More about report components…
This may also form the front cover of the report. As it is the ‘window’ to the rest of the document, it has to bear evidence of the professional approach that will follow. On the title page should be displayed:
- The title of the research report itself
- The name of the person or company who has carried out the work
- The name of the company or division for which the research was conducted
- The date of submission of the report
- If the report is confidential, this fact should be boldly displayed
- If the report is subject to strict circulation, the report number and reader need to be indicated
Reports more than about eight pages ought to have a summary containing all the salient points from th e body of the document, including the introduction, findings, and conclusions. Often, company executives at the decision-making level have very little knowledge of, or interest in the intricate details of the market research exercise. They simply want to know the basic findings, what conclusions can be drawn, and how they might act on them. For this reason, the summary is a vital section of the research report. The importance of the summary means it should not be thrown together at the last minute when the researcher, having completed the other sections, may be tired of the project.
The style and layout of the summary requires careful attention. The summary should consist of as many paragraphs as there are main points to be made and although it is a summary, sentences should not be abbreviated. The length can be in rough proportion to that of the report. A 20-page report might require a single page summary where a 100-page report would require five pages.
Table of contents
The table of contents of a report is a full listing of all the section headings and subheadings together with their page numbers. In a report with a large number of tables, a listing of these should also be provided.
The introduction to a report informs the reader:
- Why the research was commissioned
- What the researcher set out to do
- How this was done it
More specifically, there should be a brief discussion of the events leading up to the commissioning of the study, a statement of the objectives of the market research project and a brief description of how the data was obtained during the desk research and field research stages.
The findings constitute the body of the report. The aspects covered under the findings will vary from one project to another but irrespective of the contents, the sequence should be logical. Had a market research report been commissioned on the feasibility of entering a particular market, the findings might include the following:
- Market size and structure
- Market trends
- Marketing and distribution channels
- Competing products and how they compare (quality, price, etc.)
- Tested reactions to the product
- Information on the tastes, habits and attitudes of potential customers
- Advertising and sales promotional efforts current]y used and/or recommended
Conclusions and recommendations
In this section, the researcher explains the significance of the research findings. Conclusions are often presented in the form of options, i.e. the different courses of action open to the company and the costs and likely results associated with each one.
If the terms of reference provided for it, the researcher would then go on to make specific recommendations as to which course of action the company should follow. Each recommendation should be supported by an explanation and a reference to the relevant section in the main body of the report.
Recommendations could cover aspects such as:
- The type of agent to be employed
- Proposed advertising and promotional policies
- The level at which prices should be pitched
- Ways of combating competition
Most recommendations should be positive, i.e. they should state the specific steps that should be taken to achieve success or otherwise deal with the problems that have been identified; reduce prices, promote the product at distributor level, or whatever the case may be.
The purpose of appendices is to include as much relevant data as possible which might support, illustrate or further elaborate on the information already contained in the report. Each appendix should be numbered.
The kind of data that would appear in the appendices includes:
- Statistical tables which have been summarised in the main body of the report
- A list of the names and addresses of sources and contacts used in the course of desk and field research
- Copies of any questionnaires or transcripts of interviews taken during the field research stage, prefaced by:
- Brief comment on the objectives they were meant to satisfy
- Relevant details about the sample selected for the survey
- A list of possible future contacts, such as sales or advertising agents, in the market in question
- Detailed maps or diagrams, and so on