For your major course project, you will join a team to write a recommendation report that uses the team's technical expertise to solve a problem for a real client (i.e., a company, professional group, or government agency that would realistically seek a recommendation report on your topic). Through your individual and team work on this project, you will learn a process for developing reports that solve workplace problems. This process will require your team to complete the following activities:
1. Identify a client with a workplace problem, situation, or opportunity.
NOTE: Your team's client must be a real individual or organization that actually faces the problem, need, or opportunity you address in your report; however, your client may not necessarily be aware of the situation. Your client is the individual who has the authority to make a decision about your recommended solution or to implement the plan of action you recommend.
2. Develop a plan for investigating the situation and the means for resolving it.
NOTE: It is important that your team have adequate access to your client during the investigation. Team members will need to meet face to face with the client at least twice during the project.
3. Establish the criteria required for your client to make an effective decision.
4. Develop and implement a project plan for completing your research (investigation).
Interpret and present your findings in a recommendation report to your client.
This process involves a set of interrelated activities that are grounded in the workplace situation your team is investigating. The decisions your team makes and the activities your team undertakes in each phase of the process will be guided by this context. Because the process is situation-based, you should be able to adapt and apply the process to other workplace situations that you encounter in your professional careers. To learn this process, your team needs to select a project that allows the team to work through the process for a real situation. However, this does not mean that your team cannot draw upon existing work. It means that the work must be adapted and applied to a real situation.
The team will jointly submit the following items:
To complete this project
successfully, you will need to meet the general report requirements
and the content requirements for the report and letter of transmittal.
These requirements are outlined in the following sections.
Guidelines for Selecting Report Topics
Your recommendation report
will help the report readers make an informed decision about a problem
that needs solving or a situation that needs resolving. The type of
report you produce for this assignment will be determined in part by
the focus of the investigation you conduct. Consider using one of the
following types of investigations for your report project.
An investigative focus on determining whether a solution is feasible.
report might investigate whether X is a feasible solution to the client's
problem and, based on the results of the investigation, make a recommendation
to implement or not implement X.
report might investigate whether Y or Z is a more feasible solution
to the client's problem and, based on the results of the investigation,
make a recommendation to implement Y, Z, or neither.
An investigative focus on understanding a problem and identifying a plan of action for solving it.
report might investigate why X occurred (or is occurring) and, based
on the results of the investigation, recommend a plan of action for
An investigative focus on convincing a client to implement a particular solution to solve a problem.
report might propose that the client authorize (provide the funding
or permission for) the writer to implement solution X, which would solve
the client's problem.
report might propose that the client consider an alternate method, procedure,
or product for meeting an existing need.
The general report requirements are as follows:
The body of the report must be at least 5 pages per team member, single-spaced,
not including the front and back matter (title page, executive summary,
table of contents, list of illustrations, appendices, exhibits of data,
bibliography/works cited pages, etc.).
Use a minimum of three visuals, unless you have arranged otherwise with
your English 3100 instructor.
Format your report as a professional document. Use single-spaced paragraphs
with double spaces between paragraphs. Use at least two levels of headings
in addition to the title (main sections and subsections), with appropriate
formats for each level. Use headers and/or footers as directed by instructor.
Citations: Provide complete citations for all sources of information, including interviews and onsite visits. Use the internal citation appropriate for your profession or client.
Conference: Meet with your instructor to discuss your work-in-progress,
revision needs, and other matters.
Submit one bound copy of the report and one electronic version.
Expected for Formal Reports: Include front matter, body, and
back matter, as explained below and in your textbook.
Content Requirements: The Elements of the Formal Report
Virtually all government agencies and businesses produce formal reports of one type or another. A formal report is a public presentation of the best efforts of the company or agency; companies, therefore, try to demonstrate their excellence through the superior quality of their reports. A formal report generally includes the following components:
a transmittal letter or memo (not usually bound with the report)
the end matter (supplemental material placed at the end of the report)
team will develop your report for the client and other audiences identified
in your project proposal; however, for this assignment, your team will
write the transmittal memo to your instructor rather than to the client.
The following sections describe the formal elements of the report, the
requirements for the transmittal memo, and the requirements for the
Front matter for formal reports typically includes a title page, an executive summary, a table of contents, and a list of illustrations. Include the following elements in the front matter of your report:
Cover: Include a graphic (cite it if it is borrowed), the title of the report, and the authors' names (not numbered).
Title Page. Use a format that is appropriate for your subject matter and audience. Typically title pages include a descriptive title, the date, who wrote the report (sometimes the authors' names but often the company or organization name), and to whom the report is being submitted. Include a brief executive summay at the bottom of the page.
Abstract/Executive Summary. The executive summary may be the only segment of your document that some readers examine. For example, an executive decision-maker may read only the executive summary before discussing the documentÕs recommendations with staff members to reach a decision. Likewise, other researchers might read the your summary to see if your report is relevant to their research. For these reasons, the executive summary is very important.
To achieve its purpose (a maximum of information in a minimum amount of space), it should be a tightly written, condensed presentation of your report's complete line of thought, though focusing on your major findings. For most recommendation reports, the main line of thought would include a discussion of 1) the problem, 2) the solution, 3) the benefits of the solution, and 4) specific recommendations (if not already made clear in the solution section).
Table of Contents. The table of contents gives readers an overview of the report's elements. Include at least the first two levels of headings used in the report. Format the table of contents so that it is easy to read the headings and match them with the appropriate page numbers.
List of Illustrations. Include visuals to help your team present the information--a minimum of three (unless you have made other arrangements with your instructor). If all of your illustrations are figures, use the heading "List of Figures"; if all of your illustrations are tables, use the heading "List of Tables." If you have both figures and tables, use the heading "List of Illustrations" and divide the listings into two subsections: one for "Tables" and one for "Figures."
