Effective Report Writing Workshop by olliegoblue33

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									Effective Report Writing Workshop

1. Why do we have Reports?
1. 2. 3. 4. To present the results of research and investigation work to allow the reader to make conclusions. A specific form to communicate between interested parties with a certain goal - to present a message to encourage specific action To keep a written systematic record for the future To summarise a situation.

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2. Characteristics of “The best report I have ever read”
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. Concise - long enough for the message Clear message Gave an explanation of background Linked with other information sources Clearly structured Clear focus – clear main point Interesting presentation of ideas Punctual language avoided ambiguity Good layout that was easy to read and follow Understandable for audience Logically collected - Good sequence Met the objectives it was written for Readable – consistent, visually appealing, well formatted – bullets, ordered Was based on strong reliable information Was based on up to date and original information Contained new messages Was convincing – especially conclusions – well defined. Had enough real evidence based on information presented Answered all my questions and the problem set. Used appropriate language for audience Was Informative Was obviously Honest + Reliable + Balanced + Unbiased I knew the position of writer

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3. Writing a Terms of Reference for a Report.
A good terms of reference (sometimes abbreviated to ToR) is developed in partnership between the person doing the research and writing the report, and the person wanting the report. The terms of reference might be amended as a result of this discussion. Not all these points might be needed for every report. For example, for some reports the implementation might not be the responsibility of the report writer and so her or she might not need to know the budget. Effective Report Writing Workshop

1. 2. 3. 4.

Who is the Report for? Who will read it and who will act on it? When does the Report have to be completed? Why is the Report needed? What stimulated the Report? What is the Scope of Work? Will the Report be written using currently available data or does original research have to be done? 5. What is the Goal of the Report? What is the Report going to be used for? 6. What are the requirements for the Report – structure, length, layout, illustrations and so on 7. What budget can be spent on putting the Reports recommendations into practise? 8. What background information is there available? 9. How much is the Report itself going to cost to research and write. What budget is available? 10.Are priorities for action required? 11.Are there conditions in the timescale? Are interim Reports needed? 12.What is process for redrafting a report - does it have to go through different stages? 13.How is the Report going to be judged? What are the criteria for assessment? 14.Who is the Report for? Who will read it and act on it? 15.When does the Report have to be completed? 16.Why is the Report needed? What stimulated the Report? 17.What is the Scope of Work? – will the Report be written using currently available data or does original research have to be done? 18.What is the Goal of the Report? What is the Report going to be used for?

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19.What are the requirements for the Report – structure, length, layout, illustrations and so on 20.What budget can be spent on putting the Reports recommendations into practise? 21.What background information is there available? 22.How much is the Report itself going to cost to research and write – what budget is available? 23.Are there priorities for action? 24.Are there conditions in the timescale? - are interim Reports needed, will the report need redrafting? 25.How is the Report going to be judged? - what are the criteria for assessment?

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4. Deciding and Researching the data
Once the ToR have been agreed, the next step is to decide on the data required. This is not a single fixed process. Data might be gathered and the report writing process start, before the researcher realises that more data is needed! Data can be gathered through 1. Desk research using secondary sources - other reports for example. 2. Indirect research using questionnaires or surveys 3. Direct research through talking to people - primary data

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5. Collecting information - Setting up a Meeting
Collecting information will often involve meeting with people and through a variety of processes gaining information about the topic you are researching. Introducing a Meeting Create a comfortable positive atmosphere -warm welcome – make people comfortable (sweets, water) - clearly explain the purpose of the meeting – explain about group working – make people feel valued - explain how information will be used - encourage honesty - set ground rules - say what will happen after the meeting

Running a Meeting The key is to use techniques that get the maximum amount of information from people. Many of the techniques can use the THINK – PAIR – SHARE approach – getting people to think individually and then share information in pairs before sharing as a whole group. See other handouts for specific techniques – use some of the techniques modelled during the workshop for dividing people into groups , collecting information by going round a group (rather than waiting for some people to shout out!)

