Unit 8: assignment – core assessment

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Core Assessment – Problem-Solution Business Report with Research

Due Date: By 11:59m., Sunday, CT.

The final assignment in this course will bring together all the business communication skills you have learned throughout the term.  Your final writing project for this course is a 9-10 page formal business report in which you will:

  • specify a real organization you have worked in/with
  • identify a real problem or situation within that organization that needs addressing
  • conduct research to help you analyze the problem and weigh possible solutions
  • describe the problem and recommend a course of action in a formal report that
  • targets a specific decision-making audience within the organization

How do I choose an organization?

You get to choose your problem and organizational context you wish to write in, but the important thing is that you choose an organization you actually are familiar with as a participant, as this tends to make better reports. You don’t want to just choose a random company like Nike if you have never worked for them, as you will not be able to really identify an actual problem within the company, or be able to suggest solutions that would actually work in that particular organization.  You also wouldn’t have any ideas about how to persuade your audience, as you likely would not know who your report would be directed to or what their needs, expectations, beliefs, or values are.

You can choose organizations you currently work for or have worked for in the past, but you might also consider other organizations that you are involved with, for example, non-profit or religious organizations, military branches, student groups, parent groups, clubs, or hobbyist organizations.  Sometimes students have not had jobs before – that is ok, as you have certainly been part of some organization in your lifetime; in fact, you are part of an organization right now by participating in this class!  Park University does count as an organization you are part of and can propose solutions to.

What makes a good problem?

This is an important question to really think about as not every problem makes for a good report.  One thing to consider is whether a formal report would even be appropriate or necessary to solve the problem you have identified.  Some problems are fairly easily solved, have obvious solutions, or do not require research to find a solution.  You want to choose problem that is

  • Researchable
  • Not yes/no or too obviously solved
  • A real problem that affects actual people, or that affect the organization’s productivity, effectiveness, morale, or profitability

Can you give me some examples?

Yes!  Here are some real examples of reports other Park students have written:

Example 1:

Bailey recently got a new job in a preschool as a classroom teacher.  When filling out her paperwork, she was asked to sign a Gossip Policy in which she was asked to agree that she could be terminated immediately without severance if she gossiped at work. The policy was fairly vague about what gossip actually is, and Bailey has doubts about the legality or effectiveness of this policy, so she decides to conduct research on gossip policies, gossip in the workplace, and effective strategies for preventing unproductive gossip in the workplace.

During her research, she discovers through industry magazines for human resources personnel that gossip policies are a new trend in HR and have spread like wildfire throughout many companies in the last few years.  She also finds out from news sources that these policies have already have been challenged in court and might be considered by the National Labor Relations Board to be a constitutional violation of the 1st amendment.  By using the library databases, she finds lots of scholarly research on gossip in the workplace, including articles that suggest that gossip policies could be discriminatory (since published research shows that women are more likely to be perceived as gossiping).  She discovers some organizational communication research that shows that there is both positive and negative workplace gossip, and she also finds sources that address how to discourage workplace toxicity.

Bailey uses the information she gathered from her diverse sources to write a formal report to the director of her pre-school in which she shows how the current policy is problematic from both a legal and morale perspective, and suggests a more effective method of discouraging negative workplace gossip.

Example 2:

Ben is an international student at Park University, who struggled during his first year to adapt to an American context and educational system.  Although Park University offers some resources for international students to help them adjust and be successful, Ben wonders if other schools have more effective orientation programs for international students.  Ben reviews the websites for international student programs at other colleges and universities, and he also discovers that there is a wealth of academic research on international students, and innovative programs for helping international students succeed.  Ben uses this research to propose a new orientation program for international students to the Director of Park’s Office of International Education.

Some shorter examples:

Julie works for a local retail store with several branches in the area.  Several of the branches have been robbed in recent weeks.  She researches how retail stores like hers can discourage robberies, and she discovers that there are a number of tactics that have been shown by research to reduce theft and robbery.  She writes a report to her district manager suggesting changes to store layout, inventory management, installation of cameras and mirrors, discounts and perks for law enforcement, and use of greeters at the door.

Jim is a former Marine and is interested in helping veterans with PTSD and sleep disorders.  He does research on effective sleep therapy tactics used with veterans, such as sleep journals, and suggests a special program to a director at Veteran’s Affairs as a supplement to their already existing programs for veterans with PTSD.

Eddie works in a food-service industry characterized by toxic workplace relationships including both verbal (and even sometimes physical) confrontations between employees. He researches conflict resolution and management training programs to suggest a new training program to his district manager to  improve employee relationships, improve management intervention, and to promote productive conflict solutions in his workplace.

How will this project be completed?

To prepare for completion of the final draft of the report, you will:

  • Discuss organizations, problems, and audiences in Unit 1
  • Propose a topic and audience and do some preliminary research in Unit 4,
  • Prepare a first draft in Unit 6,
  • Receive peer and instructor feedback in Unit 7
  • Submit the final revised report in Unit 8

This is a term-long assignment, so you should be working on it a little bit each unit, even if the assignments or discussions during a particular unit may address other assignments.  Feel free to bounce ideas off your instructor or fellow students in the discussion areas related to the assignment or ask questions about your project in the instructor’s office area of the course.

What are the requirements for the assignment?

We will use the medium level of formality for the report, which you can find in a table on pg. 597.  For our purposes, we will also add a bibliography page to cite your sources.

That means that your report must have each of these parts, correctly formatted according to the guidelines found on the sample report beginning on page 598.

  • Cover Page
  • Table of Contents
  • Executive summary
  • Introduction
  • Body (with headings/subheadings as you choose)
  • Conclusion and Recommendations
  • Bibliography 

Visuals

Your report must use at least one visual you composed yourself, though you may also use other images so long as you cite the image source under the image.  We will talk in more detail about visuals in Unit 6, but keep in mind that visuals could include photographs, diagram, charts, graphs, tables, etc.

To make data visualizations, you can use data from your research which you can then turn into a graph or chart.  Both Word and Excel can make simple visualizations, and there are a range of free data visualization and image manipulation programs available.  For example, say a research article gives you some statistics in the form of percentages.  You could turn those numbers into a pie chart.  Make sure to cite your data source under the images you compose (differentiate between image source and data source, please, so your instructor can tell the difference between images you have borrowed and cited from elsewhere, and images you made yourself).

A good report will:

  • Follow the guidelines and format on report writing
  • Use effective organization and document design
  • Use sources effectively to construct and support your position
  • Use effective and grammatically correct business style
  • Use you-attitude and positive emphasis
  • Use at least one visual you composed yourself, effectively
  • Be revised and edited, with the assistance of your peers and instructor
  • Cite sources appropriately in the text and in the reference page using a citation style appropriate to your field of study (MLA or APA style; other styles as permitted by your instructor).
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