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Consultancy Report Writing: Traffic flow management


Project proposals / feasibility studies / progress reports ... symbols ... Gemini Consulting (1996). Meeting Europe's Air Traffic Needs. Brussels: ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Consultancy Report Writing: Traffic flow management

Consultancy Report Writing Traffic flow
FdAW, Project 2.4. PV. Knowledge Engineering
  • Bob Wilkinson
  • Maastricht University Language Centre

Report Writing overview
  • Reports structure
  • Readership of reports
  • Example of report structure
  • Executive summary discussion, conclusions
  • Language and readability

Effective Report Writing
  • How much do you write?
  • professionals reporting 60-80 of time
  • written reports 25-60 of time

What do professionals write?
  • Project proposals / feasibility studies /
    progress reports / final reports
  • System reliability reports
  • Reports of site visits
  • Technical descriptions
  • Users guides (explaining procedures)
  • Instructions for technical processes / procedures
  • Abstracts/summaries (of own others' writing)
  • Articles for professional journals
  • Business letters, faxes
  • Minutes of meetings
  • Bulletins for external users
  • Briefing notes (for senior managers)
  • Form completion
  • Questionnaires
  • Budget reports
  • Legal documents (patent supporting evidence, etc.)

  • Answer 5 questions
  • Who commissioned the report?
  • What were you asked to investigate? And who for?
  • How did you go about conducting the
  • What conclusions do you draw from the evidence
    you have found?
  • What recommendations can you make on the basis of
    the evidence?

Consultancy Reports
  • Criteria
  • Review of commission purpose, main findings (so
    far), main conclusions recommendations (excl.
    figures, tables, references)
  • Follow standard referencing guidelines as
    required in KT/Informatics courses
  • Must include executive summary at start (ca. 200
    words) goal, main conclusions, main
  • Not simple copy-and-paste from webpages

Report Structure
  • Cover page
  • Title page
  • Table of contents
  • Preface / Acknowledgements
  • Abstract / Summary
  • List of illustrations
  • List of abbreviations symbols
  • Introduction (Commissioner, purpose, description
    of problem, etc.)
  • Body of report (arranged logically in headed
  • Conclusions recommendations
  • Appendices

English matters in reports
  • Clear layout
  • Clear headings and subheadings
  • Effective topic sentences to start paragraphs
  • Use of we - you represent a team of people
  • Eliminate long, complex, muddled sentences

Key points for reports
  • What is important is what the reader wants or
    needs in the report
  • So identify your likely readers (both immediate
    and ultimate readers)
  • Logical order move from generalizations and
    claims to support and details
  • Don't make your readers work too hard

Key points for reports
  • Benefits of knowing your readers
  • Understanding shared knowledge general world
    knowledge domain-specific knowledge So you
    grasp what needs to be said and what doesn't.
  • Explaining content clearlySo write clearly and
    make your report easy to skim-read
  • Understanding questions readers might aske.g.
    "What does this sentence mean?", "Haven't you
    got your ideas muddled here?", etc.

Key points for reports
  • Pay attention to the formality of your report
    (study formality of sample consultancy reports)
  • Pay attention to the linking language you use
    between points note the role of advance

Part 2
  • Readership of reports

False assumptions
  • Nature of audience
  • person addressed is audience
  • audience is group of specialists in field
  • Dynamic nature
  • finite period of use
  • author audience always available
  • audience familiar with task
  • Day-to-day activity
  • audience involved in daily discussions
  • audience awaits report
  • audience has time to read report

Help from knowledge of readership
  • Shared knowledge - general world knowledge
    domain knowledge
  • you have better grasp of what needs saying
  • Clear explanation of content is important
  • clarity and ease for skim-reading
  • Understanding questions readers might ask

Seven questions to help you get to know your
  • What will your report be used for?
  • By what channels will your report circulate?
  • Who are the people, now and in the future, who
    may need to read it?
  • What are your readers concerns, goals, values,
  • How will you make it easy for busy readers?
  • What are the most effective arguments with your
  • What objections might your readers raise?