Concluding a Meeting Thanks and say what is happening to the data – give opportunity for more involvement

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6. Getting Information - Brainstorming
Brainstorming is a technique used to generate new ideas. It is a creative process. Brainstorms can be  structured - where everyone gives and idea in turn - for example by going round a group one by one  unstructured - where people say their ideas as and when ! The first method is better as it makes everyone contribute towards the group thinking but as a creative process it can put pressure on people. There are basic rules for brainstorming which must be followed –  Brainstorms should be fast - people should give ideas without too much thought.  People should be creative - any ideas are possible  Phrases should be written as stated – there should be no change of words or even clarification  There should be no criticism or discussion by the participants OR the person writing up the idea  All phrases should be written – nothing should be deleted. Sometimes if you are brainstorming in a large group it is best to have two flip charts so that the speed of people giving ideas can be kept up. Ideas are written on alternate flip charts. Do not confuse brainstorming with listing - which many people do. Brainstorming is designed to generate creative new ideas and solutions to a problem. You do not brainstorm the names of countries in the world for example, or any other list where there is no opportunity for new ideas. Effective Report Writing Workshop

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7. Getting information from people communication
Holding and open ended discussion with a group of people is rarely useful. If you want specific information you have to structure a discussion - and make sure that a good record is kept of what conclusions are made. Because different people communicate in different ways it is important to both select approaches to communication that match the group and use a range of approaches so that all those who attend a meeting feel that they can express their opinions Different ways of communication People have what are called preferred learning and communication styles Visual more than 35% of people prefer to communicate through visual methods - in meetings they will enjoy drawing posters Kinaesthetic through body language and movement - in meetings they will enjoy activities of movement to express opinions Auditory through words - in meetings they will enjoy talking! So basically, we need to try and communicate using all three methods to ensure that all people feel comfortable with our communication. The methods on these sheets summarise different communication methods. Forcefield analysis Helps to look at the forces which can encourage change and the forces which fight against change). This is a little like Opportunities and Threats!

Please draw the diagram

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8. Getting information from people different techniques
Nominal Group Technique This is a simple way of taking everyone’s views into account when deciding priorities. Members of a group are all asked to vote about an issue and put the options in a rank order. The rank orders from all the groups members are collected and added together to find out which option has the highest (or lowest score) For example, group members are asked to rank the weaknesses of biodiversity training at University level in Bulgaria - six weaknesses have been identified. The main Scores for members Weaknesses 1 - biggest weakness Total A B C D E F 1 3 4 5 2 6 2 5 3 4 1 6 1 6 2 4 3 5 1 3 2 5 4 6 5 17 11 19 10 23 lowest score = the biggest problem

Fishbone diagram (Cause and Effect) You will have to draw it yourself here!! With the effect (or problem that you have brainstormed on the right and the causes as the bones of the fish on the left!) For every effect there are likely to be a number of causes - for areas like capacity building these might be People, Plant, Policies and Procedures – but you can always think of your own groupings if these don’t fit. Remember to look at the real cause and not the symptoms. After you have brainstormed causes of the problem you can fit them onto the four main bones of the fish – and them for each one as the question “why does it happen?” and write these as the smaller bones!! When you have completed the diagram you can then look for linkages and repeated causes that you will have to tackle.

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9. SWOT analysis
This is a technique to use to structure group discussions to get information from groups. The thing to do to get a good SWOT is to encourage people to be specific. A weakness might be “Poor leadership” - but how is this defined - what do people mean by “poor”. So be specific “leaders that cannot delegate effectively” is specific. Do be aware that different people use the same word to mean different things - so always check for the meaning of words.

