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SOM Business Communication Programs
Assignments and Writing Practice

For more information, contact the Business Writing Programs Director, Linda LaDuc: laduc@som.umass.edu -- Phone 5-5619 -- SBA 208D

The Portfolio

What is a portfolio?

A portfolio of writing assignments is your collection of work-in-process and final drafts, including any in–class writing, notes, etc..

The finished pieces in your portfolio should be suitable examples that demonstrate your business writing ability. The portfolio may also include samples of writing that could be used to convince a prospective employer that you have specific skills, such as sales writing or personal evaluation. All finished products should be well-organized, clearly written, grammatically correct, and appropriate for the particular audience.


* You will organize and maintain all writing projects for this course in your portfolio. [The portfolio itself can be any folder with pockets or sections.]

* You will use a checklist to organize the material, which you should attach to the inside cover of your portfolio.

* Periodic, short conferences over the course of the semester with your instructor will provide a forum for feedback on your portfolio (note that there are two scheduled, at mid-term and at the end of the semester; but instructors may announce quick "spot-checks" at any time. You may also schedule additional portfolio reviews with your instructor).

* You may be asked to write a memo at the end of the semester about your own writing and speaking goals, whether you feel you have met these goals, and what your goals are for improving your communication skills.


SOM 491
The Memorandum (Memo)

What is a Memorandum?

Memoranda, or "memos," are brief notes -- usually circulated within (internal to) an organization, and having one or more of the following purposes:

Tone is often more controversial in memos than in other kinds of documents, because in some cases you may have an unanticipated audience or a wide range of readers. The heading usually includes "Date; To; From; and Subject" sub-heads, and content usually does not exceed half a page in length. Memos make the writer visible in an organization, and help create and maintain business relationships within the company.

To reinforce the message, writers use page layout elements:


** You may be asked to send this memo via e-mail. If so, use the same format, even though some mail systems put headers at the top (giving sender information).

Tips for Proceeding:


Memo-writing; page layout; conciseness of thought and presentation.

SOM 491 Statement of Background and Goals (Essay)

What is a Statement of Background and Goals?

Along with grade point averages, graduate test scores (e.g. GMAT, LSAT), activities, and accomplishments, a prospective employer or graduate school may require you to write an essay about your background and goals. They are looking for factors that have influenced or shaped your career and/or research decisions. They will read your essay to determine whether you "fit" in their organization or program, based largely on the professional image you portray (the "story" you tell about yourself). When you write such an essay, you want to think about what details will help convey a professional image; also think about what you should leave out (while remaining honest and sincere). Other opportunities to write statements of background and goals may occur during your yearly review on the job, or in professional career development workshops. You may also be asked to provide a brief "bio" (biography) for an article you wrote for publication, a project you managed, a proposal you are spearheading -- or, you may be asked to sum up your background and goals before or after a professional speech you are giving at a conference, or a briefing you lead for upper management in your company.

In each of these instances, your audience changes, and your specific purpose may change, and thus your content will change -- even as you overall purpose is still to tell about your background and objectives in some fashion.

Directions (A):

Directions (B):

Write a brief biography that includes information about your background and goals for:

  1. your SOM instructor
  2. )your new date's parents
  3. your career counselor

Tips For Proceeding:


SOM 491 Features and Benefits Exercise

What is a features and benefits exercise?

The ability to translate features of a product or service into benefits to a customer or client is essential to all effective sales efforts; all sales and marketing teams rely on this process to conceptualize their products and services.

In market–oriented business writing (for example, coming up with advertising campaigns), it is important to be able to describe the features of a product or service in terms of the benefits they provide. This ability is essential in other kinds of persuasive communication as well, such as resume writing. You have "features" as a prospective job applicant, but employers buy the "benefits" that your features (skills and experiences) generate.



Product -- household cleaner

Features.............................................................. Benefits:

chlorine bleach........................................................... disinfects

sprinkle can.............................................................. easy to use

micro-abrasives........................................................ facilitates stain removal

Highest priority benefit -- disinfects

Concept -- Kills Germs as it Cleans Your Sink!


