Final Report Project –

The Scenario

Evaluating the effectiveness of Ace Distributors’ salespeople.  For the past three years, Ace Manufacturing has failed to keep pace with its competition in the home television industry. Quite naturally, Ace executives have become alarmed, and they have been searching hard for remedies to the situation.  In their efforts to find the information they need to solve their problem, they have engaged the marketing consulting services of Central Research Institute.  You work for Central, and you have been given the assignment.

You began your task a month ago. Your first efforts consisted of gathering background facts about Ace’s operations.  Among other things, you learned that Ace is one of the five leading home television manufacturers in the United States, The other four being Todd Manufacturing Company; Apco, Incorporated: Davis Manufacturing Company; and Barr Industries, Incorporated.  Until recently Ace ranked first in sales volume; now it is down to third.   Like its competitors, Ace sells to exclusive distributors; and the distributors sell to dealers in their territories.  Obviously, Ace is highly dependent on its distributors, for its sales can be not better or worse than the sales efforts of the distributors’ sale people.

Because Ace is so dependent on its distributors, Ace executives suspect that much of the blame for the sales decline should be placed on these distributors.  But they can’t be certain without proof, so they want you to check out their hypothesis.  In addition, they want you to find any additional information which will give them an overall picture of the operations of appliance dealers at the retail level.

After collecting the necessary background data, you designed and conducted a personal interview survey among appliance dealers.  You conducted the interview in three major retail areas (Dallas, Chicago, and New York).  In each area you interviewed a proportionate number of randomly selected dealers of all five leading brands.

Now you have the survey findings, all neatly tabulated in two tables.  In one (Table 57 on pages 365 and 366), you have tabulated the answers you asked concerning the dealers’ experiences with distributors’ salespeople.  In the other (Table 58 on page367), you have assembled the summary percentages of the factors that tell about the overall operations of dealers.

Your next step is to interpret your findings as they apply to Ace’s problem.  Then you will organize the material for the best possible communication effect, and you will write the report.  You hope to draw a clear conclusion on the major hypothesis, and in the process you will be able to give Ace an overall picture of the current market.  (For purposes of this exercise, should you need additional background information, problem facts, etc., use your imagination logically to supply it.) Take care to consider using graphics whenever they can be used effectively in telling the report story.  Use the formal report structure that this situation demands.  Address the report to Mr. Eugene E. Orsag, Vice President of Marketing at Ace Manufacturing.

Constructing the Report

A key criterion of a clear business report is its organization.  The report communicates effectively when facts and parts are arranged in an orderly manner.  Material collected through an orderly form of bibliographical research should be arranged by subject and ready for application to the problem.  However, information collected in a process of primary research must be classified, edited, and tabulated prior to application to the problem (see Chapter 8 for Organizing Information and Constructing the Outline.)

Once the outline is finished, the plan for the report can be designed.  This task can become complicated without an outline as reports are far from standardized in their physical arrangement.  Because the variations are numerous the design of the report is not easily determined.  Utilizing a workable approach such as an outline will simplify the process of developing the final report.

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Report Parts:

 

Title Fly: The title/fly contains only the title (see figure 10-3 page 163).  The title should be built around the 5W’s Who, What, Where, When, Why, sometimes we add How to this list.  Sometimes there are problems in which not all of the W’s are essential to complete identification.  It is however, a good idea to consider all of them for fit.  Remember that one or two word titles are too broad and that subtitles can aid conciseness. If titles are too short they tend to be vague and do nothing to create completeness.  The title page is mechanically constructed and is precisely illustrated in Chapter 12.

Title Page: Like the title fly, the title page presents the report title (see figure 10-3 page 164 in the textbook). Along with the title the title page also displays other information essential to the identification of the report. The title page should include the title (of course), the authorizer or recipient, and complete identification of the writer, of the report.   The date of the report should also be included if it is not made clear in the title.

Letter of authorization: Reports are authorized orally or in writing. The objective of the letter of authorization is to authorize the researcher to begin the investigation. The letter should contain a brief statement about the problem, with some indication of the limiting factors, including the scope of investigation and any limitations.  It is standard practice for the letter to include information about the use of the report.  The letter can follow any number of acceptable organization patterns.  Below is a suggestion for an organization pattern that can be used:

  1. Direct, clear authorization of the investigation.
  2. Explanation of the objective in clear straightforward language.
  3. Description of problem areas requiring investigation.  This description may be an explanation of the problem and its subdivisions.
  4. Limitations (such as time and cost) and special instruction.