Part 3
  • Sample consultancy report

Example of report structureKnowledge Management
in Software Engineeringhttp//
  • Cover page
  • Report documentation page
  • Table of Contents (ToC)
  • Introduction
  • 4 sections
  • Summary
  • Acknowledgements
  • References

Example of report structureKnowledge Management
in Software Engineering
  • Each section (bold, lowercase, large font)
  • unnumbered subsections (bold, lowercase)
  • sub-subsections, esp. in section 3 (italics)
  • classifications within sub-subsections
  • listing bullets, numerical (if appropriate)
  • figures, esp. in section 2

Report introduction
  • Situation and background growth hype
  • leading to questions
  • Goal of report
  • Rationale
  • Problems with knowledge
  • Structure of report
  • Readers

Section structure
  • Section overview
  • Needs (7 subsections)
  • Challenges (1 subsection)
  • Opportunities (1 subsection)
  • Note
  • transitions between subsections
  • topic sentences

Reporting figures
(No Transcript)
  • Possible structures
  • 5 Ps
  • S-O-A-P
  • S-C-R-A-P

5 Ps
Part 4
  • Executive summaries discussion conclusions

Executive summary
  • Answers to questions
  • why report has been written
  • who it is intended for
  • what results it has yielded

Executive summary
  • Aims
  • to define context
  • to orient readers to subject of report
  • to define purpose of report
  • to present main findings
  • to present conclusions
  • to present recommendations implications

Executive summary
  • Questions for writer to consider
  • importance
  • cost
  • problems, and risk assessment
  • implications
  • additional work
  • resources
  • priorities
  • dates deadlines
  • recommendations
  • limitations

Discussion and conclusions
  • Key rhetorical moves
  • summary of accomplishments, findings, etc.
    (sometimes preceded by restatement of aim)
  • comments on, evaluation of main findings, plus
    any relevant comparison with other known reports
    in related circumstances
  • interpretations of findings
  • discussion of counterclaims (alternative
  • implications, recommendations, reservations,

Discussion and conclusions
  • Language features
  • accomplishments present or present perfect
    tense, personal style
  • general comments present tense
  • clear distinction between own findings and those
    of other reports that you might cite

Discussion and conclusions
  • Language features
  • high density of connectives argument
  • deduction, condition, cause effect, comparison
    contrast, generalization qualification
  • use of hedging expressions (to avoid
    over-interpretation)- tend to, suggest, imply-
    could, may, would seem- possibly, apparently,

Drawing conclusions
  • Concluding paragraphs of papers
  • In conclusion, on the whole, finally
  • Concluding sentences of paragraphs or sections
  • arguments hence, thus, clearly, then,
  • dataindicate, show,
  • graphs/tables indicate, prove, show,
  • several paragraphs in short, to sum up,

Tone in conclusions
  • Generalizing
  • risk less than full certainty
  • risk less than full accuracy
  • Qualifying
  • limits generalization by- quantity all, most,
    some- frequency always, usually, often,
    rarely- probability definite, likely, maybe,
    modal verbs

Part 5
  • Language and readability

Topic sentence
  • Constituents expect they will have to cope with
    significantly increased traffic levels in the
    future. As one constituent told us, "We need to
    meet a huge growth in traffic - I think we can
    expect a 75-100 increase by 2010." Many believe
    that accommodating this level of growth while
    avoiding increases in delays will require
    fundamental changes in the way we manage air
    traffic in Europe. From a political standpoint,
    no one wants a repeat experience of the late
    1980s, when reports of tourists and business
    people waiting for hours at airports for delayed
    flights were often reported in the media,
    particularly on television.Gemini Consulting
    (1996). Meeting Europe's Air Traffic Needs.
    Brussels EUROCONTROL.

Balanced sentence
Balanced sentence
Long sentences
  • In his Brighton speech, Britains prime minister
    did not promise merely to punish Osama bin Laden
    and his Taliban protectors. He promised to sort
    out the war in Congo. And not just Congo. Mr
    Blair explained his plans to bring democracy,
    good government and prosperity to all of Africa.
    He called also for the defeat of global warming,
    for the creation of a Palestinian state, for
    justice in Northern Ireland, for more free trade,
    for Britain to join the euro (when the economic
    conditions are met), for a melding of the
    American spirit of enterprise with the European
    spirit of solidarity, for the building of
    bridges, for realism but also for idealism, for
    peace but also for a strong defence, for the many
    not the few, for a flexible economy but also for
    fairness at work, for public investment (but not
    for public spending), for the reform but not the
    privatisation of the health service, for equal
    worth but not for equal outcomes, for the
    understanding of Islam but also for the
    understanding of Judaism and Christianity, for
    freedom not only in Britain but also for the
    starving, the wretched, the dispossessed, the
    ignorant, those living in want and squalor from
    the deserts of Northern Africa to the slums of
    Gaza, to the mountain ranges of Afghanistan.
    (The Economist, October 6, 2001. p.44)