SOM 491 Professional Job Search Package: Resume and Letter of Application

What is a professional job search package?

A resume is a carefully crafted representation of your professional capabilities. It offers as complete a picture of your achievements and experiences in a crisp, accessible format. The purpose of the resume is to help the reader decide whether/how your skills, achievements, etc. are a match for the position you apply for. The resume must be organized carefully so that the reader can find what s/he needs. Conventional topics covered in a resume are career objectives, education, honors, work experience, interests, and/or special qualifications.

The letter of application (or cover letter) for your resume should be addressed to a specific reader, tailored to fit the requirements of the position sought, and written in impeccable business format. Your overall purpose is to persuade the reader to call you for an interview. Provide details that make your experience relevant to the reader and that bring your experiences to life. Don't just repeat information from your resume. Remember to ask for an interview and offer specific contact information. Many job hunters list their phone numbers in the last paragraph and then wait to be contacted, but in some cases you may want to be "proactive" and promise to call ahead to set up an interview.


Locate a job advertisement that interests you from a magazine or newspaper. Craft a one–page resume and accompanying letter of application to fit the job advertisement that you find; the letter should be addressed to a prospective employer. Attach the job advertisement when you hand in your resume and cover letter.

Tips for Proceeding:



This assignment offers you an opportunity to begin to practice conceptual tasks related to developing professional job search tools.

Though you may produce excellent working drafts, expect Richard Fein (SOM Career Center) to suggest more refinements and additional formats once you start your actual job search in the future.

At the end of the semester, some of the documents you have developed in your portfolio may be added to your job search package. In the future you may also want to add to your portfolio a video-tape of your public speaking ability.

SOM 491 Kinds of U.S. Business Letters (and U.S. Letter-Writing Strategies)
Prepared by L.M. LaDuc, 7/96

What is a business letter?

A business letter is an important document that a writer uses to accomplishes specific, measurable objectives in interaction with a specific audience.

Do business letters vary from country to country)

Although business people from many countries rely on Business English and use standard "western" letter formats, if you conduct business overseas you will see major and minor differences -- in language, in format, and strategies of persuasion. The latter element -- the kinds of strategies that writers use to persuade -- may vary subtly, or greatly from culture to culture (e.g., nationally, or because of ethnic or religious differences). While all human communication shares common elements, even the subtle differences are important to learn about, because they may mean the difference between success or failure in a global business venture. [See your International Communication Case Assignment for more information about this increasingly crucial topic.]

"Kinds" of U.S. Business Letters

There are a wide variety of kinds of business letters and they are categorized chiefly by function: (The following list is not exhaustive.)

complaint or adjustment letters..... sales letters (and proposal letters)

performance appraisals...... good news and bad news letters

hiring and termination letters..... letters of recommendation

fund-raising letters....... request letters

collection letters........... problem-solving letters

query letters............... letters of inquiry

refusal letters............. letters of transmittal

goodwill letters............. application letters

In conjunction with standard writing strategies (rapport, information, action), each of these kinds of letters employs certain specific strategies in order to accomplish its primary purpose., and in addition, secondary strategies may be employed to accomplish more than one objective with the same letter. For example, a company may use a direct mail sales letter to change your attitude about one of its poor-selling product s, and to get you to place an order as well. The company writers will likely offer information about how the product has been improved, and it will use a standard sales technique (e.g., the "star-chain-knot" ) to "close the sale." [Consult your textbook for more information about this and other specific strategies.] A writer of a bad news letter will need to decide whether to be direct or indirect. A writer of a complaint letter will need to get the reader on his or her side, and be clear about the action desired to remedy the problem.


Paying attention to standard Business English and traditional letter formats, write a variety of letters to people in U.S. companies, as described in the list of choices below. (Later in the semester you will also be asked to write letters or memos to international audiences.)

For practice (and your portfolio):

  1. Write a draft of a complaint/adjustment letter about a product or service you have purchased, with which you are very dissatisfied. Your aim or intent is the completion of the promised service, a replacement or exchange, an adjustment of the bill, and/or a refund.
  2. Write a draft of a letter soliciting funds for some club or non–profit organization to which you belong. Your aim is to get them to send in a donation.
  3. Write a draft of an inquiry letter in which you request information about employment opportunities with a particular company or organization. Your purpose is to gather information, not to obtain an interview.

