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Instructions for the major assignments

Assignments are due in Canvas on the dates noted in the syllabus, all at 11:55 p.m. unless otherwise instructed. Late work is penalized 10% per day. You are responsible for assuring that your submission has been correctly uploaded. Optional rewrites are available for assignments 1, 3, 4 and 5 and are strongly advised. The rewrites are due one week after the corrected versions are returned to you during the week noted in the syllabus. The document files should be titled yourlastname, followed by the number of the assignment as listed below. For example, perry2.

This is the term project. There is no rewrite for this assignment.

1. Memo

2. Research: Situation Analysis & Proposal due April 9

Situation Analysis and Proposal

Assignment 2 has two parts. The first section is the situation analysis. The second section is a proposal based on your research findings. The final report should be about 2,000 words. It is due November 22, but before then, many of your assignments will be based on your ongoing research for this report.

Assignments 3, 4 and 6, the thank-you letter, the cover letter, and the Web article and tweet, will be based on this research. They also will involve the organization you selected for this assignment. They will be executed on behalf of the organization, or directed to an appropriate person at the organization. That means you should start the research phase of this term project early in the semester and set procedural deadlines for yourself. Some dates have been suggested below. Following the overview below are detailed instructions in the narrative report requirements.


The Situation Analysis:

Your first step is to determine the organization for which you would like to write. Be sure to select an organization in industries related to agriculture, life sciences, or your field of study and about which you can obtain enough information to complete this and subsequent assignments. You must interview someone within the organization to answer some of these questions, so be sure to choose one with whom you can make contact and obtain cooperation. It is best to initiate contact early in the semester so you can determine whether the organization is viable for this assignment. You also want to consider whether this organization is large enough to have a communication problem that is NOT related to marketing products or services. Non-profit organizations most often work well for these assignments.

Choose one main organization and two backups and notify your instructor of your choices in the memo due in the third week of class. Only one student can work with each organization. First come is first served, so completing the memo early is cautiously encouraged. Please wait for your instructor to approve your client before making contact. The list of assigned clients will be posted in Canvas: Files. Check this list to assure your choice is available before submitting your memo.

Tip: You should complete this first step by January 17.

Second step: Once you have selected and initiated contact with an organization, you will conduct the kind of research you would to learn about a prospective employer. Make sure to get your source's contact information. You will need it for the next assignment, the thank-you letter.

Your research mission is to understand your organization, its relationships with its publics, its goals, its culture, and an opportunity or problem about which you can write. Use the client's existing publications, including its annual reports and websites, for sources. Each page of a website can count as an individual source. You should also monitor news outlets for news articles about your organization. That will give you some ideas about the kinds of problems your organization may be facing. Gather enough information to supply all the information specified below.

Tip: You should complete step two by January 22 although monitoring news about your organization should continue all semester.

Third step: After you have obtained all the information you can from existing publications, try to interview an employee of the organization, preferably a member of management such as the communication director, to answer remaining questions. You should have only two to three questions that cannot be answered by reading available publications.

Managers are very busy people, so please respect their time by getting all the information you can from the organization's publications first and then listing your interview questions before the interview. Try to take no more than about 15 minutes of your interviewee's time. Face-to-face interviews work best. Email interviews are allowed, but they should be carefully constructed so that answering your questions in writing won't be too time-consuming for the interviewee. Of course, be sure to write the email in a professional manner and proof it carefully before sending it.

If your contact has not responded to your query within a week, notify your instructor and move on to your next choice.

Be sure to ask the spokesperson about the organization's culture. Toward the end of your interview, ask whether the organization is facing any problems that can be addressed by communication. Note: You should complete this part of assignment 2 as soon as you can. You'll need that information in time to write the thank-you letter (assignment 3), which is due February 5.

Tip: You should complete step three by January 29.

Fourth step: Write the first section of the research report. APA (American Psychologists Association) style is the default style for this class.

Write objectively and be very careful not to plagiarize your client's publications or news articles for this and all subsequent assignments!! (Please review the statements on plagiarism in the syllabus.) You must rewrite, paraphrase from, and cite all sources used. Of course you may (and should) occasionally use compelling direct quotes, which are enclosed in double quotation marks or inset if long. Direct quotes should be attributed within the text, with a citation given. However, don't over-quote. Three to four brief quotes is standard for a paper of this length. Use mostly your own words.

You should utilize at least four sources and cite your sources throughout the report. In the interest of sharing access to the information presented, these citations should point to the report's reference list. One of your sources, for the section on the target audience, should be demographic data.

In the last part of the research report, you will identify a problem or opportunity that can be addressed with communication.

Tip: You should complete step four by February 19.