Four golden rules
  • Always prefer familiar words to unfamiliar ones
  • avoid unnecessary jargon
  • use technical, specific terms
  • Prefer concrete words to abstract ones
  • use concrete verbs apply, acquire,
    implement instead of abstract nouns
    application, acquisition, implementation

Four golden rules
  • Prefer single words to wordiness
  • Instead of
  • He wrote to me in regard to your proposal to
    reduce the clerical costs in connection with
    auditing travel vouchers.
  • Write
  • He wrote to me about your proposal to reduce the
    clerical costs of auditing travel vouchers.
  • Prefer short words to long ones
  • prefer use, shows instead of utilizes,

  • You assume a lot when you write a report.
  • Risks if you dont make the effort, ...
  • Dont expect your readers to either!

No simple formulas
  • Short sentences dont always help
  • too many short sentences
  • too many short imprecise words
  • may make your text more difficult
  • Average 18-20 words per sentence useful guide.

Structuring information
  • Creating balance known-new information
  • Using key words
  • Explaining concepts for non-specialist
  • Structuring important information
  • Structuring paragraphs

Creating balance new-known
  • Put information that is new for the reader in
    context that is known to the reader
  • nothing new boring
  • all new incomprehensible
  • Stimulate reader to recall the right information
  • use words to elicit right mental images

Example known-new balance
Using key words
  • Enhance coherence memorability
  • Key words are effective
  • trigger appropriate imagery
  • relate to topic of report
  • relate to readers purpose

Using key words
  • Chaining key words through text
  • long chains help text hang together
  • too many short chains too many changes of topic
  • too many overlapping chains too dense in

Using key words
  • Make key words prominent
  • in titles and headings
  • in subheadings
  • in topic statements (first sentences)
  • in subject position in sentences

Explaining concepts
  • Visuals
  • Analogies
  • Paraphrases
  • Definitions
  • Extended definitions

Extended definition
  • The Remrak coefficientIn the production of
    powdered detergents, spray drying is the
    technique used to evaporate the solvent from the
    liquid reaction mixture and physically form the
    finished product. In spray drying, the liquid is
    sprayed into the top of a tall tower and allowed
    to fall freely to the bottom of the tower, where
    it is removed as a dry powder. Particles dried in
    this fashion have an unusual shape, like that of
    a saddle (or a Pringle's potato crisp), and
    consequently fall through the air in an unusual
    manner. Rather than falling in a vertical path,
    the particles fall in a helical (spiral) path.
    The shape of the helical path is described by the
    Remrak coefficient, which is the ratio of the
    diameter of the helix to the height required for
    one passage of the particle around the perimeter
    of the helix. The coefficient, which is a
    function of drying conditions, is sought to be
    maximized, so that the length of flight of the
    particle is made much greater than the actual
    height of the spray-drying tower.

Extended definition in example text (see slide 26)
Three warnings
  • Dont define more than you have to define
  • Dont explain in more detail than necessary
  • Dont let your explanations disturb smooth reading

Structuring important information
  • Give greatest prominence to information you want
    reader to attend to
  • So
  • Key ideas in first sentences, first paragraphs
  • Put lists in lists!
  • BUT
  • lists equal importance, equal prominence

Structuring paragraphs
  • Give each paragraph good topic sentence
  • tells reader what paragraph is about
  • Follow clear pattern of organization
  • Does paragraph explain topic?
  • Does paragraph give argumentative details?
  • Does paragraph compare or contrast?
  • Does paragraph give causes or reasons?
  • Does paragraph define?

Readability sentence level
  • Ordering information at sentence level
  • Most important information occurs in NOUN PHRASES

Noun phrases
Three principles
  • Put given/known information before new
  • Put topical information in subject position
  • Put light noun phrases before heavy noun

Testing your writing
  • Is information missing?
  • Is report misleading?
  • Is report confusing?
  • Does it raise unanswered questions?
  • For scanning can reader find information easily?
  • For skimming can reader get main points quickly?

Cheryl McClure. (n.d.) Mesa. Source Cheryl
McClures home page.
Good luck