Category Archives: Academic contents
So far we have explored the skill of report writing in relation to the need for reading the brief, who the audience is and what is the purpose of the report. Now we are looking at
What does your audience know already
Not only do you need to consider the needs of your audience and what they want to find out from your report, you also have to take into account their background- what information do they already have? You don’t want to repeat unnecessary information since a report has to be as concise and as relevant to your readers as possible (and in most cases, you also have a word count to stick to!)
In a work situation, including information that your readers already know will undermine your authority and make your readers less receptive to your message. On your university course, your tutors want to see that you can be selective and make judgements about what is relevant. Your marking criteria will probably include something about relevance or suitability of the information.
Interview from some lecturers reveals the following:
- A main problem with most students’ surveying reports is they spend too long describing the client’s house – but the client already knows what colour their own door is … get to the interesting information more quickly. (Real Estate and Planning Lecturer)
- The introduction to a lab report shouldn’t be a long historical summary of all the experiments done in the field. The methods and findings of most older expeeriments have now been surpassed. (Food Science and Nutrition Lecturer)
- Demonstrating an understanding of the client’s problem is important. It shows the students know what they are talking about, but I always ask: What is new about this? What insights are you giving me? How does your interpretation of my problem give me confidence that you’re going to provide me with solutions? (International Marketing Lecturer)
The above findings all suggest only one thing and it is the fact that you do not have to dwell so much on what is already known; instead of describing what is known already, analyse the known to lead us to the unknown and explain your findings (new information).
What is the purpose?
As a report is a piece of informative writing, it not only has an audience who wants to be informed, it also has a purpose – a reason for wanting the information.
- What do your readers want to find out from your report?
- How will they be reading your report?
- Why will they be reading what you are reporting?
Often, the information in reports will be acted upon by your readers in some way. The information in different reports may have the purpose of advising, persuading or recommending the readers to do something.
You are asked to analyse whether regular exercise helps people manage their depression, and present the report to an audience of counsellors and doctors.
The purpose of the report is to inform the audience about whether this potential aid in the management of depression is supported by sufficient evidence.
The counsellors and doctors will want to know whether they should be recommending more regular exercise to their clients and patients based on your analysis of the evidence.
So your report needs to give clear guidance on whether the evidence suggests there are benefits to people with depression, and to what extent counsellors and doctors should act on this information.
But part of persuading an audience is being able to anticipate any scepticism they may have about the evidence you present. For example, the doctors and counsellors may raise the objection, how do we encourage our depressed patients to start exercising? You have to take this into account – just a brief acknowledgement of their concerns may make them more receptive to your message.
You may be thinking that the concept of ‘purpose’ doesn’t apply in the same way to reports on scientific experiences, but the principles of audience and purpose still apply. As a scientist, your audience is your tutor (and fellow scientists in your field) and your purpose may be to test your hypotheses. Based on the analysis of your findings, you may make recommendations for further research to fill gaps in your findings or to make them more robust.
If your brief asks you to make recommendations based on the information in your report, it is important that you make these clearly, and that they don’t get lost in the body of your conclusion. Recommendations serve a different purpose to a conclusion: a conclusion summarises why your findings are important, and recommendations say what your readers should do about this.
Who is the audience?
A report is a piece of informative writing, which means it has an intended audience who want to find things out from reading your report. Your brief, client request or assignment description should tell you who your intended audience is, and this has an important influence on the content of your report; you need to tailor the information to suit the needs of your audience.
Reports about the same subject written for different audiences would have a very different content and tone. For instance, if you were to write a report on the business growth plan for an intended new market entry initiative, how might your report differ if you were writing it for …
- the management of the business?
- the team of workers helping to implement the plan?
- the financier / sponsor of the project?
- the shareholders’ consumption in an annual general meeting?
- the potential indigenous strategic partner in the new market?
- the examiner / business school lecturer as an academic coursework assessment?
An audience has a vested interest in the information being reported and motivations for wanting the investigation conducted. As a report writer, you need to take these needs into consideration.
This is why, as a student, even though your brief is set by your tutor, you may be asked to write for an imaginary client or a professional situation. In this scenario, you need to consider who will use the information that you are reporting and how they will use it – for example, will your recommendations be passed on to a secondary audience or used to advise clients or managers? What will be relevant and useful for these audiences? or is it purely for academic grading … requiring a logical sequence from an in-depth literature review and critical analysis from credible academic sources with specific academic writing style and formatting?
If your main audience is your tutor, they still want to know that you can report the findings of your investigation in a logical and relevant way, relating them to the overall purpose of the investigation. Academic writing requires in-depth details while business report have need of precision and brevity (straight-to-the-point).
How do you pull together a body of literature? Often people become overwhelmed trying to organize information from many different sources. The mistake that many dissertation writers make when they try to write a review of literature is they describe and summarize individual sources rather than analyzing and synthesizing them. Critical analysis and synthesis involves consideration of the conceptual and methodological strengths and weaknesses of the studies you discuss, relating the sources to each other and to your proposed research, and identifying areas of convergence and divergence as well as unanswered questions that your study addresses.
There are a number of tools that can help you analyze and synthesize your key sources. In this post, you will learn about using a synthesis matrix to organize the sources in your literature review and integrate them into a unique interpretation that not only serves as the foundation of your study but also contributes to the dialogue in your field and establishes your credibility as a scholar.
Below are related FAQs and Answers:
My professor says I have to write a literature review, what do I do?
