Chapter 10: Writing Informal Reports

Exercises

1. Imagine that you are the traffic manager of a trucking company that has had four highway accidents within a one-week period. Using the following facts, write a trouble report to your company president, Michael Spangler.

2. Workers’ compensation allows employees who are injured on the job to receive benefits like medical expenses and lost wages, depending on when the injury happened, how the injury happened, and the severity of the injury. Imagine that you work for a human resources manager of a large online retailer. Most of your company’s workers spend their days packing books, DVDs, and other products into mailing boxes, then lifting the boxes and putting them onto carts and pulling the carts to the mailing rooms. Your manager asks you to draft an investigative end-of-the-year report in the form of a memo that details the most common type of employee injury and other yearly information. Your research uncovers the following:

Be sure to open your memo with a brief introductory summary that details the information you were seeking, why the investigation was necessary, and who requested it. In the body of the memo or letter, describe the extent of or method used for your investigation. Then state your findings and any recommendations based on the findings.

3. In Exercise 2, you wrote an investigative report about back injuries and worker’s compensation at a large online retailer. Your manager reported your findings to the company’s board of directors, who were concerned about the impact of the worker’s compensation expenses on the company’s overall budget. You have been asked to head a task force of warehouse workers and managers to explore ways to prevent warehouse injuries, especially back injuries, and reduce the injuries by at least 35 percent by the end of the next fiscal year.

Write a three-month progress report on what your task force has investigated and its findings. Comment on such issues as the design of warehouse equipment, the weight of boxes being packed, the various postures and movements employees engage in throughout the day and how often, the level of training employees receive, and the amount of stress employees experience with mailing deadlines. Also discuss the early results of new back-injury-prevention programs you have implemented.

4. As the medical staff administrative assistant at a hospital, write a progress report to the director of the hospital outlining the current status of the annual reappointment of committees. Use the following facts to write the report:

5. You are a field-service engineer for a company that markets diesel-powered emergency generators. Based on the following information, write a trip report. You have just visited five cities to inspect the installation of your company’s auxiliary power units in hospitals, and you need to report to your manager about your findings. You visited the following hospitals and cities:

You found that each installation was properly done. With the cooperation of the administrators, you switched each hospital to auxiliary power for a one-hour trial run. All went well. You held a brief training session for the maintenance staff at each hospital, teaching them how to start the engine and how to regulate its speed to produce 220 volts of electricity from the generator at 60 hertz. You want to commend your company’s sales staff and field personnel for creating a positive image of your company in the minds of all five customers you visited.

6. Locate a test report that you wrote for a laboratory class that you are taking or have taken. Rewrite the report according to the guidelines in this chapter, and submit it in memo form to your instructor.

7. Each of the following topics presents a situation in which a company plans a significant change that could threaten its existing customer base. Select one of the following topics (or create your own topic based on your area of study and professional interest) and write a memo in which you offer your recommendations for ensuring that the change that your company proposes will not jeopardize its existing customer base. With your customers in mind, make specific suggestions for facilitating as smooth and positive a transition as possible.

a. Assume that you are part of the management team of a fast-food restaurant with a “burgers only” identity—and a loyal customer base—that wants to add distinctive and healthful menu items.

b. Assume that you are part of the management team for an apparel manufacturing firm known for its conservative fashions. Your firm is about to introduce a new line of clothing with a distinctly contemporary appeal.

c. Assume that you work for a small medical insurance company concerned with the rising number of medical claims being submitted by your customers. To combat this, your company has initiated a campaign designed to entice your customers to adopt healthier lifestyles, and has begun sending brochures and personalized letters to customers. Some customers have expressed concern that this is an indication that the company will become more reluctant to pay their claims.

8. Try a new or better method to accomplish a task and document the steps and results. For example, try balancing your checkbook using the computer or try a different system for doing the week’s laundry or grocery shopping. Then write a test report in the form of a memo to your instructor. Include each step of the process or the procedures you used and the results of your test. If appropriate, compare the test process to your old way of accomplishing the task. Include in your memo any observations that would be helpful in interpreting your test report.