The Proposal:

Fifth step: In the second section, you will analyze the communication problem you identified in the first section of the report and write persuasively to propose a solution. Follow the guidelines for the first three features of a proposal plus its benefits, given in Chapter 8. Your solution should include your deliverables: what you or your team will deliver if your proposal is accepted by your organization. (The proposal is an exercise in persuasive writing; we will not actually deliver it to the organization.) We will cover solving communication problems in lecture during the seventh week of class.

Tip: You should complete writing step five, including demographics and the abstract (see detailed instructions below), by March 19 and use the remaining time for designing the title page, rewriting, and editing.

The final due date is April 9. The points available for this assignment are 200. The word count is 2,000; the minimum count is strictly enforced. There is no rewrite option for this assignment.



The analysis and proposal report is the term project for this course, so you should demonstrate all that you have learned about writing well, including using transitions, especially between sections and subsections. The narrative report, including the proposal and abstract, should be about 2,000 words (about 10-12 pages), typed flush-left in 10-12-point type, and double-spaced with at least one-inch margins all around.

The research section must present well-sourced factual information, objectively written in third person throughout, with any judgment words or opinion attributed in the text and a citation given. The analysis section, which includes analyzing the problem you have identified and proposing a solution, should be supported by the facts presented. The report should include a title page designed according to guidelines discussed in class, a one-page abstract (or executive summary), and a reference list.

Use the checklist (which is a duplicate of the grade sheet used by your instructors) at the bottom of this page to assure you have met all requirements. Use the main headings from the checklist for the reports' headings.

Carefully cite to your sources throughout the report, using APA style, which is explained in this tutorial. You can also consult Appendix C in your textbook and/or Purdue Owl on APA.

The report is due April 9. Include the following:

1. Title Page: Following the guidelines given in class on page design, give the report's title, the organization's name, your name and the date of submission.

2. Abstract: This part of the report should be done last, but it appears immediately after the title page. The abstract is a succinct one-page summary of your report. It should be limited to one page only and should include a purpose statement, a scope (range of information) statement, and a summary of essential information, including the problem or opportunity statement and proposed solution. Note: A summary is not a list of topics covered in the report. It summarizes your main research findings.

3. Research Report: Analysis

Introduction: Write a concise paragraph introducing the topic and purpose of the report. The introductory paragraph should appear on the same page as the background section and transition smoothly to it.

Background: Thoroughly describe the organization's origins, history; what the organization is today, what it does; the relationship of parent and any subsidiaries; numbers and types of key publics; geographic areas in which it operates; and any other information important to understanding the organization. Be sure to use citations throughout this section. Hint: Getting started early on this assignment is important, and this section is an excellent place to start. Be sure to get enough relevant information on your organization's publics for the opportunity/problem section of the report.

Organizational Philosophy, Mission and Goals: Using citations throughout, describe how the organization views its role in society, the organization's basic mission or reason for being (usually articulated in a mission statement), its culture, and its aspirations and goals. Goals may be inferred.

Communication Opportunity or Problem: Identify at least one problem or opportunity that communication can address. Conclude this section with a transition to the next major section, the proposal.

You should complete writing the first section, except for the abstract, by February 19 (although it is not due then).

4. Proposal

Introduction: In narrative form, give the subject and purpose of the proposal. State the proposal's main point. While the proposal is included with the research report, it should be able to stand alone, so give enough information for readers who would read only the proposal.

Description of the Current Situation: Include the situation's background/history, including other communication already undertaken; the cause and relevant facts about the situation; its significance to the organization; its likely duration and effects if nothing is done; any known impediments to a solution or seizing the opportunity; and the key publics most affected or involved, including other groups or organizations. Be sure to use citations throughout and address everything on the checklist. If, for example, no communication has been undertaken to date or there is no known impediment, say so. Formulate a concise problem (or opportunity) statement. A problem statement should state succinctly, in one sentence, what the problem is and why it is a problem for the organization. It should be labeled as the problem statement. Don't forget to include it in the abstract. Note: A problem is not an opportunity. It's a problem, so call it what it is.

Description of the Project Plan: Identify your proposed solution to the problem, explaining how communication would help solve the problem. Give your solution a name, such as Improving Internal Communication. Name the public(s) to whom you would target messages (the target audience) to address the problem/opportunity.

Give the demographics of your target audience. The excellent report will have citations to supporting data for at least four demographic elements, such as age ranges, gender percentages, income, and education levels.

Give the major steps that you would undertake to solve the problem and any minor steps to achieve those steps. Summarize the deliverables, the services you would supply, such as an improved website, if your solution were to be chosen by the organization. (You won't actually deliver these things. You are just writing a plan of action.) Close with a summary of the benefits to the organization of following your proposal.

You should complete writing the first and second sections and the abstract by March 19 (not a due date). The final report, including a well designed title page, an abstract, a reference list, and carefully edited text, is due April 9.


5. Reference List, or Works Cited

List references with hanging indents, in alphabetical order. Use the guidelines in Purdue Owl for APA style reference lists. Interviews and other personal communication for which there is no record are not included in the reference list. Give the complete citation for personal communication in the text of the report.