For this assignment you were given the project so you will want to include (make up) a letter of authorization.  It should be in letter format as it is external and should carry the name and company logo of the company that hired your research company to complete the research and subsequent report. This letter will be addressed to your boss at Central Research Institute and will be signed by Mr. Eugene E. Orsag, Vice President of Marketing for Ace Manufacturing.

Letter of Transmittal, Foreword, Preface: Most formal reports contain some form of personal communication from writer to reader (see figure 10-3 page 165 in the textbook).  Remember that this assignment included a letter of authorization so clearly the report was assigned; you will want to address the same person(s) in the letter of transmittal.  In some formal cases, when a group is the recipient of the report a forward or preface is used in place of the letter of transmittal that performs the function of communication. The major message of the letter of transmittal is positive and written in the direct style.  In the opening of the letter of transmittal there should not be any delay in presenting the report.  The letter should begin by transmitting the report, identifying the subject, authorization facts, and contain a summary of the report.  The executive summary and letter of transmittal can be combined in some cases or the executive summary can follow the letter of transmittal.  In cases where the report is not strictly formal the letter of transmittal can allow you to “chat” with your reader(s) and set a less formal and much friendlier tone for the report in general.  The letter of transmittal can allow you to reflect your personality.   Minor distinctions are sometimes drawn between forwards and prefaces, but they are similar to transmittals. All are messages from the writer(s) to the reader(s) and set the tone for the report.  Like transmittal letters, they seek to help the reader appreciate and understand the report; they may include helpful comments about the report.  They may provide additional useful information such as interpretation, follow-up and can create the opportunity to provide accolades to those who were instrumental in the development of the report but who were not writers of the report; for instance researchers, proof readers, and persons who might have assisted with the budget or other portions of the report.

For this assignment you will include a letter of transmittal.  It should be in letter format and should carry your company or organization’s logo.

Table of Contents and List of Illustrations: If the report is long enough to require a guide to its contents developing a table of contents can provide an outline (see figure 10-3 pages 166 – Table of Contents and 167 List of Charts in the textbook).   Additionally, if the report has a number of charts, graphs, illustrations and tables a list of illustrations should be included in order to assist the reader.  The mechanics of constructing both can be found in Chapter 12 of the textbook.

For this assignment you will include a table of contents and a list of illustrations.  The scenario contains data tables which can be developed into graphs and charts to illustrate the data and to provide the writer with the opportunity to draw conclusion for the reader(s).  Both should be in the suggested format found in the textbook on pages 166 and 167.

Executive Summary: The report is condensed in the executive summary; also referred to as the synopsis, epitome, or précis.  For our purposes we will refer to this portion of the report as the executive summary.  This is the portion of the report that summarizes all of the essential ingredients in the report and includes the major facts, primary analyses and conclusions.  Remember that this may be the only part of the report that is read but must also serve as a preview or review for the reader who will thoroughly read the report.  The length of the executive summary is about one eighth of the report and relies on concise, lively writing. It is written after the full report and simply takes parts of the report in order and length and reduces them.  For the most part the executive summary takes the report in order and simply reduces it but in some cases the writer may have a reason for setting up the executive summary in an order different from that of the report.  Either direct or indirect order is appropriate for the executive summary. When written in the direct order the executive summary shifts the major findings, conclusions, or recommendation to the major position which is the beginning then the summary moves to the introductory parts and through the report in normal order (see figure 10-2 on page 157 of the textbook which illustrates both orders).

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For this assignment you will include an executive summary.  It should be written in either direct or indirect order. REMEMBER: the executive summary is written last even after the conclusion is constructed.

The Report: The contents of the report can follow any number of general arrangements.  The most important factor is that it makes sense for the reader and that the writer has a logical reason for placing the report in that order.

For this assignment you will write a formal report.  It should be written in either direct or indirect order depending on the subject matter and the audience and will include all of the following parts.

Introduction: The introduction prepares the reader to receive the information and provides the orientation process concerning the contents of the report.  The introduction always starts with a statement of the problem.  The introduction should help the reader understand and appreciate the problem.

