BIS 101WI Essential Business Communications Skills
Assignment 4: Analytical Report (100 points)
Â· To utilize the scientific method to objectively research a complex, real-world problem.
Â· To use the genre of an analytical (lab) report with sections: Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion, and Conclusion (IMRaD) to:
1. Guide the process of conducting scientific research methods
2. To write a business report that helps answer questions about a problem using a business report format
Â· To successfully incorporate your understanding of various aspects of business communication, such as writing for various audiences using PACS, developing visuals, and writing a report involving real-world stakeholders.
Â· To gain a deeper understanding and practical use of various kinds of research methods such as surveys, interviews, and observations as multiple means to gather information in the workplace.
Â· To learn to incorporate sources in your own writing and enter scholarly discussions through your own local research.
Â· To write a strong analytical report that reports on findings in an objective, informed manner, where the writer only provides a recommendation in the conclusion, and follows the guidelines provided in chapter 10.
An analytical report is a response to some type of problem; for example, a business has a problem and needs to find out what is causing the problem. Or, your boss asks you to research an issue and report back on it.
A business report typically introduces 1) a problem that prompted the research questions, 2) presents a research methodology based on actual conducted research, 3) presents results of research, 4) discusses those results, and 5) concludes the main findings and makes a practical recommendation as to what needs to be done (see Ch 9-10). You will use the IMRaD structure (i.e., Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion, Conclusion with Recommendations) to report on your research.
Your report topic should allow you to do the following:
1. Find at least 10 scholarly academic sources to gain insight from literature (whether these are academic papers, government documents, etc.)
2. Find primary evidence on your own by using a specific methodology. The methodology is based on your research questions (RQs), and most likely is done through online surveys (Qualitative/Quantitative), or qualitative observations, interviews with subject-matter experts (SMEs) or stakeholders and others with an interest in the problem and its solution, etc. In other words, the interplay between your research and the research of other scholars is paramount as this research will guide you in your thinking as you build upon their work/ideas and adapt them to your local issue or problem.
Once you have defined the problem, you will want to carefully research the literature available on the subject. To do this successfully, be sure to review scholarly academic articles that are 1) recent, credible, unbiased, and scholarly, and 2) speak directly or indirectly to your issue at hand. Because this research will likely be included in the report you provide your reader, use care when deciding where it will be and how it will be used. For example, your introduction could include a few brief citations of relevant statistics or other information that readers will want to know and help them to feel a sense of responsibility and urgency to get moving on the problem resolution. As another example, your results and discussion section could include a much deeper discussion of information related to the issue or problem found in literature, together with your primary data.
Hopefully, your secondary research will support your primary research, and vice-versa. But maybe it wonâ€™t, and that may be okay, particularly if your research is taking you in a new direction that hasnâ€™t been explored before.
The key is to start early and keep a steady pace for this assignment. In becoming an expert, you will then be able to ask more pointed and relevant questions in conducting research, such as asking and answering questions of SMEs, designing surveys, etc. Also, clearly formatted RQs will guide you in your research and then, it will smoothly expand into your report.
How to conduct and cite the research
Your literature review will provide you with a good overview of the approaches that have been used to solve the problem in the past; you can then cite these ideas and sources as references throughout your report. You will need to analyze and synthesize this research into your report by providing paraphrases, summaries of people who researched the topic (use APA formatting for incorporating sourcesâ€”see example on pg. 261).
Another source for citing information is located at the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue for how to in-text cite different sources and for formatting references in APA. When considering sources, make sure they are reliable and valid. This means, as youâ€™ve already learned in class:
Â· Reliability = you must have reliable means of recording data that others see as credible and can replicated to come to the same answers
Â· Validity = your measurements should be valid in addressing the problem, not just be â€œdataâ€ that does not apply to the issue.
Elements of the report
The following elements should be tightly integrated to form a coherent whole. Remember to use the effective writing principles that you learned in the writing memos and proposals assignments:
1. Use OABC forecasting and top-down processing, i.e., give the main points up front so your reader gets the big picture. This is used for the overall report AND each section, both of which should include an effective forecast of your subject, at least.
