August 2011  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

Conducting Research
Part Two: Primary Sources

Last month we discussed planning your research—analyzing the situation, establishing your research question, and identifying resources. This month we will look at the foundation of your research—primary sources. These are resources that offer firsthand information, and there are several types.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re writing a proposal to revise an assembly-line setup at your factory. Primary sources of information for your proposal can include any of the following:

  • Personal observation. You can gather useful information by observing, examining, and analyzing various aspects of your topic. For example, you would want to observe the current assembly-line arrangement, noting its strengths as well as any inefficient or dangerous features.
  • Interviews. You can talk with some of the line workers to get their input about what would make their jobs easier or more efficient. Encourage them to provide examples that support their ideas.
  • Surveys, forms, or inquiry letters. Gathering written responses can give you a wider range of technical input, personal opinions, and attitudes. You can also tailor your surveys specifically for supervisors, workers, and administrative personnel.
  • Documents and records. Materials such as production reports and medical injury records provide facts about workers’ performance on the existing line, dated injury reports related to the line’s operation, and so on.

The data you collect from primary sources can serve as the crux of your research, but it may also suggest other, secondary sources of information that can inform and strengthen your final proposal. We’ll discuss secondary sources next month.

For more professional business writing tips, see Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating in the Workplace—just one of the handy business-writing materials from UpWrite Press.

Teacher Tips

When facilitating a training session, remember that presenting the material is just one part of the experience. It is also very important to give trainees the opportunity to apply the new information or skill. To that end, when planning your in-service, always build in time for participants to practice what you have presented. Follow these steps:

  1. Present the new skill.
  2. Demonstrate, step-by-step, the procedure involved.
  3. Have participants do the procedure.
  4. Provide several opportunities for practicing the procedure.

That Little Extra

So, you want to spice up your business communications, make your words jump off the page or screen, send messages that grab attention! Maybe you decide to look for a fancy font or two to dress up your writing. We recommend that you don’t. Unusual fonts not only tend to look unprofessional, they can also distract from your message.

Besides that, not every computer can display every font. In an e-mail, for example, your decorative font could show up as just a confusing series of boxes or symbols on someone else’s computer. So stick with the standard typefaces: Courier, Ariel, and Times New Roman are always readable, for example. Then let your careful words and well-formed ideas speak for themselves.


August Writers' Forum Topic

Here’s your chance to tell us how your work environment operates. Send us your responses to the forum question below, and we’ll print the most interesting in our eTips Mid-Month Mini.

We certainly live in a time of global change. But this isn’t the first such transformation. Learning to farm changed nomadic clans into settled civilizations. The Industrial Age changed those civilizations again, drawing more and more people to the cities. How is the new Information Age changing your life and work? What implications do you see for our civilization, and for the globe? We’d love to know what you think about these changing times and hear about your experiences.

E-mail your response to Write “August Writers’ Forum” in the subject line, and you could see your reply in the eTips Mid-Month Mini.

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This is your chance to shape eTips. What writing topics do you want to hear about? What communications tips would you like to share? What words do you constantly mix up? Send us your ideas, and you could see your name in Writing eTips or The Mid-Month Mini!

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Coming in September

Conducting Research, Part Three: Secondary Sources

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