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Reports – Intro

Reports

Reports, in an information age, are essential to business writing and written communications in general.
What makes business reports different from general academic reports is a real-world, practical, problem-centered orientation. The emphasis is placed on brevity, clarity, and functionality.
Reports are varied, each with some typical structural elements.

PROPOSAL REPORT
Includes the following: specification of the problem, the purpose, and the approach you will take in resolving an issue.
PROGRESS REPORT
Brings a project up to date, often includes the following headings highlighted from the body of the report: status, problems, changes, schedules, and costs.
PERIODIC REPORT
Is written on a recurring basis, and deals with an on-going situation. Computer printouts are sometimes used.
MEMO OR LETTER REPORT
Is a less formal report on an a limited issue that uses the memo headings and subject declaration to present a specific issue.
The categories included in a report depend on the subject or situation. All reports need to be complete and accurate with informational headings to explain the subject and enable a reader to make a decision.
In detailed, technical reports, for example, among the headings you should probably include are headings similar to the following:

  • Theory or background
  • Method(s) used
  • Results of research
  • Conclusions
  • Recommended action
  • Suggested follow-up

In reports where strictly controlled specific research is not required, the organization may resemble that of a memo, and may include the following headings: I Background, II Current situation, III Solution (if applicable) IV Recommendation.
Some informative reports, such as status reports, do not require a recommendation section. Quarterly or annual reports provide a sequential review of a specific time period, and although they may not include a recommendation, they may analyze the meaning of events in the time period covered and suggest future developments. As in any type of communication, format depends on purpose and on the needs of the audience.
Use of headings in long reports are essential. The headings act as an internal outline, showing the reader the importance of each section. Consistency of headings will guide the reader through the categories of your report. Depending upon the level of formality, reports, typically, include some or all of the following eleven parts:

  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Letter of Authorization
  • Letter of Transmittal
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Conclusion
  • Recommendations
  • References
  • Appendices

Reverse Outlines

Reverse Outlines: A Writer’s Technique for Examining Organization

Many writers use a reverse outline to check their work. Reverse outlining is a process whereby you take away all of the supporting writing and are left with a paper’s main points or main ideas, sometimes represented by your paper’s topic sentences. Your reverse outline provides a bullet-point view of your paper’s structure because you are looking at the main points of the paper you wrote.
Experienced writers, especially when writing longer papers about a complex subject, need ways to test their drafts for the logical sequence of points: its structure. A reverse outline allows writers to read a condensed version of what they wrote, and provides one good way to examine and produce a successful paper.

A reverse outline can help you:

  • Determine if your paper meets its goal
  • Discover places to expand on your evidence or analysis
  • See where readers might be tripped up by your organization or structure

How to create a reverse outline

1. Start with a complete draft to have a fuller picture of the plan you carried out. You can use a partial draft to review the organization of the paragraphs you have written so far.
2. Construct the outline by listing the main idea of each paragraph in your draft in a blank document. If a paragraph’s topic sentence provides a succinct version of the paragraph’s argument, you can paste that sentence into the outline as a summary for that paragraph. Otherwise, write a one-sentence summary to express the main point of the paragraph.
3. Number your list for ease of reference.

Use your reverse outline to answer questions

Does every paragraph relate back to your main idea?

Your reverse outline will help you think more effectively about your paper’s focus: its big picture. Does every item on your list relate back to your main point?
Many writers find that new ideas or topics appear near the end of a reverse outline. These topic shifts may signal that you need to revise certain paragraphs in you draft to be sure they relate back to your main idea, or they may inspire you to revise your main idea so it takes on some of the new points these paragraphs suggest.
By viewing the structure of your paper from the vantage of a reverse outline, you can make productive decisions about whether to keep certain paragraphs or cut them from a draft.

Where might a reader have trouble following the order of your ideas?

You can use a reverse outline to review a paper’s organization or structure and then make strategic choices for rearranging the paper on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis, or for adding or removing paragraphs to improve organization.

Do several of your paragraphs repeat one idea?

If your reverse outline shows two paragraphs that make similar points, consider combining them or revising one so that it does not make too similar a point.

Does one paragraph juggle several topics?

If one item on your reverse outline discusses more topics than other paragraphs, that may be a paragraph your reader will struggle to follow. By dividing its topics into two or more paragraphs, each one discussing a more focused topic or set of topics, you may be able to ensure that your reader follows your meaning.

Are your paragraphs too long? Too short?