NOTE: Do NOT use citation-generating apps on this assignment. They leave unsightly shadows on the citations, and we are unable to insert comments. The penalty for using such an application is -5 points.

The following is an example reference list:

Reference List

Feeding the world. (n.d.). We Are Really Big Agriculture. Washington, D.C.

Grunig, James E., & Todd Hunt. (1984). Managing Public Relations. New York: CBS College

Perry, Linda M. (2015). How to write a communication research paper. Gainesville, Fla.:
University of Florida Press.

Research report and proposal. (n.d.). Retrieved May 4, 2015, from

Here is an example of a good research report on a warehouse retailer. Note: The requirement for the proposal section of the report has been revised since this report was written, so don't follow the communication problem section of this example precisely. Other parts may have changed as well, so use your best judgment about using this example. Follow the guidelines given above.

Use the checklist below to assure you have included all the required components. The rubric for how your report will be scored is in Canvas: Files.


Research Report & Proposal Checklist

The Report
_____ The assignment is doubled spaced and submitted in MS Word via Canvas with the
correctly styled file name.
_____ The report is about 2,000 words (1,900 to 2,200), minimum requirement strictly

Title Page
_____ Follows the guidelines given in lecture on page design.
_____ Contains title, organization's name, author's name, and date of submission.
_____ BONUS for picture inserted in title page (up to 5 points, based on relevance, template art not included)

_____ Appears immediately after the title page.
_____ Is limited to one page.
_____ Includes statements as to the report's purpose and scope.
_____ Includes a succinct summary of essential research findings.
_____ Includes a concise problem or opportunity statement.
_____ Includes a succinct summary of the proposed solution.

_____ Briefly introduces topic and states purpose of the report.
_____ The section is factual, with all judgment terms and opinion attributed in text and
citations given.
_____ Citations are used appropriately.

_____ Origins, early history.
_____ What the organization is today, what it does.
_____ Relationship of parent and any subsidiaries.
_____ Numbers and types of key publics.
_____ Geographic areas in which it operates.
_____ Section concludes with a transition to the next section.
_____ The section is factual, with all judgment terms and opinion attributed in text
and citations given.
_____ Citations are used appropriately.
_____ BONUS: Any illustrations added (charts, graphs, etc., up to 5 points total, based
on relevance; may be in other sections as well)

Organizational Philosophy:
_____ How the organization views its role in society.
_____ The organization's basic mission (mission statement).
_____ Organizational culture.
_____ Aspirations and goals.
_____ Section concludes with a transition to the next section.
_____ The section is factual, with all judgment terms and opinion attributed in text
and citations given.
_____ Citations are used appropriately.

Communication Opportunity or Problem:
_____ At least one problem or opportunity that can be solved with communication identified.
_____ Section concludes with a transition to the next major section.
_____ The author’s conclusions and stated opinions are supported by the facts presented.
_____ Citations used appropriately.

_____ Introduction includes subject, purpose of proposal and its main point.
_____ Situation description includes background/history, including other communication
already undertaken.
_____ Cause of and relevant facts about the situation.
_____ Significance of the situation to the organization.
_____ Likely duration of the situation and effects if nothing is done.
_____ Key publics most affected or involved.
_____ Any known impediments to a solution.
_____ Citations used appropriately for factual information.
_____ Succinct, labeled problem statement, addressing what and why, given in
one sentence.
_____ Proposal description includes how communication would help resolve the situation.
_____ The solution is given a name.
_____ Target audience identified, with four demographic elements.
The author’s conclusions and stated opinions are supported by the facts presented.
Deliverables are summarized.
_____ Benefits are summarized.

_____ The report and proposal are written in third person.
_____ The report is objective, and the proposal is persuasive.
_____ The writing is in correct APA (or other designated) style, including no contractions,
the limited use of abbreviations, the use of the Oxford comma, and complete citations.
_____ The reference list and intext citations are not shadowed by a reference list app.
_____ The writing is in plain English, with active sentences.
_____ The writing is well organized overall, with section headings.
_____ The writing is concise.
_____ The writing is clear.
_____ The writing is free from grammatical errors, including no run on sentences or fragments.
_____ The writing is free from spelling errors.
_____ The writing is free from capitalization errors.
_____ Punctuation is used correctly.

___________ Content, including citations throughout, and meeting specifications (142)
___________ Reference list, with at least four sources, web page retrieval dates &
APA style, with no reference-list app shadowing (8)
___________ Writing, grammar, spelling (50)
___________ TOTAL (200)
__________ + Bonus for art added to title page or to body of report (up to +10)
__________ GRAND TOTAL

3. Thank-you Letter

4. Cover Letter & Résumé

5. Personal Statement

6. Web Article & Tweet