Learning objectives This unit aims to help you to: • understand the nature and purposes of workplace reports and the processes involved in writing them • understand both the overall and sectional organisation of workplace reports and apply this understanding to produce reports which are structured effectively • develop and apply the language skills needed to write clear and accurate workplace reports
Objective 1 • To understand the nature and purposes of workplace reports and the processes involved in writing them.
Introduction • Workplace reports are usually, but by no means always, written documents which are produced to provide information on projects or to address particular issues of interest to an organisation. • A report is the result of a process of enquiry and typically includes information on the purposes, procedures, results, conclusions and recommendations of the enquiry. • There are numerous kinds of workplace reports and these include: • Recommendation • Site • Case study • Proposal • Incident • Sales • Progress • Feasibility
Introduction (2) Many of the report types are common to most workplaces, but some are more frequently found in particular occupational areas e.g. the case study report is common in social work and related professions. Reports are produced in different formats: some as letters or memos, others as much longer, more formal documents. However, all reports have certain similar features: • Purpose: reports are written to solve problems and to recommend action to exploit opportunities • Audience: reports are usually written by order of senior staff and are then read by senior staff i.e. reports are normally intra-company documents for upward transmission
Introduction (3) • Nature and Status:reports are highly valued, permanent records of processes of enquiry. • Structure and language:reports are structured in sections; each section follows certain moves or “steps” and displays certain language features. Longer reports often begin with an executive summary or overview of the whole report.
Business reports in Hong Kong Research has shown that most reports written in Hong Kong workplaces are written in English. The table below displays the results of a recent survey of the use of both English and Chinese for writing workplace documents. Nearly 1,500 Hong Kong professionals employed full-time were surveyed. The N/A column shows the percentages of professionals not required to write particular text types. It is interesting because it shows the truly bilingual nature of written communication in the professional workplace in Hong Kong.
This unit aims to help… The predominant use of English for report writing means that you will need to develop your skills in this area to a high level. To help you do this, work on the common grammatical and vocabulary-related features of reports has been included in this unit. The unit, which is divided into three major sections, is designed to take you from understanding the basic processes involved in report writing through the organisational and language features of reports and, finally, gives you the opportunity to research and write a business-related report. The major sections are: ·the report writing process · the structure and language of reports · researching and writing a report
The Report Writing Process As we have already learned, a report is the product of a process of enquiry, the purpose of which is often to solve a business-related problem or to investigate commercial opportunities. All processes of enquiry consist of a number of steps. Task 1 below offers you the opportunity to become familiar with six basic steps.
Task 1: The 6 steps of enquiry Look at the list below of six steps in the process of enquiry. The steps are not in the correct order. Your task is to write each step in the correct order (and in full) in the appropriate box of the flow chart below. • Write draft report • Company identifies area for investigation • Submit improved report • Personnel are identified to research the area and produce a report • Edit and proofread the draft to improve it • Researchers decide on methods or procedures for gathering data (reviewing statistics, making direct observations, conducting questionnaire surveys, holding meetings and interviews and undertaking desk research
Task 1: The 6 steps of enquiry (answers) • A) Company identifies area for investigation • B) Personnel are identified to research the area and produce a report • C) Researchers decide on methods or procedures for gathering data e.g. reviewing statistics, making direct observations, conducting questionnaire surveys, holding meetings and interviews and undertaking desk research • D) Write draft report • E) Edit and proofread the draft to improve it • F) Submit improved report
Objective 2 To understand both the overall and sectional organisation of workplace reports and apply this understanding to produce reports which are structured effectively
An incident report Having established a useful set of guidelines for the report writing process, we will now go on to examine in the next sectionthe structure and language of reports.We begin with a very short incident report written in memo format. The report is the result of a complaint about rats made by a Hong Kong householder.
Structure of Reports As you learned in the introduction, reports are divided into certain sections. In a very short report, sub-headings may not be given but, if the report is well written, the sections will still be clear. The incident report below has no sub-headings but its organisation into sections is quite clear.