2. Define your purpose and give the main points, then explain them in detail. A reader should be able to read your report sections with a clear idea of what each section will be about in the information you provide in the introductory paragraph. Hence, for each section, expect to write a clear subject, purpose, main points, background information, and to forecast the content of the section. This will enable your reader to follow along in an organized and coherent way, with the outcome being increased understanding and retention.
Required sections â€“ See textbook, pg. 282Ã onwards for more information on the content of these sections and a visual overview (Fig. 10., pg. 278)
Front Matter (not to be included in page count for assignment)
Â· Title Page. Come up with a title that describes what your topic and research is aboutâ€”just in those few short words.
Â· Table of Contents (TOC). You may want to create the headers first (Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion, Conclusion, References, Appendix (or Appendices) so you can automatically create the table of contents using Microsoft Word. This will save you time and frustration in the future. Also, number your pages (again, helpful for the TOC)
Â· Executive Summary. As the term implies, this is a quick summary of the contents of your entire report and is written so a top executive who has less than 5 minutes can learn what your report is all about. It should include information from all the sections of the IMRaD and Conclusions and Recommendations–all in one page.
Main Report. (Note: 5-7 single-spaced pages, (1) blank line between paragraphs, and page numbers)
Â· Introduction. This should clearly state the problem. Use the six opening moves formula of stating your subject, purpose and main points (findings), give background information, stress importance and forecast the organization of your report. This section should work well as an effective forecast as to what you will cover in the report. Since you do not know this information as you begin writing, come back at the end and add these opening moves to your report. The advantage is that you will then know your findings very clearly. Make sure your introduction clearly defines for the reader the problem, its causes, its effects, and the affected stakeholders in 1-4 short paragraphs (so they fit on 1 page).
Â· Methods. This is where you will tell your reader the methods you used to conduct your research. First, forecast in this section what you will cover. Do this by using the formula of 1) subject, purpose, and main points. Again, provide a short forecast of the information that follows and then provide your information in concise sentences. Next, share your (3) research questions in a bullet list. Remember that these questions should be written carefully, and could begin with a statement such as: â€œMy research questions are as follows:â€ then list the questions. Also, remember to use questions such as: â€œWhat/how much?â€ quantitative questions (â€œHow much time is spent . . .?â€) â€œHow/Why?â€ qualitative (opinion) questions (â€œHow can CMU optimizeâ€¦.. ?) Then, tie in how your questions led you to adopt your specific methodology (Qualitative/ Quantitative or Mixed Methods). In the body of your methods section, take your reader, step-by-step (chronologically) through the process on how you gathered your data. Use a mini-header per step in this section. Your write up of your research steps are to 1) document how you collected your data, and 2) help other researchers replicate your research steps and come reasonably close to the same conclusion as you. In your methods section closing, add a brief mini-header and address any limitations to your study, for example, what your study does not address or any limits you experienced in gathering data.
Â· Results and Discussion. Again, use the opening formula that forecasts what is to come in the form of main findings (subject, purpose, main points, and forecast of structure) up front. Then go into detail for each of the elements that you just introduced. Organize this section based on RQ1, RQ2, and RQ3 as section headers and the supporting primary and secondary data that helps to answer each RQ. Include at least 4 visuals in the report related to your research, where at least one visual was created by you as a result of your research. The results and discussion can be presented either in one or two sections. If you opt for one section, you will need to present each result, and then discuss the implications of each result in relation to your research questions and the problem you are addressing in your research. You will need to proceed this way until all results have been presented and discussed. The alternative approach (two sections: one for results; the other for discussion) is based on presenting selected data in your results. This could be a review of literature, and then your empirical research findings), and finally, discussing the implications of each these findings separately in the discussion section. You will need to assess which of these works best for you. For each result, forecast why it is important and include the implications of each, for example: socially, economically, ecologically, ethically, etc. Doing it this way will help ensure your recommendations are worthy of serious consideration.
Â· Conclusion. In your conclusion, make an obvious transition (e.g., â€œIn summary . . .â€ or â€œTo conclude . . .â€ etc.) and present the main findings of what you found as patterns in the data of your study. Present your main findings in a short and concise format.
