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:
- a transmittal letter or memo (to your instructor)
- a professionally bound copy of the report
- a PDF file or a CD containing the electronic files used for the report
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.
The 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.
The 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.
The report might investigate why X occurred (or is occurring) and, based on the results of the investigation, recommend a plan of action for resolving X.
An investigative focus on convincing a client to implement a particular solution to solve a problem.
The 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.
The report might propose that the client consider an alternate method, procedure, or product for meeting an existing need.
General Report Requirements
The general report requirements are as follows:
Length. 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.).
Visuals. Use a minimum of three visuals, unless you have arranged otherwise with your English 3100 instructor.
Format. 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.
Pre-Submission Conference. Meet with your instructor to discuss your work-in-progress, revision needs, and other matters.
Copies. Submit one bound copy of the report and one electronic version.
Elements 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)
Your 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 project evaluation.
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 documentХs 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."
Body of the Report
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.
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.