Strengths Current strengths Things can appear in more that one box (be a strength and a weakness for example) Opportunities Things that could provide a chance to build on strengths and get rid of weaknesses – in the future! Make sure people don’t put actual action points here

Weaknesses Current weaknesses Encourage people to be specific A weakness of SWOT is that it doesn’t show links Threats Things that could be a threat to change in the future – these are often difficult to do and requires some creative thinking. Make sure these are really threats – and not weaknesses!

 When doing SWOT you need to be aware of who is in the group a wide group of stakeholders will give a balanced SWOT  The outputs of SWOT might depend on the reasons for doing it  After doing a SWOT you can use one of a number of methods to prioritise the issues with the boxes.

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10. Questionnaires – finding out information from people
Questionnaires are a common form of finding out information from people for a Report. However unless you need to make sure that the information you get from a questionnaire is reliable and valid – unless you do this then the effort you spend on making a questionnaire will not produce any useful data Here are some tips 1. Make sure you know what data you need to get from the questionnaire – be clear about the outcome. 2. Only ask questions related to this outcome – and always be clear about why you are asking a question. 3. Questionnaires that give the best results are those that are asked by a researcher – OR where people complete them in your presence. 4. Questionnaires that require people to take the questionnaire away with them and send it back to you in some way are usually much less reliable, and you also get fewer replies – and they are more costly – you have to produce more to get the result that you want. 5. If you do have a send it back questionnaire then incentives to encourage people to do this are helpful – a prize of some kind (that the respondents are likely to want – a free copy of the report might not be enough!!) 6. Although there are scientific methods for calculating the number of questionnaires to do between 50 and 200 is usually enough for the kind of work we do. 7. Make sure that you get a representative sample of people questionnaires that rely on being sent back are less good at this – or less easy to achieve. The best questionnaires are those where you select the people to be asked and then get a researcher to do the asking! 8. Always try and pre test your questionnaire to check that it works! People rarely do this but it really is worth it! It takes time but saves time. There is nothing more frustrating than finding out that important questions do not work or give you information needed. 9. Have a good introduction is important. stress – why the questionnaire is being done – whether it is confidential or not – how helpful it will be both for the research and in the long term for

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the respondent – to create a “good mood” of “I want to fill this in” with the researcher. 10.Structure the questionnaire in sections if there are a larger number of questions. 11.Make sure that the instructions to the questions are clear – testing will establish this! 12.If you want to – you can explain why you are asking the questions – this often helps people to understand why they are answering it. 13.Try to make sure that the questionnaire does not take long to complete – 20 minutes is usually the most! 14.Have a mix of questions – open ended, Yes/No and multiple choice – bear in mind that multiple choice are usually the easiest to analyse quantitatively. However, multiple choice questionnaires must be pretested other wise you are likely to get the options wrong! 15.Have the easy factual and general questions at the beginning and more complex ones towards the end. 16.Have questions about opinions towards the end 17.It is possible to ask the same thing a few times but in different ways if you want to check that truthful answers have been given. 18.If you do have multiple choice then 4 or 6 options are better at giving results that three or five – people nearly always go for the middle response 19.It is more usual to ask questions about the respondent at the end – but it can be done at the beginning. Remember that it is difficult to ensure honest answers for some questions such as income!

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11. Communication Checklist (Lego)
Our Reports will communicate successfully if  We keep our language simple and appropriate to the target group  We describe the “big picture” before starting  We take things step by step - and make sure that we explain one idea at a time  We use simple instructions  We recognise that we need to use graphics and words to explain the same idea  We use the model “tell people what we are going to tell them - then tell them - and then tell them we have told them”  We recognise the background of the target group and their level of understanding  We understand how they are going to read the report - how much time they have. We should remember that if somebody says “I don’t understand your report” then this is OUR responsibility to get it right.