9. Write a trip report to your boss, Monica Jenkins, CEO of Jenkins Marketing Specialists, Inc. Your goal in writing a trip report is to inform management about new procedures, equipment, or laws, or to supply information affecting products, operations, and services. Ms. Jenkins supported your request to attend the Business Etiquette Conference, sponsored by the Business Management Association and held at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, at Broom Hall, College of Business. The six-day conference was held April 18–23, 2006. Your goal is to let Ms. Jenkins know that you gathered valuable information that will benefit the company.

a. Write an introductory paragraph in which you identify the event (exact date, sponsor name, conference theme and name, and location) and preview the topics to be discussed in your report.

b. In the body, summarize three to five main points from one presentation you attended each day at the conference. State how you benefited from the conference and how what you learned will also benefit the reader and Jenkins Marketing Specialists, Inc.

c. Express appreciation, suggest action to be taken, or synthesize the value of the trip or conference.

In your report, highlight interesting and important facts using typographical tools such as boldface, headings, and bullets. Itemize your expenses on a separate page as an attachment to your report.

10. Imagine that you are a security consultant and have been hired by a company that creates security systems for the average homeowner. The company has hired you to test its new wireless camera—one that promises to work in low light and transmit pictures up to 100 meters—in a real-world environment. You decide to take several of the cameras home and place them within reception range under the eaves of the garage, in the baby’s room, above your front door, and in the yard near the pool. Although you appreciate the ease with which you could set up the system, it becomes apparent over the course of your week of testing that the picture and sound quality were negatively impacted by the interference of other electrical equipment in the house, such as the baby monitor, the microwave oven, and the cordless phone. Static noises and jumping lines made it nearly impossible to understand the sound and picture. Write a test report to the security systems corporation detailing your findings.

11. (Web Only) Imagine that you are the dietitian at a senior resident facility. A contained fire has occurred in the cafeteria, which is under your supervision. Using the following information, write a trouble report to the facilities administrator, Megan Garnett.

12. (Web Only) Submit a trouble or investigative report explaining any processes or projects that you are working on for school, for work, or for your home. (Specify the type of report.) Review this chapter for guidelines for writing such reports.

13. (Web Only) You are a human resources specialist assigned to investigate why your company is not finding enough qualified candidates to fill its need for electronics technicians and to recommend a solution to the problem. You have conducted your investigation and determined the following:

Write an investigative report to your boss, Cynthia Mitchum, Director of Human Resources, explaining the causes of the problem and offering your recommended solution.

14. (Web Only) Imagine that you work for the public relations department of a new movie rental service. Your customers, or subscribers, go online and for $19.00 a month pick up to three movies from a choice of over 60,000 titles. The DVDs are shipped directly to their homes for free. The company's goal is to reach a total of 30 million subscribers (and increase the company's income accordingly) within the next five years. Your job is to come up with interesting and attention-getting public relations events and materials to help the company achieve its goals. This might include creating commemorative events connected to the anniversary of a famous movie, partnering with movie studios on new movie releases, creating charity events with celebrities, etc. However, looking ahead, you realize that these goals could be jeopardized by several factors:

Write an investigative report to the director of public relations detailing your concerns and provide recommendations as to events and material the public relations office could create to help the company meet its subscriber and financial goals.

Collaborative Classroom Projects

1. In Collaborative Classroom Project 3 in Chapter 8, Understanding the Principles of Business Communication, your class broke into two groups, the local electric company’s consumers and the company’s marketing representatives. Both sides wrote letters asking that a rate increase be rejected or accepted, respectively. Now assume that before the marketing representatives wrote their letter, they had investigated the company’s need for a rate increase to build a fourth natural gas–fired generating unit. The investigation uncovered the following information*:

Rewrite your group’s marketing representatives’ letter to include the research. When you are finished, exchange letters for peer reviews. Comment on the level of persuasion that these letters now contain with the added details and facts.

