Objectives of Project Three


In our last project, you used technical communication to educate a college-educated audience. In this project, you will explore how to collect data from a group of people, how to analyze that data, and how to make recommendations based on your findings. These are essential skills for technical communicators, no matter which field or industry you are working in.

Your job in this specific project is to form a research question or hypothesis about a specific population’s relationship to a community issue (an issue related to the non-profit (Attached Audience Profile ) that has been your “client” this semester). To that end, you will construct a questionnaire to give to a specific population that deals with the community issue. This questionnaire should gauge the population’s thoughts on the issue in a meaningful and targeted way. You will collect data from this instrument and present it in a lab-style report that details your methods, your results, your conclusions, and recommendations based on your conclusions.

ASSIGNMENT 1: Survey and Research Question Draft


Choosing a Research Hypothesis or Question

Before you begin designing your questionnaire, consider what you might want to know from people about your topic. Think about these types of questions when considering your topic:

  • Targeting Experts or Those Most Affected: Is there a specific group of people whose opinions on the topic would matter most to you? EXs. I will survey human trafficking experts in Houston to find out what they think people should do to become more aware of and involved in the issue. OR I will survey residents in my neighborhood to find out what their most common traffic problems are.
  • Considering a Specific Intervention: Are there people who might be willing to help with a solution to the problem? EX. I will survey my coworkers to determine their knowledge about food deserts and their willingness to participate in ways our company can help food-deprived areas.
  • Informing and Gauging the Interest of a Particular Group: Is there a group of people you would like to educate on the issue and get feedback from? EX. I will have a group of my peers ages 18-25 look at me educational media project and then ask them what they learned about veteran’s issues and what they would be willing to do to help a veteran in need.
  • Figuring Out Who Contributes to the Problem: Is there a group of people you suspect is part of the problem? EX. I will survey residents of my apartment complex to figure out how much water they use for which purposes.

Scope of the Project and Choosing a Population to Study

Before you plan too much, consider the limited time you have to complete this project. I do not expect you to be a statistical expert or to survey large amounts of people for this project. I simply want you to develop a small pool of data to work with and report on. Use the following criteria as your guide:

  • Number of People to Survey: 10-30. I give you these numbers because you should expect that some people won’t respond, so plan accordingly. If you are surveying experts or a specific group of affected people, your population might be more like 10. If you are surveying a larger demographic, you should get a better representative sample, so aim for closer to 30.
  • Focus of the Project: Again, because the limited amount of time, you will need to have a specific goal in mind for the project. You may not be able to discuss all Houstonians’ water use, for example, but you can use a group of people that is close to you as a representative sample.
  • Play By the Rules: If you are surveying people at work or another monitored environment, be sure to ask if it’s okay to conduct your research. Don’t get in trouble for your English class! We can always work around unwilling participants, but I can’t help you if you make your boss mad. Also be clear on entering someone’s private property to conduct your research. Don’t put yourself in any danger for this project. We can find ways to have fun with it, but not get you in trouble.

Formats and Platforms to Consider

First consider how you would like to administer your questionnaire. Would you like to administer it yourself, with pen and paper, or would you like to use an internet-based survey program? The choice is yours. If you are surveying a population that will need assistance taking the survey, you might choose to give it to the participants using pen and paper, or you might administer it to them orally and record their answers. If you are interviewing a fairly computer-savvy group, consider use an internet platform like Surveymonkey or Zoomerang. These are free services that will give you a link to send out to survey participants. There are also Facebook apps that will allow you to survey your friends, and sites like Reddit that offer a large audience to give your survey to.

Types of Questions

I suggest that for this project, you avoid short answer questions unless you feel they are absolutely necessary. They will make your data gathering effort more time consuming, as you will have to record your results and categorize them by hand. It’s best to stick with multiple choice, Likert scale questions, semantic differentials, and rankings so that you can make some simple calculations from your results. These question types are covered in more detail in a course video. Plan on having 10 questions in your survey, as you will likely find that some questions don’t pan out. At most, 3 should be demographic questions that measure characteristics of the people you survey. The rest should cover the content you want to know about.

Once you have decided on a research question and an audience, write a draft of your research question and your survey. Be sure to include all of the answer choices you will include in your survey, or what the numbers in Likert-type questions will represent.

ASSIGNMENT 2: Editing Exercise Three


It is important to consider some of the conventions for reports when you are preparing to write one. First, take a look at the exercises in the first link below (answers follow at the end of the document), as well as the guidelines in the second link.

Editing Reports Exercises (Links to an external site.)

Report Editing Guidelines (Links to an external site.)

In order to practice some of these conventions of report writing, open the report located at this link:

WHO Report on Childhood Obesity (Links to an external site.)

Your focus in this Editing Exercise is on pages 14-19. Your job is to edit this section: 1: Tackle the obesogenic environment and norms. In a brief memo to the authors of this report, comment on the following:

1. Jargon: Is there language that would be hard for a college-educated audience of non-experts to understand? How can that language be revised or defined for clarity?

2. Parallelism: Are all lists parallel? Does the parallelism work? In other words, does it make lists in the report easier to understand? Are there lists that need revision?

3. Paragraphing: Is each paragraph about one idea only? Is this idea expressed in the topic sentence (first sentence) of the paragraph?

4. Clarity of Verbs: Are all verbs in the report section used clearly? Do they make abstract ideas more concrete?

5. Clarity of Technical Information: Is all information made clear? Are terms clear? Is information clearly attributed to its original source?

