Guidelines for Research Reports and Integrative Lit Reviews  | Samples of Research  Reports | Samples of Integrative Lit Reviews | Reviewers’ Expectations

About Research Reports  

The most commonly published format in the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, these articles report quantitative, qualitative, critical, and mixed methods studies  and their results. Examples include experiments, textual analyses, content analyses, surveys, design research, interview-based studies, usability tests, and ethnographies.

About Integrative Literature Reviews 

A new type of research report actively sought for the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, integrative literature reviews are  an empirical research report that systematically collects, classifies, and analyzes a body of literature on a topic.  As part of the research report, authors of integrative literature reviews describe the methodology used to search, choose and code studies, and focus on providing a critique or interpretation rather than just reporting data.  Popular in other disciplines because they succinctly summarize and empirically assess all of the literature on a particular topic, these types of articles are actively recruited by the Transactions.


Note: We recognize that, in our effort to focus on readers and be clear with authors, our guidelines are extensive and directive. We hope, however, this detailed guidance provides authors with the strongest possible guidance and ensures the most positive outcome possible from the peer-review process.

Formatting References Follow the IEEE style for formatting references, which differs from the APA and MLA styles that are more widely used among professional communicators.For instructions on formatting references, see Guidelines for Formatting References.
Formatting Text Note specific guidelines regarding:

  • File formats
  • Formatting of text (margins, spacing, type face)
  • Formatting of tables, charts, figures, and illustrations

See the Guidelines for Formatting Manuscripts for details.

Please use these titles as major section headings

Address these issues in the section

Introduction This section is intended to situate the study and explain its significance.
Open this section by:

  • What this case is about (100 words max)
  • Why it’s relevant to readers of the Transactions on Professional Communication

Close this section by:

  • Stating the research questions underlying the study
  • Providing a preview of the main sections in the article, using terminology that closely matches the headings.
Literature Review This section situates this study within the larger body of literature. Although professional communication is an interdisciplinary field and readers have eclectic interests, the one thing that connects readers of this journal is their interest in professional communication. Therefore, make sure that the literature review situates the study within the larger conversation on professional communication.
Immediately following the Literature Review heading,  add a short paragraph that provides a preview of the Literature Review section.  The paragraph should follow this format: SENTENCE 1: In 30 to 40 words, state the overall purpose of the section. SENTENCE 2: This section starts with list the sub-sections in the section, using words that match word-for-word the titles of the subsections.
Start the Literature Review with a sub-section that has the title:Theoretical Orientation
In the Theoretical Orientation section, describe the theoretical orientation underlying the study.Some of the theory presented later should be moved to this section.
Next, explain how you selected literature to include in the review.Explicitly state which topics were chosen (and, if they were not mentioned in the discussion of the theoretical framework, explain why you chose them):

  • Explain how you conducted the search for literature (such as keywords selected)
  • State the criteria used to select individual articles from the results returned by the general search.
Then, theme by theme, present the relevant literature as it relates to this study.
If you are presenting a qualitative study, end the discussions of each topic with the suggestion of a relationship that will be explored in the study. Do not yet present the research questions.
If you are reporting a quantitative, hypothesis testing study:

  • End the discussions of each topic with the suggestion of a relationship that will be explored in the study.
  • At the close of the literature review, state the hypotheses.

For each hypothesis tested, you might state something like, “Based on the relationship between A and B suggested in the literature, we propose this hypothesis: STATE THE HYPOTHESIS.”

Methodology Note that readers of the Transactions come from a wide variety of research traditions. So regardless of the methods employed in your study, a large group of readers will have limited experience with them. To help them follow the study—and to provide other researchers with as much information as possible so that they could replicate the study (a purpose of all research reporting)—the Methodology reporting is expanded.  Some of it is to bring about transparency, some of it is to bring about greater clarity to all of the readers.
Immediately following the Methodology heading, add a short paragraph that provides a preview of the Methodology section.  The paragraph should follow this format: SENTENCE 1: In 30 to 40 words, state the overall purpose of the section. SENTENCE 2: This section starts with list the sub-sections in the section, using words that match word-for-word the titles of the subsections.
If you are not conducting a study in which hypotheses are being tested (which are presented at the end of the Literature Review section), repeat the research questions.
Next add a section, Choice of Research Methodology.In it, explain the choice of the research method chosen and why you chose it over other quantitative, qualitative or critical methodologies.
Next explain how the study was conducted.Note that many authors often mix methods and results in this section.  Please only explain how the data was collected, do not report what data was collected.  That will be reported in the Results section.
When describing how the data was collected, include information about each of the following though the order will vary depending on the nature of the study:

  • Participants:
    • Describe the characteristics sought in participants.
    • Explain how participants were recruited.
    • Explicitly state that the study received approval from a Research Ethics committee or that it was exempt.
    • Do not provide detailed, descriptive information about the actual participants.  Save that information for the Results section.
  • Instruments or experiments:
    • For instruments, like surveys, provide a summary of the key sections of the instrument, the type of information collected in each, and the nature of the questions (Likert scale, etc.).
    • For experiments, explain the type of experiment, the nature of the treatment and control, and how it was administered and followed up.
    • For instruments and experiments, explain how the instrument or experiment was validated or piloted.
  • How data was collected:  State, step-by-step, how data was collected from participants.
    • Note: Only explain how the data was collected—do not report any of the data that was collected.  Hold that for the results section.
  • Data analysis:  Explain how data was analyzed.
    • If data is analyzed quantitatively, explain (a) which statistical tests were chosen, (b) in plain language—and with a minimum of technical terminology and without acronyms—how this test analyzes the data, and (c) why they are appropriate in this situation.
    • If the data is analyzed qualitatively, explain the types of qualitative analysis.
    • Note: The use of software is not a data analysis procedure.  It is merely a tool to assist with the process.  However, the tool should be named in the data analysis section as the tool used.
  • Close the Data Analysis section by explaining how you ensured the validity and generalizability (quantitative studies) or trustworthiness and credibility (qualitative and critical studies) of the data.
Results Present the data collected and its analysis in this section.
Start the section with a short paragraph that provides a preview of the Results section.  The paragraph should follow this format. SENTENCE 1: In 30 to 40 words, state the overall purpose of the section. SENTENCE 2: This section starts with list the sub-sections in the section, using words that match word-for-word the titles of the subsections.
The nature of the reporting varies, depending on the nature of the study.  Here are some suggestions that cover the types of research most commonly presented in the Transactions on Professional Communication.
Hypothesis testing:

  • Explain who participated in the study. Provide information about the numbers of participants, their demographics, and other relevant characteristics. When presenting other relevant characteristics, explain why these characteristics are relevant to report.
  • Present the results of the hypothesis testing.  As one reviewer observed:

Avoid providing readers with “statistics before [readers] get any narrative sense of outcomes or significance. Frontload narrative, background and support with the math. The ‘story’ of this study needs to be told in a way that makes the reading” easy.

  • To prevent any confusion, present each discussion as follows:
  1. Restate the hypothesis
  2. Explain which data was collected to provide insights about that hypothesis
  3. Explain how the data was analyzed to make an assessment
  4. Explicitly state whether the data supports the hypothesis and why you reach that conclusion
Qualitative study:

  • First, describe the phenomenon studied in full, so readers have a background from which to consider the analysis.
  • For example:
    • If you are presenting the case of the development of a communication product, first describe the final product developed, then explain the process followed to develop it.
    • Or, if you conducted a series of interviews with managers, describe the characteristics of the managers interviewed.
    • Next, present the data analysis.  Because the nature of the analysis varies among qualitative studies, each study will vary.  But focus on patterns in the data and generating a model that is supported by strong patterns in that data.
Conclusions, Limitations and Suggestions for Future Research This section closes the article by describing the broader implications of the study.This section has 3 separate sub-sections:

  1. Conclusions
  2. Limitations
  3. Suggestions for future research

The sub-sections should be presented in this order.

Conclusions.  Present the implications of the findings within the larger context of professional communication.Link the conclusions back to the literature cited earlier.  In some research traditions, this is called the Discussion.
Limitations should openly acknowledge all of the limitations of the article.Some typical issues that need to be addressed:

  • Trying to explore phenomena in a workplace setting, but the research was conducted with students in the context of the classroom.
  • The inability to generalize the results of qualitative studies.
Close the article with suggestions for future research that would build on this one.
Do not place an additional set of Conclusions at the end of the article.
Abstract Please write the Abstract as a structured abstract.  Research has shown that these types of abstracts help readers better remember the article.The format for a structured abstract for a research article or integrative literature review is:

Research problem Summarize your purpose and rationale (1 to 2 sentences)
Research questions: Explicitly state the research questions
Literature review
  • Identify the bodies of literature you consulted
  • Summarize the key points of the review
  • Identify your study as qualitative, quantitative, critical, or mixed
  • Identify your study as case study, experiment, survey or other
  • Describe how you chose participants and how many you used
  • Describe how you chose your location and its type
  • Identify your method of data collection
  • Name your analysis techniques
Results and Conclusions
  • Summarize your answers to the research questions
  • Summarize the implications of your results (1 sentence)
  • Summarize the limitations of your study (1 sentence)
  • Summarize your suggested future research (1 sentence)

For more information about structured abstracts, click here.

Samples of Research Articles Published in the Transactions

Of a quantitative study:
F. Ganier & R. Querrec, “TIP-EXE: A software tool for studying the use and understanding of procedural documents,” IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, vol. 55, no. 2, 105-121, 2012.

Of a qualitative study:
P. Bosch-Sijtsema & A. Sivunen,“Professional virtual worlds supporting computer-mediated communication, collaboration, and learning in geographically distributed contexts,” IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, vol. 56, no. 2, 160-175, 2013.

Of a critical study:
B. Kanoksilapatham, “Structure of research article introductions in three engineering subdisciplines,” IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, vol. 55, no. 2, 294-309, 2012.

Samples of Integrative Literature Reviews Published in the Transactions

J. Ramey & P. G. Rao, “The systematic literature review as a research genre,” Proceedings of the 2011 International Professional Communication Conference, 2011.

P. G. Rao & J. Ramey, “Use of mobile phones by non-literate and semi-literate people: A systematic literature review,” Proceedings of the 2011 International Professional Communication Conference, 2011.

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Reviewers’ Expectations

To learn about the criteria that reviewers consider when providing feedback on a research article or integrative literature review, click here.