*Adapted from Florida Power’s Web site <www.progress-energy.com/aboutus/news/article.asp?id=12022>

2. As a class, plan to visit a lab or learning center on campus, preferably one outside your department. Determine as a group which lab you would like to visit and the specific purposes of your visit. The lab may be a science lab, a computer lab, an engineering lab, or a writing center. After an explanation of the lab’s procedures and a tour of the lab or center, your class will reconvene in your own classroom and write a trip report about the visit. Include the date of the visit, your destination, the purpose of your trip, and an explanation of what you learned during the visit.

3. In small groups, collaborate to write a trouble report about a problem on campus. Choose a topic that has a simple solution, like a busy campus intersection that needs a traffic signal or a parking problem that could be relieved by providing students with incentives to use the bus system. Other topics might address overly complicated procedures for dropping or adding a class or using online resources at the library. Submit your report to your instructor in memo form.

4. (Web Only) Contact a friend or an individual who works in a field related to your professional area of interest. Ask him or her to provide you with a copy of one of the types of reports discussed in this chapter. (Because many reports in organizations are confidential, you may wish to ask for a report that is several years old on an issue that is no longer current.) Bring the report to class and be prepared to discuss the report’s effectiveness in terms of the writer’s purpose, audience, and specific organizational or corporate practices.

5. (Web Only) You work in the pediatric ward of a local hospital. During the holiday season, well-meaning volunteers raise money to buy the children presents. However, last year several parents complained that their children had received unsafe toys. You don't want to offend the volunteers, or upset parents, so you decide to investigate local media reports and consumer publications to discover ahead of time what toys are on "dangerous" lists. These include toys that break apart into tiny swallowable pieces, catapult objects like arrows or balls at a high velocity, or contain lead in the paint or toxic chemicals in the plastic that can cause brain and organ damage. As a group, write an investigative report based on your findings that includes a list of at least eight toys that the hospital will not be accepting and why. In the report, recommend that parents be informed of your investigation and plans in order to assuage their fears, and recommend that volunteers be informed of your findings and plan in a manner that supports their work without dampening their enthusiasm for helping the children.

Research Projects

1. The use of cell phones, laptop computers, and digital cameras has created a growing need for the recycling of portable rechargeable batteries. Many retail stores are helping to preserve the environment by shipping spent battery packs to recycling centers. In Chapter 6, Researching Your Subject, Exercise 8, you created a questionnaire designed to determine if people are aware of the need to recycle portable rechargeable batteries and how people feel about companies that provide recycling programs. Expand your investigation and write an investigative report on the recycling of portable rechargeable batteries. In this report, be sure you do the following:

a. Define the many different types of rechargeable batteries being used today (like nickel cadmium and lithium ion).

b. Explain how the recycling is accomplished.

c. List the local businesses in your city that participate in recycling programs.

d. Include the findings from your questionnaire.

2. You have been asked to determine for your campus organization where members can volunteer 10 to 12 hours a week for a local community service.

a. Begin by investigating at least three organizations that accept volunteers, such as nursing homes, hospitals, political and civic groups, or schools. Detail the type of volunteer help needed, the hours and days when the help is needed, whether any training is required, and to whom you’ll report. Also be sure to find out if volunteers do hands-on work with people—such as playing games with children or adults or bathing, lifting, or turning those who aren’t mobile—or if volunteers work behind the scenes, making solicitation calls, addressing envelopes, stocking supplies, and so on.

b. Then write an eight- to ten-page investigative report in which you evaluate each of the three organizations given the criteria above, as well as from the point of view of your own background, experience, and future vocational goals that are similar to those members of your organization.

c. Finish by selecting the one that is most suitable for members of your organization and explain the reasons for your selection.