For your graded U.S. business letter assignment:

Write adirect mail sales letter for a product or service that you have (or could have) developed and for which you intend to start a marketing campaign. You will need to be clear about the "target audience" (i.e. the group of potential customers to whom you plan to direct your sales appeal). You will also need to use an effective selling technique (e.g., star, chain, knot). Be sure that your letter employs some element that can be used to measure the effectiveness of your sales attempt (e.g., an 800#, a coupon, etc.).

Remember -- for a grade you must obtain at least 2 signed responses and/or edits on your draft; revise; edit and proofread; hand in all supporting materials with your final draft in a manilla folder: your notes, preliminary drafts, signed edits, final draft, etc..

Tips for Proceeding:

Learning Objectives:

SOM 491
International Business Communication
SOM 491 --
Resolving International Business Communication Problems --
Consulting Report and Correspondence Analysis

Prepared by Linda M. LaDuc, School of Management, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003

Even though Business English is the primary language of commerce almost world-wide (French is widely used), U.S. management professionals are increasingly aware that cultural differences between people may greatly affect conducting business in specific situations, even when the parties involved are all speaking or writing in the same language. Protocols for becoming acquainted, for communicating to personnel, and for making agreements may quite different from country to country, and even the strategies employed in persuading someone in a business letter or memo may vary, subtly or significantly. Today, even though we can hire translators, interpreters and culturally skilled experts such as software localization managers, we still need to gain knowledge of our trading partners' cultures and practices, or we are working in the dark and at the mercy of others who possess such knowledge.

The demand on US management professionals is not new -- large corporations and governments have always needed knowledge of language and culture to gain a trading edge, or political power. In previous decades this information was sometimes gained through "intelligence gathering" efforts -- through espionage -- and chief executives can still hire trade experts, and employ spies. Today, advances in transportation and technology have made it possible for even small hometown businesses to export worldwide, and despite that such businesses have fewer resources, any business person who wants to sell to new and emerging markets can't assume that just because his or her trading partner speaks and writes English that he or she does not need to learn the other's language or cultural practices. Basically, as it is always the job of the marketer to find out about his or her market, it is always the obligation of the business writer to obtain knowledge of the audience's needs, preferred patterns of communication and ways of conducting business. Not to pay attention to cultural matters is increasingly a breach of global business etiquette, but more importantly, it is bad, long-term business practice.

Consider how foolish US car makers looked when they tried to sell cars with steering wheels on the left into countries where people drive on the left side of the road. Consider also the mistakes we have made negotiating joint ventures with China, Russia, and other countries who have entirely different concepts of what "business" means. Consider how vulnerable we are even in seemingly simple attempt to write business letters. For example, many Japanese business people have learned our "RTA formula" for writing letters, and they use it when they write to U.S. companies, because they want our business. Their success in selling us products speaks for itself. Doesn't it seem logical that if we want to sell to them, we should learn the language and strategies that will persuade them to buy from us? (Especially now that there is worldwide competition, and we can not assume that we are the only or best supplier...)

In view of these new business realities, management professionals need to learn the language and culture of at least one other country in depth, as a way of understanding the role of language and culture in business and our world. Since many of us will conduct business in the future with several other countries, however, we will also need to learn quickly on occasion, about the preferred business practices and protocol, and the communication/writing strategies and problems of specific overseas clients. This assignment presents you with an exercise that will engage you in practicing quick "intelligence gathering ."

As a group, you will be assigned a case to analyze and resolve. As part of the case you will collect and analyze and/or draft international business correspondence -- letters, memos or proposals -- and your analysis will be foundational to the solutions you offer your imaginary client in the consulting report you write for the assignment. Your consulting report will persuade your imaginary client to act in a pecific way, while it also provides evidence to your instructor that you understand the role of culture in international business communication.

To analyze the case effectively you will need to gather information about a specific country, to gather, where possible, samples of business correspondence from that country, and finally, to research the kinds of strategies, formats, and logics that business writers from that country rely on when they write, to us as well as to each other.



