Format for a Marketing Research Report

The following is a guideline to be used whenever writing a marketing research report.  Each section should be included in any research report that you write or present. Remember that in each step as you develop the report you should be building upon what was already done and making the connections between sections clear to the reader.

Title Page:
The title page should include the title of the report along with the name(s) of the client or organization for whom the report is written.  Also included on the title page should be the name(s) of the author(s) of the report along with all pertinent information about them.

Table of Contents:
The table of contents lists the information contained in the report in the order in which it will be found.  All major topics of interest should be listed.

Executive Summary:
The executive summary should be a one to two page overview of the information contained in the research report.  It should give the reader an easy reference, in very brief form, to the important information contained in the report and explained in more detail in the body of the report. People attending a presentation of research or reading the report will use this section as a reference during presentations and as a synopsis of the research done.

Introduction:
The introduction should contain a brief overview of the problem being addressed and the background information needed for the reader to understand the work being done and the reasoning behind it.  After reading the introduction, the reader should know exactly what the report is about, why the research was conducted, and how this research adds to the knowledge that the reader may have about the topic.

Secondary Research:

This section will contain all of the information that was collected through review of existing information. The importance of the secondary information as it pertains to the problem being researched must be made clear to the reader. Conclusions should be drawn in a logical fashion and insight into how these conclusions will be used throughout the rest of the research agenda should be provided.

Qualitative Research (if used):

This section should contain all information regarding any interviews or focus groups that were conducted as part of the research project. This section should begin with an explanation of why this research is needed or beneficial. Other information provided should include:

Experimentation (if used):

There are many things that must be considered on order for an experiment to be a useful part of any research agenda. Once again, the discussion should begin with why this research is deemed to be important to the overall research agenda being followed. The following topics must be included if an experiment was used:

Observation (if used):

If observation was a part of the research project, you will need to explain several things to the reader or attendee at your presentation starting with why this method is appropriate for your research goals. In addition, the following topics should all be part of the final report:

Survey Research:
This is the section that should be pulling together all of the other issues that were identified in the research steps that were conducted previously. The connections to the issues and constructs identified earlier should be made again here so that they reader can easily see the foundations that are being used. Many issues will have to be addressed in this section regarding how the survey was developed and how it was administered. Topics discussed in this section should include:

Data Analysis:
In this section, the reader should find a brief overview of the methods that were utilized in the research, the reasons that those methods were appropriate for the research problem, an explanation of how the outcomes for those methods can be understood and interpreted. It is important to remember that the people reading your report or listening to your presentation may not be familiar with the analysis methods being used. You must present the methods in such a way that anyone interested in your research will be able to understand what was done and why it was done. This section should include the following:

Findings:

The findings are the actual results of your research. Your findings should consist of a detailed presentation of your interpretation of the statistics found relating to the study itself and analysis of the resulting data collection. The judicious use of figures, tables and graphs is encouraged when it is helpful to allow the reader to more easily understand the work being presented. The findings section should include the following:

Limitations:
Recognize that even the best marketing research work is not perfect and open to questioning. In this section, briefly discuss the factors that may have influenced your findings but were outside of your control. Some of the limitations may be time constraints, budget constraints, market changes, certain procedural errors, and other events. Admit that your research is not perfect but discuss the degree of accuracy with which your results can be accepted. In this section, suggestions can be offered to correct these limitations in future research.

Conclusions and Recommendations:
Conclusions are broad generalizations that focus on addressing the research questions for which the project was conducted. Recommendations are your choices for strategies or tactics based on the conclusions that you have drawn. Quite often authors are tempted to speculate on outcomes that cannot be supported by the research findings. Do not draw any conclusions or make any recommendations that your research cannot clearly support.

References:
This section should be a listing of all existing information sources used in the research project.  It is important to allow the reader to see all of the sources used and enable the reader to further explore those sources to verify the information presented.

Appendices:
This section should include all supporting information from the research project that was not included in the body of the report.  You should include surveys, complex statistical calculations, certain detailed tables and other such information in an appendix.  The information presented in this section is important to support the work presented in the body of the report but would make it more difficult to read and understand if presented within the body of the report.