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大学英语精读第六册 Unit 01


  Unit One

  Text

  Writing research reports for college or work is often found far more difficult than it need so be. The following article offers some excellent advice on how to make the task easier and the report more impressive and effective. Whether you write a research report for a college professor or for a demanding boss in your profession, the author's advice will put you well on your way to becoming a skillful report writer.

  RESEARCH REPORTS FOR BUSINESS AND- THECNICAL WRITING

  Wayne Losano

  A surprising amount of one's time as a student and professional is spent reporting the results of one's research projects for presentation to teachers, managers, and clients. Indeed, without basic research skills and the ability to present research results clearly and completely, an individual will encounter many obstacles in school and on the job. The need for some research-writing ability is felt nearly equally by college students in all fields, engineering and science as well as business and the humanities. Graduate study often makes great demands on the student's research-writing skills, and most professions continue the demand; education, advertising and marketing, economics and accounting, science and engineering, psychology, anthropology, the arts, and agriculture may all require regular reporting of research data.

  ELEMENTS OF THE RESEARCH PAPER

  The standard research report, regardless of the field or the intended reader, contains four major sections. These sections may be broken down into a variety of subsections, and they may be arranged in a variety of ways, but they regularly make up the core of the report.

  Problem Section. The first required section of a research report is the statement of the problem with which the research project is concerned. This section requires a precise statement of the underlying question which the researcher has set out to answer. In this same section there should be an explanation of the significance -- social, economic, medical, psychological, educational, etc. -- of the question; in other words, why the investigation was worth conducting. Thus, if we set out, for example, to answer the question "What is the effect of regular consumption of fast foods on the health of the American teenager?" we must explain that the question is thought to have significant relevance to the health of this segment of the population and might lead to some sort of regulations on such foods.

  A frequent subsection of this problem section is a review of past research on the topic being investigated. This would consist of summaries of the contributions of previous researcher to the question under consideration with some assessment of the value of these contributions. This subsection has rhetorical usefulness in that it enhances the credibility of the researcher by indicating that the data presented is based on a thorough knowledge of what has been done in the field and, possibly, grows out of some investigative tradition.

  Procedures Section. The second major section of the research report details, with as much data as possible, exactly how the study was carried out. This section includes description of any necessary equipment, how the subjects were selected if subjects were used, what statistical technique was used to evaluate the significance of the findings, how many observations were made and when, etc. An investigation of the relative effectiveness of various swim-strokes would have to detail the number of swimmers tested, the nature of the tests conducted, the experience of the swimmers, the weather conditions at the time of the test, and any other factors that contributed to the overall experiment. The goal of the procedures section is to allow the reader to duplicate the experiment if such were desired to confirm, or refute, your findings.

  Results Section. The third, and perhaps most important, section of the research report is the presentation of the results obtained from the investigation. The basic rule in this section is to give all data relevant to the research question initially asked. Although, of course, one's natural tendency might be to suppress any findings which do not in some way support one's hypothesis, such dishonesty is antithetical to good research reporting in any field. If the experiments undertaken fail to prove anything, if the data was inadequate or contrary to expectations, the report should be honestly written and as complete as possible, just as it would be if the hypothesis were totally proven by the research.

  Discussion Section. The final required section of a research report is a discussion of the results obtained and a statement of any conclusions which may be drawn from those results. Of primary interest in business and technical research reports is the validity of the results as the bases for company decisions: Will our planned construction project meet federal environmental guidelines and be approved for building? Will this new program attract skilled personnel to our company? Will this new oil recovery technique be financially feasible? Thus, the discussion section of the research report must evaluate the research results fully: were they validly obtained, are they complete or limited, are they applicable over a wide range of circumstances? The discussion section should also point out what question remain unanswered and perhaps suggest directions for further research.

  STYLE OF RESEARCH REPORTS

  Research reports are considered formal professional communication. As such, there is little emphasis on a lively style, although, of course, there is no objection to writing that is pleasing and interesting. The primary goals of professional communication are accuracy, clarity, and completeness. The rough draft of any research report should be edited to ensure that all data is correctly presented, that all equipment is listed, that all results are properly detailed. As an aid to the reader, headings indicating at least the major section of the report should be used, and all data should be presented under the proper headings. In addition to their function of suggesting to the reader the contents of each section, headings enhance the formal appearance and professional quality of the report, increase to some degree the writer's credibility by reflecting a logical and methodical approach to the reporting process, and eliminate the need for wordy transitional devices between sections.

  Research data should be presented in a way that places proper emphasis on major aspect of the project. For different readers different aspects will take on different degrees of importance, and some consideration should be given to structuring research reports differently for different audiences. Management, for example, will be most concerned with the results of a research project, and thus the results section should be emphasized, probably by presenting it immediately after the problem section and before the procedures section. Other researchers would be most interested in the procedures section, and this should be highlighted in writing up research projects for publication in professional journals or for presentation at professional conferences. For non-technical readers and federal agencies, the implications of the results might be the most important consideration, and emphasis should be placed on the discussion of the report for this readership.

  For additional clarity and emphasis, major results should be presented in a visual format -- tables, charts, graphs, diagrams -- as well as in a verbal one.

  Beyond checking the report for clarity and accuracy in the presentation of technical data, the author of a research report should review for basic grammatical and mechanical accuracy. Short sentences are preferable to long in the presentation of complex information. Listings should be used to break up long passages of prose and to emphasize information. The research writer should try to use the simplest possible language without sacrificing the professional quality of the report. Although specialized terms can be used, pretentious jargon should be avoided. A finished research report should be readable and useful document prepared with the reader in mind.

  CONCLUSION

  Although we struggle with research reports in high school, dread them in college, and are often burdened by them in our professional live, learning to live comfortably with them is a relatively easy task. A positive attitude (i.e. one that seem the oral or written presentation of research results as of equal importance to the data-gathering process); an orderly approach which includes prewriting (i.e., before any actual research is done, the researcher should try to get down on paper as much about the subject under investigation as possible) and a formal research report structure as the framework for the investigation; and a reasonable approach to the actual writing process including editing for accuracy and clarity, will help one to produce effective research reports efficiently.

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