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12. Data Description
When describing data we should make sure that  We present all the data necessary in the Report Text - the full data can go in an appendix.  We question our data and ensure people know its limitations  We make our conclusions robust from the data  We make sure our conclusions are valid from the data. The most common mistake people make is to infer motivation or emotion from factual data.  We recognise and acknowledge that sometimes more data is needed  We question relationships between data  We make an honest evaluation of the data.  We do not use data that are meaningless. Some Reports say things like “we did not get enough responses to our questionnaire but here is the data anyway” - and of course people remember the conclusions that you make and Not the fact that the data is terrible!! We read too many reports where the person writing the Report makes the data fit the conclusion he or she wants to make. Of course, it should be the other way round.

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13. Data Presentation
We used four kinds of data presentation  Histograms (remember to put them in order of size from left to right unless the data is time sequenced or sequenced in order ways)  Scatter graphs (great for looking at the relationship between data)  Line graphs (We did not use these! For presenting data that goes over time or space and where we can interpolate values in between!)  Pie charts for looking at percentages  Diagrams (such as the earth diagram) or cartoons – pictograms. Diagrams can be simple and complex - for example - you can have more than one line on a line graph, histograms can be divided inside the bar graph and so on. Make sure that you check with an expert first. The most common mistake people make is to draw lines on graphs that mean nothing at all! We should select data that is appropriate the audience and the data itself

Note www.earthdays.net is a good website for ecological footprint calculations.

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14 Structuring a Report
Reports can have the following ingredients or sections – they are in kind of the right order!                          Cover - this should be attractive for the target group Title page Authors list - and short biographies if this is important Content List of figures List of tables List of abbreviations Introduction Executive Summary - this can go before some of the pages listed above Key words Main points Background and Terms of Reference for the Research Methodology Body of text Data Analysis of results Conclusions Recommendations Lessons learned Discussion Glossary - can go at the beginning Acknowledgements - can go at the beginning References Bibliography Index

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15 Technical issues about a Report
Always remember the audience - what might be good for an academic audience will not be good for the general public! When writing a Report you have to decide  Page layout - number of columns, use of illustrations  Page size - A4 is the most normal but non standard sizes can make you report more memorable (though m ore difficult to file!)  Font size - 12 point is most usual  Font type - serif type faces are generally easier to read - avoid using too many type faces  Margin size - large margins can encourage note making, but otherwise they can waste space and make a report bigger than it needs to be.  Paragraph numbering - don’t be too complicated  Use of bullet points - good idea but difficult to reference  Table and Figure numbering  Page number placing - bottom right is usual and easy to reference  Text spacing  Line spacing - 1.5 at the most  Justified margins or not - non justified margins are easier to read on large pages  Use of footnotes - put at the end unless the reference is vitally important  Use of appendices  Headers and Footers - especially if your report is going to be photocopied  The use of logos on each page or not - a good idea - especially if your report is going to be photocopied - but don’t use logos as a background to the whole pages as they can easily obscure text.  Use of and number of illustrations  Is there going to be any decoration on the page - avoid unrelated diagrams and pictures - if you use pictures make sure they carry a message  Kind of paper - of course it should be recycled!  Number of columns  Method of referencing  Other things - don’t let the design confuse the information!

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Effective Report Writing Workshop

16 WRITING AN EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Keep it short, up to one page Focus on the main goals, methods, topics and results Make sure it contains the most important information needed Do not explain what is known Do not include too many technical and too specific terms Clear, concise and easy to understand content Be aware that a wide group of people might read the summary and some will read ONLY the summary 8. Be aware that a summary might be used by others (including sometimes the media!) and can be used in bibliographic descriptions 9. Include only relevant information. 10.Try to write it so that it will increase interest in reading the full report

Example The main goal of the current report is … The report was commission by… for the purpose of… This goal was reached through… methodology. The results obtained are… The main conclusion are… On the basis of this were made the following recommendations …

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17 FORMATTING A REPORT
1. Opaque paper, white, A4 format, portrait layout, bound, paginated, margins (4sm. On the left, 2 sm. On other sides), 1,5 spaced 2. Title page – The Golden section should be used. Title authors, logos of required, year (date) 3. Fonts – wide spread, standard, 12pt recommended, Times New Roman 4. Highlight consistently the important info use boxed text when applicable 5. All illustrations, graphs and tables should be consecutively numbered and with captions, good quality 6. Headers and footers used in informative way

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18. WRITING EFFECTIVE CONCLUSIONS
Keep them Brief Draw conclusions from discussion section Do not include any new materials Make clear final points The conclusion might include reflections on study limitations / implications 6. The conclusions must relate to the data 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Examples A period of twenty years is envisaged (this is too weak a word and in English a little vague - “needed” is better) for full implementation of the plan.

