How to Write a Management Research Report
What is a Management Research Report
A Management Research Report (MRR) is a document of around 7000 words which reports, for a management audience, the outcome of an organisation-based HR research project, and provides recommendations for action and an implementation plan.
You will see from this article that MRRs are rather longer than most reports that are produced in organisations. This gives you an indication that they are expected to be the outcome of a fairly substantial piece of research. It is also a reflection of the fact that they are required (for very good reasons, as you will see below) to be underpinned by academic literature in a way that normal organisation reports are not. In a sense, they are a hybrid document, not purely an academic document like a dissertation but also not a purely practical one like most usual reports.
Easy as 1,2,3...
1. Achieve a clear brief of the organisations requirements.
2. Determine the feasibility of appropriately undertaking and completing this work within
the designated time period.
3. Establish what resources and support you have from your organisation.
How to Choose a Research Project
Being responsible for writing a Management Research Report is a great opportunity to do something practical and useful for your organisation (and always a good career move!); acquire some specialist expertise in an area that interests you; and develop your skills in research, project management and report writing.
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing the right project:
- It should be a real project that the organisation in which you work needs completing.
- It should be achievable within realistic timescales. Don't set yourself up to fail!
- Consider the political implications of your project. Choosing an area of political sensitivity may result in restricted access to data, constraints on your methodology, and even the project being cancelled once started.
- Ensure that you can define clear outcomes for your project to achieve and that your role in the project is clearly visible - you don't want someone taking this away from you!
- It needs to be a project that includes original research.
- You'll get the most out of professionally if it challenges and pushes you. Choose a project that takes you out of your comfort zone.
Stages for Conducting a Management Research Report
This stage is to ensure that you are conversant with research and writing within your subject and any related fields. This is essential for you to understand in detail the topic that you are researching, frame the questions that you wish to ask of respondents, and interpret your findings. It also forms the basis of the literature review section in your MRR (more on that later), which a substantial and critical element of the report, so you do need to do a thorough review drawing on appropriate academic sources, and you need to do this early so that it can inform your project.
This is the stage where you undertake your original research. This may take a number of forms. It may involve primary data collection (for example a questionnaire survey, interviews, focus groups) or original analysis of secondary data (for example company records, labour market figures etc.) It may involve a combination of these. The important thing is that this research needs to be original and that it needs to be substantial enough to support a report of the size required. A couple of interviews or a short survey of 20 people is unlikely to be sufficient.
Analysis and Writing Up
Here you draw together your project and produce your report. Clearly, some of this can only be written once the empirical research has been completed, but other parts can be written in draft before then (for example the introduction, literature review and methodology). This is recommended as it helps to avoid a last-minute rush and can be a good use of time.
How to Structure a Management Research Report
Technically all projects are unique and you can write your report in any way you see fit. However, there are some elements common to all Management Research Reports and I have set these out below to help you to structure your report.
- Executive Summary - an overview of the project as a whole
- Table of Contents - list of the main sections and sub sections (with page numbers). Also include here a list of tables, graphs, diagrams and appendices if appropriate.
- Introduction - this should introduce the rationale of the project, the organisational context and the academic context (that is, a brief introduction to the 'issue' and what is and is not known about it). It should also introduce the structure of the report.
- Terms of Reference - this should explain the aim and objectives of the report, timescales and reporting arrangements, boundaries and constraints.
- Literature Review - this should be a substantial, critical review of literature relevant to the field of enquiry (and relevant related literatures, if appropriate). It should draw on the recent specialist academic literature, and should draw substantially on a significant number of academic journal articles and not predominantly on textbook chapters and articles from practitioner publications.
- Methodology - this section should describe in detail what you did to research your topic (for example research strategy, sample, methods, data analysis) and also provide a justification for what you did/did not do in these areas.
- Analysis of Results - this section should present an analysis of your results, with commentary and interpretation for the reader.
- Conclusions - this section should record and explain what you have concluded from your analysis of results. It should be a fairly substantial section, which makes sense of the outcomes of the research for the reader. It should draw on the existing literature to do so and reflect any limitations that should be considered in interpreting the findings, but it should be focussed and accessible for a management audience.
- Recommendations - the recommendations should come under its own sub-heading and not included within the conclusions section. This can be quite a short section as the recommendations should follow on from the conclusions so you shouldn't repeat yourself. The key is to provide precise recommendations in a clear and accessible way.
- Implementation Plan - this might be part of the recommendations section or in a separate section. I section of its own works best for me as it makes it clearer for the management audience who like to these parts to jump off the page. It should state what is to be done in order to carry out each of the recommendations and should identify who is responsible, timescales for action and costs and benefits. Often this information is best presented in a table format to make it more clear and concise.
- Appendices - these should contain information to support the report, but which are too bulky to be included in the main body.
- References - a full bibliography should be provided using the University's standard referencing system.
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So what's your project?
So here I have given you some tips which I hope you will find useful and which I hope you can refer to if you have to write a management research report for your organisation. But why wait to be asked? If you can perceive that a change is needed and no one is coming up with the answer just go ahead and write your management research report and present it to the board. You'll almost certainly get a promotion out of it!.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2013 Matt Doran