July 2011  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

Conducting Research
Part One: Planning

At some point in your career, you may need to write a document that includes research. The document might be anything from an examination of the past quarter’s earnings to a proposal for creating a new division. Whether your focus is analytical or persuasive (or anything in between), you’ll need to start by doing some planning.

When you plan a research project, you do the following:

  1. Analyze the writing situation.
  2. Establish a research question.
  3. Identify resources.

Analyze the Writing Situation

You can start your research by studying the assignment and considering the writing situation:

  • Your purpose: Why are you writing: to persuade, analyze, evaluate, recommend, compare? What questions and problems should you address? What results do you want from your writing?
  • Your reader: What does the person know and need to know? What does the person want? Will this message be good or bad news? Is the reader resistant? How many readers will you have—including unintended ones?
  • The context: How does your message fit with others? What is your deadline? What resources are required and available?
  • The form: What format should you follow: business plan, product analysis, project proposal? What guidelines does your workplace provide for this form?

Establish a Research Question

Once you understand the writing situation, you can establish your research question. Write down the main questions that you and your reader need answered. Then consider all of the questions together. Try to narrow the focus of these questions to a single concern, which gets at your purpose in writing:

How can we improve efficiency in our warehouse operations?
What factors have caused the recent slump in sales?
Which bid will provide us the best overall value?

Once you find your central research question, you’ll have a guide to the research you conduct.

Identify Resources

After analyzing the situation and establishing your research question, you need to identify possible resources and take preliminary notes. Your resources might cover a variety of media, including books, magazines, company records, and online sources. You might even conduct interviews to gather key comments and first-hand insights.

Once you have completed your planning, you are ready to begin your research, which we’ll cover 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 many handy business-writing resources from UpWrite Press.

Teacher Tips

A while back, we mentioned that training sessions must move logically through materials to ensure audience comprehension. Here are a few techniques for moving through your instruction:

Arrange materials from…

  • Simple to complex: Begin with the basics of a concept and then elaborate on them.
  • Known to unknown: Start with familiar concepts and layer on new ideas.
  • Concrete to abstract: Establish a visual or tactile understanding of an idea before moving to a generalization.
  • Whole to part to whole: Provide an overview, work down through layers to show relationships, and then sum up what you have covered.

You will need to determine the style that will work best for your particular topic and audience.

That Little Extra

In our May issue, we addressed effective questions for interviewing job candidates, suggesting that an interviewer might pose a hypothetical situation to the candidate. Sharp-eyed reader Alison Buchanan of Canada’s General Dynamics Land Systems questioned that approach: “If you introduce a hypothetical situation, a candidate can say anything about what they might do, but it doesn’t demonstrate that they actually have the skill, knowledge, or experience you are looking for.” She suggested instead that the interviewer ask the candidate to describe an actual situation: “Tell us about a time you had to deal with a difficult co-worker. What did you do? What were the results?”

We appreciate this advice. Our readers certainly keep us on our toes—and we love it! Thanks, Alison!


July 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.

It’s been said that the average worker will change careers eight times in a lifetime. That’s a sobering thought. Share with us your stories of changing careers. Was it a huge change? What motivated the shift, and how did you handle it?

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

We Want to Hear from You!

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Coming in August

Conducting Research: Part Two

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