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Writing Researched Reports Overview from The Norton Field Guide to Writing Many kinds of writing report information. This overview reinforces the concepts found in the online supplements regarding reports that are written to inform readers about a particular topic. In most cases, this kind of writing calls for some kind of research: you need to know your subject in order to report on it. When you write to report information, you are the expert. KEY FEATURES OF A RESEARCH REPORT Key Features / Reports ? A tightly focused topic: The goal of this kind of writing is to inform readers about something without digressing — and without, in general, bringing in the writer’s own opinion. ? Accurate, well-researched information: Reports usually require some research. The kind of research depends on the topic. Library research to locate scholarly sources may be necessary for some topics. Other topics may require field research — interviews, observations, and so on. Both are relevant for this assignment. ? Various writing strategies: Presenting information usually requires various organizing patterns — defining, comparing, classifying, explaining processes, analyzing causes and effects, and so on. ? Clear Definitions: Reports need to provide clear definitions of any key terms that their audience may not know. ? Appropriate Design: Reports often combine paragraphs with information presented in lists, tables, diagrams, and other illustrations. When you’re presenting information, you need to think carefully about how to design it — numerical data, for instance, can be easier to understand and remember in a table than in a paragraph. Often a photograph can bring a subject to life. Summarized information may be presented as a full-page infographic. Choosing a Topic ? For this report, you will choose your own topic, then research the topic, find, evaluate, and incorporate relevant sources, and of course, present your written report. These guidelines should help you decide on a topic: ? What interests you? ? What do you wish you knew more about? The possible topics for informational reports are limitless, but the topics that you’re most likely to write well on are those that engage you. They may be academic in nature or reflect your personal interests or both. Likewise, topics related to your major or course of study are already intriguing to you, and a formal written report can allow you to go deeper into related subjects. ? Use strategies from Hall and Wahlin’s test about how to move from a topic of interest to a report topic. ? If nothing comes to mind find a topic by examining these options: o an intriguing technology: hybrid cars, cell phones, roller coasters (or others specific to the field of engineering) o sports: soccer, snowboarding, ultimate Frisbee, basketball (report on the physics of Frisbees or the engineering needed to construct sport-specific equipment) o an important world event: 9/11, Arab Spring (2011), Brexit; 2020 U.S. elections o great moments in engineering, science, or technology: the discovery of DNA; the tech-boom of the 1980 (or other time period); the invention of the superconductor; the first manned space flight o a common object: Post-it notes, hooded sweatshirts, gel pens, mascara, and how it developed a significant environmental issue: Arctic oil drilling, the Clean Air Act, mercury and the fish supply the arts: hip-hop, outsider art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Savion Glover, Mary Cassatt; how art, design and technology converge in sculpture or in kitchenware designs. Build on prior classwork but try to step outside your immediate field of reference. o List a few possibilities, and then choose one that you’d like to know more about — and that your audience might find interesting, too. o You might start out by phrasing your topic as a question that your research will attempt to answer. For example: How is Google different from Yahoo!? Why did the World Trade Center towers collapse on themselves rather than fall sideways? What kind of training do football referees receive? Considering the Rhetorical Situation: ? PURPOSE: Why are you presenting this information? To teach readers about the subject? (yes, and . . . )? To demonstrate your research and writing skills? (to some extent but that can’t be all . . . ) For some other reason? ? AUDIENCE: Who will read this report? What do they already know about the topic? What background information do they need in order to understand it? Will you need to define any terms? What do they want or need to know about it? Why should they care? How can you attract their interest? For this assignment, consider your peers in class as 2 the ideal audience, and more generally, an educated person who does not know a lot about the topic and would be interested in learning more. ? STANCE: What is your own attitude toward your subject? What interests you most about it? What about it seems important? In technical writing, stance (tone) should be objective, and third-person. However, that doesn’t mean that your personal interests and opinions won’t impact your topic, research plan, and written report. ? MEDIA / DESIGN: For this report, you will write in block-paragraph form, with a logical organization (general to specific, usually). However, you will want to make choices about how to communicate data, such as in chart, graph, or table form. Headings will be appropriate but not required. Diagrams, photographs, or other illustrations may help you explain the information. Your final piece should be professionally written, designed, and edited. Generating Ideas and Text Good reports share certain features that make them useful and interesting to readers. Remember that your goal is to present information clearly and accurately. ? Start by exploring your topic. Explore what you already know about your topic. Write out whatever you know or want to know about your topic. ? Narrow your topic. To write a good report, you need to narrow your focus — and to narrow your focus, you need to know a fair amount about your subject. Preliminarily define the topic and key terms. What are the key issues? ? Start your research. If you don’t know much about the subject, you need to do some research to discover focused, workable topics. This research may shape your thinking and change your focus. ? Find SOURCES that can give you a general sense of the subject, such as an encyclopedia entry, a magazine article, an Internet site, perhaps an interview with an expert. Your goal at this point is simply to find out what issues your topic might include and then to focus your efforts on an aspect of the topic you will be able to cover. ? Come up with a tentative thesis. Once you narrow your topic, write out a statement that explains your topic enough to make it manageable. At this point, however, you need only a tentative thesis that will help focus any research you do. Do any necessary research, and revise your thesis. ? To focus your research efforts, OUTLINE the aspects of your topic that you expect to discuss. Identify any aspects that require additional research and DEVELOP A RESEARCH PLAN. Expect to revise your outline as you do your research, since more information will be available for some aspects of your topic than others, some may prove irrelevant to your topic, and some may turn out to be more than you need. You’ll need to revisit your tentative thesis once you’ve done any research, to finalize your statement. 3 Ways of Organizing a Report publish a beginning. Essays that report information often need to begin in a way that will get your audience interested in the topic. o Simply state your thesis. Opening with a thesis works well when you can assume your readers have enough familiarity with your topic that you don’t need to give detailed background information. o Start with something that will provoke readers’ interest. o Begin with an illustrative example. 4 publish an ending. Think about what you want your readers to read last. An effective ending leaves them thinking about your topic. o Summarize your main points. This is a good way to end when you’ve presented several key points you want readers to remember. o Point out the implications of your report. o Frame your report by referring to its introduction. o Tell what happened. If you are reporting on an event, you could conclude by telling how it turns out. o Come up with a title. You’ll want a title that tells readers something about your subject — and makes them want to know more. Considering Matters of Design o Write your report in paragraph form, but think about the information you’re presenting and how you can design and format it to make it as easy as possible for your readers to understand. o Ask yourself these questions: • What is an appropriate TYPEFACE? Something serious like Times Roman, something traditional like Courier, something else? • Would it help your readers if you divided your report into shorter sections and added HEADINGS? • Is there any information that would be easier to follow in a LIST? • Could any of your information be summarized in a TABLE? Do you have any data that readers would more easily understand in the form of a bar GRAPH, line graph, or pie chart? • Would ILLUSTRATIONS — diagrams, photos, drawings, and so on — help you explain anything in your report? Prepare the Reference Page and Appendices or Supplements (as needed). ? Keep track of all your sources—everything including online dictionaries, encyclopedia pages (like Wikipedia) as well as targeted researched websites, articles, or other texts. ? Review methods for integrating sources (See open source class texts and other Module links). ? Decide whether to paraphrase or summarize information or to quote a source directly. Use APA (or MLA) in-text references when you do so. If you are borrowing graphics (images, charts, graphs or other visuals) make sure that you clearly and accurately acknowledge the source. Use captions or designate “Figure 1” ? Review APA method for reference pages. Alphabetize entries and check punctuation. Finishing Touches: ? Create a cover page. Format paragraphs in the block style. You may single-space or double space. 5 ? Review strategies for document design in Adam Rex Pope’s Chapter 4 (in Open Technical Writing) ? Get help from Smarthinking Tutors (see links on Canvas). ? Proofread carefully.