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How to Write a Management Research Report

Rob produced his own Management Research Report whilst completing a Postgraduate Diploma in Human Resource Management in Manchester, UK.

A Management Research Report is both practical and academic in nature.

A Management Research Report is both practical and academic in nature.

What Is a Management Research Report?

A Management Research Report (MRR) is a document of around 7,000 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. This type of report can also be known as a Human Resources Management Project Report. You will often find the term Human Resource Management abbreviated as HRM.

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 organisational reports are not. In a sense, they are a hybrid document, not purely an academic document like a dissertation or a thesis but also not a purely practical one like most usual reports.

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 to complete.
  • 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 it professionally if it challenges and pushes you. Choose a project that takes you out of your comfort zone.

I did my report whilst completing a Postgraduate Diploma in Human Resource Management in Manchester, UK. My employer paid for me to attend university one day per week, and my Director of HR at the time was keen to ensure that my report had real-world value, so we worked together to come up with the 'problem' that I was looking to address with my research.

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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 is 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.

Empirical Work

This is the stage where you undertake your original research. This may take a number of forms. It may involve primary data collection (a questionnaire survey, interviews or focus groups, for example) or original analysis of secondary data (e.g., 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 (the introduction, literature review and methodology, for example). This is recommended as it helps to avoid a last-minute rush and can be a good use of time.

Getting the Structure Right

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.

  1. Title
  2. Executive Summary: An overview of the project as a whole
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Terms of Reference: This should explain the aim and objectives of the report, timescales and reporting arrangements, boundaries and constraints.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Analysis of Results: This section should present an analysis of your results, with commentary and interpretation for the reader.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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 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.
  12. Appendices: These should contain information which supports the report but which is too bulky to be included in the main body.
  13. References: A full bibliography should be provided using the University's standard referencing system.

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 content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Robert Clarke

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