How to Write a Qualitative Report

A qualitative report is a description of an event, activity, observation, research or experience. The structure of a qualitative report includes an abstract, introduction, background to the problem, the researcher's role, theoretical perspective, methodology, ethical considerations, results, data analysis, limitations, discussion, conclusions and implications, references and appendix. Choice of words and visual aids depends on intended audience. Be concise and use the past tense.

Summarize the report briefly. Include subject matter, research question and purpose. Briefly state data collection methods, rationale and interpretation. (Abstract)

State your research question, problem leading to the study and purpose for the study. Identify the research approach, participants and research location. The introduction should give a clear idea of reason, method and significance for intended audience of the report. (Introduction)

Give a brief history of the problem. Describe participants, research site/location, and subject matter. Use established sources, previous studies and support with statistics where possible. (Background to the Problem)

State your or the researcher's relationship to the participants and past experiences and how these may affect perceptions and interpretations, hinder objectivity or enhance understanding, awareness, knowledge and sensitivity to issues and contexts studied. (The Researcher's Role)

State the theory, theme or lens through which the study was guided. Cite authentic sources, theorists or past studies. (Theoretical Perspective)

Describe the method of selection of participants (sampling) and research setting. State the method of gathering data---face-to-face structured/unstructured interviews, questionnaires, focus group discussion, participant observation, document analysis. Explain how instruments were developed, observations recorded and rationale for chosen methods. (Methodology)

Explain steps taken, prior to the research, to inform participants of data collection activities and the proposed use of findings. Describe steps taken to respect the rights of participants, get their consent, gain permission for the research site and ensure confidentiality of participants' information. (Ethical Considerations)

Present findings in a visually appealing manner at a level that your audience can readily understand. Use tables, graphs and charts if necessary. Do not include interpretations in this section. (Results)

Interpret data presented. Describe data analysis process and computer programs. Use graphs and charts as necessary. Support important interpretations with evidence and diverse quotes if applicable. (Data Analysis)

Show how the boundaries of the sample, research site, timing, methodology and/or analysis limited results. (Limitations)

Write a descriptive narrative around interpretations and research question(s). Use illustrations such as quotes from participants and analytic evidence to support arguments. Use literature review of past studies and relevant theory to compare if necessary. Pose new questions if data suggests unforeseen results. (Discussion)

State main conclusions in relation to research question(s) and purpose of the study. Include how results relate to theoretical perspectives. Add main discussion points and questions for future research. (Conclusions and Implications)

Write a reference list using appropriate style such as the American Psychological Association (A.P.A.) style. Include all citations. Be accurate and precise. A reader must be able to locate your sources. (References)

Include extra data sets and diagrams illustrating analysis. Add permission letters and a sample of participants' consent forms. Block out names of persons and institutions. (Appendix)


For long reports, consider writing an executive summary: a summarized version of your comprehensive report.

Things You'll Need

  • Data Sets
  • Data Analysis
  • Appropriate reference style manual
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