Learning Outcomes from Report-Writing Unit • Understand what makes reports effective (in general) • Understand what makes a particular report effective or ineffective • Be able to articulate a purpose statement • Be able to create a report and include its necessary components • Be able to engage in critical analysis
Components of Critical Analysis • Articulate questions • Search appropriate sources to address those questions • Evaluate and interpret your findings • Articulate your evaluative criteria • Draw conclusions and make recommendations
Information vs. Analysis • An informational report simply relays information • No problem to be solved except the need for more information • Contextless, audienceless • An analytical report provides a foundation for decision-making. • Who cares about the information in the report? • Why do they care?
Attributes of Analytical Reports • Answers the following questions: • Based on the information gathered about this issue, what do we know? • What conclusions can we draw? • What should we do or not do? • Analytical reports include evaluation and lead to recommendations!
Why are purpose statements important? • Provides a “clear focus” for your report • Allows you to define the content and organization of the report • Tells readers how the report will fulfill their need(s) for information
The format of a purpose statement • You should articulate your purpose statement in a single sentence. • “The purpose of this report is . . .” • Make reference to the problem you address in the report • Explain how your report will respond to the problem
Canadian geese are interesting birds. • Canadian geese are remarkable for their ability to fly and honk simultaneously.
Canadian geese are interesting birds. • Canadian geese are remarkable for their ability to fly and honk simultaneously. • Canadian geese are causing problems for cities and golf courses.
The purpose of this report is to recommend strategies that cities and golf courses can take to deal with the problem of the increasing Canadian geese population.
Class Activity • With one or two other people, write two purpose statements. One statement should be for an informative report and one statement should be for an analytical report.
MSU parking Gage Complex cafeteria food Chronic wasting disease Samuel Alito Nutrasweet Skateboards and sidewalks Employee absenteeism Green construction Dual processor systems Christopher Columbus More . . .
Types of analysis • Causal: Why does X happen? • Identify problem • Examine possible causes • Recommend solutions • Comparative: Is X or Y Better for Our Purpose? • Identify the criteria • Rank the criteria • Compare items according to the criteria and recommend the best one • Feasibility: Is This a Good Idea? • Consider the strength of supporting reasons • Consider the strength of opposing reasons • Weigh the pros and cons and recommend a course of action
Characteristics of Analytical Reports • Include the problem’s background • Compare two or more alternative solutions or courses of action • Usually leads to recommendations
Procedure of Analysis • Ask questions • Search the best sources • Evaluate and interpret your findings • Articulate your evaluative criteria • Draw conclusions and make recommendations
Elements of Analysis • Clearly identify the problem or goal • Identify the problem or goal precisely • Define the main question • Define subordinate questions • Develop a purpose statement • Provide adequate but not excessive data • Do not confuse the issue with excessive information • Provide accurate and balanced data • Avoid stacking evidence to support a preconceived point of view • Present equivocal findings accurately, then argue for which feature should receive priority • Provide fully interpreted data • Identify what is important and unimportant • Identify what belongs together and what does not • Subordinate your personal bias • Use appropriate visuals • Draw valid conclusions and recommendations
Feasibility Reports • Purpose: to assess whether an idea or plan or course of action is realistic and practical – “how doable is this idea?” • Questions • Is this course of action likely to succeed? • Why or why not? • What are the assessment criteria (e.g., cost, safety, productivity)? • Do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks or risks? • What are the pros and cons? • What alternatives do we have? • Can we get the funding? • Should we do anything at all? Should we wait?
Recommendation Report • Purpose: to interpret data, draw conclusions, and recommend a course of action, usually in response to a specific problem. • Questions • What are the possible courses of action to take? • Which is the best course of action to take? • Which factors are important in making this decision? • What limitations exist that will impact my recommendation?
An Outline for Analytical Reports • Introduction • Definition, Description, and Background • Purpose of the Report, and Intended Audience • Method of Inquiry • Limitations of the Study • Working Definitions (here or in a glossary) • Scope of the Inquiry (topics listed in logical order) • Conclusion(s) of the Inquiry (briefly stated) • Collected Data • First Topic for Investigation • Definition • Findings • Interpretation of Findings • Second Topic for Investigation • First subtopic • Definition • Findings • Interpretation of findings • Second subtopic (and so on) • Conclusion • Summary of Findings • Overall Interpretation of Findings (as needed) • Recommendations (as needed and feasible)
More information on analytical reports: Introduction • Engage and orient the audience • Provide brief background • Identify your topic’s origin and significance • Define or describe the problem or issue • Explain the report’s purpose • Briefly identify your research methods • Explain data omissions • List working definitions but if you have more than two or three, place them in a glossary • List the topics you have researched • Briefly preview your conclusion
More information on analytical reports: Body • Describe and explain your findings • Present a clear and detailed picture of the evidence, interpretations, and reasoning on which you will base your conclusion • Divide topics into subtopics • Use informative headings as aids to navigation
More information on analytical reports: Conclusion • Summarize to accurately reflect the body of the report • Offer an interpretation consistent with the findings in the summary • Present recommendations that are consistent with the report’s purpose, evidence, and interpretations. • Do not offer new facts in the conclusion.