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Report Writing: Planning

By Paula Hayes,2014-05-02 06:46
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    Report Writing: Planning

LEARNING OBJECTIVES:

    ; To develop a good understanding of the four important steps in the

    planning of the report

    ; To become aware of the key considerations in each step

    The first stage in the report-writing process, Planning the Project/Report, is arguably

    the most important of all the stages because the investigation, or research, as well as the final report are both directly based on the plan. A poor plan typically leads to misdirected research and a final report of little value, whereas the opposite is true of a well-considered plan. One can organise the plan for a report around four basic concepts, the Problem, the Purpose, the Possibilities, and the Proposals.

    1. The Problem

    The first step in the planning process is to develop a clear understanding of the problem of the report. The problem, what you are going to investigate, is often defined by the person who authorises the report. Sometimes, you are tasked to discover the specific problem, for example in contexts whose main work is to advise companies and people on investment opportunities around the world.

    So, your problem could simply be the impact of the high US inflation on multinational investments in the Third World. After your preliminary study, your specific problem could be about finding out how Thailand continues to be a strategic place for financial capital investment in the midst of the US economic slump.

    It may also be useful to define the problem by identifying one or two key questions that you feel should be answered through the report. Examples of questions to define a problem are ‘Why did sales decline in 2002?’ and ‘What steps should be taken to increase sales in 2003?’

    2. The Purpose

    Once the problem is clearly identified, it is important to develop a statement of

    purpose. This statement of purpose essentially defines the objective of the report. In contrast to the definition of the problem, which only concerns what you are going to investigate, the statement of purpose defines what the report should accomplish. The statement of purpose is often phrased with an infinitive phrase, e.g., The purpose of the report is to … (analyse, persuade, recommend, etc.). An

    example of a purpose statement is ‘The purpose of the report is to analyse the

    decline in sales in 2002 and to suggest ways to increase sales in 2003.’

    3. The Possibilities

    At this step in your project planning, you need to consider all the possible areas you can investigate that are relevant to the purpose of the report. It is important that you consider all possible areas because, if in your investigation you do not identify

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    the actual causes of the problem, then the conclusions and recommendations of your report will be invalid and useless.

    Do note that the areas of investigation you will ultimately choose to study will partly determine the scope of your report. The scope defines the boundaries of your work. It is an explicit statement regarding which issues you will cover and which issues you will not cover. The scope indicates the report’s size and complexity. So,

    as soon you decide on particular areas to investigate, the scope of your report starts to emerge. If there are even more specific issues within these areas which are highlighted, then these will define the scope even further.

    In addition, it is good in the planning stage to think about the possible limitations in

    your research. Limitations refer to factors affecting the quality of the report. Examples of limitations include inadequate time or resources to do all the necessary research or a lack of access to sources of data.

    4. The Proposals

    Once you have identified your areas of investigation, you now need to propose hypotheses for each of them. A hypothesis is essentially a tentative statement explaining a particular phenomenon or problem. The key word here is testable. A

    hypothesis is a statement that still needs investigation. Why are hypotheses important? First, do note how your planning steps should proceed:

    PROBLEM ? PURPOSE ? AREAS OF INVESTIGATION ? HYPOTHESES

    This process helps you refine your work for the project. If you have identified your areas of investigation based on the correct problem and purpose, then your hypotheses would help you direct your work well. If they have been formulated clearly, then your work is to find out if they are correct or not. Later, when you design your questionnaire, and write your findings, conclusions and recommendations, your hypotheses will also help you organize your questions and analyses.

    References:

    1. Bovee, Courtland L., Thill, John V. & Schatzman, Barbara E. (2008): Business thCommunication Today. 9 Edition. Prentice-Hall International Inc.

    th2. Locker, Kitty O. (2003): Business and Administrative Communication. 6 Edition.

    Irwin/McGraw-Hill.

    Further readings

    Recommended texts

     th1. Bovee, Courtland L. & Thill, John V. (2008): Business Communication Today. 9

    Edition. Prentice-Hall International Inc. -- Pages 394 - 402.

2. Locker, Kitty O. (2006): Business and Administrative Communication. 7th

    Edition. Irwin/McGraw-Hill. -- Pages 350 - 354.

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    National University of Singapore

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