Your memo should be at least 350 words long, but no longer than 700 words.

ASSIGNMENT 3: Case Study Three


Although we tend to think of graphs as being “true” or “factual,” a good technical communicator knows that graphs and data can be misinterpreted, reinterpreted, or just plain wrong. Take a look at some of the problem graphs here:

http://faculty.atu.edu/mfinan/2043/section31.pdf (Links to an external site.)

Sometimes, simple mistakes or confusing formatting can make graphs misleading. To practice identifying these mistakes, take a look at the two graph sets below. What are the strengths and weaknesses of these representations?

Use this rubric to help start your analysis:

http://tiee.esa.org/vol/v7/issues/data_sets/beckstead/resources/student_graph_rubric.doc (Links to an external site.)


http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/22/has-obama-made-the-job-situation-worse/ (Links to an external site.)


http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2007/09/23/weekinreview/20070923_BAJAJ_GRAPHIC.html (Links to an external site.)

Post Draft of Case Study Three

ASSIGNMENT 4: Data Analysis Draft Summary


Now that you have collected data using your survey, it is time to prepare to write your report. Use the following description of the sections required for the report to make an outline of your report.

For this assignment, you are to write a sentence outline. In this outline, include the topic sentence for each paragraph you plan to include in the report, as well as any notes that let me know what you intend to write in that paragraph. The purpose of this assignment is to get you thinking about organization before you sit down to write the actual report. You can use the template at the following link to help you plan your report:

Sentence Outline Template Link

To help you get started, here is an explanation the report, as well as an explanation of what should be in each section:

Writing the Lab-Style Report

We’re going to use a lab-style report for writing about your survey results. Whether you’re in healthcare, engineering, education, or the social sciences, the lab report is the general format for writing up primary research. It contains specific sections, which will be discussed below.

Sections to Include in Your Report

Your report must include the following sections with the contents described below.

  • Introduction: Give some background on your topic here, and lead the reader into your research question or hypothesis. Conclude by naming your primary research method (describe briefly the questionnaire and who took it) and at least one major finding from your results in this section. I almost always write this section LAST because it’s hard to summarize your findings when you haven’t written about them yet. (150-200 words)
  • Methods: In this short section, describe your questionnaire, who took it, and how many good responses you got (“good” meaning how many you will use in your discussion section). Also include how many of each question type you asked. You can include a visual representation of your entire survey here, or you can attach a copy as an appendix, which is more commonly done. (200-250 words)
  • Results: This should be the meat of your report. In this section, discuss the responses to at least 5 of your main questionnaire questions. Use simple percentages to describe how different people answered the question. Use at least one graphic to illustrate the results of at least one question. If you have had a stats course, you are welcome to make more complex correlations of data, but it is not required. I will primarily look at clarity in this section. (250-300 words)
  • Discussion: This is where you analyze your results. Discuss the following:
    • Did any results contradict or support your hypotheses?
    • Did you make any connections between answers?
    • Were there any trends in the answers you got?
    • What ideas or hypotheses do your results prove?
    • What are the limitations of your study? (400-500 words)
  • Recommendation: In this section, summarize your major findings and help your reader understand what should be done with your results. Should some action be taken based on these results? Who should take that action? How should your results shape policy? What are the implications of your research on the future of your topic? (350-400 words)
  • Appendices: Use this section to add copies of your survey, your data tabulations in an Excel spreadsheet, and any other material that is relevant and referred to, but did not find a place in your report.

Below are some examples that use the lab-style report so that you can get a feel for what it should look and sound like. Note, though, that some of the section titles are a little different from the ones we will use.

Scientific Lab Report (Links to an external site.)

Survey Results Report (Links to an external site.)

ASSIGNMENT 5: Preparing Your Academic Poster


Once you have completely written out your lab-style report using the summary you turned in, the last part of your assignment is to display your results in a second format: an academic poster.

Often, students in engineering, health, and social sciences are asked to present their research using a poster format. To give you experience with this format, you will create a research poster for this project.

  • Getting Started: You will make this poster digitally, and you will not be required to print it out. Instead, use the links below to see examples of research posters and to find templates you can use in PowerPoint. Your poster should be at least 24″x36″, but no larger than 48″x48″.

Academic Poster Templates One (Links to an external site.)

Academic Poster Templates Two (Links to an external site.)

Academic Poster Template Three (Links to an external site.)

Academic Poster Template Four (Links to an external site.)

  • What to Include: Do include a brief summary of each section you included in your report. Focus particularly on results or major points you wish to emphasize. This means that you will have to change the sections on the templates to fit our assignment. You can choose where to place each section. Usually, results and conclusions are featured prominently in the middle of posters because these are the sections of most interest to your client.
  • Design: Keep your layout simple, but do include any graphs, infographics, photos, or clip art that help make your point and add visual interest to your poster. It should not be all text!!

Here are some great examples to consult:

A Poster with Just Enough Information (Links to an external site.)

A Clean, Straightforward Poster (Links to an external site.)

A Poster with Survey Results (Links to an external site.)

A More Complicated Subject, But a Well Designed Poster (Links to an external site.)

A Complete, Printed Poster (Just so you can see what these look like when printed out.) (Links to an external site.)

You will turn in a complete PowerPoint slide poster in with your final draft of your report

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