By comparing total paragraphs to total pages, you can learn your average paragraph length and more easily spot paragraphs that are unusually long or short.

An example of a reverse outline

For example: say you are writing a paper for an engineering class in which you are exploring the concept of how humans learn to trust technology through individual consumer choices, and your research involves analyzing several television commercials for Apple computers and products.
1. Ever since Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl commercial, customers have seen Apple as creating technology that appeals to our individuality.

2. Over time, Apple has introduced a variety of devices that appeal to our sense of individuality and in our need to connect with other individuals and to our world.

3. With the introduction of the iPod in 2001, Apple began exploring ways to win consumer trust in technology by focusing on how humans can determine the ways they choose to use the technology they purchase.

4. With the opening of Apple stores, Apple began to offer yet another way to explore our trust issues with technology through talking to friendly individual sales people in clean, well-lit stores.

5. In 2007, Apple rolls out the “Hi, I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” TV commercials thus showing the funny side of Apple ads.

6. Apple’s more recent TV commercials show how it easy it is for consumer to maintain their individuality and to trust in Apple’s new technological offerings, most notably, the iPhone line.

7. Apple continues to explore the human connection with technology through their developments and applications of voice-activation and speech technology, which serve to bring out a more intimate, individual experience with their technology.

Take a look at this reverse outline above. What do you see? Most sentences address some aspect of how human trust evolves with Apple’s technological developments, and these choices are individual choices.
However, sentence (5) stands out: Why? Sentence (5), based on the topic sentence, only treats the humor without connecting the way humor can help us alleviate some of our trust issues with technology as individual consumers. What can you do? As the writer, you may need to revise the paragraph to directly connect with the paper’s argument, or, if you determine that the paragraph is serving an important part of your paper’s argument, then you may merely need to revise topic sentence (5), perhaps like this:
In 2007, Apple rolls out the “Hi, I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” TV commercials, and by promoting their funny side, Apple ads help another generation of consumers get over their “trust issues” with Macs by personifying the choices they make as individual personality types and the technologies they are willing to trust.

Research Paper Writing – U Wisc

Writing a Research Paper

This page lists some of the stages involved in writing a library-based research paper.
Although this list suggests that there is a simple, linear process to writing such a paper, the actual process of writing a research paper is often a messy and recursive one, so please use this outline as a flexible guide.
  1. Discovering, Narrowing, and Focusing a Researchable Topic
  2. Finding, Selecting, and Reading Sources
  3. Grouping, Sequencing, and Documenting Information
  4. Writing an Outline and a Prospectus for Yourself
  5. Writing the Introduction
  6. Writing the Body
  7. Writing the Conclusion
  8. Revising the Final Draft

Discovering, Narrowing, and Focusing a Researchable Topic

  • Try to find a topic that truly interests you
  • Try writing your way to a topic
  • Talk with your course instructor and classmates about your topic
  • Pose your topic as a question to be answered or a problem to be solved

Finding, Selecting, and Reading Sources

You will need to look at the following types of sources:
  • library catalog, periodical indexes, bibliographies, suggestions from your instructor
  • primary vs. secondary sources
  • journals, books, other documents

Grouping, Sequencing, and Documenting Information

The following systems will help keep you organized:
  • a system for noting sources on bibliography cards
  • a system for organizing material according to its relative importance
  • a system for taking notes

Writing an Outline and a Prospectus for Yourself

Consider the following questions:
  • What is the topic?
  • Why is it significant?
  • What background material is relevant?
  • What is my thesis or purpose statement?
  • What organizational plan will best support my purpose?

Writing the Introduction

In the introduction you will need to do the following things:
  • present relevant background or contextual material
  • define terms or concepts when necessary
  • explain the focus of the paper and your specific purpose
  • reveal your plan of organization

Writing the Body

  • Use your outline and prospectus as flexible guides
  • Build your essay around points you want to make (i.e., don’t let your sources organize your paper)
  • Integrate your sources into your discussion
  • Summarize, analyze, explain, and evaluate published work rather than merely reporting it
  • Move up and down the “ladder of abstraction” from generalization to varying levels of detail back to generalization

Writing the Conclusion

  • If the argument or point of your paper is complex, you may need to summarize the argument for your reader.
  • If prior to your conclusion you have not yet explained the significance of your findings or if you are proceeding inductively, use the end of your paper to add your points up, to explain their significance.
  • Move from a detailed to a general level of consideration that returns the topic to the context provided by the introduction.
  • Perhaps suggest what about this topic needs further research.