Well, to begin, you have to know that when writing a literature review, the goal of the researcher is to determine the current state of knowledge about a particular topic by asking, “What do we know or not know about this issue?” In conducting this type of research, it is imperative to examine several different sources to determine where the knowledge overlaps and where it falls short. A literature review requires a synthesis of different subtopics to come to a greater understanding of the state of knowledge on a larger issue. It works very much like a jigsaw puzzle. The individual pieces (arguments) must be put together in order to reveal the whole (state of knowledge).
So basically I just read the articles and summarize each one separately?
No, a literature review is not a summary. Rather than merely presenting a summary of each source, a literature review should be organized according to each subtopic discussed about the larger topic. For example, one section of a literature review might read “Researcher A suggests that X is true. Researcher B also argues that X is true, but points out that the effects of X may be different from those suggested by Researcher A.” It is clear that subtopic X is the main idea covered in these sentences. Researchers A and B agree that X is true, but they disagree on X’s effects. There is both agreement and disagreement, but what links the two arguments is the fact that they both concern X.
This sounds like a lot of information, how can I keep it organized?
Because a literature review is NOT a summary of these different sources, it can be very difficult to keep your research organized. It is especially difficult to organize the information in a way that makes the writing process simpler. One way that seems particularly helpful in organizing literature reviews is the synthesis matrix. The synthesis matrix is a chart that allows a researcher to sort and categorize the different arguments presented on an issue. Across the top of the chart are the spaces to record sources, and along the side of the chart are the spaces to record the main points of argument on the topic at hand. As you examine your first source, you will work vertically in the column belonging to that source, recording as much information as possible about each significant idea presented in the work. Follow a similar pattern for your following sources. As you find information that relates to your already identified main points, put it in the pertaining row. In your new sources, you will also probably find new main ideas that you need to add to your list at the left. You now have a completed matrix!
CREATING YOUR SYNTHESIS MATRIX
As you write your review, you will work horizontally in the row belonging to each point discussed. As you combine the information presented in each row, you will begin to see each section of your paper taking shape. Remember, some of the sources may not cover all of the main ideas listed on the left, but that can be useful also. The gaps on your chart could provide clues about the gaps in the current state of knowledge on your topic. It is probably best to begin your chart by labeling the columns both horizontally and vertically. The sample chart below illustrates how to do this.
Source #1 Source #2 Source #3
Main Idea A
Main Idea B
Main Idea C
Label the columns across the top of your chart with the author’s last name and year of publication or with a few keywords from the title of the work. Then label the sides of the chart with the main ideas that your sources discuss about your topic. As you read each source, make notes in the appropriate column about the information discussed in the work, as shown in the following chart.
[Click on the charts to have a clearer view.]
After your chart is complete, notice patterns of information. You may find that your sources, at times, discuss very similar material, or that they sometimes deal with completely different aspects of your topic. These patterns can be useful in creating a thesis statement that can guide your writing and keep you focused as you begin your draft.
WRITING YOUR REVIEW
Now how does the above matrix (chart) translate into a review of literature?
Here is an example: “World War Two and its Effect on Women.” This excerpt synthesizes information without summarizing.
While the articles used in this research agree that women made many advances during the Word War II period, it is crucial to realize that not all these changes were welcomed. In most cases women faced discrimination from just about everyone around them. Women in the workplace were often placed in positions of inferiority or treated as being less physically able to do the same work the men did. Many women were often not trained because they were viewed as temporary employees who were only there for the duration of the war (Bruley, 2003, pp.221-222). Women were very rarely given equal pay as men, even though some of them did the same work. Women in the military faced not only mental abuse but also physical harm from their male counterparts. According to Cornelsen (2005), there were many instances where female aviators were injured or killed due to being made to fly ill-maintained aircrafts or aircrafts that had been sabotaged. (p.114)
The sample above is an excellent example of how to synthesize information adequately. Notice how when transitioning from Bruley to Cornelsen the writer notes not only that the two articles are similar, but also how they are similar. The writer goes into detail about Bruley’s discussion of women in industry facing discrimination while noting that Stewart deals with prejudice in the military. The author also transitions well between the Bruley article and the Cornelsen article; rather than summarizing, the author draws comparisons between the two articles, giving relevant information and at the same time synthesizing the two works.
Researching is the most important facet for completing an assignment and ensuring it is of good quality. Secondary Research for an essay or literature review begins with the essay question itself or the literature review subject matter. If the assignment brief provides a structure for the essay then research would be easier as you would know the exact areas that are required but if a structure is not provided like in the case of a literature review then you will have to decide upon your own structure for the secondary research. Below are seven steps to producing a literature review that may be followed:
Try to decide upon the structure of your secondary research by looking at the title of the essay or research topic as the case may be. Break the title into the various components and then research accordingly.
The research process should try and identify the components and the links between them (in the title) and should also incorporate the implications this would have. For instance, lets say that the title of your essay or research topic is The Impact of Social Media on Youth Today.
Here you would need to look into two different aspects:
– Social Media
– Teenagers today and any notable trends pertaining to them
– Then you would need to correlate these two with the impact.
– You need to focus on the advantages or the positive impacts and also need to look into the disadvantages or the negative impacts and then finally conclude.
So the skeletal structure could be as follows:
Social Media- What is the social media? Any interesting points?
Youth Today- A general discussion about the youth today and focus on technology.
Positive impact of social media on youth
Negative Impact of social media on youth
Are the positives more or are the negatives more? Conclude with your own view point.
Further you would also need to refer to scholarly materials for authenticating your own ideas and identify some good places to find out the scholarly materials – this could include online article databases as well as the university library. However, if you do not have much access then Google Scholar can be a good place to assist you with the research and the referencing.
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