Ways to report research
Your purpose for communicating your research is to create change by:
- Informing people and building bodies of new knowledge to support future action
- Providing answers to questions which might demonstrate new opportunities
- Presenting compelling arguments for specific changes
General principles of communicating research:
- Know your target audience – Follow the 5 W’s + H to plan reports which are tailored to the particular people you want to influence
- Focus on the most important points for the audience – not all the points
- Keep the communication as simple as possible
- Give the communication impact– make it interesting and enjoyable
- Take the opportunity to engage interested readers in the research by signposting them to further information about your research.
These are traditionally the most common way of presenting study findings.
Reporting findings to organisations who have formal procedures for making decisions because it gives a lasting record of details of the research to support decisions.
Written academic articles are published in journals to give a lasting record of research findings which others can use to build their own research.
Written reports can be demanding in terms of the time they take to write and read because of the amount of detail they can contain.
- Decide what ‘layer’ of information the people receiving the report need (See WHAT will people most want to know about the research) and focus on the right amount of detail.
- Think of ways of presenting information as clearly and simply as possible within the report and give the reader some variety to their reading, for instance use:
- Graphs and charts to present numbers and numerical information
- Diagrams and pictures to show relationships between facts and illustrate key points
- Ask the recipients what sort of report is most useful; how long or short; if they have a set format they are used to reading.
GO TO: the resources section to see examples of research reports
Long reports often have an ‘Executive Summary’ and Academic articles have an ‘Abstract’ at the start outlining the key points that are expanded in the main report. These prepare and help the reader take in the detailed information in the main report. Summary reports can also be used on their own, giving the reader a place to go and read the full report e.g. on a website if they wish.
Communicating key findings to busy people with little time or interest in reading a long, detailed report. Also good for choosing and presenting information for a specific group of people. Preparing separate reports for people who have slightly different interests in the topic can be the most effective way of sharing results of a study.
Being able to choose the most important information for different groups of people can be difficult. One way of helping is to connect the different reports so that you can refer people from one group to other aspects of the topic in another report.
The best practice principle of writing full length reports apply to summary reports. In addition, short reports are written in a more succinct style. Readers can be to other sources for further details e.g. a different report or a website where for instance more detailed statistical results are found or more details about the research methodology and methods are set out.
GO TO: the resources section to see examples of summary research reports
Infographics and posters:
Infographics and posters are ways of telling people about the most important highlights of research. They use diagrams, pictures and charts to make them interesting and impactful to get readers’ attention. Infographics and posters are often used alongside a report to introduce or advertise the research. They can also be used at a gathering of people to use to help talk about the research.
- Getting peoples’ attention especially if they are busy but also for simplifying and drawing attention to the most important parts of the research.
- It can be challenging to choose the most important points. Going back to identifying WHO you want to read about your research and then WHAT they will want to know will guide you.
The best infographics and posters have:
- A simple eye-catching design:
- Which uses pictures and images to draw attention to the topic
- With enough but not too many colours
- Clear writing which is not too small and uses the same font (style) throughout
- Uses two or three sizes of writing (not too many) for headings to draw attention to key points
- Information written in short simple sentences and short paragraphs
- A clearly, set out route through the information using the design or arrows or numbered sections to help the reader
- A way of getting the reader’s interest e.g. asking a question or making them think about a particular aspect of the topic / your findings, making a headline of an unexpected fact/finding.
GO TO: the resources section to see examples of infographics and posters reporting research
This is another popular way of reporting research findings. Personal presentations can take place at number of different sorts of events. Researchers can create an event e.g. to present their findings to all the stakeholders involved by inviting them all to gather at the end of the study. Researchers can also apply to share their findings at academic, professional and public events organised by individuals and associations with an interest in their topic.
Sharing and getting feedback about the research with people interested in the topic. This provides opportunities to continue to develop understanding about the topic. It is also an opportunity to thank stakeholders for their participation, to strengthen and grow your network of people interested in your topic. It is an excellent opportunity to show your enthusiasm for the topic and impress upon your audience how important it is. The contribution of young people to personal presentations is often very compelling. The way in which they express their ideas and enthusiasms is often novel to adult audiences and interesting to both adults and other young people.
Good presentations can take time to prepare and sometimes it takes time and practice for people to feel confident about presenting to people in person.
Personal presentations use all the best practice of preparation using the 5 Ws and HOW. In addition, many use presentation slides to help the audience follow the speaker’s key points. Presentation slides should follow the best practice guidance associated with infographics and posters. In addition, there are some key points to remember when giving personal presentations:
- The length of presentations can vary. What is important is that you think about your audience and how long they will be interested to concentrate upon your presentation. Think about whether your audience would prefer to have more time to ask questions and discuss rather than simply listen. Organise how much you will say to suite their needs. A 20-minute maximum is a good rule of thumb for most presentations.
- As for other ways of sharing your results don’t forget to end with a request to your audience to do something that will help to take your research forwards. This can be as simple as requesting feedback and sharing your contact details; referring them to further information; inviting them to leave their contact details to receive future information
- Whenever possible involve young people from research in personal presentations. Young people can lead and share presentations. If that is not possible audio and video contributions can be inserted and young people’s quotes used to shape key points in compelling ways.