Revising the Final Draft

  • Check overall organization: logical flow of introduction, coherence and depth of discussion in body, effectiveness of conclusion.
  • Paragraph level concerns: topic sentences, sequence of ideas within paragraphs, use of details to support generalizations, summary sentences where necessary, use of transitions within and between paragraphs.
  • Sentence level concerns: sentence structure, word choices, punctuation, spelling.
  • Documentation: consistent use of one system, citation of all material not considered common knowledge, appropriate use of endnotes or footnotes, accuracy of list of works cited.

Connectors

Connectors



Addition

and
in addition
besides
furthermore
moreover
what’s more
too
not only … but also
both … and
not so obvious
as well as
another

Alternatives

or
either … or
whether …or not
Comparison
similarly
likewise
in like manner
parallel with `
in the same category comparable to
equally important

Concession
no doubt

admitting
to be sure
certainly
indeed
granted
true
in any case
in any event
Conclusion

to conclude

in conclusion
thus
finally
last
to end
to infer
hence
so
therefore
consequently
as a result
for this reason
this being the case
it follows that …
To summarize
in brief
in summary
on the whole
to sum up
in other words
briefly
in short
in conclusion

Condition
if

whether
Contrast
on the contrary
conversely
by contrast
on the other hand
from another point of view
more important
but
yet
and yet
however
still
after all
for all that
although this is true
while this is true
in spite of
though
even though
nonetheless
nevertheless
notwithstanding
in spite of this
Emphasize

obviously

in fact
as a matter of fact
indeed
what’s more
even without this
especially
truly
really
certainly
moreover
in truth
above all

Exclusion
with this exception

all except
all but
except for this
not that
but not
neither … nor
Exemplification
 
for example
for instance
to demonstrate
to illustrate
as an illustration
a case in point
another case
imagine this
to illustrate my point
let’s examine

Inclusion
namely

especially
specifically
in detail
including
in particular
to list
to enumerate

Purpose
to

in order to
so that
for the purpose of
with this in mind
with this in view

Repetition
to repeat

in brief
in short
as I have said
as I have noted
in other words
once more
again
once again
yet again
that is

Sequence
first, second, etc.

next
former
latter
final
last

Time
now

since
after this
at length
thereafter
already
at length
after a few hours
in the end
afterwards
then
later
previously
formerly
at an earlier time
at the same time
simultaneously
meanwhile
in the meantime
and then

Refutation
no

hardly
on the contrary
never

Identification
with respect to

as for …
concerning
in point of reference

Transitional

to resume
in particular
in general
to continue
to return
along with

S H O W I T

S : Strategy —
Your strategy is your blueprint for writing, your overall plan based on your thesis.
H : Heuristics — 
Heuristics are your “Rules of thumb”–   your strategy filtered through common sense. Select the best presentation of your message for your purpose, audience, and medium of presentation.
O: Organization —
Plan to organize your essay around a unifying thesis, with a strong beginning, appropriate development, and an effective conclusion.
W: Writing –
Writing is a process that involves various stages of development. Write your first draft, working out your plan, knowing you will have an opportunity to improve your essay later.
I : Improving —
Improving your writing means revising to optimize your essay for your audience and purpose.
T : Tracking —
Tracking your writing means following-up, reviewing and redeveloping as needed to achieve your purpose.

 

— 12 — Information and Financial Management, Research Reports

— 12 — Information and Financial Management, Research Reports
Information and Financial Management,
Part Six: Managing Information, Accounting, and Finance
PHK – Chapter 14: Understanding Information and E- Business
Research Reports
KC: C16 Writing Business Reports

Policy Development and Writing

Identify the Need for a Policy

You want to have the necessary policies and procedures to ensure a safe, organized, convivial, empowering, nondiscriminatory work place. Yet you do not want to write a policy for every exception to accepted and expected behavior. Policy development is for the many employees not for the few exceptions.

Consequently, you do not want to create policies for every contingency, thus allowing very little management latitude in addressing individual employee needs. Conversely, you want to have needed policies, so that employees never feel as if they reside in a free-for-all environment of favoritism and unfair treatment. These ten steps will take you from determining the need for a policy through distributing and integrating a policy.