The main investments in methane tanks for anaerobic digestion (no need for all this detail about the kind of digestion - this would have been described in the Report itself) are envisaged (see above) after 2010.

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19 WRITING RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Make them precise 2. Make them Action-oriented 3. Make them Concise 4. Make them Clear 5. Use firm language 6. Follow-up the conclusion 7. Make them Specific 8. Make sure that Define responsibilities and timeframe are defined 9. Make sure they are recommendations from the data and research 10.Make sure that some priority is attached to them and that the readers are clear what the criteria for the priority are.

The Department of the Environment should consider the development of a training course for teachers This is very poor The Department of the Environment (which section) should consider (this is easy to do if all they have to do is consider it!) the development of a training course (what does this mean?) for teachers (all teachers?)(when ?) The Training Section of the Department of the Environment should develop a programme and resources for a 15 hour training course for primary school teachers on “How to teach biodiversity outside the classroom” to be delivered through University Biology Departments on an annual basis starting in the Academic year 2006. This is better (even if it is longer)

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20 WRITING SKILLS
1. Keep sentences short – if necessary- no more than 20 words 2. Avoid abbreviations and acronyms too much unless you are completely certain that everyone will understand them without references. “We attended the CPC meetings together with the UNECE and PPFM directorates of CCCTI and MEPRF. Together with developed a joint statement for the GGHT and FSC.” NO! 3. Avoid the Passive voice - some reports can be personal and others passive. 4. One paragraph should contain one main idea 5. Eliminate jargon and 6. Illustrate points with examples 7. Be careful with scientific terms 8. Balanced decoration (bullets, numbers, header, footer, etc.) 9. Avoid use of foreign words 10.Avoid “bla-bla” 11.Avoid repetitions

Comments -

“Writing” is also “art”: needs creativeness Make impersonal Make it sound interesting Avoid emotive language Link paragraphs logically

Example A “Report Writing” workshop was held at the hotel Club Vladaya near Sofia on 25-27 November 2003. The seminar was organized by Selfassessment” Project. The main objective of the workshop was to improve trainees’ skills in information collection, analysis, organization and presentation. The trainer was Mr. James Hindson, representative of the “Field Studies Council” UK. 25 project participants took part in the sessions.

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21 CONTENTS LIST
A contents list is like map of the Report - after reading the summary many people will go to the contents list to find the information they most want to read. 1. Make sure the contents are easy to orientate 2. Make sure they are full, and include all the headings of title, chapters 3. Make sure that the page number is accurate and that the numbering of titles match the page numbers 4. Keep the chapter titles bold, 5. For long reports have two contents lists - one showing the pages of the chapters and the long one with more detail. (like maps of different scales) 6. Look through some reports and follow a model you like. 7. Tables, charts, figures - Titled - Positioned according to the text - Subsequently numbered - Source of information - Legend

Example 1 1. INTRODUCTION ……………………………………………….. 5 1.1. Definition of capacity ………………………………… 1.2. Levels of capacity ……………………………………. 2. STANDARDS FOR CAPACITY………………………………. 2.1. Kyoto Protocol………………………………………… 2.2.Obligations ……………………………………………..

etc

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REMEMBER THE READER IS KING – YOUR REPORT SHOULD FOCUS FIRST AND FOREMOST ON THE READERS NEEDS HARD WRITING MAKES EASY READING


								
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