Problem-solving reports or consulting reports (i), and academic case write-ups or responses (ii), share some similarities:

There is one major difference: because case analysis requires you to apply course knowledge to hypothetical business problems, case write-ups add an additional audience to the problematic situation you are asked to role-play. In addition to the primary (imaginary) audience described in the case, you must consider the needs and purposes of the primary (real) audience -- your instructor -- who "reads over the shoulder" of the hypothetical audience, and who is looking to see that you as student writer display your analytical abilities and your knowledge of a particular academic course's concepts, vocabulary, and readings, as you apply them to solving the case. In addition to these two primary audiences, there may be imaginary secondary audiences -- characters in the case about whom you must write tactfully, since they may also be imaginary readers.

Case responses are difficult to write -- they are a special kind of academic writing -- but they are important to do well because they are frequently assigned in business schools as ways for students to learn specific concepts. (Cases are examples that are usually applicable to a wide variety of problem-solving situations that management consultants might face.) [See Appendix A, in Janice Forman's, Random House Guide to Business Writing for more information about case writing.]


You are to write a [2-4 pp.] case response to the case scenario on the following page. Based on the case information, our class activities, your class-assigned readings and the handout provided, analyze the problem, consider alternative ways to resolve the imaginary client's international business communication problem, and decide on a course of action to recommend to the client. Your report should clearly indicate analysis of the business correspondence that is part of the material in the case.

Tips for Proceeding.

To respond effectively to a case you need to:

While there is no particular format for case responses [see Forman, Appendix A for memo-letter formats; Locker, Chapter 9 for problem-solving report formats], you are expected to take the role assigned and write from this point of view, develop cogent arguments for your recommendations, organize your findings/analysis for reader accessibility, and effectively integrate your readings.

Please note also that cases are general descriptions of problems. Thus some information included in a case may not be relevant or useful to the problem you identify.

SOM 491 Research Report (Issue or Position Paper)

For your final project for this course you are to write a research report. Research reports characteristically report the results of library or experimental research. In this instance you will be writing an issue or position paper, in which you first summarize what you have learned about an important issue or problem in your field (while carefully citing your sources), then take a position on the issue and argue for some preliminary action or policy. Your report should include an executive summary and a reference list.

Please note that to complete this assignment successfully, you should begin your research early in the semester -- just as soon as your section completes its library tour. Start by browsing trade magazines and journals in your management major -- sources in which professionals working in the field publish, or to which they turn for information. You will need to decide on an issue of interest, and begin reading to find out about it: What is the core problem? Who are the interested parties? Why is it relevant to the field? Have any solutions been tried? Why is the problem or issue still unresolved? (You will write a memo and progress report, and give an oral presentation on this same topic, so choose one carefully -- and select one that will hold your interest throughout the semester).

What is an issue paper?

Issue papers play a role in the formulation of public policy concerning controversial business subjects. The purpose of an issue paper is to persuade individuals and/or a division of a company (usually one involved in setting policy), or, in the public sector, an appropriate legislative body, to follow a specific course of action -- either devising new policies, or enacting or refraining from enacting legislation that would affect the way a company or nation does business nationally, and/or worldwide.


Write a 5-7 page issue paper on a controversial subject of interest and significance to the business community in your management major. This should be the same topic you chose for your oral presentation.

Tips for Proceeding:

Why (and How) do you "Document" Sources?

In the course of researching a topic and writing a report it is inevitable (and desirable) that you use material that you have not developed yourself: other reports, articles, etc.. Your sources will likely include books, periodicals, brochures, other reports, and so forth.

When you write your report, you are expected to identify these various sources of information -- individually within the text of your report (citations) and in a bibliography at the end (reference list).

By documenting your sources carefully, you demonstrate that you know how to do careful research, you give credit to those upon whose efforts you are building, and most importantly, you give your readers as complete a body of information as is possible.

Your readers should be able to distinguish your original research efforts from the database of literature (secondary sources) on the topic that is reported in your paper, and they should also be able to verify the accuracy and completeness of your research report by following up, if necessary, on your citations and tracking down your references. Your list of references is a key to your approach to a problem in research; it indicates the scope of your efforts, and allows readers to continue to build on your efforts by continuing their own investigation into the subject.