The introduction content possibilities vary but should advance the tone of the report.  You will want to consider the following general topics:

  1. Origin of the report – the first part of the introduction should include a review of the facts of authorization.
  2. Purpose – vital to the report is the purpose of the report.  It is important to tell the reader the purpose of the report.
  3. Scope – this is the boundaries of the problem that describe the exact coverage of the problem in clear, succinct language.
  4. Limitations – there can be cases when the limitations are important enough to warrant presenting them in a separate section from the introduction. Limitations could include an inadequate supply of money for conduction the investigation, insufficient time for doing the work, unavoidable conditions that hampered objective investigation, or limitations inherent to the problem being investigated.
  5. Historical Background – More often than not knowledge of the history of the problem can be crucial to understanding the report.  This is the opportunity the writer has to provide the reader with the information about the issues that are involved in the problem.  The reader can be oriented and receive clarification concerning the report situation.  Therefore, the report writer may want to include a section on the historical background of the problem in the report.
  6. Sources and Methods of Collecting Data – It is important to tell the reader how the report information was collected.  For example, if research was utilized then major publications that were used will need to be identified.  If interviews or questionnaires were used the writer will want to provide the reader with information concerning sample determination, questionnaire construction, procedures followed, facilities that were used for checking returns etc. (it will be easy to access reports that are published on the web that contain such information and utilize language concerning processes that can easily be transferred into your reports).
  7. Definitions – If the report utilizes terms and language not common to the reader these terms should be defined in the report in a way that does not “talk down” to the reader. There are two ways to provide definitions in a report.  The first is to define each word as it is used and the other way is to develop a special section in the introduction for definitions that provides descriptions of unfamiliar terms and usages of those terms.
  8. Report Preview – In long reports it is useful to use a preview (in this assignment you will want to utilize a preview) telling the reader how the report will be presented; what topics will be discussed first, second, third etc. This section should also contain reasons why this order was followed.  Doing this provides the reader with a road map allowing them to logically relate to the topics as they are read.

Report Body: This is the portion of the report that presents the information collected and relates it to the problem (see pages 170-177 in the textbook).  This section is the report and as such comprises the major portion of the report’s content.  The report body presents and analyzes the information gathered drawing conclusions.

Report Ending: Reports can be concluded in a number of ways.  A report can end with a summary, a conclusion, a recommendation, or a combination of all three.

  1. Ending Summary – Reports that do little more than present information usually include an ending summary of the major findings or research. This ending summary is less complete than an executive summary and is usually confined to reviewing highlights or facts of the report.  Longer formal reports can have minor summaries at the end of each major division of the report in order to keep the reader focused and on track.
  2. Conclusions – The report conclusion answers what the writer said they wanted to accomplish in the problem statement.  The structure for presenting conclusions varies by the nature of the problem.  The conclusion comes at the end of the report unless the report is written in direct order.  In some cases conclusions can be listed according to the findings discussed in the report, the most important conclusions might be placed first or combined with recommendations.  In cases where the conclusions are obvious they may be omitted (especially where including them will seem to be “talking down” to the audience) in this case conclusions may be omitted and only recommendations or summaries are then presented.
  3. Recommendations – The recommendations section is the writer’s interpretations based on the conclusions.  Recommendations should be included when readers want or expect them or when recommendations are requested.  When it is appropriate, the writer should include who should do what, by when, where, why, and sometimes how it should be done.  If an alternative course of action exists it should be presented.  Because the writer is familiar with the findings it is their responsibility to state the desired action(s) that should be taken never leaving the reader(s) to choose their own course.

Appended Parts: Appended parts should only be added when needed.  The appended parts section is determined by the specific needs of the problem and can contain an appendix and or a bibliography.

Appendix: The appendix contains information that indirectly supports the report.  REMEMBER: Any information that directly supports the report belongs in the main text of the report.  Additionally, charts, graphs, tables, data sets etc. usually belong in the text of the report body as they are the visual representation of the data that relates to the text and supports the assertions made within the report that supports the findings.  Placing charts, graphs, tables, data sets etc. in an appendix only serves to make readers thumb through many pages to find illustrations to the facts that they read in the report body.

Bibliography: Sometimes investigations heavily use research, both library and internet; in such cases it is highly advisable to utilize a bibliography.   Information on construction of a bibliography is discussed in Chapter 13 beginning on page 234.  The bibliography contains the list of secondary research that is footnoted with the sources listed.  Not only is it imperative to give credit to sources but documenting and listing secondary sources provide valuable information to the reader(s).  Chapter 13 deals with quoting and paraphrasing; when to acknowledge; how to acknowledge; electronic documentation; standard reference forms; footnotes;  and the differences in Chicago, APA, and MLA citation formats.

