1) Has someone else already answered a similar question?
2) Does support exist for what you want to do?
3) Do some aspects of the problem situation remain uninvestigated?
4) Do you know enough about this topic to ask the right questions?
Quotations – right down to the last comma and capital letter.
Paraphrasing – cite the source.
Not necessary to cite:
· the material is common to many different sources
· the material is basic information within a given discipline
· the material is a matter of public record
Documenting the sources. Bibliographic reference.
Means of gathering primary data
Observational research obtains and analyses data that can be perceived by the human senses or by devices that enhance perception.
In survey research researchers interact with the persons about whom they are collecting data.
Sampling is the process of selecting a few units from a large group, measuring or learning something about those units, and reasoning that what is true of those units may be true of the large group.
Random and nonrandom samples.
Questionnaire – question-format items.
Opinionnaire – statements.
Open-ended and closed-ended questions.
Techniques to increase response rate.
Experimental research – changes something and then measure the effect of the change.
Planning – systematic and meticulous.
Topic 15. WRITING THE REPORT
The writing process consists of planning, drafting, revising, formatting, and proofreading. You should follow the same process when writing a report. The stage of planning requires that you make decisions about the structure of the report, the organization of the content, and the framework of the headings before and as you write.
DETERMINING THE REPORT STRUCTURE
The physical structure of the report and such general traits as complexity, degree of formality, and length depend on the audience for the report and the nature of the problem that the report addresses. The three most common formats for a report are manuscript, memorandum, and letter format. Manuscript reports are formatted in narrative style, with headings and subheadings separating the different sections, and supplementary parts are included. Memorandum and letter reports contain the standard correspondence parts.
ORGANIZING THE REPORT
Planning your report to show unity, order, logic, and even beauty involves selecting an organizational basis for the data you’ve collected and analyzed and developing an outline. The four most common bases for organizing your findings are time, location, importance, and criteria. The purpose of the report, the nature of the problem, and your knowledge of the reader will help you select the organizational framework that will be most useful.
Once you’ve decided how to organize the findings of your study, you must decide where to present the conclusions and any recommendations that have resulted from these findings. Academic reports and many business reports have traditionally presented the conclusions and recommendations of a study at the end of the report, because conclusions cannot logically be drawn until the data has been presented and analyzed; similarly, recommendations cannot be made until conclusions have been drawn. In general, prefer the direct plan (conclusions and recommendations first) for business reports.
OUTLINING THE REPORT
The outline provides a concise visual picture of the structure of your report. A formal outline provides an orderly visual representation of the report, showing clearly which points are to be covered, in what order they are to be covered, and what the relationship of each is to the rest of the report.
HEADINGS play an important role in helping to focus the reader’s attention and in helping your report achieve unity and coherence, so plan them carefully, and revise them as needed as you work toward a final version of your report.
Talking headings identify not only the topic of the section but also the major conclusion. They are especially useful when directness is desired – the reader can simply skim the headings in the report and get an overview of the topics covered and each topic’s conclusions. Generic headings, on the other hand, identify only the topic of the section, without giving the conclusion. Most formal reports and any report written in an indirect pattern would use generic headings.
Parallelism. Regardless of the form of heading you select, be consistent within each level of heading. The heading within the same level must be parallel.
Length and number of headings. Headings that are too long lose some of their effectiveness; yet headings that are too short are ineffective because they do not convey enough meaning. Similarly, choose an appropriate number of headings. In general, consider having at least one heading or visual aid to break up each single-spaced page.
Balance. Maintain a sense of balance within and among sections. It would be unusual to have one section ten pages long and another section only half a page long. If you divide a section into subsections, it must have at least two subsections.
The final product – the written report – is the only evidence the reader has of your efforts. The success or failure of all your work depends on this physical evidence.
Everything that you learned about the writing process applies directly to report writing – choosing a productive work environment; scheduling a reasonable block of time to devote to the drafting phase; letting ideas flow quickly during the drafting stage, without worrying about style, correctness, or format; and revising for content, style, correctness, and readability. However, report writing requires several additional considerations as well.
DRAFTING THE BODY
The report body consists of the introduction; the findings; and the summary, conclusions, and recommendations. Each part may be a separate chapter in long reports or a major section in shorter reports.
The introduction presents the information the reader needs to make sense of the findings. The actual topics and amount of detail presented in the introductory section will depend on the complexity of the report and the needs of the reader.
The findings of the study represent the major contribution of the report and make up the largest section of the report. Don’t just present your findings; analyze and interpret them for the reader. Use emphasis, subordination, preview, summary, and transition to make the report read clearly and smoothly. Keep the reader’s needs and desires uppermost in mind as you organize, present, and discuss the information.
Summary, conclusions, and recommendations. A one- or two-page report may need only a one-sentence or one-paragraph summary. Longer or more complex reports should include a more extensive summary. To avoid monotony when summarizing, use wording that is different from the original presentation. If your report includes both conclusions and recommendations, ensure that the conclusions stem directly from your findings and that the recommendations stem directly from the conclusions.
DRAFTING THE SUPPLEMENTARY SECTIONS
Transmittal document conveys the report to the reader. Write the transmittal memo or letter in a direct pattern. If the transmittal document is a part of the report, it is placed immediately after the title page but before the executive summary or table of contents.
Executive summary (also called an abstract or synopsis) is a condensed version of the body of the report. Position the summary immediately before the table of contents.
Table of contents are used in long reports with many headings and subheadings. The table of contents cannot be written until after the report itself has been typed.
An appendix might include supplementary reference material not important enough to go in the body of the report.
References contain the complete record of any secondary sources cited in the report. The reference list is the very last section of the report.
DEVELOPING AN EFFECTIVE WRITING STYLE
· Verb tense.
· Emphasis and subordination.
PARAPHRASING VERSUS DIRECT QUOTATION
A paraphrase is a summary or restatement of a passage in your own words. A direct quotation contains the exact words of another. Most of your references to secondary data should be in the form of paraphrases.
DOCUMENTING YOUR SOURCES
Documentationis the identification of sources by giving credit to another person, either in the text or in the reference list, for using hisor her words or ideas. Plagiarism is the use of another person’s words or ideas without giving proper credit. The use of two types of material by others does not need to be documented: (1) facts that are common knowledge to the readers of your report and (2) facts that can be verified easily. Standard citation formats are footnotes, endnotes, and author-year citations. Ensure that the citations are accurate, complete, and consistently formatted. Do not use quotations out of context.
Once you have produced a first draft of your report, put it away for a few days. Don’t try to correct all problems in one review. Instead, look at this process as having three steps – revising first for content, then for style, and finally for correctness.
Revising for content – amount of information; accuracy of the information; logical sequence of the information presented in the report.
Revising for style – clear writing; short, simple, vigorous, and concise words; variety of sentence types; unity and coherence of the paragraphs; reasonable length; overall tone; nondiscriminatory language; appropriate emphasis and subordination.
Correctness – consider any problems with grammar, spelling, punctuation, and word usage. If possible, have a colleague review your draft to edit and catch any errors you may have overlooked.
The physical format of your report (margins, spacing, and the like) depends on the length and complexity of the report and the format preferred by either the organization or the reader. Consistency and readability are the hallmarks of an effective format.
Do not risk destroying your credibility by failing to proofread carefully. Even before reading the first line of your report, the reader will have formed an initial impression of the report – and of you. Make this impression a positive one. Check for appearance. Have you arranged the pages in correct order? Use every aid at your disposal to ensure that your report reflects the highest standards of scholarship, critical thinking, and care.