Types of reports and other documents to produce

Preliminary reports

A preliminary report can be produced after data cleaning and checks have been completed and the main results tables are available. This is usually around six months after completing data collection. Time-consuming factors include reconciling data where paper-based data collection was used and completing specimen analyses for the main biomarkers.

The preliminary report may include:

  • An executive summary, which is a high-level summary of the survey objectives, methods, and principal available results.
  • An introduction that includes the objectives of the survey, how the survey results fit into the national health and nutrition development plan and an acknowledgement of institutions and funding agencies involved in the survey process.
  • A methods section that gives a short overview of the survey methodology, the survey design, indicators, sampling and ethical considerations, survey personnel and training, survey implementation, specimen collection and data management and analysis.
  • Key available results for micronutrient indicators if available, response rates, main demographic characteristics, appendices and references. This section may also provide some limited information on the details of the biological indicators measured, design effects for the main results highlighted and references used in the report.

The Malawi 2015/2016 national micronutrient survey key indicator report is an example of a preliminary report.

Final report

Final reports serve numerous functions, including:

  • providing detailed results of the survey
  • allowing external evaluation of the methods and quality of the survey implementation and specimen analysis
  • providing a guide for future surveys
  • informing policy and programme action for follow up.

The section on discussion and recommendations in a final report needs to be developed following a data review meeting with stakeholders and technical experts. Sometimes a final report will not include a discussion and recommendation section because the data review meeting may be planned for a time after the final report is complete. In those instances, it is more common for the discussion and recommendations to be part of a policy brief or summary report developed later

The final report may take the form of a comprehensive full report, or another format as deemed necessary or usefl by the country. There are many ways of organizing a report, however it’s usually divided into different chapters with headings similar to those in Box 16.1. A detailed report outline is available in the Example survey report structure online tool, and there are examples of national survey reports online.1

Box 16.1. Example Report Structure

  • Foreword
  • Acknowledgments
  • Acronyms and abbreviations
  • Map
  • Executive summary
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results, by topic (such as demographic characteristics, anthropometry, iron and anemia, vitamin A)
  • Tables and figures that accompany the results section
  • Discussion or Conclusion (optional)
  • Recommendations (optional )
  • Appendices

You can find examples of national survey reports click here.

Summary report

A summary report highlighting the principal results and recommendations from the survey could be made available electronically, with paper versions as needed. It may be useful to share this report widely among all nutrition-related partners in the country, including government and nongovernmental organization (NGO) partners in health, education, water and sanitation, and economic development, as well as with the media.

Additional reports and manuscripts

Additional manuscripts may be developed later, for example, investigation of trends in comparison to data from previous surveys or other sources of data, or the outcome of more in-depth data analyses. These manuscripts could be mainly for national use, presented at conferences, or published in journal articles. The type of document and time for developing it should be agreed during the survey planning phase and refined over the course of the survey and during partner data review meetings.

Data access and availability should also be clarified at the start of the survey. Releasing data publicly may require addressing issues related to privacy and confidentiality. Data files may be made available to other users to perform more detailed investigations, but only after a period assigned for nationally led initiatives and manuscript development. For example, Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) are open access once the main report is released. Anyone can access the data from the web after registering and describing the intended use of the data.

Responsibilities for producing the reports, further data analysis and data access should be clearly documented in any memorandums of understanding developed by Steering committee members during the planning process.