Â· Recommendations. This section is among the more important sections of your report, so itâ€™s important that your recommendations are based on the evidence you have provided earlier. State them on the research you have discovered and apply to fixing the problem. They should logically follow your research findings presented in earlier sections and conclude with what they mean and why your solution(s) are feasible. This should be done in a matter-of-fact and straightforward manner. Reemphasize the importance of the study, your look to the future, and conclude with a note of thanks to the reader and offer contact information.
Back Matter (Note: do not include this in the page count, but DO use page numbers for this section)
Â· References. Your analytical report should use and refer to at least 10 scholarly, reputable sources that you have actually cited in your paper in your references section using APA formatting (e.g. those that you have consulted with are not to be listed). If you have only consulted with a source, but did not use information, ideas, or words from the source, then you should not put it in your references.
Â· Appendix/Appendices. Generally, if you have gathered a large amount of data but only cite the results, include the raw data you have (excel spreadsheets, tables, survey results, etc.) and is too long in a separate appendix. Example: Appendix A: survey data, Appendix B: interview transcripts, etc. An appendix simply allows your reader to take a closer look at your gathered data if they want to, whereas in your report you should only feature what is most salient about the data as you have interpreted it.
*****See ASSIGNMENT NOTES and GRADING CRITERIA on next page*****
1. Pay close attention to the information in the textbook, Ch. 10. For a good example of a business analytical report, see pages 450-458.
2. A Note of Warning: If you plagiarize, I have no choice but to give you an â€œFâ€ for the assignment, with dire consequences for your passing the course. Any ideas, words, data, or anything else that you use from a different source needs to be properly documented using APA formatting. Presenting third party source material as your own words while attributing the source also constitutes plagiarism, as it should be indicated how you use the source â€“paraphrase or quote and always attribute source properly.
Elements of Report Problem Definition/Scope/
Visual Rhetoric and Research Quality
Research Methods/Results/ Discussion / Conclusion with
APA & Grammar
Does your report contain all of the elements described above in the required sections of the report? (i.e. Does it use IMRaD effectively, feature front, report, and back matter as described).
Uses effective forecasting and top-down processing with a clear subject, purpose and main point for each section?
Is your report rhetorically effective in introducing the problem? Does it present a full overview of the problem, its causes and effects, and does it approach the problem in comprehensive and persuasive ways (is the scope /angle accurate, not too narrow).
Visual rhetoric is used to great effect. At least 4 data visualizations are used to represent data effectively as a story, are placed in the text, and referred to in-text and labeled below with a description (i.e. Figure 1: [description]). Visuals are placed functionally.
Report writer uses headers and chunking of text to create a visually well-organized and accessible rapport that is easy to read.
Is your research accurate, valid, and reliable and showing your credibility as an informed writer and researcher?
Researcher incorporates at least 10 academic sources. Writer is well-researched, informed, and objective in reporting on the problem/issue without inserting their opinion?
Research questions are clearly defined and methods section is tied to research questions that are qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods. Follows RQs and takes reader through process of gathering data step-by-step chronology.
Results and Discussion are in-depth and incorporate literature and empirical data and answer RQs at an academic level. The researcher presents results objectively and waits to make a recommendation in the conclusion.
Conclusion presents patterns that are logical based on data gathered. Data gathered is from literature and primary research conducted by the writer.
Recommendation take into account various patterns in the report and based on this, the researcher makes realistic recommendation(s) for stakeholders of the problem/ issue.
Use of APA conforms to standards as defined in book and OWL-Purdue (no errors in documenting sources in-text or your references). Correct use of paraphrase, summary, in-text quotes according to APA standards. APA formatting adhered to in References.
No grammatical errors that detract from the professionalism of your report (typos, misspellings, possessives, run-ons, etc. etc.). Please consult last page in book (SPELL â€“ Structure, Punctuation, Errors, Language) to learn about some of these common errors and how to avoid them. Also, visit the University Writing Center if you need to have someone help you explain these to you (or come talk to me).