Task 2: Defining the purpose of report sections Read the report and then select from these sub-headings: • Recommendations • Procedure • Findings • Introduction • Conclusion
Memo Report (1) • Write each sub-heading in an appropriate position in the margin to the left of the report. Go on then to examine the verbs (in bold typeface) and comment on the tenses used in the different sections. MEMO Memo report is for upward transmission From: T.C. Ma To: Senior Health Officer Rodent Inspector Date: 28 June 2001 Ref: 58/AX/213
Memo Report (2) Rat Complaint 1. I received a telephone complaint about rats from Mr Chan Hing-hung, householder of G/F, 29A, Wanchai Road, Hong Kong on 26 June. 2. I visited the premises on 27 June to talk to Mr Chan and to make observations.
Memo Report (3) 3.I found: a. four large rat holes in the back yard of the premises, b. rat droppings in the yard, but none in the house, and c. that the yard was clean and tidy and there was no edible refuse. • Mr Chan informed me that rats had never been seen in the house but had been seen crossing the yard late at night. • Since the rats cannot find food in the premises, it is likely that they find their food in the neighbourhood. 6.I suggest that: a) we visit other premises in the neighbourhood in order to find out where the rats get food, and b) we place two rat traps (model AN2) near the rat holes and ask the Mr Chan to ring this department if a rat is caught.
Report sections: functions • the introductionexplains what the report is about and who ordered it • the procedure(sometimes called the method) describes how the subject of the report was investigated • the findingspresents the results of the process of investigation • the conclusionsummarises the findings and explains their importance • the recommendationsmake suggestions for action based on the findings and conclusions. • and explains their importance • the recommendations section makes suggestions for action based on the findings and conclusions.
Analysing a longer report (1) We will now examine in greater detail the moves or steps a writer makes when writing the different sections of a report. We will also analyse and practise some of the language commonly used in the different sections. We will begin by reading a report on the declining number of visitors to Hong Kong.
Analysing a longer report (2) The report was requested by the Director of theHong Kong Tourist Organisation(HKTO). The Director of theHKTO , Mrs. Y.W. Chan, has become concerned recently about the causes of the decline in overseas visitors to Hong Kong. Mrs Chan asked the writer of the report to investigate possible causes and recommend ways in which visitor numbers might be increased. Note that this report is presented in numbered sections and is not in memo format. Also, the report writer has provided data in tables and graphs to make the findings clearer.
A report on the decline in the number of visitors to Hong Kong: causes and possible solutions 1. Introduction This report was requested by Mrs. Y.W. Chan, the Director of the Hong Kong Tourist Organisation (HKTO), on 20 June, 2001. The report is a response to the falling numbers of visitors from overseas to Hong Kong; a phenomenon which is losing billions of dollars for the Hong Kong economy. The main aim of the report is to identify the causes of the decline in tourist numbers to Hong Kong and recommend ways to increase these numbers. In the report, I present findings which attempt to explain the decline in the number of visitors from overseas to Hong Kong; a decline which can be traced back to the period following the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. Following the findings, brief conclusions are drawn and a number of recommendations are made as to how visitor numbers might be increased.
Tourism Report (2 ) 2. Procedure Data for the report were gathered between July and August, 2001. Primary data were collected by interviewing 2,000 randomly selected overseas visitors to Hong Kong. Twenty hotels offering 3 star service or above were surveyed in order to determine their room occupancy rates. Secondary data were obtained by extensive reading of relevant newspaper and journal articles.
Tourism Report (3.1) 3. Findings 3.1 Perhaps the most important cause of declining numbers of visitors was the handover itself. Prior to 1997, visitors flooded into Hong Kong. They felt that after the handover Hong Kong would change beyond recognition, and so they wanted to see the city and what it had become famous for: crowded streets, markets, shopping, restaurants, and exciting night life. Hong Kong did not change greatly after 1997, so having seen the city, visitors have little motivation to return here. The drop in overseas visitor numbers is reflected in the room occupancy rates for Hong Kong hotels after 1997 (see Fig. 1 below).
Tourism Report (3 fig1.) Fig. 1: Room Occupancy Rates in Hong Kong hotels in the 1990s
Tourism Report (3.2) 3.2 The trend graph shows that at the beginning of the decade occupancy rates were strong and reached a peak of 95% around 1991. There then followed a steady decline to a low point of about 85% at the end of 1993. Rates increased gradually in 1994 before levelling offat around 90% until 1998, when there was a sudden decline.