Because business is a "social science," the style of documentation most often used is either Chicago, or APA. (APA designates the American Psychological Association). In this course you will be asked to use the APA style, which uses a parenthetic author-date method of presenting citations, in which the author's last name and year of publication appear in parentheses following the citation. Each citation is keyed to a listing in the bibliography at the end of the report or article. (Note that "bibliography" is a generic term for a listing of sources; the APA documentation system calls this listing the "References" section.

When you use information from other sources you may either summarize, paraphrase, or quote directly. Your choice should be based on your objectives, but generally, quoting directly is done sparingly. You should paraphrase when you can convey the ideas of the material more concisely and effectively in your own words than in the original form. Quoting is done when the material is worded in a distinctive, unique manner that is interesting and difficult to reproduce, and when the quoted material adds credibility to your research efforts.

To accurately cite and list sources of information in your paper you should consult an APA style guide such as that provided in Donna Hacker's A Writer's Reference, the handbook you used in Basic Composition and SOM 491 Business Writing.

You should always acknowledge a quote by providing a citation and following formatting conventions for quoting; you acknowledge paraphrased and summarized material when it is not general knowledge. You acknowledge sources by citing them in the text using a documentation style guide or reference system (such as APA mentioned above).

SOM 491 Abstract and Executive Summary

What is an Abstract or an Executive Summary?

Abstracts and executive summaries are concise, very short (often less than a page) summaries of a longer piece of work (a journal article, a formal report, etc.). They touch on the major points of the work, and address purpose, scope, and methods used to arrive at reported findings, and must accurately describe the longer piece of work. However, there are some distinctions between these two types of summaries.

Abstracts (independent of the documents for which they were written) are often published in bound and/or computer-retrievable periodical indexes, such as the American Statistics Index. These indexes help researchers "abstract" information from specific fields of study, and enable the researchers to review a larger body of information quickly. Abstracts usually contain all the important terms that researchers might need in order to index the original document by subject.

Abstracts may also be descriptive or informative, depending on their scope:

Executive Summaries are a kind of informative abstract aimed at busy executives. They comprehensively restate document purpose, scope, methods, findings, results, conclusions, and recommendations; their purpose is to aid the executive to make personnel, funding, or policy decisions. Executive summaries should be written so that they can be read independently of the report: mirroring the report in enough detail to reflect the contents accurately, but concisely enough so that a busy reader can quickly digest its significance.


Write a 1/2-1 page executive summary for your proposal, and hand it in with your paper.

Tips for Proceeding:

Objectives: * Summarizing long pieces of work; Abstracting papers for research purposes.

SOM 491 Progress Report

What is a progress report?

Progress reports are generally brief documents designed to inform a manager about the status of some part of a larger project. While progress reports may occasionally be lengthy, they are usually about 1-2 pages long, and are divided as follows:


* Following the 3-part description above, write a 1-page progress report (with headings), informing your instructor about the status of some project you are currently working on.

** Note: You may be asked to send your progress report via e-mail, and you may be asked to send more than one progress report during the semester (ex.: reporting on the progress of your research on the international business letter and memo assignment.

Tips for Proceeding:

Think about:


SOM 491 Proposal Writing for Management Professionals

Prepared by Linda LaDuc, Director of Business Writing Programs, School of Management University of Massachusetts, Amherst for use by SOM 491 students Copyright 1996.

What is a Proposal ?

A full proposal is a kind of report that persuades readers to act in a particular way in response to a carefully identified and analyzed problem. There are two primary phases or structural parts of full proposals: the problem phase/segment and the solution phase/segment. A proposal may be truncated (intentionally shortened) if one of these phases is condensed or taken for granted. A proposal for a feasibility study truncates the solution phase; a justification report truncates the problem phase; a full proposal includes both phases.

What is a proposal?