Length and formality characterize long reports.   Long formal reports usually concern major investigations, which is why they need to be long.  Formal reports are usually written for high-level administration; this explains their formality and their length.  However, when statistics from an investigation are utilized in order to provide information and knowledge, the formal report sets the writer apart from the facts and thus creates a sense that the writer is not seeking a particular outcome but merely presenting information for consideration leaving the reader/receiver to draw their own conclusions.

In constructing the report the writer has a number of components with which to work.  Your team will need to make the decision concerning which components will be included in your report (see figure 10-1 on page 152 of the textbook for the “parts” of a report based on its formality).  Your team will need to determine the number of parts for your report (an outline and discussion of each potential part of a report starts on page 158 in the textbook).

Chapter 10 contains an illustration of a long, formal report, thus providing a detailed example of all the parts of a report (starting on page 163 of the textbook).  Remember, depending on the length and formality of your team’s report, portions of this example might not be needed – which parts to use will need to be determined by your team except where noted that these parts should be included.

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You may change the name of your organization but you cannot change the scenario for your report; additionally, you cannot change the recipients of your report. You will need to choose the format for your report including margins, font size, and typeface.  You will need to create a logo for your company/organization that is displayed on your memorandum forms and elsewhere in your report; you will also include your company’s/organization’s logo on your PowerPoint slides (for your oral report).

Physical Presentation of Reports:

The appearance of the report forms an impression on/with the reader(s).  Neat work gains favorable impressions whereas untidy work gains unfavorable impressions.  A neat well-arranged document is easy to read and provides the reader with the impression that the writer is competent when the work is professionally done.  This attitude of the reader forms their receptiveness to the information that the writer seeks to communicate. The reader’s receptiveness and impression that the writer is competent then becomes part of the message.

General information: Paper is usually the best media choice for reports.  E-mail and fax do not assure good appearance.  The content, color and size of the paper also communicate the overall quality of the report.

The graphic layout of the text and the visuals/graphics need careful attention to the elements that can affect the reader.  External spacing is the white space around the text copy. The commonly accepted ratio of white space to text on a page is 1:1 for readability.  It is important to consider balance and symmetry as the report is designed.  Internal spacing refers to vertical and horizontal spacing on the page.  Kerning is used to space between letters and leading controls space between vertical lines.  Another way to determine white space is the use of margins.  Type is aligned left, right or center of the page through justification.  Recent studies show that left-justified type is easier to read as it is what we are most accustomed to seeing.

The standard layout for a conventional page is 1-inch top and side margins for double spacing and 1 ¼ to 1 ½ inches for single spacing.  Bottom margins are 1 ½ times the side margins.  Both double and single spacing are acceptable.  Double-spaced text should be indented and single-space text should be in block format (see Figure 12-4 and 12-5 on pages 216 and 217 of the textbook).  The number of indentation spaces is optional but it is important to be consistent.  A good rule is to tab once to indent for consistency.

Physically attractive reports communicate better.  Neatness is essential as the appearance of the report reflects the writers work philosophy.  In general typefaces are classified as serif or sans serif.  Use serif type for text and san serif for headings.  It is important for the writer to remember that the report should be attractive and not cluttered.  Type should be used to distinguish headings from the text portion of the report.  Heading choices are 1) centered, 2) marginal, and 3) run-in (see Figure 12-9, page 223 in the textbook).  It is important to use a logical combination of type and position for headings.

There are two systems of numbers that are used in written reports. Prefatory pages are numbered in small Roman numerals and text pages are numbered in Arabic numerals.  If the report is bound at the top, numbers should be placed at the bottom of the page.  If the report is left-bound, numbers should be placed in the upper right corners of the pages.

Construction of a Formal Report:

Individual, specific report pages require special notes for construction.

Title Fly: The title fly contains only the title, centered and relatively high on the page above the vertical center of the page.  Center all lines with respect to left and right margins.  The title on the Title Fly is usually solid capitals underscored and double-spaced if more than one line is used. For this assignment a Title Fly should be used.

Title Page: The title page contains three elements 1) the report title, 2) authorizer identification, and 3) writer identification the date is usually included (see Figure 12-10 page 225 for the “Three-Spot Title Page” example and Figure 12-11 on page 226 for the “Four-Spot Title Page” example in the text book).  For this assignment the “Four-Spot Title Page” should be used.