The body of the recommendation report presents your main argument or line of thought; that is, it describes a problem, identifies goals or criteria, evaluates solutions, and recommends a course of action. The body includes an introductory section, a discussion of the investigation and the results, and a section that discusses the recommendations and plan of action.
The introduction establishes the context of the report (often with a reference to the contract or agreement with the client). In addition to this background information, the introduction always identifies the subject, objective, and scope of the report (thus clarifying the report's intended audience or set of users). In other words, the introduction always answers two questions: "What is this report about, and why is it important to me?"
The introduction should also forecast the report's forthcoming main line of thought. That is, the introduction sets up expectations in readers by answering a basic question: "What sequence of ideas can I expect to find in this report?" In setting up expectations, the forecast usually does not summarize or "pre-state" your main points; rather, it offers a preview or overview of the topics you intend to cover about the subject. Often, the forecast consists of a list of the major headings of your report.
Background, Problem Description, Needs Assessment
Most problem-solving reports include additional introductory sections that describe the problem being investigated and provide relevant background and historical information about the problem, its causes, and attempts to solve it. This information helps to ensure that report readers have a shared understanding of the problem and its significance.
|NOTE: You may want to draw upon the problem description you wrote for your topic memo. A full statement of the problem is appropriate, even though your client may be well aware of the problem. Remember, while the report might be addressed to the client, it will be read and used by other audiences.|
The methods section describes how your team investigated the problem and evaluated the solution(s). It should include enough detail to convince the report readers of the soundness, thoroughness, and appropriateness of your methods.
The results section of the report should report on the results of your investigation; it should be organized to help the report readers understand and use the information. For feasibility studies, this section might include a description of solutions and an analysis of how the solutions met the established criteria. A proposal, on the other hand, might include a discussion of various components of the solution (its goals, relationship to problem or opportunity, benefits, costs) and proposed plans for implementing the solution (tasks, personnel, facilities, budget, schedule, evaluations, qualifications, etc.). A report investigating a complex problem might include an analysis of what is happening and why it is happening.
In the discussion section, the report explains what the results mean. These findings are typically stated in relationship to the problem being investigated. To be persuasive, this section should state the significance of the findings from the perspective of the client, which may mean including addressing how the solution will solve the problem, the negative consequences it will eliminate, the positive consequences it add, and how the solution compares to other solutions.
Conclusions, Recommendations, Plan of Action, Call for Action
The closing of your report depends on the type of report you have prepared. If the report is designed primarily to gather information, it would logically end the report with the conclusions you have arrived at based on your evidence. If the report primarily investigates the feasibility of a number of potential solutions, it would end with a recommendation of which solution to implement. For complex situations, the recommendation might include a plan of action for implementing one or more solutions over a period of time. If the report focuses primarily on proposing a solution, it would end with a call to action.
The number of items
you include here and the form they take will vary with different reports.
With each report you write, you will have to decide what that particular
report requires. Typical components include the following:
References. Documentation information usually appears in this position in the report, often entitled "References," "Works Cited," or "Bibliography." Use the style specified in your project proposal.
Appendices. If necessary, use appendices to provide supplementary information that supports the body of your report. Each different item is a separate appendix. Designate each appendix with a letter of the alphabet--Appendix A, B, and so on. Each appendix also has a title and is listed in the table of contents. Appendices may include a glossary, a list of symbols, surveys and questionnaires used for research, data from your research, supplementary information for secondary and tertiary audiences, forms, checklists, etc.
Normally, you would attach a transmittal letter to the audience of the report or to the person who asked you to produce it. However, for this assignment, your team will write a transmittal memo to your instructor that will include four sections:
Project Plan: Division of Labor and Project Schedule
Audience Profiles and Accommodation
This section should introduce the purpose and topic of the document.
Project Plan: Division of Labor and Project Schedule
The division of labor and project schedule included in project proposals rarely stay the same throughout the course of a project. As result, your team needs to explain in this section what your team actually did, rather than what it had planned on doing. It should include the following information:
The team members' names
The report subject
The project division of labor (who wrote which section, who created which visuals, etc.)
The project timetable (your team's schedule for this project)
An explanation of the nature and scope of any changes to your proposed timetable or division of labor
Audience Profile and Accommodation Plan
Your team also needs to explain who your primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences are. Include a brief profile of these groups, explaining their values, needs, interests (economic and political), etc., as they relate to your topic. Explain what specific steps your team took to address the needs and concerns of these audiences in your report's content and format (such as terms which need to be defined, processes that need to be illustrated, etc.).
In your memo, specifically point out any features agreed upon by your team and the instructor during conferences to discuss the final project, as well as any adjustments made in response to the instructor's written comments on previous drafts.
If your group is using material developed while preparing an assignment for another course (previous or concurrent), be sure to identify any information included in your recommendation report that was developed by another student not in your group. If you use information developed in a paper for another course, you must attach a copy of that paper, and you must clearly identify the changes that you made in order to adapt the paper for your client for the recommendation report. You must make it absolutely clear to your instructor what parts you have developed (and are submitting for a grade) and what parts you have included that were developed by others (and that do not count as part of the page-length requirements for your recommendation report). Also, you must attach letters of authorization to use this material from the other course's instructor and from any other students involved.
Above all, you should use this memo to present the final project to your instructor in the best possible light:
point out its strengths
justify any deviations from the usual (such as omitted front or back matter)
make a case for the best possible grade for your major project ("we worked hard" really does not pursuade your reader--all students work hard in this class, and everyone wants an "A")