A proposal is written to persuade an audience to act favorably on a solution to a documented problem that affects others besides yourself. For example, proposals attempt to gain approval for projects, solve community problems, or improve existing conditions at worksites. Major elements of a proposal are:

Demonstration of the problem (Preliminary Arguments):

Proposal statement or section:

Demonstration that your solution is appropriate and feasible (Supporting Arguments):

Ex.: How writers discover and develop preliminary proposal elements (arguments and sub-arguments):

Individually or in a group, writer(s) ask:

Problem phase/segment. When confronted with a problem that they need or want to resolve, proposal writers must first identify the problem, and investigate all the related conditions of the problem (who is affected by it, and to what degree they are affected, etc.). Writers must also uncover who has the authority to implement a solution to the problem, and - most importantly-- analyze all the possible causes of the problem (identify the historical, precipitating, and root or perpetuating causes). In the best situations, working on the problem phase of a proposal involves discussing the problem with the person(s) whose responsibility it is to act, even before actual writing has begun.

Often the intended audience can provide additional information for assessing the feasibility of any proposed solution, but more importantly, they often must be convinced that there is a "real problem" to address. If they are convinced in preliminary discussions that the problem is urgent enough or worthy enough to be acted on, they may order or solicit a proposal. If not, writers may submit an unsolicited proposal. The latter requires more work to write, in part because the writer does not have the cooperation of the audience and thus is not apt to benefit from the audience's knowledge and position.

Discovering and Developing Supporting Arguments

In similar fashion, writers discover and develop solution elements of a proposal (Supporting arguments and sub-arguments). Most importantly, writers work hard to articulate the benefits for the audience of acting promptly to address the problem by implementing the writers' proposed solution and recommendations.

Ex.: How writers discover and develop supporting proposal elements (arguments and sub-arguments): Individually or in a group, writer(s) ask:

Solution phase/segment. In addition to identifying the problem, its conditions, and its causes, writers of a full proposal must also identify possible solutions, recommend a particular solution that addresses or eliminates problem causes, and argue for the feasibility of the recommended solution, keeping the needs and concerns of the intended audience, and the affected parties, in mind.

What is a Proposal for a Feasibility Study?

A feasibility study establishes the existence of a problem and offers an evaluation of two or more alternatives for action on the problem, usually recommending one of them to the organization's management in a feasibility report, but, when a problem is so complex that additional research is necessary in order to first identify possible solutions, a proposal for a feasibility study is often written first, and if this proposal for study is accepted, then a study will be conducted, out of which in turn, a feasibility report will result.

This sounds complicated, but in practice it works like this: You are upset because two students have been killed at an intersection on campus. Deciding that the situation is dangerous, you decide to propose a traffic light. After talking to campus security and the department of transportation officials you discover that your solution is not the only possible way of solving the problem. Something needs to be done, certainly, but the officials won't act on your particular solution –– they need more information to confirm facts related to the situation and to explore the feasibility of various possible solutions -- better lighting along the roadway, a traffic light, a walkway over the street, etc.. You still are committed to doing something about the problem, but because the problem is more complicated than you thought at first, you realize that a feasibility study is called for, so you write a proposal to the commissioner arguing that they conduct such a study, realizing that they are going to need solid reasons for doing so, considering the cost of such studies.

As you can see, a proposal for a feasibility study is a kind of truncated proposal, since it primarily focuses on the problem part of the proposal process. Writers of the proposal for a feasibility study first identify and analyze the problem within the organization, and then they propose to the organization's management that researchers conduct a feasibility study to further explore potential solutions in order to determine which, if any, might be feasible, that is, do-able, given the organization's power and resources.

What is a Justification Report?

A justification report is also a truncated proposal, only in this case, it assumes that a problem has been identified, that conditions and causes have been analyzed, and that two or more solutions have been identified. Given that all these elements are in place, the writers of a justification report mainly focus on justifying one of the solutions, whether the latter is a call for a purchase, an investment, a new personnel line, or a change in procedure in an organization.

For example, let's assume that the commissioner of transportation ordered a study (as you recommended for the dangerous intersection above), and the resulting feasibility report suggested three solutions: eliminating parking along all sides to the approach to the dangerous intersection in question, building an elevated walkway across the street, or installing a traffic light that is pedestrian operated. You have been asked to evaluate these three possibilities (benefits and drawbacks of each) and then to select one for action by the department of transportation. In this case, you would marshall your evidence, make a careful comparison, and recommend and justify taking a particular action.