Check Out These Guidelines to See if a Policy Is Needed

For each of the reasons provided about why a policy might be necessary, I have provided examples of the policies that might fall into that category of need for a policy. A policy is necessary:
  • if the actions of employees indicate confusion about the most appropriate way to behave (dress codes, email and Internet policies, cell phone use),
  • if guidance is needed about the most suitable way to handle various situations (standards of conduct, travel expenditures, purchase of company merchandise),
  • when needed to protect the company legally (consistent investigation of charges of harassment, non-discriminatory hiring and promotion),
  • to keep the company in compliance with governmental policies and laws (FMLA, ADA, EEOC, minimum wage),
  • to establish consistent work standards, rules, and regulations (progressive discipline, safety rules, break rules, smoking rules), and
  • to provide consistent and fair treatment for employees (benefits eligibility, paid time off,tuition assistance, bereavement time, jury duty).
There may be other reasons, additionally, for why you may want to develop a policy. Remember, though, that one employee’s poor behavior should not require a policy that will affect all other employees.

Articulate the Goal of the Policy

Once youâ’ve determined that a policy is necessary, determine the goal you want to accomplish in writing the particular policy. When possible, you will want to tell employees why the policy is being implemented. You need enough details in the policy to make the company’s position clear, yet you can never hope to cover every potential situation addressed by the policy.
Consequently, my goal with a policy is short and simple. I recognize this may not be possible with policies about areas such as the company’s approach to the Family Medical and Leave Act, discrimination or complaint investigation, or the progressive discipline system. But, how much can you really say about driving while talking on a cell phone? So, use common sense as you determine the outcome you want from your policy.

Gather Information

This Human Resources website provides sample policies as do many other websites, albeit other companies frequently charge for their policies. Even websites that charge provide free samples so you can test their policies. In my experience, I never find a sample policy that is exactly right for my company circumstances. But, research online and find sample policies to provide a base for revising rather than writing your policy from scratch.
You can also subscribe to a service that provides samples such as Personnel Policy Manual Service, a service used by a client company. External policy sources are also provided in my policy samples directory. Finally, the Society for Human Resources Management provides policy samples for members.
In some cases, you may even want to talk with your employment law attorney. Law firms write generic policies for their clients that can also be customized. Especially when a new law passes or the Department of Labor issues new rules, your attorney is likely to develop an accompanying policy.

Develop and Write the Policy

With goals and samples in hand, write the policy using simple words and concepts. Speak directly to the people who will be reading, enforcing, and living by the policy. After each paragraph, ask yourself “what if” questions to make certain the policy is covering the basics and the normal exceptions and questions. Do not obsess over this, however; as stated, no policy ever covers every possible contingency.

Review the Policy

Select several employees, or even a small pilot group, to read the policy and ask any questions they might have about the policy. This review provides feedback that employees will be able to understand and follow the policy. Rewrite the policy based on the feedback.

Obtain Management Support for the Policy

Review the policy with the managers who will have to lead and put into effect the policy. You will want to have their support and ownership of the policy. You will have started this process much earlier, even as early as when you identified the need for the policy, but management support as you implement the policy is crucial.

Obtain Legal Review of the Policy

If the policy has legal implications, is litigious by its nature, has personal implications for employees (such as security procedures), you will want to have your attorney review the policy before you distribute the policy further. Make sure you communicate to your attorney that you do not want the policy rewritten in “legalese.” You want the policy reviewed for legal implications and appropriate wording.

Implement the Policy

In small groups, individually, or in a company meeting, depending generally on the controversial nature of the policy and the ease with which it will be understood, distribute and review the new policy. Give employees a chance to ask questions.

The policy should always consist of the policy on a piece of paper with the employee sign off on a second sheet. Employees can sign off that they have received and understand the policy, yet retain a copy for their own files.
This is a sample signoff statement to use:
I acknowledge receipt of and understanding of the (Your Company) Policy. The policy is effective (Date) until further notice.
_______________________________________________________
Employee Signature
_______________________________________________________
Employee Name (Please Print)

________________________________

Date

Decide How You Will Communicate the Policy in the Future

Include the policy in your employee handbook. You may also want the policy to become part of your New Employee Orientation. Some companies place policies in their Intranet or in a policy folder on the computer network’s common drive. Determine whether you will want to distribute the policy by additional methods.
You will also want to archive and date former policies that this policy replaces. You may need them for legal or other reference in the future.

Interpret and Integrate the Policy

No matter what you write in the policy, your later policy application and work practices will determine the real meaning of the policy. Think “consistent” and “fair” as you interpret the policy over time. When you find your practices differing from the written policy, it is time to review and rewrite the policy and the cycle starts again.