The Quantitative And Qualitative Report In Research Report

The Quantitative And Qualitative Report In Research Report


Content Outline

  1. The Quantitative Report
  2. The Qualitative Report
  3. Writing for a non-academic audience
  4. Summary 

The Quantitative Report

The structure of a quantitative report does not allow for much flexibility and is usually written in third person. The different sections of a quantitative report are discussed in the subsequent subsections: 
1. Introduction Chapter
The introduction chapter in a quantitative report is written in third person and in present tense. This chapter does the following:
  • States the research problem clearly and in a succinct manner 
  • Discusses the rationale (why this problem was chosen) and states the hypothesis 
  • Provides a brief background to the research problem and related previous work and places the research problem in context 
  • Summarize the key gaps in the literature review and how your research will help fill these gaps 
  • Gives an overview of the research approach and methodology used, 
  • Addresses ethical issues 
  • Presents an outline of the research document 
 2. Literature Review Chapter
The literature review chapter is written in third person and in past tense as it deals with existing information and previously conducted research studies. Ideally, this chapter should be written before data analysis. The literature review chapter should contain the following information:
  • What information is already available about the topic? 
  • What can you say critically about what is already known? 
  • What are the gaps in the existing literature?
  • How does your research fill in these gaps?  
3. Methods Chapter
Like the other chapters, this chapter too is written in third person, in past tense as it focuses on describing what you as a researcher have already done. For example: “This research aimed at understanding the understanding the correlation between school abandonment and incidences of child labour. A close-ended survey questionnaire was used to collect data from 105 respondents”.

The aim of a methods chapter is to describe in detail all the steps/action taken by you to conduct your research study so that a reader can replicate the study. In this chapter, you need to explain how each of the aims/objectives in your study was achieved. Typically, the methods section has four subsections. These are:
  • Details on the sample universe, study population and sample selection 
  • Instruments or measures of data collection which details the tools used for data collection what are these and why were these used 
  • Procedures used which explains how the data collection was carried out 
  • Data Analysis where you explain how you processed and analysed the data. You should specify which instrument was used for which objective and how the data from each was analysed. Please also explain any statistical techniques used and provide details of computer software used for analysis where appropriate.
4. Results Chapter
The results section is an extremely important part of your report and may include more than one chapter. Like the methods chapter, this is written in third person and in past tense. In this chapter, you present the finding of your study in a logical and sequential order using an objective and factual manner. The style of writing should be simple, precise and concise. Graphs, tables, charts and other non-textual data are usually used to help the reader understand the data and clarify the main points that you are making. This chapter will also contain information on the statistical techniques used to analyse the data. Describe any trends that you note but do not discuss these or try to explain negative results (if any) in the results chapter. Explanations and discussions will be dealt with in the discussion chapter.

5.  Discussion Chapter
This chapter deals with the interpretation of your results. Here is where you explain trends and discuss why your results may be negative. The discussions must be presented in a logical manner and should be comprehensive. Although, you will continue to write in third person, the discussion chapter is written in present tense. In this chapter you will present:
  • The interpretation of your results: How do your results provide answers to your research questions? Do they support the predicted results or do they negate it? What could be the reasons for this? 
  • Relationship to earlier findings: Does your research reveal anything new about the problem being investigated? What do your results say when compared to the literature review?
  • Describe trends: This is where you discuss the trends that you noted in the results chapter. You should also explain any unexpected results as well as any statistical insignificant findings. Explain these in terms of the theoretical frameworks you have cited in your literature review. 
  • Implications of your results: What do your results mean? What the highlights of your study? Point out the results that you find important. Discuss the extent to which the results have helped fill in the gaps in literature which you raised in the introduction chapter. 
  • Limitations: Clearly mention the limitations (if any) of your study. Any biases that were unavoidable should also be stated along with how you ensured that these biases did not affect the study
6. Conclusion Chapter
This is the last chapter. Like the discussion, this chapter is written in third person and present tense. The focus of this chapter is to do the following:
  • Summarize your results- There is no need to provide statistical data here, a narrative summary will suffice 
  • Summarize your learnings- What did you learn from this research that you did not know previously 
  • Provide recommendations and suggestions on what can be done to improve the situation being studied 
  • Provide ideas for future research  

The Qualitative Report

The qualitative report can be written in first person. In participatory action research and action research studies, it is preferable to write the entire research document in first person. Since the research method itself is flexible, there is no rigid rule with regard to how the research document is written. When I wrote my PhD thesis, I wrote the Introduction, Methodology and Conclusion chapters in first person and the others in third person. A fellow student wrote her action research which involved the use of drama in education as a play with Acts and Scenes instead of Chapters and Sections. Yet another student wrote the entire methodology section as a series of dialogue (verbal and written) between the student and the research guide. Qualitative reports allow you to be creative. The sections of a typical qualitative report are detailed in the following subsections.

