Book Title
M: Business Communication 3rd Edition

978-0073403229 Chapter 8 Text Summary, Lecture Outline

April 5, 2019
Teaching Suggestions
In teaching this chapter we suggest that you use a combination of techniques. Lecture is good to review the text
contents. You can supplement your lecture with the slides. After you have covered the subject matter, or perhaps as
you cover it, you can use critical thinking exercises, such as those presented at the chapter end. Solutions to these
exercises are provided here.
Text Summary, Lecture Outline
Slides 8-1, 8-2, 8-3
While the number and length of reports one will write on the job vary with the size and nature of the business, their
importance to decision making is often critical. Knowing how to write them prepares one for confidently and
effectively handling them.
Consider introducing the chapter by sharing information from the Reports and Your Future section so students will
understand the relevance of the subject.
Defining Reports
Slide 8-4
As you cover this definition, call attention to and define these key words:
orderly—prepared with care; organized
factual information—events, records; data used in business operations
serves a business purpose—many purposes exist; all reports are not business reports
Determining the Report Purpose
Slide 8-5
Reports begin with a need for information. Someone in a position of authority recognizes this need. This person will
authorize the report—in writing or orally.
After being authorized to do the report, you should take these steps:
1. Conduct a preliminary (informal) investigation. Gather facts to better understand the problem.
Consult appropriate sources (informal talks, library materials, company records).
2. State the problem in writing to serve as a permanent record. Allow others to review it.
Force yourself to get the problem clearly in mind.
Slide 8-6
While the ways to state a problem are as unlimited as report-writing situations, your students can find these three
forms helpful.
Sample problem: Determining why sales are decreasing at Company X.
Infinitive Phrase: To determine the causes of decreasing sales at Company X…
Question: What are the causes of decreasing sales at Company X?
Determining the Factors
Slides 8-7, 8-8, 8-9, 8-10
After stating the problem, search for the factors (subject areas) to be investigated.
Factors are usually of three types:
1. Subtopics—cover the important topic areas in informational and some analytical reports.
Sample problem statement: To review operations of Company X from January 1 through March 31.
Sales and promotion
Financial status
Computer systems
Product development
Human resources
2. Hypotheses—explore possible explanations or solutions in problem-solving situations.
Purpose statement: To find out why sales at the Springfield store have declined.
Activities of the competition have caused the decline.
Changes in the economy of the area have caused the decline.
Merchandising deficiencies have caused the decline.
Changes in the environment (population shifts, political actions, etc.) have caused the decline.
3. Bases of comparison—used to evaluate alternatives using common criteria.
Purpose statement: To determine whether Y Company’s new location should be built in City A, City B, or City C.
Comparison bases:
Availability of skilled workers
Tax structure
Community attitude
Transportation facilities
Nearness to markets
After you determine the initial factors for a problem, you might need to divide each one into subfactors or even
The following slides give concrete examples for each type of factors.
Gathering the Information Needed
Slide 8-11
Remember that business reports are factual, so some information gathering is always needed. You may collect facts
for reports from primary (observations, experiments, surveys) and/or secondary (library, online, company records,
etc.) sources.
Keep these three guidelines in mind:
Gather more information than you will use.
Be resourceful.
Keep accurate notes.
Interpreting the Findings
When you examine facts and relate them to the report problem, you are interpreting the facts. To make your
interpretations as valid as possible, follow the advice on the next two slides.
Slide 8-12
Advice for Avoiding Human Error
Report the facts as they are—be aware of the tendency to exaggerate, to seek attention.
Do not think that conclusions are always necessary—no conclusions or modified conclusions are often desirable.
Do not interpret a lack of evidence as proof to the contrary—evidence must support every conclusion.
Do not compare noncomparable data—make sure the data you present and compare have similar relationships that
are logical.
Do not draw illogical cause-effect conclusions—remember that two sets of data must be more than associated for
one to cause the other. Association is not causation.
Beware of unreliable and unrepresentative data—be alert for errors in data; methodology, sample design, and such
are essential for reliable and representative facts.
