Category Archives: Personal development matters
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).
“Planned daily action is the key to achieving your goals. Act daily in the direction of your set goal no matter what you face.”
“Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.”
Just like several other thousands, or perhaps millions of those who fell to the blind theories of societal and ideological misconception of education from parents, also, I was a victim. The south-western region of Nigeria where I grew up is generally known for its distinctively adopted western culture; as it has through education, contributed to national development by building intellectual people more than any other region in Nigeria. Yet a strong resentment towards careers and professions tagged as irrelevant still fester and thrived in this region. Doctors are worshipped like gods; Nurses are demi-gods while lawyers and engineers were but according to the Greek description of father of all gods—‘Zeus’. Then every other profession is considered as mere entertainment. Clearly, In the African mentality that revolves round my birth were set of rules that automatically dictates parent or guidance’s choice of education and career for a child’s topmost preference; this over the years got me doing the wrong thing- obsessively studying Biological science-the greatest mistake I have ever made!.
During the time I got myself busy studying what I never loved, I have always agreed with absolute self conviction that there is more to life than what I am giving it; the thirst for this in-turn pointed to a vacuum that needed to be filled- the need for a self discovery. However, not until recently, six month ago, when a UK Business Doctor and a research analyst found interest in one of my write-up. To him, he described the creative reasoning embedded in the write up as a sound, critical and analytical manner of an expressed writing dexterity. Moreover, I have always had passion for writing but not for once did I consider it a talent, even amidst complement for a job well done. One month later, he employed me thinking with the weight my writing skills behold, I should gain a research experience. I have never done any research so I started learning on-the-job with him.
My first research assignment was to find out “The effects of oil price fluctuations on economic growth of the world’s top three largest importing and exporting countries.” This assignment coincidentally walked hand-in-hand with the international drop in crude price. Nigeria as an oil-exporting country suffers a huge blow as a result of the constant degenerating petroleum price, and I was fascinated to realize the relationship this had with the quality of life I lived as a citizen when making a comparative study to when the price was quite stable and good. As reality got dawn on me, I got more captivated after I identified with Hamilton’s (1983) “Oil and the Macroeconomy since World War II” study, that truly there is an existence of a co-integrating or granger causal relationship between the price of oil and subsequent economic recessions, as mostly displayed on the macro-economic and financial variables such as GDP and CPI, using the United State as a case study. Since that time four months ago, my career interest changed; I wanted to research econometrics as I enjoyed its practicality relating it to my contemporary activities and environment. I wanted to be an economist!
At first glance, my education doesn’t quite reflect my passion for economics. I am often asked how biological sciences and economics coadunate. But as a researcher, activities such as youth empowerment programs, business development, human resource management, research consultancy, management consultancy, project management and nation branding are related services which I got myself engage with, and have over the years horned my analytical skills, led me to the idea of studying economics in relation to human generally, and provide platforms upon which individuals including personality’s like myself, organisations and government can improve the quality of life of the people they are accountable to with the power of collective actions. Being a driver or a part of an initiative of such importance in several occasions has proved me gratifying on another level by giving my life and work a social consciousness.
I had participated in activism as a comrade, yet my present experience radically altered how I viewed the world and its potential for change, as I have given myself to various social courses; part of which young individuals who are yet to make clear career choice are educated in the career programmes which I organized through my “YOUTH change DRIVE-Africa (YCD-A) Project:” a scheme fashioned to help those who for any reason are becoming vulnerable or have fallen prey to the misperceived theories of education and careers from parents, committed to creating an awareness that educates youths and teens on career choices, in order for them not to make the same mistake as I made. Subsequently, this programme has recorded a great success as diverse of response is received from our out-reached students, thanking us for sparing time to spread our message. The kinds of responses that I receive are what makes me happy and motivated me to continue. They are great achievement which I performed justly as a moral obligation and with a high sense of responsibility.
Organizing various public events has also taught me successful leadership and teamwork skills, applicable to academic and social settings. I’ve learned the subtleties of integrating multiple perspectives into shared vision and a success through networking with various organisation and administrators, national recognized activists, congress persons, fellow research analyst and the general public. As head of Youth Change Drive-Africa’s 2015 “Operation Salvage,” attended by more than 1500 students of the Lagos Model College, Nigeria. I headed the committee which involves eleven school teacher-coordinators and three external individuals in distributing the “Rhapsody of realities”: A personal daily motivational material for self guidance- organizing has honed my critical thinking skills and prepared me for performing innovative and multidisciplinary undergraduate research.