1. Introduction Chapter 
This chapter can be written in first person and in present tense. It should be between 5 to 20 pages depending on the length of your complete document. It should cover the following: 
  • Why you have chosen this topic 
  • Why you are interested in this topic 
  • The kind of research approach/discipline that you utilised 
  • The research questions/problems/aims 
  • The layout of the entire document
Additionally, you may explain where you position yourself with respect to your research and why. This is especially useful in action research projects.

2. Literature Review Chapter
The reasons for writing a literature review are the same as in a quantitative research. The structure of the chapter is slightly different and should contain the following information:
  • What information is already available about the topic? 
  • What can you say critically about what is already known? 
  • Has anyone else done anything that is exactly the same as you? 
  • Has anyone else done something that is related to what you are doing? 
  • How and where does your work fit in with all that has been done till now? 
  • Why is your research worthwhile keeping in mind all that has been done already?  
Points to keep in mind while writing a literature review:
  • Show respect for the available literature 
  • Be focused and critical
  • Avoid mere description and showcase your interpretation of the literature.
3. Methods Chapter
The following should be included in the methods chapter:
  • How did you go about your research? 
  • What overall strategy did you adopt and why? 
  • What design did you use and why?
  • Why these and not others? 
  • What were your tools for data collection? Why were these chosen? 
  • Who were your respondents? Why? How did you select them? 
  • What is your analysis plan?
  • How did you deal with ethical issues such as confidentiality and informed consent?
4. Data Analysis Chapters 
You may have one or more data analysis chapters. It may be a good idea to write separate chapters for different aims or for different groups of respondents. These chapters focus on telling the story of your research. Any data analysis chapter has three sections:
  • An introduction which covers the following:
    > Explains the general areas that the chapter/s covers
    > Locates the gap in knowledge that the chapter addresses
    > Explains how the chapter fill this gap
    > Provides an overview of what is in this chapter/s.  
  • A main section which presents the detailed information and analysis. Make sure you cover all that areas that you refer to in the introduction.
    > Explains the key findings
    > Describes the new questions that the chapter has identified
    > Explains where these questions will be addressed (for example the next chapter or in the conclusion). 
5. Conclusion Chapter
The conclusion and recommendation chapter focuses on the following:
  • Summarizing relations between the work done, the original research question, previous work discussed in the literature review chapter and updating this if any new work has emerged since. 
  • Some suggestions on how you would do things differently now, and why 
  • Implications for practice and policy if any 
  • Further research that might be based on your findings, methods or concept
You could also include what you have learned as a professional and mention your professional growth as a result of this research in this chapter 

Writing for a non-academic audience

A non-academic report has a set structure and the sections of such a report are presented in the following subsections. 
  • The executive summary 
    All non-academic reports have an executive summary. This is one to three pages long and is a concise summary of the entire report focusing on a brief presentation of the problem, the key findings and the suggestions and recommendations. This is a comprehensive summary because it may be the only section that a busy reader reads.
  • The Introduction
    The introduction should provide a background or context for the study, a brief overview of the organisation/s involved as well as the aims and rationale for the study. The methods being used, data collection tools, sample selection strategy and analysis plan are also covered in this chapter. Keep the language simple and avoid the use of technical terms. Do not provide too much detail with regard to the methods. Make sure that you set out the action plan and timeline in a logical manner.
  • The Results Chapters
    Depending on the type of research, you may have more than one results chapter. In a needs assessment study for example, the first of the results chapters could focus on demographic data while the second could deal with the ‘need/s’ being assessed. Present the findings in clear, crisp and simple language. Do not use statistical tests unless the clients ask for these specifically. You can use graphs and charts to explain/support the numeric data, where necessary and quotes from respondents to support qualitative data. Unlike in an academic report or journal article where tables are placed after the main text, here the tables are in the annexure. 
  • Conclusion and Recommendations
    This chapter will provide a summary of the key findings along with recommendations and suggestions to improve the program being researched. You could also provide suggestions for future interventions as well as ideas for other research projects.  


  • The three types of research reports include quantitative reports, qualitative reports and reports for non-academic audiences.
  • All three research documents have different structures and require different styles of writing. 

Content Outline


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