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A research report is a result of intelligent reading of two or more pieces of literature dedicated to a certain problem or question.
What is a research report?
A research report is a result of intelligent reading of two or more pieces of literature dedicated to a certain problem or question. Research reports also have a significant impact onto the final grade. Because of this fact, work on this assignment should be well planned and thought out.
What are research reports needed for?
Research reports are serving several academic purposes:
- They sum up and crown an academic course (students who are working on a research report paper will have to use the knowledge gained in the course to come up with a decent paper). Working on a research report helps to better retain material.
- Foster independent research and writing skills. By working with multiple sources of information, you are learning to pick out information that is most relevant to your topic/question. Moreover, you are learning to structure that information so that it can be easily accessed in the future.
- Prepare a student for subsequent research. Research reports are most typically assigned during senior high school or junior college years and prepare students for large scale research, including master or doctoral dissertation writing.
What is the procedure for writing a research report?
Pick a topic. First of all, before starting to write your research report, you will need to choose a topic for your research project. There is a couple of important things to take into account when selecting a topic, specifically: a topic you choose needs to be of interest to you. The reason for this is simple – if you are interested in the topic, the process of researching material and its subsequent writing will be a much easier process. In addition, if the topic is interesting to you, it means (in most cases) that you have already done some background research in the past and will know where to look for preliminary information for the project. The second most important factor is picking a topic that is neither too narrow nor too broad. One of the biggest pitfalls students fall into is selecting a topic that is too wide, which results in the paper being too general and not answering the initial question. A topic that is too narrow will most likely lead to your inability to find sufficient amount of information to work on the project.
Start a background research. In the process of preparing you will need to go through dozens of textbooks, scholarly journals, articles, newspapers etc. In order to work with these sources of information effectively, you will have to think of how to organize them properly. It might be a good idea to write out the complete book details in an electronic form (say, MS Excel or MS Word document). That way you will be able to be flexible in working with your literature and will be able to sort and arrange it in whatever order you need. For example, if you need to find some missing information in the book information, you can simply copy and paste part of the book title and run a quick Google search, which will take you to either Amazon.com or Google books thus allowing you to find the missing information there.
When picking your literature you need to be aware of the fact that most universities have a requirement onto maximum allowed age of the literature you are using. For instance, IT and legal literature are constantly evolving and get outdated quite quickly; as a result most legal and IT schools require that literature should be no older than 5 years. Requirements vary throughout teaching institutions, but you need to always check for that aspect of research report writing well in advance.
Another useful tip relates to reading your literature - with the amount of information you will have to go through, you are unlikely to read all of the books, journals and newspapers from cover to cover. In this case it is useful to utilize skimming, scanning or keyword spotting techniques for determining whether a piece of scholarly literature you are looking at is relevant to your topic or not. Skimming revolves around the basic assumption that all information within the text is repeated at least thrice: in the introduction, body and then in the conclusion of the text. Skimming through the text would, therefore, give you a basic idea of what the text is about. Scanning usually implies reading first several sentences within a paragraph and is based on the assumption that the most important information will be presented in the topic sentence of the paragraph. Finally, keyword spotting is a reading technique that presupposes locating keywords (which are often highlighted in bold or italics) and reading through their definitions. It gives the reader basic clues about the text.
Draft your research report. Once you a ready with your literature, you can create a framework of your paper. A plan will help you to cope with this task effectively, i.e. think of the most important structural parts of your paper, break them down in bigger chunks, and then further subdivide them in smaller structural parts. Once that is done, you can put some flesh on the bone, adding specific information from the books you have selected. While the paper is still a draft, you need to focus on its contents. Things like formatting and proofreading will be done during later stages; however you shouldn’t ignore any mistakes that come up right before your eyes and fix them as soon as they are noticed. Make sure the information in your research report is aligned logically and clearly. After you are done with the draft, you can proceed to editing, proofreading and working on your references page. In order to make your work on the reference page easier, we have developed and soon will be launching a unique automatic referencing tool, called the RefTool. All you need to do is put in information on authorship, name of the publication; publishing house etc and Reftool will be arranging it according to the specified standards. It will automatically sort the references, do the necessary formatting and present everything to you in a downloadable MS Word file. Our RefTool system is a really valuable tool that will save your time!
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