How is a full proposal different from the two forms above? A full proposal includes both phases

A formal proposal (justification, feasibility, or full) is almost always accompanied by a cover letter or letter of transmittal. It also usually includes a well-written executive summary; and all necessary references and supplementary materials (resumes, specifications, survey results, interview notes, drawings, maps, etc.) are included in the report body or in an appendix. Finally, all items are carefully labeled and cross–referenced for reader accessibility.

Summary Advice

Argument construction and analysis are central to effective proposals. Not only are writers making and defending their articulation of the problem, but they are also claiming that a particular solution will resolve the problem, and providing evidence for the feasibility of the solution.


Write a 2-3 page Full Proposal addressing a problem that concerns your group. (cover letter, supporting materials, and references are additional pages)

Tips for Proceeding:

  1. Read Chapters 15 & 16 in your textbook, and then define, or "invent" (discover, describe, and analyze) a problem for a proposal report.

    See your class-writing packet for information (ex. of a short proposal letter), and there is some useful information on pp. 383-385 about proposals for class projects, and a sample proposal for a student report. See also pp. 466-467 (16-5 and 16-6) for some ideas that you can modify.

    It is important that you choose a problem or scenario that is reasonable and do-able in the time you have for this project. Some research is required and you can make your task easier by selecting your project carefully. For example, you might focus on the problem of computer accessibility for students at UMass, and propose a program to help students purchase computers at reduced cost.

    As part of the group process you will need to describe the problem thoroughly, conduct a survey, compile the results, find out who on campus has authority to act on and/or implement a solution to the problem, conduct an interview with that person (or persons). In the interview you would alert the person to the problem (bring your survey results to his/her attention), ask for assistance with feasibility information for a proposal you wish to submit to him or her, and arrange for feedback on the proposal once it has been received and evaluated by the audience.

    As you can see, some research is involved; and interpersonal communication skills are required as well. You will probably want to divide up the necessary research tasks along with the writing and editing tasks, so that demands on each group member's time are about equal. Conduct your research early so that you have ample time for editing before the proposal is mailed or delivered to the authority/audience who can act on it.

  2. For help with the feasibility format see p. 431, but note that your report will vary because you are writing a full proposal rather than reporting on a study that has already been completed. (For justification format also see p. 431, but keep the same caution in mind.)

    Note that proposal formats vary greatly -- as writers you need to organize the report for the efficiency of the reader , and use descriptive headings and sub–headings that let the reader know what each section of the report is trying to accomplish or present. Some model proposals may be handed out or displayed in class, so you can see how formats can vary, depending on readers' needs, strategies used in report–writing, or rules set out for producing such reports.

  3. You are expected to draft, get thorough (tough!) peer edits (2), substantially revise, (possibly get additional edits and revise again) and proof-read carefully. When you hand in your report, it must be in a folder, and accompanied by the original survey you conducted, compiled survey results, interview questions, hand-written notes, references, diagrams, early drafts, signed edits, etc.. Failure to meet these conditions will result in your being assigned a grade of F for the project, with no opportunity to resubmit (and also likely a failing grade for the course if plagiarism is suspected)..
  4. Readibility, conciseness, clarity, and cohesion are always standard requirements for business writing, and of course, you should pay careful attention to page layout/design (to ensure information accessibility). Write a letter of transmittal for your report, be sure that your report pages carry clear document identification. The report should have an executive summary at the beginning, and use heads and sub–heads to organize and signal content. Also, write transitions between sections, check sentences and paragraphs for logical and complete development, and list any references you used. Even though your text [Locker] often relies on MLA documentation style guidelines, you should use APA guidelines for citing and referencing your sources.

    Due date information:

    Your report must be handed in on the date due; not at the end of class, and not after class! If it is late, it will be assigned a grade of F, and there are no resubmissions allowed for papers handed in late at this point in the semester.

