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Business and Technical English Writing

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Empirical Research Report

In this lecture you will learn:

• Typical writing situations

• The questions readers ask most often

• Superstructure for Empirical Research Reports

– Introduction

– Objectives of Research

– Method

– Discussion


In this lecture you will learn:

• Superstructure for Empirical Research Reports

– Conclusions

– Recommendations

• An important note about Headings

• Planning Guide

• Sample Research Report

Typical Writing Situations

• You will be able to use the superstructure for

empirical research reports most successfully if

you understand the purpose of research

discussed in them.

• When you are writing about empirical

research, you will be writing to people who

will make decisions based on the results of

your reports.

Typical Writing Situations:

• For example, Ayesha’s experiment will be

used by engineers who design engines for


• The results of Anam’s survey will be used by

state agency in charge of outdoor recreation as

it decides what sort of facilities it must provide

to meet the needs of older citizens.

Typical Writing Situations:

• A smaller amount of empirical research has a

different purpose: to extend general human


• The researchers set out to learn how fish

remember, what the molten core of earth is

like, etc

• The research is carried out for the sake of

humanity and is published in Science Journals


Typical Writing Situations:

• In some situations these two aims of research


• Some organizations sponsor basic research,

usually in the hope that what is learned can

later be turned into practical use.

• Likewise some practical research turns up

results that are of interest to those who desire

to learn more about the world in general.

The questions Readers ask Most:

• Whether it aims to support practical decisions,

extend human knowledge, or achieve some

combination of the two purposes, almost all

empirical research is customarily reported in

the same superstructure.

• That’s because readers of all types have the

same seven general questions about it.

The seven Questions:

Why is the research important to us?

– Readers concerned with solving specific practical

problems want to know what problems your

research will help address.

– Readers concerned with extending human

knowledge want to know how you think your

research contributes to what humans know.

The seven Questions:

What were you trying to find out?

– A key part of an empirical research project is the

careful formulation of the research questions that

the project will try to answer.

– Readers want to know what those questions are so

they can determine whether they are significant


The seven Questions:

Was your research method sound?

– Your method has to be appropriate to your

research and it has to be intellectually sound.

– If the research method is not appropriate or

intellectually sound, your readers will not place

any faith in your results or in the conclusions and

recommendations you base upon them.

The seven Questions:

What results did your research produce?

– Naturally, your readers will want to find out what

results you obtained.

How do you interpret those results?

– Your readers will want to interpret those results in

ways that are meaningful to them.

The seven Questions:

• What is the significance of those results?

– What answers do those results imply for your

research questions,

– and how do your results relate to the problems

research was to help solve or the area of

knowledge your research set out to expand.

The seven Questions:

• What do you think we should do?

– Readers concerned with practical problems want to

know what you advise them to do.

– Readers concerned with extending human

knowledge want to know what you think your

results imply for future research.

Superstructure for Empirical research Reports:

• To answer the readers typical questions about

empirical research reports, writers use a substructure

that has the following elements.

– Introduction

– Objectives of research

– Methods

– Results

– Discussion

– Conclusions

– Recommendation


Reader’s Questions Report Element


• In the introduction to an empirical report, you

should seek to answer the readers’ question,

“why is the research important to us?”

• Typically, writers answer this question in two

steps: they announce the topic of their research

and then explain the importance of the topic to

their readers.

Announcing the topic:

• You can often apply the topic of your research

simply by including that topic as the key

phrase in the opening sentence of your report.

• For example consider the first sentence of a

report on the satellite communication system

on the next slide.


For the past eighteen months, the

satellite Products Laboratory has been a

developing a system that will permit

companies with large, nationwide fleets of

trucks to communicate directly with their

drivers at any time through a satellite


Topic of the Report


• Here is the first sentence from a report on the

way that people develop friendly relations

Social psychologists know very little

about the way real friendships develop in

their natural settings.

Topic of the Report

Explaining the importance of research:

• To explain the importance of research to your

readers, you can use either or both of the

following methods.

– State the relevance of your research to your

organization’s goals

– Review the previously published literature on the


Relevance to Organization Goals:

• In reports written to readers in organization,

(whether your own or a client's ), you can

explain the relevance of your research by

relating it to some organizational goal or


• Sometimes the importance of research will be

so obvious to your readers that merely naming

your topic will be sufficient.

