Assignment for Unit #4
Proposal Memo submitted by noon on Wednesday
The Assignment for Unit #4: A Proposal Memo
The assignment for Unit #4 is to:
1. Choose a topic for your Formal Technical Report (which is due in Unit #5, at the end of the semester)
2. Submit a Proposal Memo to me telling me your plans for the Formal Technical Report.
If it helps, imagine that before you can start work on the Formal Report, you are required to get your topic and
research plans approved by me. The proposal memo is your way of asking for approval.
The Assignment for Unit #5: A Formal Technical Report
After Unit #4, you will work for the rest of the semester on this project. The Formal Technical Report will be a
researched, analytical report written for a “real” person or group of people about a “real” issue.
You may choose to write about a problem or situation at our college, in your workplace, in your hometown, in your
child’s school, etc. You could research the feasibility of a new business or project, or of a policy change at the
college or your place of employment. It may be possible to adapt the topic from your Unit #1 memo for this
A good topic for the Formal Report does at least one of the following:
▪ Helps the reader solve a problem.
▪ Persuades the reader to take action to improve a situation.
▪ Helps the reader to make a difficult decision.
o This is what the textbook refers to as a “recommendation report” (page 169).
The Topics page in the Unit #4 folder can give you more ideas about possible topics.
Goals for Unit #4:
❑ Understand what a Technical Report is and what submissions will be required as a part of the Formal
Technical Report project.
❑ Understand the role of the Proposal Memo in the Formal Technical Report Project.
❑ Understand the purpose of proposals and what information they include.
The Formal Report is not like a typical college research essay. Yes, you will research your topic (more on that
below), but—in the spirit of this course—you will be doing much more than what a typical research paper does.
Your Formal Report will:
▪ Be written for a specific reader, taking into consideration what they already know and don’t know about the
topic and their attitude toward the topic.
▪ Persuade the reader to take action.
▪ Provide the reader with specific recommendations for action (in other words—tell them what they should
▪ Be formatted properly in accordance with workplace expectations for such a document.
Looking at sample Formal Reports can be very helpful; see the section below about sample proposals and formal
The Audience for your Proposal Memo (Unit #4) is me.
The Audience for your Formal Technical Report (Unit #5) will depend on your topic and your goal. The more
specific your reader is, the easier the project will be.
For example, if you want to write about problems with snow removal on the campus, you could address your report
to the College President, the Director of Physical Plant, University Police, or the entire campus community. The
audience you choose will influence the type of research you do and the type of recommendations you make:
▪ The President takes a bird’s-eye view of the college. Yes, he is “in charge” of everything but he delegates
most responsibilities. He also isn’t always aware of the day-to-day issues that people who live and work on
the campus face. If you wrote to him about this topic you might need to provide a lot of info about the
types of problems experienced by people who need to park on campus in the winter and who have to walk
around the campus when it is snowy. The type of recommendations you give the President would be less
about what he should do, but about what he should instruct others to do. What you say to persuade him to
take action might have to do with his reputation and his willingness to take extra steps to see that the
college community is safe and happy, as well as the larger reputation of the college.
▪ To give just one other example, the Director of Physical Plant is in charge of the employees who plow the
roads and parking lots and clear the sidewalks. This person will be much more aware of the day-to-day
challenges the campus faces in winter months, and has probably heard a lot of the complaints already. You
would need to consider this problem from the Director’s perspective as well as your own: think about how
difficult it must be to coordinate and keep up with snow removal when a storm is occurring; and about the
effect on the Physical Plant of current budget and hiring freezes (a reduced staff that is over-worked and
under-paid). How can you persuade the reader to “hear” you as someone making a legitimate point, and
not just as “another complaint from another student”? What kind of suggestions are you equipped to give
the Director, especially given that you aren’t an expert in managing snow removal for an entire college
Your Formal Report will require research. The type of research you do will depend on the type of topic you choose.
Some topics will require more primary research, while others might need more secondary research.
▪ Examples of Primary Research include interviews (whether in person, over the phone, or over email),
surveys or questionnaires that you create and administer, or other forms of information that you personally
o Primary sources have to be considered reputable and reliable. The people you interview should be
considered experts on the topic and/or should have relevant experience with the topic. For
example, f you are writing about problems with residence hall security on campus, a few friends
might share stories with you about their dorm experiences. Feel free to use these stories, but
remember that they are considered anecdotal or “soft” evidence. Your report must be based on
objective, empirical, “hard” evidence. You might, therefore, also refer to the University Police
annual report on campus crime in addition to the stories your friends share.
▪ Secondary Research consists of sources that present information gathered by others—these are likely to be
articles you find through the library databases or from reliable internet sources.
If you are not living on campus or in the immediate area this semester, consider the research you will need to
conduct when choosing your topic. If your topic relates to the college and requires a good deal of primary research
but you are not at the college, it may be difficult for you to do a good job with that topic. You might need to
consider a different topic that is more local to your home (thus making primary research more easy to conduct), or a
topic that relies a bit more on secondary research.
If you have concerns about how research options might affect your topic ideas, please let me know and we can have
a conversation about it.
Sample Proposals and Formal Reports
You can find a few sample Proposals in the Unit #4 folder. In the Unit #5 folder, a Formal Report that developed
from at least one of those proposals is also provided (along with one other). As with the Instruction Sheet samples,
these Proposals and Formal Reports are very strong examples, but not necessarily “perfect”. If you have any
questions about them, let me know.
In the text, you can find some sample Formal Reports in Chapter 8 and in Appendix C. The report that starts on
page 177 best resembles our assignment requirements in terms of purpose (making recommendations to readers).
The format of the reports in the text are not precisely the same as the format you will submit in our course, however.
Be sure to follow the guidelines provided in the Unit #5 folder for the required front and back matter (title page,
table of contents, etc.).
Recapping the Unit #4 Assignment
This is your assignment for Unit #4:
Pick a topic for your Formal Technical Report and submit a proposal to me in memo format. Follow the
outline provided in the Unit #4 folder for your memo. Your proposal will identify the purpose and
audience of your Formal Report, the scope of the report, your research plans, and the schedule you have
established for yourself to complete the project on time.
Sample topics for the Formal Technical Report are in the Unit #4 folder. If you have any questions about a
topic or would like to talk over topic ideas, just let me know.
This is a challenging assignment, and at times it might seem overwhelming. When you complete it, however, you
are likely to feel very proud of the work you’ve done, and in some cases, I recommend that students pass on the
report to the actual intended reader. Changes have been made on our campus in response to Formal Reports written
by COMP 310 students, so your report might end up doing much more than fulfilling a course requirement!
Learning Outcomes for Unit #4:
To receive a grade of C/75 or higher on the Unit #4 assignment, you must write a memo that:
❑ Follows the outline provided in the Unit #4 folder. The memo must clearly define the topic and objective of
your Formal Report, explain who the target reader(s) will be for the Formal Report, share research plans and
indicate that some preliminary research has already been done, and provide a schedule for completing the
Formal Report by the end of the semester)
❑ Is properly formatted and professional in appearance.
❑ Is written in an appropriate tone, a clear style, and with fewer than 3-4 serious errors in sentence structure,
grammar, usage, or punctuation.
Your Next Steps:
1. Read Chapters 8 and 9 in the text and the online notes that accompany them. Chapter 9 discusses
Proposals (what you are writing in Unit #4), while Chapter 8 discusses Formal Technical Reports (what
you’ll submit in Unit #5).
2. As you read the chapters and online notes, be thinking about possible topics. When you have a topic
you think might be promising, consider conducting some preliminary research
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