Tourism Report (3.3) However, the handover is by no means the only reason behind the declining numbers of visitors. A greater concern is that the expectations of tourists have changed. Tourists demand far more than they used to and are determined to get good value for money. Twenty years ago, shopping in Hong Kong represented excellent value for money. Visitors from the West could easily get back the cost of their air tickets by taking advantage of Hong Kong's cheap prices for cameras, stereos and garments. However, prices in Hong Kong are now not noticeably cheaper than in the West.
Tourism Report (3.4) 3.4 Another important concern for Hong Kong is that people are becoming increasing aware of environmental issues and while other countries have been cleaning up their environments, Hong Kong has lagged behind in environmental initiatives. The air is more polluted than ever and the harbour is still smelly and littered with countless tonnes of rubbish. The level of noise pollution is also extremely high. Increasingly, tourists are not willing to tolerate a bad environment in the places they visit.
Tourism Report (3.5) 3.5 As Table 1 below shows, most ofthe Americans we interviewed stated that, as a direct result of the heavily polluted environment, they would probably not return to Hong Kong in the future. Nearly three quarters of the Australians interviewed and more than half the British agreed with the views expressed by the American interviewees.
Tourism Report (3.5 Table) Table 1: Negative views on Hong Kong’s physical environment by nationality
Tourism Report (3.6) 3.6A final problem is that Hong Kong has a reputation abroad for rudeness to visitors. As Table 2 below reveals service in shops and restaurants is generally considered to be poor compared with other parts of the world. We asked our interviewees to rate different aspects of service on a five-point scale (1=very poor to 5=excellent).
Tourism Report (3.6 Table 2) Table 2: Tourists’ satisfaction with services in service outlets
Tourism Report (3.7) 3.7 The overall mean score for Hong Kong is 2.0, which may be described as “poor”. Singapore and North America achieved significantly higher overall means. A comparison of tourists’ views on the friendliness and helpfulness of shop assistants presents a particularly unwelcome result for Hong Kong. In the interviews, some visitors made the point that sometimes the service of shop staff is more than just rude, it also involves cheating. The interviewees pointed out that people who are cheated are unlikely to return to Hong Kong, and will probably mention their experience to their friends who, in turn, will be put off visiting Hong Kong.
Tourism Report (Conclusion) 4. Conclusion The findings clearly indicate that tourists are now looking for more than just a shopping trip; they are seeking a complete experience with plenty of attractions to visit, good service and a pleasant environment. Our market research has shown, however, that Hong Kong simply does not have enough attractions. The average visitor to Hong Kong stays here for just 3.5 days and a shopping trip to Stanley market and a visit to Ocean Park are still the main attractions for them. It can be concluded that to encourage visitors to stay longer (and hence spend more money) and to get greater numbers to come here, Hong Kong must develop a new and less polluted tourist-friendly infrastructure with new and exciting attractions.
Tourism Report (5 Recommendations) 5. Recommendations 5.1 Since shopping is no longer such good value in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Tourist Organisation should increase motivation to visit Hong Kong by offering a range of new attractions. New attractions could include theme parks, resort hotels with golfing facilities, and organised country park hiking holidays. 5.2 Given thatso many tourists are deeply concerned about Hong Kong’s polluted environment,we also recommend that the HKTO form a sub-committee to lobby government to take measures to reduce air pollution as a matter of urgency. 5.3 In view of the poor standard of service experienced by many tourists, we suggest that steps be taken to improve the attitude of service staff towards tourists. An advertising campaign and rewards for courteous staff would probably help to achieve improvements in this area.
Objective 3 • To develop and apply the language skills needed to write clear and accurate workplace reports
The Language of Reports 1 We will now examine the language of report sections in some detail. To do this, we will refer to the report you have just read on tourism in Hong Kong. We will begin by considering the Introduction section of the report. The introduction to the tourism report is reprinted below in the left hand column. As you reread the introduction, look at the notes in the right hand column, which explain the moves or steps the writer makes. Pay attention also to the words and phrases in bold typeface.
