the problem. If the management group has not permitted the researchers to participate in formulating the problem and has either handed down the problem – or worse still, merely demanded certain information – then there can be no definite goal for the report and it will suffer. Under such conditions it will be difficult, if not impossible, for report writers to draw conclusions and make recommendations.
No report was ever written that contained everything known on the given subject. If an attempt is made to include too much, there is always danger that the important points will be lost in the detail. Therefore, it is important to exclude anything unnecessary. Since necessity in this sense is a matter of degree, researchers must use their judgment in deciding what can be omitted. Such judgments are particularly difficult in relation to explanatory material. The reasons for using certain techniques or the logic leading from findings to conclusions to recommendations for action often take a lot of space to explain. Such explanations can obscure what was done or the specific recommendation made; however, if explanations are not given, the reader may conclude that the research was not conducted carefully. Somehow a satisfactory compromise must be reached. One solution is to mention that certain details have been omitted but are available upon request. —