    Important notes about group process and grading:

    As in the case of the group consultant report, your group should meet at least once as a whole group to get organized; conduct as much of your communication by phone and e-mail as you discuss the project, and divide up the research. Discuss time constraints and different work styles, and choose a discussion leader, as well as a group manager (the group manager should coordinate meetings, route materials between members, etc.). Get together again to write up the proposal report, letter, and summary, and to plan for revising and editing. A word of caution: writing should not be left to anyone who has not been a full participant in the entire process.

    Document the efforts of individuals and the group by selecting a group manager; the group manager should report separately in a memo concerning problems with group process (such as specific members not meeting their responsibilities to the group). Note: it is our resubmission policy for this assignment that only groups who document problems within their group will have the opportunity to resubmit the report, providing the report is complete and on time. No advance notification by memo (by an individual or the group) means that you will not have the privilege of resubmitting as an option.

    Note that all members of the group receive the same grade, unless you provide written reasons why this procedure should be modified in some way. As mentioned above, your reasons for giving a member or members a lower or higher grade than the rest of the group, should be specified in a performance memo that: a) specifically provides evidence supporting such a claim; b) clearly specifies your alternative grading recommendation; and c) is signed, whenever possible, by all members of your group.

    Criteria for Grading:

    Your proposal will be graded based on the following key criteria ––

    1. thoroughness of analysis and completeness in addressing proposal arguments and sub-arguments, especially causal analysis of the problem, and development of the benefits section (benefits of the solution)
    2. overall fitness of the problem as identified and solution(s) recommended
    3. appropriateness of tone; "you-attitude" demonstrated
    4. page lay-out and design (overall appearance, readability, and accessibility of the content)
    5. completeness of task (cover letter, summary, references, survey results, interview questions, edits, group memo, etc.)
    6. overall convincingness and quality of the proposal -- if it isn't deliverable, it will not receive a high grade
    7. technical correctness and style (check spelling, syntax, grammar; think carefully about word selection, sentence length, and coherence (can the reader make transitions from one idea or section to another?)

    Remember that your proposal will be mailed or delivered to the audience, so provide a suitable envelope -- addressed correctly (and with sufficient postage if it requires mailing off-campus).

    News Release

    What is a news release?

    A news release is a statement about events or ideas of interest that the writers want to be broadcast to a large group of readers via local or national mass media. News releases may be produced by non-profit groups to announce fund-raising events, for example, or they may also be produced by specific departments within a business firm (such as public relations or marketing departments). A news release may be intended to:

    Editors of newspapers and journals, as well as news directors of television and radio, use news releases as they decide what stories or events they will report. Editors often receive many releases, and in a competition for space or time, they are apt to print or broadcast the better–written ones, because it is less work on their part to do so.

    News releases are often presented on pre-printed letterhead designed specifically for them. If your organization does not use this kind of letterhead, be sure you include the name, address, phone and fax numbers for your organization, as well as the name and direct phone number of the person to be contacted in case of questions about the content.


    Write a properly formatted news release (1–2 pages). Follow standard SOM 491 procedures for drafting, editing, revising, and handing in assignments.

    First, imagine that you work for a specific organization, and then imagine an event that could be considered "newsworthy." Then determine what audience(s) would be interested in, or need to know about, this event.

    1. Read the section on News Releases in your text (pp. 159–162).
    2. The first sentence or paragraph of your release should be a lead, an attention getter.
    3. Explain the event clearly and concisely, and include information about the "5 W's": Who, What, When, Where, Why (if appropriate, consider How as well).
    4. Make sure information is presented in order of importance (editors cut from the bottom up).
    5. Write an attention-getting title for your news release, but one that is also appropriate. ("Bye Bye Bankers" is not an appropriate way to announce layoffs at a financial institution, for example).
    6. Make sure you include the date or general time period that the information should appear before the public; and if you need an immediate release, highlight this information for editors.
    7. Make sure you include contact information (the name of the person the editor should talk to if he or she has questions or wants more information).
    8. If your release runs longer than one page, type "- MORE -" at the bottom center of each page except the last one. At the end of the release, type "- ### -" or "- 30 -".

      Last Updated: September 20, 1996