Relevance to Organization Goals:

• At other times, you will need to discuss at

length the relevance of your research to the


• In the first paragraph of the satellite report, for

instance, the writers mention the potential

market for the satellite communication system

they are developing.

Literature Reviews:

• A second way to establish the importance of

your research is to review the existing

knowledge on your subject.

• Writers usually do this by reviewing the

previously published literature.

• Generally, you can arrange a literature review

in two parts.


Literature Reviews:

• First, present the main pieces of knowledge

communicated in the literature.

• Then, identify some significant gap in this

knowledge— the very gap your own research

will fill. In this way, you establish the special

contribution that your research will make.

Literature Reviews:

A great deal of research in social psychology has

focused on variables influencing an individual’s

attraction to another at an initial encounter,

usually in laboratory settings (Bergscheid and

Walster, 1978; Bryne, 1971; Huston and Levinger,

1978), yet very little data exists on the

processes by which individuals in the real world

move beyond initial attraction to develop a

friendship; even less is known about the way

developing friendships are maintained and how they

evolve over time (Huston and Burgess, 1979;

Levinger, 1980).

The writer tells

what is known

on his topic

The writer identifies

the gaps in

knowledge that his

research will fill

Literature Reviews:

• The writer continues this discussion of

previous research for three paragraphs.

• Each follows the same pattern: it identifies an

area of research, tells what is known about that

area, and identifies gaps in the knowledge—

gaps that will be filled by the research that the

writer has conducted.


Literature Reviews:

• These paragraphs serve an important

additional function also performed by many

literature reviews.

• They introduce the established facts and

theories that are relevant to the writer’s work

and necessary to the understanding of the


Literature Reviews:

• Writers almost always include literature

reviews in the reports they write for

professional journals.

• In contrast, they often omit reviews when

writing to readers inside an organization.

• That's because such reviews are often

unnecessary when addressing organizational


Literature Reviews:

• Organizational readers judge the importance of a

report in terms of its relevance to the organization’s

goals and problems, not in terms of its relation to the

general pool of human knowledge.

• For example, the typical readers of the truck-and-satellite

communication report were interested in the

report because they wanted to learn how well their

company’s system would work.


Literature Reviews:

• To them, a general survey of the literature on

satellite communication would have seemed

irrelevant– and perhaps even annoying.

• A second reason that writers often omit

literature reviews when addressing readers in

organizations is that such reviews rarely help

such readers understand the reports.

Literature Reviews:

• That’s because the research projects undertaken

within organizations usually focus so sharply on a

particular, local question that published literature on

the subject is beside the point.

• For example, a review of previously published

literature on satellite communications would not have

helped readers understand the truck-and-satellite


Literature Reviews:

• Sometimes, of course, literature reviews do appear in

reports written to organizational readers. Often, they

say something like this:

“In a published article, one of our

competitors claims to have saved large

amounts of money by trying a new

technique. The purpose of the research

described in this report is to determine

whether or not we could enjoy similar


Literature Reviews:

• Of course, the final standard for judging

whether you should include a literature review

in your report is your understanding of your

purpose and readers.

• In some way or another, however, the

introduction to all your empirical research

reports should answer your readers’ question,

“Why is this research important to us?”

Objectives of the Research:

• Every empirical research project has carefully

constructed objectives. These objectives define

the focus of your project, influence the choice

of research method, and shape the way you

interpret your results.

• Thus, readers of empirical research reports

want and need to know what the objectives



Objectives of the Research:

• The following example from the satellite report

shows one way you can tell your readers about your


• In particular, we wanted to test whether we could

achieve accurate data transmissions and good-quality

voice transmissions in the variety of terrains typically

encountered in long-haul trucking.

• We wanted also to see what factors might affect the

quality of transmissions.

Objectives of the Research:

• When reporting on research that involves the

use of statistics, you can usually state your

objectives by stating the hypotheses you


• Where appropriate, you can explain these

hypotheses in terms of existing theory, again

citing previous publications on the subject.


Objectives of the Research:

• The following passage shows how the writer

who studied friendship explains some of his


• Notice how the author begins with a statement

of the overall goal of the research.

• Consider the example on the next slide.

