Getting Started With Your Report
Understanding the Sections of Your Report
Table of contents
Theories, Models, and Hypotheses
Materials and methods
Results: presenting data
Results: interpreting data
References and Appendices
General Technical Writing Guidelines
The Conclusion of a research report is usually a very short section that introduces no new ideas. You may ask, then, why include conclusions? The conclusion is important because it is your last chance to convey the significance and meaning of your research to your reader by concisely summarizing your findings and generalizing their importance. It is also a place to raise questions that remain unanswered and to discuss ambiguous data. The conclusions you draw are opinions, based on the evidence presented in the body of your report, but because they are opinions you should not tell the reader what to do or what action they should take. Save discussion of future action for your section on Recommendations.
The Conclusion follows naturally from the interpretation of data, so, in some cases, you will not need to title a new section “Conclusions,” but can simply end your discussion with conclusions. It is helpful to consider the conclusion a separate section even if you do not title it as such, though, so that you are sure to accomplish the purpose of the conclusion in your report. The most important thing to remember in writing your conclusion is to state your conclusions clearly. Do not be ambiguous about them or leave doubt in your readers’ minds as to what your conclusions are.
Once you have stated your conclusions clearly, you can move on to discuss the implications of your conclusions. Be sure that you use language that distinguishes conclusions from inferences. Use phrases like “This research demonstrates . . .” to present your conclusions and phrases like “This research suggests . . .” or “This research implies . . .” to discuss implications. Make sure that readers can tell your conclusions from the implications of those conclusions, and do not claim too much for your research in discussing implications. You can use phrases such as “Under the following circumstances,” “In most instances,” or “In these specific cases” to warn readers that they should not generalize your conclusions.
You might also raise unanswered questions and discuss ambiguous data in your conclusion. Raising questions or discussing ambiguous data does not mean that your own work is incomplete or faulty; rather, it connects your research to the larger work of science and parallels the introduction in which you also raised questions. The following is an example taken from a text that evaluated the hearing and speech development following the implantation of a cochlear implant. The authors of “Beginning To Talk At 20 Months: Early Vocal Development In a Young Cochlear Implant Recipient,” published in Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, titled their conclusion “Summary and Caution.” Using this title calls readers’ attention to the limitations of their research.
Summary and Caution
Our hypothesis that Hannah would exhibit a progression of increasingly complex and speech-like vocalizations in the months following implantation was verified by her attainment of the highest levels of vocal development. In general, her gains appeared to be more rapid than those observed in typically developing children, especially in her progression from canonical to postcanonical utterances and her increases in spoken vocabulary. As observed in typically developing children, young implant recipients may show differences in the rate at which they acquire speech and language skills. For example, we are currently following a child whose implant was activated when he was 3;0 (years;months) and who produced few canonical syllables and said few words after 2 years of implant experience. His situation differs from Hannah's in several ways, including hearing level (aided thresholds in the moderate range of impairment), number of active electrodes, and the limited amount of treatment that he received following implantation. Thus, the current case study may be indicative of results that can be attained with aided hearing levels that approximate 25 dB HL across the speech frequencies, active family support, and regular intervention. Additional studies of speech and language development in other young implant recipients are needed before the generalizable effects of implantation at a tender age are well understood.
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