Task 3 Having examined the moves made by the writer, we will now turn our attention to the language features of introductions. Respond to the questions below in pairs. 1.Which voice seems to used most – active or passive? Why is this? 2.Underline all the verbs in the introduction. Which tenses are used? Does a particular tense predominate? If so, why?
Task 4 In the Introduction below (to a report on employment among graduates), put the verbs in brackets in the correct form where necessary. This report (present) the findings of a survey of graduate employment (carryout) in 1999. The main aim of the survey is to gather information on the experiences of graduates in their first year of full-time employment. The report writing task has involved (analyse) the gathered data, (draw) conclusions and (make) recommendations. It is (hope) that the recommendations will be helpful to new graduates as they (prepare) to join the labour market. The findings of this report (present) with the aid of graphics and are (follow) by conclusions and recommendations.
Collocation In any language, certain words seem to belong together. This is called collocation and being aware of collocation can help you build your vocabulary. An example of the pairing of words (a verb and a noun in this instance) is present and findings in the introduction to the tourism report. Task 7 below gives you the opportunity to familiarise yourself with ten common pairings of verbs and nouns in report writing. (Not sure of a word? Go to http://vlc.polyu.edu.hk and look it up in the Virtual Language Centre’s dictionary)
Task 5: Collocated verb-noun pairs Work in pairs to match each of the verbs in the table below, with an appropriate noun by writing a letter in the brackets. The first verb has been matched with its noun for you as an example. Tasks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15
The Procedure Section The Procedure section (and remember that sometimes this section is called the Method) of the tourism report is reprinted below. Pay attention to the words and phrases in bold typeface and also look at the notes in the right hand margin, which explain the moves or steps the writer makes.
Data for the report were gathered between July and August, 2001. Primary data were collected by interviewing 2,000 randomly selected overseas visitors to Hong Kong. Twenty hotels offering 3 star service or above were surveyed in order to determine their room occupancy rates. Secondary data were obtained by extensive reading of relevant newspaper and journal articles. Statement of the timing of the gathering of data Description of the sources of both primary and secondary data and the procedures used to gather the data Procedure Section (2)
Task 6 We will now focus on the use of verb tense and voice. Work in pairs to answer the questions below. 1. Which voice (active or passive) seems to predominate? Why is this? 2. Underline all the verbs in the Procedure section. Which tenses are used? Does a particular tense predominate? If so, why?
Task 7: Passive Voice Check and if necessary correct the verb forms of the passive voice in the Procedure section below. The section is taken from the report on graduate employment introduced in Task 4. The baseline data for this report was gathered by means of a questionnaire survey of a large sample of Hong Kong university graduates. The questionnaire was divide into three main sections: personal information, job hunting strategies, and views about current job. In addition to the survey, interviews were hold with small groups of recent graduates in their first year of full-time employment. The survey sample consisted of 680 females and 710 males who were draw proportionately from the areas Humanities, Business Studies and Engineering. Of the 1,390 questionnaires distribute, 1,130 was returned and of these 1,105 were completed accurately enough to justify analysis.
Style in Report Writing We learned in the introduction to this unit that a report is a highly valued, high status document and is nearly always written for upward transmission within an organisation. Such documents need usually to be written in a formal style and a formal style is partly achieved by using appropriate vocabulary. Task 8 below gives you the opportunity to identify and replace words and phrases which are too informal to use in a report.
Task 8: Style in Report Writing Formality.In the procedure section below, underline the informal words and phrases and replace them with suitable (formal) ones from the box. You may need to change the form of some words. Follow the example.
Task 8: Text To take a look at the problem of declining numbers of visitors to Hong Kong, we decided to do a really big survey. We made a questionnaire and handed it out to 2,000 people. We did this because right now we don’t have any reliable hard data on why tourist numbers are declining. There’s not much information available either on what might bring them back to Hong Kong. The return rate for the questionnaire was really bad at only 13% but this figure should provide a firm enough basis for talking about why tourist numbers are going down. no very disappointing decline design currently investigate large-scale distribute little discuss carry out