How to dissect a report or research paper for news purposes

Imagine yourself in a situation where you need to break down a complex report for news purposes but don’t know where to begin.

The implications of not knowing where to look for information in various official documents would definitely affect your turnaround time to generate content or to write a story. You may be faced with under-reporting or over-reporting on a particular issue or topic or you may find yourself in an unlikely situation where you have misreported on a topic.

As a journalist, it is crucial to foster an in-depth understanding of various written and spoken structures. It is an operational requirement to be able to recognise different writing structures, styles and content.

I have seen a number of cub journalists struggle with reporting on particular topics, whether it is a workshop program or a report launching, research finding or even various presentations that even pick out a report.

In this article I will introduce the structure of various Reports.

I will point out where to extract information for a news story in a typical report/ research paper.

Lastly, I’ll discuss the various angles of reporting.

Reports come in various formats and styles. But to simplify the different types I will talk about the 3 S’s of Reports. The Structure, Style and Substance.

Reports are mainly written to inform a particular audience about a particular topic about a problem or issue. There is a general format of reports that can be best summed up by the acronym – SIRMRAD+C, which stands for Summary, Introduction, Rational, Methodology, Results, and, Discussion + Conclusion.

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Policy papers have a similar structure. They look at the IRLMPA which stands for Introduction, Rational, Literature Review, Methodology, Results/Findings, and, Discussion + Conclusion.

Strategy Papers follow a similar structure, Introduction, Rational, Methodology, Priority Area Discussions + Implementation Schedule.

Investigative reports follow a similar structure, abstract, Introduction, Purpose, Problem Statement, Methodology, Results/Findings, and, analysis + Recommendation.

News reports follow an inverted pyramid structure that showcase Summary/abstract, Problem statement, Purpose, Findings/Results and attribution of quotes to support the findings.

The second S deals with the different styles of writing, for all reports, you may have noticed exaggerated formality or technical definitions or interpretations/ acronyms. These is due to the fact that the audience of these reports may be legislators who will be creating a law or lawyers defending a case or scientist in specific fields.
They are written to impart information.
In the case of general news writing and features, there is non- literal style that focuses on everyday simple language.

The difference between the two styles is that Reports Create New Information and Knowledge whiles News Disseminates these New Knowledge to the population using simple language.

The Third S talks about the Substance or the content of writing.

Journalism is about summarising, packaging and presenting information in bite size pieces to the public. It does not strictly follow guidelines as it serves to inform people in a quick and easily understood way.

Report writing deals with creating and justifying the relevance and trustworthiness of new information.

Therefore there is more room for creativity in presenting report or research findings in news writing.

So now that we identified Structure, Styles and Substance of the various Reports, we will now look at the where to pick out information from Reports and Research papers.

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The first place to start looking is the Abstract or the Summary. You will recall earlier about the SIMRAD+C structure. The Summary gives you an overview of the Research paper and answers all the 5 Ws and 1 H.

The Second place to look for a problem statement. The problem statement may also inside the introduction, or in the Report rational. The rationale gives you why the report was written. The problem statement is usually either a question that needs to be answered or a problem/ gap that needs to be addressed or resolved.

The Third place to look is the Findings of the repot. The findings answer the Problem statements

The fourth place to look is the Results section. These sections give credibility to your story and can be used to support or verify your story.

So now that you know where to look for information in a report, we will discuss the various angles that can be picked up from dissecting a report or a research paper.

The first possibility angle would be main argument. For instance, a study may look at addressing the housing issues in Port Moresby. The problem statement would to prove that there is a housing problem in the city. The secondary angles would look at dissecting the report into its various arguments such as Land availability or allocation, Government Regulation, consumer affordability, Public Private Partnerships and baseline of home owners and home renters in the city.
Using this example in point one you may now write a series of articles based on those various sub topics. You can seek quotes from head of Departments and Industry Experts or even home owners or landowners to bring out the findings of the report or research.

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Also when doing the difference angles it is important to tie the research into an existing or updated issue in the public domain, to reference it as a finding in a separate but related issue that has arisen.

So we have finally managed to come to an end of our mini presentation of understanding reports to better report in the news and media articles. The Summarise our discussions

To conclude, we talked about the 3 S of Writing, Structure, Styles and Substance in Reports and briefly explore the various types of reports.

Secondly we pointed out where to extract information for a news story in a typical report/ research paper by looking at its problem statement and findings and supporting it with the results of the study though its methodology.

Lastly, we discussed the various angles of reporting and the various findings and recommendations that can be used to write a story.

All of these discussions were aimed at refreshing our understanding of various written and spoken structures. Once you practice writing various structures you will be able to recognise different writing styles and content.


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