How to Create a Standout Research Report

20 October 2023 Camilla Cicatello

Recently, I facilitated a design thinking workshop for interns and I have seen and given feedback on many research reports and presentations. This had me thinking about what is it that makes a research report/presentation really stand out and it had me interrogate my own way of representing research data. 

Before I continue I must acknowledge that there are two parts to the research report: the first being how it was presented (and I’ll dive into this in another article) and secondly, what was presented which I’ll look at in this article. 

It is important to note, that this is very much from the perspective of people who are not professional designers, like myself, and if you do have a designer on the team who can jazz up your report that is amazing; however, everyone conducting research should know how to put a basic presentation together including the design elements.

Let’s look at some key ways to ace the next research report you create:

  • Find the balance of text: There is fine art of how much text to put on each slide or page. I still sometimes struggle with putting too much text (as I write as I speak); however, I’ve seen reports where the text is little or summarised that it provides no context. A good rule of thumb is that if someone isn’t presenting a slide then an external reader should still gather the main information.

  • Keep it Interesting: This will also have a lot to do with how the report is being presented but keep the audience engaged by adding key takeaways on slides and the “sticky” interesting bits of data you found.

  • Keep it simple: When it comes to the flow and layout of the presentation keep it simple and consistent. Don’t add too many fonts or layouts or types of images. Find one style and keep it consistent throughout the slides. Also, if you do choose types of images stick to that type. You don’t want the presentation to look like it was created by multiple people even if it has.

  • Use tools that are available: From the workshop I facilitated, I have seen that Canva has some amazing free templates that look really professional and are very easy to use. In terms of graphs, using Google Sheets and creating graphs from there is also very easy and you can add them to your presentation with a few clicks.

  • Start and end strong: Start with a hook or an interesting anecdote to grab your audience’s attention. This could even be some stats. Then. also end with something interesting or thought-provoking that sums up the research; however, do not introduce new information in the conclusion.

As a researcher, the great thing is that the more presentations you create the more you can hone in on these skills, and once you have created a few templates these can be adapted a used for future projects. Lastly, the is no harm in getting a designer to run their eyes over your final presentation to get feedback.