Note: Your name should appear as the preparer on the title page.

Letters of Authorization and Transmittal: Include the original letter of authorization. Type the letter of transmittal in an acceptable form (an example is provided in Figure 12-12 on page 228 in the textbook).  You will have prepared a letter of authorization early in the assignment and a copy of that letter should be included in this report as well as the letter of transmittal.

Acknowledgements: When others have provided assistance in the preparation of the report it is appropriate to acknowledge their contributions. This section is headed with a simple title Acknowledgements and is formatted with the same layout as any other text page that includes a displayed title.

Table of Contents: The table of contents is the report outline in finished form with page numbers.  The headings are set up in a column to the left and the page numbers are set up in a column to the right (an example is provided in Figure 12-13 on page 229 in the textbook).  The page should be headed “Contents” or “Table of Contents” below the title two columns should be set up 1) containing the headings – left-justified and 2) containing the page numbers – right-justified (see page 227 in the textbook for additional specific details for setting up the table of contents).  For this assignment your report should contain a table of contents.Need a Professional Writer to Work on this Paper and Give you Original Paper? CLICK HERE TO GET THIS PAPER WRITTEN

List of Illustrations: A list of illustrations can be part of the table of contents (see Figure 12-14 on page 231 in the textbook for additional specific details for setting up the list of illustrations following the table of contents).  As with the table of contents the list of illustrations should have two columns and follow the format used for the table of contents. For this assignment your report should contain a list of illustrations.

Formal Report Due Date:

Full Report Due at the beginning of class, June 29, 2014

 

Writing in : This is a class clearly focused on report writing in the context of business.  Your writing should reflect a professional level which includes proper use of the English language (grammar, punctuation, spelling, verb and subject agreement, etc.) and demonstrates the ability to write an organized, well-developed report that conforms to the guidelines of the assignment.  If you have concerns about your writing, ISU has two writing centers one is located in Root Hall and the other is located in Cunningham Library both are available to you for assistance.  Papers that are not well written will receive no more than a “C” grade and due to the content may receive a lesser grade in accordance with the guidelines of the assignment.

 

WARNING: Do not come to class with the idea that you will print your report and turn it in at 12:00.  I promise you that you will most likely be standing in line at the beginning of class and one of two things will have occurred; either the printer will have broken down, or the line will be long with your classmates standing in line in front of you. At that point it will be 12:00 and we will have started class; you will be considered late for class and counted as tardy and your work will be considered late and may not be accepted.


Rubric for the Long Formal Report REMEMBER: No late papers!!!

Assignments that do not meet the “threshold requirements” listed below will receive no more than a “C” grade:

  1. The report has clearly been edited for grammar, spelling and does not have any typos.
  2. The report meets the mechanical requirements spacing, margins etc. is formatted in manuscript form, has headings for each section (where appropriate), and has a signature (on both the letter of authorization and the letter of transmittal).
  3. The report contains a company logo for Central Research Institute and for ACE Manufacturing on the appropriate letters.
  4. The report contains all of the formal report parts: title fly, 4-spot title page, letter of authorization, the report proper, appendices, bibliography, etc.
  5. This rubric is attached to the back of the paper.

 

This paper is worth 100 points total.  Your paper will be graded on the following criteria:

Points  

10

The report clearly has an introduction section that contains: a letter of authorization from Ace Manufacturing Corp. and a letter of transmittal both are presented on the appropriate letterhead with logos for each company

10

The report contains a table of contents and a list of illustrations including page numbers

10

The report contains an executive summary that is a minimum of 1/8 of the body of the report

10

The report has a clear introduction that orients the reader to the material and the problem and sets the stage for the remainder of the report

10

The report contains a clear, concise message which includes: information gathered, information analyzed, suggested action

10

The report contains graphics that are well thought out, well-planned, and well placed in the document relating to the text and referenced in the text.  The graphics are properly labeled with title captions placed appropriately, footnotes, and acknowledgements including source acknowledgements.

10

The report contains a summary and closing which includes: statement of goodwill, request for feedback, and helpful information such as contact numbers and email address.

10

The language and terminology used in the report clearly reflect a level of research on the subject beyond what appears in the scenario.

10

The report contains an appendix which reflects the primary research. The body of the report references this information

10

The report contains a bibliography of the research that was conducted.

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