Do not oversimplify—give attention to all-important facts of a problem.
Tailor your claims to your data—do not generalize or recommend action beyond what your data will support.
Slide 8-13
Appropriate Attitudes and Practices
Maintain a judicial attitude—cultivate a critical point of view, being both the critic and advocate of your work.
Consult with others—take advantage of using many minds rather than one.
Test your interpretations.
Test of experience—apply reason by asking, “Is this interpretation logical in light of all I know?”
Negative test—state an interpretation, then make the opposite interpretation. Use data to compare the two and retain
the one more strongly supported.
Slide 8-14
Statistical Tools for Data Analysis
Most information in business reports is quantitative.
Statistical techniques provide ways to simplify and to analyze such data.
Descriptive statistics (central tendency, dispersion, probability) are of value.
Inferential statistics go beyond the basic and are useful as well.
Remember that in interpretation you give meaning to data. Explain the statistics throughout the report.
Slides 8-15, 8-16, 8-17, 8-18
Drawing Logical Conclusions
The following slides will give your students practice drawing logical (and avoiding illogical) conclusions.
Organizing the Report Information
Slides 8-19, 8-20, 8-21
The Nature and Benefits of Outlining
Organizing is a process that allows you to present the information to your reader in a structured, patterned
way. Thus, for virtually every report, you will need to think carefully about organizing your information.
Organizing means grouping and ordering information on some logical basis. It also means determining
the information hierarchy (which are main topics, which are secondary topics, and so forth). Making a
plan is critical to preparing a well-organized report, and it will actually save time because it will help
prevent major revision later. This thinking can and should start early in the report-writing process; it can
be altered as needed as the report develops.
How formally to prepare your outline depends on your preferences and on the situation. In most cases it is
not necessary to use an elaborate numbering scheme like the conventional system (with Roman numerals,
etc.) or the decimal system. The outline is primarily a tool to help the writer. You should write notes on it,
change it if necessary, and not fuss too much over a pretty format. On the other hand, it is possible, since
report writing is often collaborative, that others will want and need to see a formal outline. For these
cases, it is good to be familiar with common numbering schemes.
These are shown in the following slides.
Slides 8-22, 8-23, 8-24
Organization by Division
Outlining is a process of dividing facts:
Survey the whole for logical divisions.
Subdivide the subdivisions.
Continue to subdivide as long as it is practical.
Slide 8-25
Division by Conventional Relationships
To divide data into equal parts, you will need to determine the common bases of the data. There are
essentially four types:
Time—relationships of chronology
Place—relationships of geography
Quantity—relationships of units (quantitative values)
Factor—relationships of major determinants
Consider a sample problem—providing a history of manufacturing in New York—to illustrate how each
of the conventional relations and other combinations can be used in an outline.
Slide 8-26
With an organization based on time, the time periods selected do not have to be equal in length, but they
should be of comparable importance.
Still, avoid extremes of time organization—for example, one massive body section on a big span of years
or a body section on every year.
How you combine time periods will be determined in part by the emphasis you want to give to the data.
The more you combine (1750–1850), the less the emphasis. The fewer you combine (1750–1800), the
more the emphasis. This same principle applies to the other bases for dividing up the data.
Time divisions are generally arranged from past-present or present-past.
Slide 8-27
Place divisions denote geographical locations.
As with time, you will want to be aware of extremes of organization, emphasis, and comparability in
selecting place divisions.
Slide 8-28
Quantity divisions are based on arrangements of quantitative values (dollars, age, etc.).
In some plans, quantity and other conventional relationships are combined.
For example, combining quantity and place might yield the following sections:
High Production Areas
Moderate Production Areas
Low Production Areas
Slide 8-29
Factor divisions are essentially all those methods of organizing that do not fall into the previous three
categories. They cover the important subareas of a problem. Sometimes factors may be called “qualities”
or “major determinants” of a problem.
As can be seen, several plans exist for organizing our sample problem.