Research experiences, such as working as a research assistant to the Nigeria Country Representative of the D4M Contact UK and Managing Partner of Edusearch, conducting research methods seminars as well as organising practical training on using computer simulated management programs for analysing relevant data, in Lagos Nigeria, have prepared me well for undergraduate studies in Economics. I am currently co-authoring an article on “The effect of promotional strategy on corporate brand equity in the Nigerian Telecommunication Industry.” Just as authors philosophy and views are not limited to influencing any research work. My expectation in conducting this research is to as well make my economic views and perspective speak, as I intend to make it drive and influence the research work. According to “Aaker’s 1991 Brand equity model study,” Brand equity refers to the ultimate incremental utility or value added to a product from its brand name.” I look forward to diligently expound on the research by giving a distinctive approach using an economic stance as my focus point—the amount of equity a brand commands in a market, especially Nigerian market. With confidence, I want to proceed with undergraduate studies at Middlesex University to gain a degree and greater research opportunities in the midst of British culture.
I believe that my personal interests, experiences, and social consciousness would contribute as much as my research skills to Middlesex University’s social and intellectual culture. Middlesex University offers me an opportunity to pursue a Degree in European Economics while taking supplementary courses in research and project management. Equally, I could have research guidance from staff in Accounting, Finance and Social Sciences, where deep Economic dynamics and behaviour in relation to human day-to-day-activities are being studied. At Middlesex University if given the opportunity, I could nurture and share a unique set of social experiences, explore my research interests, and contribute an innovative, informative, and multidisciplinary new approaches to my field. Ensconcing myself in British culture, intellectual environment, and the vigorous Economics and Research study at Middlesex University which is the chance of a lifetime. I hope to be able to seize it.
Additionally, my decision for choosing Middlesex University as my choice of higher learning institution was also critically informed after going through an “employability and Educational survey conducted by Phillips consulting, Nigeria: One of Nigeria’s Largest Educational/management Consulting firm.” In this report that seek to determine the effect of the quality of tertiary education on the employability of fresh graduates in Nigeria; education and employability of Nigerian graduate is primarily focused on. The writer tentatively, described Nigerian educational system as a problem of national significance which demands government’s attention. Stating further that the development of this sector is hindered by a number of obstacles that prevent the country from attaining a healthy economic and societal development; Part of such problems are highlighted as inadequate infrastructure and lack of proper maintenance due to overcrowding; as numbers of available universities is quite low when compared to the number of students, Inaccessibility of adequate teaching facilities, and lot more. This deficiency over the years has made Nigerian graduate unemployable as the skill and knowledge that will enable them to function in the labour market, which every employer requires and look forward to having, is not found in most graduates because of the poor learning exposure and environment (Phillips Consulting, 2014). However, I believe the United Kingdom educational system and its environment, especially Middlesex’s offers me the ultimate priviledge that will help me get the best of education and prevent me from being a victim of what I term as “ungrounded education” of the Nigerian Universities. After wasting so many years, I do not want just any education. I want the best: my reason for choosing to study economics in the United Kingdom’s Middlesex University, out of the thousand Universities around the world.
I have found my mentor, and I’d like to tell you who he is and how this has come about. He’s a coach; whose under his tutelage I had consciously learn how to begin this writing. A proactive, result-oriented, multi-disciplinary business professional with experience in business and management research, strategy development & implementation, business development, strategic marketing and project management. He is an excellent self starter who discovered the talent I never saw in myself- the difference my writing skill could make. He co-researched on a comprehensive study of growth needs and support services available to UK local businesses, involving 2,263 sampled businesses in Barnet borough UK. His excellent works distinguished him when he became one of the top one percent Nigerian Management Consultant in less than two years of practice within the Nigeria market-Mayowa Tolulope Odunnaike: an international professional ambassador of Middlesex University through whom I found the quality of Middlesex (MDX) products and the Nigeria Country Representative of D4M Contact UK. The opportunity to work with him as a research assistant and then as associate has inspired me to pursue further research skills and enrich my understanding of field practice of economics and its critical theories. Mayowa has found his way, and I hope someday I would find mine- to the path of becoming the scholar I would always become- through MDX.
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.