Educational Research On-Line
Research Report Components
Outline of a Research Report or Article
Most reports of research follow a format similar to that described below, but perhaps with minor deviations. A good description of the format can be found in the chapter one of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (4th ed., Washington, D.C.). On-line sources to APA style can be found at http://www.psychwww.com/resource/apacrib.htm
Typically research reports and published research articles will have the following components:
The title should be short and clearly identify the topic researched.
This section is usually one paragraph and provides a summary of the research.
In this section, the writer introduces the reader to the topic investigated in the study and makes clear the importance of the topic. If this section is present, then one is likely to find a problem statement here. For more on the introduction and problem statement, see Problem Statements.
4. Literature Review
In this section of the report or article, the writer provides, in essence, a brief historical overview of the research and explains to the reader how the current research fits within the theory of the topic. In this section, the writer is telling the story of the research and explaining why the research is important. More on literature reviews can be found in Literature Review.
5. Research Questions or Hypotheses
In this section, the writer presents the specific questions that will be addressed by the current research. Research questions and hypotheses are explained in more detail in Research Questions and Hypotheses.
Sometimes the Introduction, Literature Review, and Research Questions or Hypotheses are not treated as separate sections. Rather, many writers and journals prefer that all three be combined into one, seamless section. Most prominent journals in education today follow the one section format (e.g., American Educational Research Journal, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Journal of Educational Psychology, Journal of Experimental Education, Contemporary Educational Psychology).
In this section of the report, the writer provides a detail presentation of the people, materials, and procedures used to investigate the research question. The Method section usually contains several subsections.
Participants This subsection describes in some detail the people who participated in the study, how they were selected for the study, and various characteristics of the participants. More on this can be found in Sampling.
Design This subsection is usually found only in experimental studies. In this section, the experimental designed used to investigate the problem is described. Some experimental designs are presented in Experimental Research.
Materials/Apparatus Here the writer explains those materials/apparatuses used in the study. These typically include a description of surveys or measuring instruments, specific tools (e.g., books, tape recorders, electrical shocking devices ha ha, etc.), and whatnot. Some discussion of instruments/surveys and issues related to validity and reliability, concepts that must be addressed in each study, can be found in Measurement: Instrument/Test Validity and Measurement: Instrument/Test Reliability.
Procedure In this section the writer provides a step-by-step outline of how the data were collected. Enough detail should be presented here to ensure that someone unfamiliar with the study could replicate the study.
In this section is information that describes how the data were analyzed to address the research questions or hypotheses, and what was found after analyzing the data. Methods of data analysis for quantitative research is discussed in Descriptive and Inferential Statistics.
This section is one of the more important in the report. In this section the author explains how the results of the current study fit with previous research and with relevant theory. Presenting such ties is difficult for many and requires a strong understanding of the relevant literature and theories. The importance of the current research is highlighted in this section, and often the writer will offer suggestions for follow-up research and related future research.
The References section is simply a list of all work, essay, articles, etc. that were cited in the report.