GROUP PROJECTS.  There are a number of important components to this course—keeping up with the chapter readings, good writing skills, a good resume, a good Web page at the end of the semester.  But one of the most important is your group project.  Groups of four people will be choosing a topic involving some aspect of business/organizational communication, carefully researching that topic, writing a paper on it, and giving a professional presentation on it at the end of the semester.  Groups are mandatory.  The fourth or fifth week is the time to be thinking of possible project ideas, and who you might like to work with in a group.  Although I do not ask for formal group sign-up until mid-term, groups of four can sign up sooner if desired—as long as you, the group, have some tentative topic ideas.

TOPIC.  Topic selection is fairly wide open.  As mentioned above, the topic should have a clear connection to some aspect of business or organizational communication--concerning internal or external audiences, or both.  But your paper should have a focus.  Reexamine the chapter headings in your Locker text.  Even better, select a section within a chapter as the basis of your communication analysis paper.  (a) You might choose a topic raised in another business class that you (as a group) would like to explore more thoroughly.  (b) Or you could turn to my PAWS Web page for links to current events in business, business trade publications or business academic journals.  Exploring appropriate databases via Hunter Library could be very fruitful (this will have been done by the time you turn in your Proposal assignment).  (c) You might choose a local Jackson County business to analyze, or (d) a WCU organizational entity (administrative, faculty, or staff).  (e) Note also the many links I have posted relating to Western Carolina regional economic development.

WRITING AND STYLE.  Locker does a good job describing report writing in Chapter 14.  She spends considerable space on organization guidelines (and see below), but note also her section on “Presenting Information Effectively in Reports.”  What she does not emphasize is how difficult it is to smoothly integrate into a research report references to 10-to-15 bibliography sources.  This takes work on the part of all group members, and particular effort on the part of a group member willing to be the editor towards the end of the semester.  Do NOT simply dump off to the group or the editor “your section of the paper” (which may or may not be what others expected).  You must meet and work as a group to craft how your different sections integrate as part of the whole.  If you can’t meet, exchange email regularly.

OBJECTIVITY.  Material included in the paper should fall within the defined scope and relate to the stated purpose.  Content should be well-researched—primarily from reliable, unbiased sources—and should reflect the 6-to-8 weeks of intermittent but persistent work that you have put into this effort.  Note that your personal opinions are irrelevant, except in the (optional) Recommendations section of the paper.  Think of this report as a general briefing paper you are providing to the Chief Executive Officer of a company.  The CEO is interested in an objective, factual, thoughtful report.  Avoid filling pages with information the CEO could have found by herself in a two-minute search of the Web; your information should go deeper than that.  Note reference requirements below.

METHODOLOGY.  You have two choices for this paper:  A) Extensive, detailed, scholarly library research on a contemporary topic appropriate to this assignment, or B) Somewhat less extensive library research in combination with the collection of some primary data (preferably interviews with experts or practicing professionals or a content analysis; possibly survey data).  If you decide on the latter you must follow Locker’s textbook guidelines (Ch. 13) and my lecture guidelines regarding the construction of a survey and its administration.  I discourage surveying students; target employees or managers.  Any survey must be pre-approved by me.  See also:

GROUP WORK.  With rare exception, you must work as a team on this project.  In addition to having each other’s phone numbers and regular e-mail accounts, you also have WebCT e-mail, and “chat rooms” at your disposal.  Additionally, you will occasionally have some time towards the end of our scheduled class period.  Note that your grade at the end of the semester on both the oral and written portions of this project will be determined in part by the other members on your team.

LENGTH AND QUALITY.  Each person in the research group should count on contributing 3-to-4 pages, on average--so at the end of the semester I will expect a well-integrated 10-to-15 page report from each team.  Overall quality of this paper should be reflective of standards that would be reasonable for a potential employer to expect from upper-level university Business majors.

FORMATTING.  The paper should be double-spaced; with 1.2” margins; 11 or 12-point font, preferably Times Roman, in APA style—including any figures, tables and graphs.  At least one table and one graph is expected, more where appropriate.  Typically, Tables and Figures are numbered separately, consecutively; each is accompanied by a meaningful title.  Explanatory text precedes the visual.  (For more, please review Chapters 13, 14 & 15). The paper should be well-edited so that it flows smoothly, utilizing effective transitions.  No grammatical or spelling errors, of course.  A review of Chapter 4 and Appendix B might be helpful.  Writing should be in formal business style.  I prefer third person voice, but I will accept first-person (“we”).  Whichever you choose, be consistent (Locker’s example in Ch. 14 uses the first-person “I”).

Presenting Information Effectively

Use these four techniques
1.  Say What You Mean
2.  Tighten Your Writing
3.  Introduce Sources and Visuals Gracefully
4.  Use Transitions, Topic Sentences, Headings and (where appropriate) Sub-Headings

Headings in Reports
•   Headings are usually short phrases that describe the material until the next heading

•   Locker discusses headings in Ch. 14 (Although her example is not technically APA style, you may follow it for your heading styles if you like.  Or use APA.)

•   Appropriate headings are critical to the organization of the paper

See also, Research Paper Organization

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