Objectives of the Research:

The goal of the study was to identify

characteristic behavioral and attitudinal

changes that occurred within interpersonal

relationships as they progressed from

initial acquaintance to close friendship.

With regard to relationships benefits and

costs, it was predicted that both benefits

and costs would increase as the friendship


Objectives of the Research:

The ratings of both the costs and

benefits would be positively

correlated with the ratings of

friendship intensity. In addition

the types of benefits listed by the

subjects were expected to change as

the friendships developed.


• When reading the reports of your empirical

research, people will look for precise details

concerning your method.

• Those details serve three purposes

– They let the readers assess the soundness of your

research design and appropriateness for problems

you are investigating.


– Second, the details enable your readers to

determine the limitations that your method might

place upon the conclusions you draw.

– Third, the description your method provides

information that will help your readers repeat your

experiment if they wish to verify your results or

conduct similar research of their own.


• The kind of information you should provide

about your method depends upon the nature of

your research.

• For instance the writer studying friendship

began his description of his research method in

this way. (shown on next slide)


• At the beginning of their first term

at the university, college freshmen

selected two individuals whom they

had just met and completed a series

of questioners regarding their

relationships with those two

individuals at 3-week intervals

through the school term.


• In the remaining of the paragraph, the writers

explains the questionnaires asked the freshmen

to tell about such things as their attitudes

towards each of the other two individuals.

• However the paragraph is a small amount of

the researcher’s account of his method, actual

research being a document of 1200 words.


• The writers of the satellite report likewise

provided detailed information about their


• He provides three paragraphs and two tables

explaining their equipment, two paragraphs

and one map describing the eleven stage

region covered by the trucks.


• How can you decide which method to include?

• The most obvious way is to follow the general

reporting practices of your fields.

• You can you check the scope of your research

in the ways described in the next slide.


– List every aspect of your procedure that you made

a decision about when planning your research.

– Identify every aspect of your research what your

readers might ask about.

– Ask yourself what aspects of your procedure might

limit the conclusions you can draw from your


– Identify every procedure that other researchers

would need to understand in order to design a

similar study.


• The results of empirical research are the data you

obtain. Although your results are the heart of your

empirical research project, they may take up a very

small portion of it. Generally, results are presented in

one of two ways:

- Tables and Graphs. The satellite report uses two

tables. The report on friendship uses four tables

and eleven graphs.

- Sentences. When placed in sentences, results are

often woven into a discussion that combines data

and interpretation.


• Sometimes writers briefly present all their

results in one section and then discuss them in

a separate section.

• Sometimes they combine the two in a single,

integrated section.

• Whichever method you use, your discussion

mush link your interpretative comments with

the specific results you are interpreting.


As Table 3 shows, 91% of the data

transmissions were successful. The most

important difference to note is the one

between the rate of successful

transmissions in the Southern Piedmont

region and the rates in all the other

regions. In the Southern Piedmont area, we

had the truck drive slightly outside the

ATS-6 footprint so that we could see if

successful transmissions could be made

there. When the truck left the footprint,

the percentage of successful data

transmissions dropped abruptly to 43%.

Writer emphasize

a key result

shown in a table

Writers interpret

those results

Writers draw

attention to other

important results


Intercorrelations among the

subjects’ friendship intensity

ratings at the various assessment

points showed that friendship

attitudes became increasingly stable

over time. For example, the

correlation between friendship

intensity ratings at 3 weeks and 6

weeks was .55; between 6 weeks and 9

weeks, .78; between 9 weeks and 12

weeks, .88 (all p < .001).General interpretation

Specific results presented as

support for interpretation


• Besides interpreting the results of your search,

you need to explain what your results mean to

in terms of original research questions and the

general problem you set our to investigate.

• Your explanations of these matters are



• The readers of some empirical research reports

want to know what, based on the research, the

writers think should be done.

• This is especially true in cases where the

research is directed at solving a practical


• Consequently research reports include a

section on recommendations.

In this lecture you learnt:

• Typical writing situations

• The questions readers ask most often

• Superstructure for Empirical Research Reports

– Introduction

– Objectives of Research

– Method

– Discussion


In this lecture you learnt:

• Superstructure for Empirical Research Reports

– Conclusions

– Recommendations

• An important note about Headings

• Planning Guide

• Sample Research Report

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