There is no one best format for all reports. However, the physical format can be employed to create desirable emphasis and clarity. The use of widely spaced paragraphs, varied margins, separated headings, different type sizes, and colors all make it possible to emphasize major points and to clarify the sequence and relationship of ideas. A report must use the format that best needs and wants of its readers. The following format is suggested as a basic outline that has sufficient flexibility to meet most situations. It should not be thought of as a rigid outline that must always be followed.
1. Title page
2. Table of contents
3. Foreword (introduction)
4. statement of objectives
(i) Research design
(ii) Data collection method
(v) Analysis and interpretation
8. Conclusions and recommendations
(i) Copies of forms used
(ii) Details of sample with validation
(iii) Tables not included in findings
(iv) Bibliography, if pertinent.
Each of these items is discussed briefly in the following paragraphs.
Title Page: The title page should indicate the subject, the date the report is prepared for whom prepared, and by whom prepared. Sometimes it is not necessary to specify for whom the report is prepared, while at other times it is wise to indicate this precisely and to show who actually receives copies. Some research reports are confidential and for limited distribution; in such cases, it is particularly desirable to indicate on the title page who will receive a copy.
Table of Contents: If the report is lengthy or if it is divided into numerous parts, it is usually desirable to have a table of contents. If the report includes numerous charts, graphs, and tables, it is desirable to include a list of them immediately following the table of contents. Foreword: This section serves to introduce the reader to the research project. It should give the background of the problem; the various dimensions of the problem; and whether any previous research was done that is pertinent to the specific project being reported.
Statement of Objectives: The specific objectives of the report need to be set forth clearly. The reader must know exactly what the report covers. If the particular project is part of a large problem, it is desirable to state the overall problem and the problem solution process. Sometimes it may even be wise to provide some background information on how the problem arose and what previous research work, if any, has been carried out. If such information will help in understanding the report, it should be furnished; but it should be kept as brief as possible.
Methodology: The purpose of the methodology section is to describe the research procedure. This includes the overall research design, the sampling procedures, the data collection method, the field methods, and analysis procedures. This section is difficult to write because it is hard to discuss methodology without using technical terms, yet much of the audience for the report will not understand technical language.
Research Design: a description of the research design should make it clear whether the study is exploratory or conclusive in nature and whether it is case, statistical, or experimental in design. In addition to describing the research design, the researcher must explain why the particular design was used – what its merits are for the project at hand.
Data collection Methods: Where data collected from secondary sources or from primary sources; were results collected by survey or observation? Again the researcher must explain why the method selected was appropriate for the project. A copy of the questionnaire or form for recording observational data may be included here. If the form is at all lengthy however it will probably be better in the appendix where it will not break the continuity of the report.
Sampling: In describing the sampling procedure, it is first necessary to indicate the nature of the universe studied. The exact sampling units, such as stores, consumers, or business executives, must be defined and the geographical limits specified. If there were any difficulties in identifying the sampling units in the field, the procedure used for overcoming such difficulties must be explained. If the sampling unit definition used differed from the commonly accepted one, this fact should be noted and the differences pointed out to avoid possible confusion.