The final project for the semester is a formal report, which you will complete within a group. This assignment is the first step in a series of related assignments that include: the proposal, the progress report, and the formal report. The final report will
- define a problem
- analyze the criteria for a satisfactory solution
- propose one or more alternative solutions, and
- argue for the solution that satisfies the criteria best.
The problem may involve a specific institutional, technical, or public policy issue that you are working on or have worked on in your other courses; or it may be something related to an organization which you belong to; or it may be related to a job that you’ve held or now hold; or it may be a new area that you are interested in. The solution to the problem may involve coming up with an original design, choosing between available alternatives, or providing needed information. Later in the semester, the class will divide into teams of three or four members and decide whose proposals to follow through and complete as the report project.
For this assignment you are to write a proposal letter seeking my approval for the project for the final formal report. Your instructor is your audience; your goal is to show that you have chosen a project from which you can learn a great deal. For which you will be able to conduct thorough and accurate primary and secondary research, and that you have the ability to complete it. A wide range of report topics are feasible. Consider the following issues in selecting a topic and presenting your proposed project.
- What problem will your report address? Have you clearly defined a conflict between a desired situation and the current situation?
- Whose problem is it? Who will read the report? What is your position relative to your readers?
- Why is this problem significant for these readers? What’s at stake?
- Do you have a possible solution to the problem? Have you established what a good solution would require? Have you thought about alternative plausible solutions?
- What makes you qualified to carry out the project? How is the topic related to your major? Your career plans? You should invent projects that give you practice writing the kind of document that you may have to prepare on the job.
- What will it take to gather the necessary information and complete your analyses? Can you complete your report in the time left in this semester, using resources readily available to you?
- Do you have a work plan for your project outlining the steps required to complete the project?
The format of this assignment should be that of a formal business letter. Select your information and organize it in such a way that it is persuasive and accessible. Include
- An introduction that tells me why you are writing.
- A section describing the problem, including an explicit well-developed problem statement. Convince me that your audience is facing a tough and important problem.
- A section describing your plans for researching the problem and developing a solution. Convince me that you know what kind of information you’ll need and where to find it. Include an analysis of your readers and what information they’ll need in order to adopt your solution.
- A discussion of your credentials. Convince me that you have the background and resources necessary to conduct your research.
- A schedule. Convince me that you know what activities your research will require and that you can get them done on time.
- A conclusion that formally requests permission to proceed.
Your proposal should persuade me that a significant problem exists in a real organization and that you should be permitted to solve it. You do not have to have the solution to the problem at this time; rather you are suggesting that the organization must invest its faith in you to research a solution.
You should probably begin your letter by convincing me that a significant need exists that calls for the work you propose. In short, how will your project benefit the organization and the audience for your formal report?
Sometimes convincing the reader will be relatively easy, but other times it will be difficult to get your reader to acknowledge that a significant problem exists. After you have convinced your reader of a need for your work, include a detailed description of your work plan.
Will you go to the library and research the latest techniques in your field?
Will you write a computer program? Will you investigate the cost of new equipment?
Will you talk to people who have solved the problem for other organizations? Some combination of these?
Convince me that this plan for research is the right path leading to a solution and that the time exists in this semester to do the work well. This work plan must also be plotted with time; you must indicate what work you will be doing during each of the weeks left in the semester. You should also have sections of your proposal detailing the resources you have to solve this problem and your qualifications to do this work.