3. (Web Only) Gather information pertinent to one of the following topics and present the information in a two- to three-page investigative report.

a. Your energy-consumption habits at home

b. Your recommendations on the best hotel or motel in your area for out-of-town guests

c. Analysis of two local auto repair businesses that have serviced your car, indicating which you would recommend to a friend

d. Which Internet-access provider you would recommend to a colleague and why

4. (Web Only) Choose one of the types of informal reports discussed in this chapter—trouble, investigative, progress, periodic, trip, or test—and create a report based on an article that you find in the Business Day section of the New York Times. The report should be a minimum of 1,000 words (approximately four pages) but no longer than 1,500 words.

a. Begin by submitting a memo to your instructor detailing the type of report you will write and providing a brief outline that details your role as the writer of the report, your title, and the company you work for, as well as your reader, his or her title, and the company he or she works for. Clearly explain the purpose of the report and why you are writing it. State how you expect the reader to use the information provided in this report or what you would like to have happen as a result of your report.

b. Then write your report, using any visual aids you think necessary for your reader to understand the report. Turn in the article with your report.

5. (Web Only) Write an informal two- to three-page investigative report on workplace safety, standard business practices or important trends in your field, or another topic. Read a minimum of three articles from newspapers, journals, books, or other printed sources to gather information about your subject.

6. (Web Only) Many times an company will offer advice on a subject in order to persuade its customers to do things like conserve energy in order to keep its costs down. Following up on Collaborative Classroom Project 1, investigate the ways people can save money on energy bills. Then add your suggestions to the letter drafted by the marketing representatives. Remember to present the material in the letter as a means of helping the customer save money.

Web Projects

1. Assume that you work for a small business and the company president has asked you to gather information from the Small Business Administration (SBA) that will benefit your company, such as opportunities for government contracts, or special programs or training available through the SBA. Visit the SBA Web site at (<www.sba.gov>) and prepare an investigative report of 300 to 500 words to be submitted to your instructor.

2. Many large international companies target sections of their Web sites to the different world markets where their products are sold. For example, McDonald’s (<www.McDonalds.com>) includes customized pages for each of the 50-plus countries where its restaurants are established. Assume that you work for a company that is considering expanding its Web site for international markets. You have been assigned to investigate and report your findings on the differences and similarities between the regional sections of other companies’ sites. To research your report, examine the Web sites of at least three international corporations. You might visit, for example, McDonald’s American and European sites, or Sony’s Asian and Eastern European sites. Note the translations of the company’s slogan, the colors and graphics used on the sites, the presentation of products, and so on. (You may want to revisit the sections on international correspondence in Chapter 8, Understanding the Principles of Business Correspondence; on using graphics to communicate to global audiences in Chapter 7, Designing Effective Documents and Visuals; and on considering international Web users in Chapter 15, Writing for the Web: Rhetorical Principles.

3. (Web Only) The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is a federal agency that researches and offers reports on preventing work-related illnesses and injuries. Visit the NIOSH's Web site (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/about.html) and write an investigative report on the deaths and injuries sustained by workers in a particular occupation that may be related to your studies or to your professional interests (for example, firefighters, flight crews, or healthcare workers). Then research sites designed for members of that particular occupation that offer wellness and injury prevention strategies. Present your findings to the class.

4. (Web Only) Using the internet, research a business, organization, or government agency and write a 300- to 500-word investigative informal report. Your report should focus on one specific function or feature of the organization. Define the function or feature, investigate its effectiveness, evaluate its effectiveness, and make specific recommendations for improving the function or feature.

Resources for this project include:

5. (Web Only) Search the Internet to find the site of a well-established organization or company and assume that you are responsible for its Web site. Write a report on the current status and future plans for your organization’s Web site. In your report, discuss the elements that you plan to keep, those that you will cut, and those that need to be refined. Explain why and how you plan to carry out these tasks.

6. (Web Only) The Government Printing Office (GPO) produces federal government information and publications for the public as well as for the U.S. Congress and federal agencies. Visit the GPO’s Web site (http://www.access.gpo.gov), and focus on a topic area that relates to your professional interests. Prepare an informal report that summarizes the information you’ve gathered. Topics to consider include the following: