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Surveys as a Research Method: The Backbone of Quantitative Research is Within Your Organization's Reach


Data Reporting


If you have made it this far, congratulations!  You have done great work and should be proud.  But there is still one last step that is important to take if you want your survey to make an impact in your organization and your community: We've analyzed the data, but how do we get people to pay attention to our findings? Reporting your analysis is one of the most important, but often overlooked, steps in conducting surveys.

Too often, organizations and individuals conduct important research, but their findings end up stuffed away in an office drawer and have little impact on their organization or on others. Don't let this happen! Your survey findings can be useful for your own organization, for the work of others in the community, and as a way to apply for funds or seek out new partnerships. Here are a few basic tips on ways to draw attention to the results of your hard work. 

First thing is first – after all of the work that you have put into your research, from conceptualizing a research question to analyzing your data, be sure to write it all down.  Working on a document that details the entire process helps the researcher better understand their findings, and is the first way to inform others about what you have learned.  When possible, a report should have a nice graphic layout  and should be made available both in print and on the internet. 

Often times with survey results, one or two findings are more than enough to get the attention of others and to prove a point. Do not feel obligated to report on every single finding. While writing up an in-depth final report is useful, here are a few other venues where more targeted findings can be discussed and distributed:
 

  • You can create a brochure about your study and its findings.
  • You can you hold a community meeting where you can present your study and engage in a discussion with community members.
  • You can promote your findings using social media outlets, like Facebook or Twitter.  You could also record video of your presentations and post it on YouTube or other social media sites.
  • You can contact local news media to bring attention to your findings. 

 

There are a number of different ways you can go about organizing a final report of document, but here is a suggested outline:


Opening Section
  1. Title Page
  2. Table of Contents
  3. Abstract or Executive Summary

 An abstract is a brief summation of your project – usually no longer than one paragraph – that states the research question, the method used, and a few of the main findings.  It should be clear and extremely concise.

An Executive Summary is more in-depth than an abstract – usually two to three pages – and mirrors the contents of your larger report.  The executive summary should include a brief introduction, description of your method and a few main findings, followed by a brief discussion that highlights important things learned and directions for future research or action.  The executive summary should be easy to read and engaging.  The executive summary should be able to stand on its own, since many people will not read the entire report.  You might even want to distribute these executive summaries as a separate document to certain individuals or organizations who prefer a shorter format.
 

Body of the Report

   1. Introduction

  • The introduction should outline the problem and research question you were interested in, discussing its significance and any historical background that the reader should know.  If you had any hypotheses going into the research study, you would state these here.    

   2. Previous Research

  • In this section, you would report findings from any literature review you conducted during your process that were relevant to the work that you conducted.  If other researchers had conducted similar work on your research question at a previous time, this would be the place to discuss that and explain how their work helped shape your own study.

   3.  Methodology

  • Here is where you describe the main points of how you conducted your research.  Explain what kind of data you collected, who collected the data, and how participants were recruited. 

   4. Results and Analysis

  • This section is where you report the findings of your research.  Use tables and charts where appropriate.  If you conducted any statistical tests, report the results of those findings here.

   5. Discussion and Conclusions

  • This section should briefly summarize the previous parts of your report.  This is the place where you can write about your interpretations of your research results.  What were the most important findings?  What do the findings mean for your organization or for the population that you were studying?  What next steps should be taken?  Also, use this section to point out topics that are in need of further research to better understand the phenomenon.
References
  1. Endnotes
  2. References and Bibliography
  3. Appendix

    Where possible, the appendix should include any research instruments you used, like your survey questions.  Any other relevant documents that readers might want to refer to should also be included here.

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