An academic report in business administration often includes introduction, method, theory, findings/results, analysis/discussion, and conclusions (or corresponding parts). The content of these headings are described below. However, it is not the headings that are the most important issue and neither their order, but that the content related to each heading can be found in a structured way in the report. It is important that you refer to all sources where you find your information. The library homepage provides many tips on report writing, for instance a document for compiling your reference list and a movie on how to integrate source material into your writing.
The introduction should arouse interest in the actual subject and the report should be framed in this section, both regarding the practical problem and theory. It should contain the following parts:
- A background to the report – what is this all about?
- Problem discussion – why is this interesting?
- Purpose – what knowledge is going to be created? Carefully consider the words used in the purpose and make sure the purpose corresponds to what you is really going to do in your study. Is it e.g. to describe, to explain, or to understand?
In the method section you should describe how the empirical data was collected and analysed. There should also be a discussion on why a certain approach was chosen and its pros and cons. Focus should be on what was really done in the study and relevant concepts should be used to describe it. The “empirical data” for the assignments in the course is probably mainly your own experiences. This implies that the method chapter becomes less important (unless you actually have conducted an empirical investigation, such as a survey, an experiment, an observational study or similar).
Theory is systematized knowledge that explains a certain phenomenon. In the theory part, theories relevant for the purpose of the report should be included. Be concise and accurate when using concepts. This part could build up your own definition of a concept or a model to be used for analysis.
This is the part where the empirical data is presented in text and in e.g. figures or tables. Empirical data is experiences or investigations of “reality”. Always make sure that figures and tables are referred to in the text and that they are numbered and have a caption. For the assignments of this course, the empirical data is represented by your own experiences. Therefore, this section could be presented separately or embedded in other sections.
This is where theory and the empirical data are connected and discussed. Make sure that the analysis is consistent with the purpose of the report. By comparing the results from the study to previous research, questions like the following could be considered:
- Are results from previous studies confirmed?
- Does the report contradict previous research?
- Do you contribute with something new?
In the conclusions section the main findings from the analysis are summarized. Make sure this corresponds to the purpose of the report and that the purpose is answered in this part. In the conclusions the trustworthiness of the study could also be considered – what are the weaknesses of this study? This is also where research articles give recommendations for future research.