Which one is best? The answer depends on the problem statement and the readers use of the report.
Example: If a time-oriented problem were stated, then time would be the best way to organize.
Slides 8-30, 8-31
Combination and Multiple Division Possibilities
Some reports call for combining two or more of the four division possibilities in the same heading.
For example, a report on “Cost of Living of U.S. Families” could use factor and quantity:
High-income families
Middle-income families
Low-income families
Multiple division possibilities also use the conventional relationships.
Slides 8-32, 8-33
Creating Headings
When wording the headings, one must decide which of two main types to use:
topic headings
talking headings
Topic headings are used to identify categories of information.
San Diego
San Diego
Talking headings identify and interpret—they indicate what is said about a category.
Growing population signals market growth.
Houston leads the nation.
Springfield has the steadiest increase.
San Diego maintains its status quo.
The “quality” of a heading indicates whether it truly talks—not the number of words.
Slides 8-34, 8-35
In addition to being clear and informative, there are three criteria for good headings:
Headings on the same level need to be grammatically parallel.
The wording needs to be as concise as possible while still being informative.
Monotony should be avoided (use variety for interest).
Comparable levels in an outline need to be parallel to show likeness.
All equal-level divisions should be in similar grammatical form. Second divisions under a first-level
division should be parallel, but not the same for all divisions, and so forth.
Three major grammatical forms for headings are these:
Noun Phrase (noun and its modifiers)
“High Rate of Sales in District III”
Sentence (declarative, not interrogative)
“District II Sales Rank Second”
Truncated sentence (part of verb phrase/verb or other words missing, as in a headline)
“District I at Bottom”
Slide 8-35 provides opportunities for students to practice making headings parallel.
Slide 8-36
Headings should be the shortest possible word arrangement that meets the talking requirement. Be
Slide 8-37
You can start your discussion of using variety in headings with this slide. The following is another
example of repetitious and uninteresting headings:
A. Pennsylvania Durables Consumption
B. Michigan Durables Consumption
C. Arizona Durables Consumption
If you use talking headings they will do a better job:
A. Pennsylvania Leads in Overall Consumption
B. Michigan Stands in a Close Second Position
C. Third-Ranking Arizona Follows on the Heels of Michigan
Writing the Report
The actual drafting of the report need not be a daunting task if you have followed the previous advice in
this chapter: writing a clear problem statement, keeping track of your interpretations, and making an
organizational plan. Following the advice in previous chapters will also help make the report writing
process, especially the drafting stage, as painless and productive as possible.
The advice about adaptation in previous chapters will help you write a readable and interesting report.
Particularly when revising, be sure to write in a way that your readers will find clear and efficient, and be
sure that attractive formatting provides easy access to the contents.
Slide 8-38
Here’s an overview of report-writing advice. The following sections give more specific advice.
Slide 8-39
Beginning and Ending
The beginning and ending are critical parts of almost any report because these are likely to be the most
read parts. (While reviewing the criteria on this slide, you might look at the beginnings and endings of the
sample reports in the chapter.)
Slide 8-40
Impersonal and Personal Style
Because an impersonal style (no I’s, we’s, you’s) can make a report seem more objective, business reports
have traditionally used this style.
But as workplaces have become less formal, personal writing has become more common. And critics of
the impersonal style say that it is overly passive and therefore dull.
You should follow an intelligent compromise:
Use the impersonal style for more formal reports and situations.
Use the personal style for informal reports and situations.
Another note about style is that the writer should always be objective. The goal of a report writer is to
seek the best information and the most reasonable interpretations. To achieve this goal, the report writer
must keep an open mind and maintain a judicial attitude. These qualities should make the report as
objective as possible.
The writing style should also be interesting. Here are some ways to maintain reader interest:
Work hard to make your writing appealing to the reader.
Select words carefully.
Be mindful of the rhythm of your expressions.
Do not stress writing techniques unnecessarily over the facts.
Bring to the surface of your writing the life that exists beneath each cold statistic.