This article throws light upon the four main steps of report writing. The steps are: 1. Defining the Problem and the Purpose 2. Zeroing in on the Problem 3. Developing the Statement of Purpose 4. Identifying Issues for Investigation.
Report Writing: Step # 1. Defining the Problem and the Purpose:
Research studies often have both a statement of the problem and a statement of the purpose, For example, a real-estate appraiser accepts a client’s request to appraise a building to determine its market value. The problem is to arrive at a fair market value for the property.
The purpose of the appraisal, however, might be to establish a value for a loan to determine the feasibility of adding to the structure, or to assess the financial possibility of demolishing the structure and erecting something else. Thus, the purpose may have to do with determining what elements to consider in arriving at an answer.
In other words, unless you know why something is wanted, you might have difficulty knowing what is wanted. Once you arrive at the answer to why and what questions, you’ll be on your way to solving the problem.
Report Writing: Step # 2. Zeroing in on the Problem:
To determine the precise nature of the problem, explore your report assignment using the following questions:
i. What needs to be determined?
ii. Why is the issue important?
iii. Who is involved in the situation?
iv. Where is the trouble located?
v. When did it start?
vi. How did the situation originate?
These questions are not applicable to all situations, but asking them helps you clarify the boundaries of your investigation. You can then draft a written statement of the problem being investigated, which will serve as a guide to what you are trying to solve or what question you are trying to answer in the report.
Assume, for instance, that you want to study the salaries of office support staff. Imagine the scope of a such a task. Millions of people are employed in office support jobs. And perhaps a thousand or so jobs fall into this classification.
To reduce such a problem to reasonable proportions, you (administrator at a local bank) could ask the following questions:
What: A study of salaries of office support staff.
Why: To determine whether salaries in our firm are competitive and consistent.
Where: Our municipal area
Who: Office support staff employees in banks.
Now you can phrase the problem in this way:
“Are our salaries competitive and consistent in comparison to the salaries of office support staff in local banks?” Note that this process of reducing the problem to a workable size has also established some firm limits to the research. You have limited the problem to current salaries, to- the local area, and to a particular type of business.
The “why” was also helpful in establishing limits on the research? Limiting the problem is “zeroing in on the problem”.
If you are writing an analytical report, the problem statement can be broadened:
“Are our salaries competitive and consistent in comparison to the salaries of office support staff in local banks, and how are they affecting service delivery?”
In an analytical report you are expected to look at the facts and, in addition, draw conclusions about the impact of the problem.
Report Writing: Step # 3. Developing the Statement of Purpose:
Once you have asked some preliminary questions and determined the problem, you are ready to write a clear statement of purpose that defines the objective of the report. In contrast to the statement of problem, which defines only what you are going to investigate, the statement of purpose defines what the report should accomplish.
In the case of an informational report, you might state your purpose by saying, “Purpose: To investigate our office support staff salaries to determine whether they are competitive and consistent with salaries of office support staff in local banks”.
However, for an analytical report, your statement of purpose might be, “Purpose: To identify the differences between the salaries of our office support staff and those of office support staff in other local banks, analyze its effect on service delivery and recommend ways for countering its negative effects.”
As you would have observed, problem and purpose statements often have to be combined in one statement. That is why the terms “problem” and “purpose” are often used interchangeably. Before you proceed with the report, double-check your statement of purpose with the person who authorized/requested the report.
Report Writing: Step # 4. Identifying Issues for Investigation:
Once you have defined the problem and established the purpose of the study you are ready to begin your investigation. To do so, you have to identify the areas that need to be investigated. This can be done by breaking down the “purpose” into its related aspects.
Assume that you have been asked to select a personal computer from among three alternative models – the Alpha, the Beta, and the Gamma. The purpose of your study is to select the computer that will best serve the record-keeping and word processing needs of a small office.
To choose the most suitable PC, you clearly need to investigate the following areas: the needs of the office; the capabilities of each PC; and the costs involved. You may even have to try each PC personally, or get some of the office staff to try the PCs and give you their feedback. A variety of different types of research is clearly involved.
Of course, the more complex the problem and the purpose, the more the number of areas that need to be investigated. Investigating and solving the problem, however, is only one part of the task; now you have to present it persuasively and clearly to you audience.