Real-world Applications of the Long Report, pt. 3

This paper was presented to CCCC in 1990.

Revision moves students towards realistic goals

Once the students identified areas of interest, they formed groups in which to work and began writing their formal proposals. Again the expectations expressed in the proposals covered the continuum from pessimistic to unrealistically idealistic. And, again, the peer editing of the first version encouraged a revisioning towards realistic goals.

Possible concerns

Since two classes were working on the same project, and yet each class was a self-contained unit, some of the groups were dealing with the same subject matter. At the beginning, I was apprehensive about this in that I was afraid that they would be duplicating each other’s work and possibly would alienate the business community in which they were doing their research. This did not turn out to be a problem.

Proposed different approaches

Each one of the groups proposed and followed different approaches to their portion of the project. One example of this is what happened in the advertising groups. One group dealt solely with ad agencies in town. The other group assumed a much smaller, and more realistic, budget based on library research they completed during the proposal and predicated their study on in-house advertising. They contacted the local newspapers and radio stations about copy and costs. In their progress report this group mentioned that they looked to the most successful competitor’s advertising for guidance.

Final reports

The final reports were very instructive and provided our clients with sufficient information to enable them to decide that such a project would not be profitable for them. One group, which had chosen to research location ideas, came to this conclusion about the time of the second progress report and wrote that the possibilities they were dealing with would not be feasible and that, therefore, they were looking into other alternatives.

I thought that at this point they were buying themselves trouble and that they would be better off simply detailing their findings and the recommendation that the business not be established in their final report. However, I did not discourage them.

Their final report would not have been of much use to the clients so we did not furnish them with a copy of it. But the contents excited the entire class. This group had discovered that if students were the proprietors of this business that they could operate the business on campus through the campus mail and minimize overhead costs. Three members of the class decided that this idea would work and got together to go about setting up such a service.

Community involvement

The news of these studies have spread through the community. I have had other people call to suggest their project for the long report sequence or to request information on such a topic as advertising budgets for small in-home businesses.

The students in another class were asked to become more involved in the university community by investigating which kinds of resumes and application letters were most appropriate for certain majors. The only stipulations were that no business majors could be selected and no information could be solicited from Fortune 500 companies since these are the standards upon which many business writing courses are set up.

One group decided to work on the resumes and application letters for those seeking employment in video and film production. They had two reasons for choosing this field. The first was that they knew where to get a list of addresses of companies who hired in this area. The second was that the only member of the group who did not already have a job upon graduation wanted to work in this area. Expediency and necessity made this a rational choice.

This group had the most frustrating experience with the project in that only 25% of their questionnaires were answered and an additional 20% were returned by the post office. The students were aware that the low return rate was problematic, but they could do nothing to change it. They simply mentioned the low response level and conjectured that the volatility of the video and film industry might account for it.

Based on the responses they did receive, the students made the recommendation that “resumes should stress previous work experience, including dates of jobs held, titles, and duties, over educational factors like major, name of college, and date of college graduation.” They also recommended that resumes should be sent with the application letters and that these letters should emphasize an understanding of the basic job requirements. The reasons why employers preferred these seemed clear to the group. Video and film production are not common majors and therefore work experience is a much better indicator of ability in these fields.

To be continued…

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