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This module is by far our most demanding, so hang in there. It’s certainly manageable in the time-frame you have, and the readings and guides are meant to help shape your progress.
In this module you’ll develop a Recommendation Proposal. In the last module you identified a few potential topics—things that LU might do to improve some aspect of college. In my announcement, I used the example of parking at LU. It’s certainly a common need that students often identify.
So our first need in addressing any topic is to prove to our audience that the issue we’ve identified truly is an issue that needs to be addressed. We must PROVE that it is in fact a problem, or that it merits attention because it can greatly improve matters for LU. As stated in the announcement, we have to clearly define what we mean.
To successfully develop a Recommendation Proposal, DEFINE what the issue is.
As stated in the announcement, with parking at LU, do we mean there’s not enough parking, not parking close enough to buildings, that parking lots are not in good condition, that parking is not safe and secure….and so on? In other words, you have to start by clearly defining what the problem is.
Then you have to prove that it is an issue. So how might you demonstrate to your audience that this really is a need? You’ll need to conduct RESEARCH to find evidence. Think about how you can prove that this issue exists and demands attention. Can we find data that shows crime in LU parking lots, perhaps? Can we find evidence that there are poor conditions in the lots? Can we find evidence that there are not enough parking spaces?
The evidence to prove that what we’re addressing is a very real problem is essential. If we don’t successfully prove that the issue needs to be addressed, we cannot hope to get our audience to do what we want.
Here’s where you must give attention to who the appropriate audience is. Who can do what you want done? With our attention to LU topics, keep in mind that LU is a big place. The appropriate audience isn’t just some general “administration.” With the example of parking, there’s a parking office, right? Beyond that, there’s a facilities office. There’s a budget office. We can take this all the way to the president, of course, but if we don’t start by identifying who would actually consider our proposal, we might fail simply because we addressed the wrong audience.
So as you identify your own specific topic, take some time to consider who really must be addressed. To get beyond the example of parking, if we wanted to recommend that a particular course be added, we’d have to know which department would teach the class, which majors would benefit from it, and who would develop and teach it. That’s not a matter that the executive administration of LU would be involved with, so we’d be wasting everyone’s time if we addressed that recommendation to the president, or the parking office, or an athletic coach.
To get started with your Recommendation, take time to consider the different potential topics you thought about. Think through them and consider which one you might best be able to develop or which one you prefer.
Define and describe each issue. You might want to free-write/brainstorm ideas as well as solutions. Be sure to consider how other students would feel about your suggestions.
As you narrow down your focus to one of your topics, these steps can help you shape your proposal:
–Define and describe it. Why is it necessary and beneficial? How can you prove the need for it?
–Who would it benefit?
–What does it entail? Cost, time, policy or rule changes?
–What will be required to implement this action?
–What’s the benefit of doing this? How does any benefit outweigh challenges or costs?
–What concerns, objections, obstacles must be overcome? How can they be overcome, and why is this action worth it?
–What are the necessary steps?
–Who is the specific audience?
Once you’ve identified and described an issue/opportunity for LU and made a case for why it should be addressed, you can move to develop your full solution. That is, now that you ideally have the audience’s attention and acknowledgement that this issue exists and merits attention, you can present your case for what to do and how to do it. That’s critical, though—don’t forget that you must effectively present both of those points:
What should be done
How it should be done
To effectively persuade your audience, your solution must be something that they can actually follow. So be sure you describe what to do, and perhaps even more importantly, you must lay out how it can be done.
In our readings for this module you’ll see a Sample Recommendation Report on pages 489-513.
–First, notice the layout and format.
–See the different subsections and how this report is organized to make each section clear.
–Yes, you’ll probably notice how there is some level of duplication between the Executive Summary, the abstract, and the Introduction. Don’t worry about that—truly, in most cases you won’t need each of those elements. For our assignment, you should focus on including an Introduction, but don’t worry about the abstract and Executive Summary.
–Just focus on how this Report is organized and how it presents the issue at hand, why it needs attention, and ultimately what is recommended as the best course of action. For your own Recommendation Report, you’ll follow this Sample Report’s organization style, so be familiar with it.
As you develop your Recommendation, think about how you can convey to the audience that you are well informed, accurate, trustworthy, and that what you recommend will actually work. How do you gain that credibility?
One of the essential ways to do that is to utilize research and resources that support your claims and recommendations. With our example of the parking lot situation at LU, we might have cited crime and safety as aspects of the problem. How do we prove that those are in fact issues for LU parking? One way is to find news articles. Are there documented reports of cars being broken into? If so, those articles help prove that it’s not just our opinion that crime happens in the parking lots. That was verifiable fact. We also might find crime statistics from police departments. Again, that data would prove that crimes truly did happen and show how many, when, what type, and so on.
All of that is simply to remind you of the value of finding credible evidence through research.
So be sure to identify the evidence that will help you prove and support your recommendation. Do you have news reports, statistics, data, expert opinions? What can you find that will help support you?
To help with this, I want to refer you to the chart on pages 120-121 in our book. This chart presents various questions and methods for research. Essentially, this chart just offers some good suggestions for the kinds of places you might search for evidence/research based upon the kind of question you’re asking.
Then, look over pages 122-126 for some decent ideas about conducting secondary research. These pages might be review for something you already know, but there are some good reminders in these pages about different sources and kinds of research available.
As you think about those pages and specifically identify research that will support your Recommendation, you’ll need to be sure that you use credible sources. The chart on pages 130-131 presents some useful thoughts and reminders about evaluating the credibility of sources. Review that and keep those points in mind as you conduct your own research.
Consider what information will help you prove that your solution is the best one available. Remember that your audience must not only agree that what you present truly is an issue that needs attention, but also that your recommended course of action will work and can be done.
As you develop your recommended solution, consider whether the audience can clearly see how your solution will work? Do you explain how to do it (steps, process, necessary budget, and time)? Do you clearly develop a reasonable approach that solves the issue that you identified?
You see that the sample report actually offers more than one possible option as part of its recommendation. Keep in mind that you can do that as well. If you have a solution that is large and costly and complicated, but is the best solution, then you might also want to offer alternatives that are more feasible.
It can be smart to present the ideal solution, but to also present some simpler steps that can be taken. Remember that many solutions aren’t “all or nothing.” There’s often an in-between, a compromise, or a process that can be followed to lead up to the complete solution.
Finally, be sure to consider what challenges the audience might have. Why might they object to your solution? How can you address those challenges and objections? An effective proposal is one that addresses challenges and objections.
Take your time to work through your ideas in this module. You’ve probably had to compose written arguments before, so you likely have some familiarity with this process. For our purposes, we’re giving attention to “realistic” issues in a real place that could really be implemented.
Your primary purpose here is to effectively present the issue at hand and a fully developed solution (your recommendation) that can be implemented based upon your presentation of it.
The length of your report will vary depending on the necessary components, but a good guideline is around 5 pages.
The example Recommendation report on page 492 is the model that you should follow for your format. Remember that you should organize your report using the sample as a guide–however, your reports do not necessitate all of the components of the sample report. You should consider the components and organization that best suit your specific report. You don’t necessarily need an abstract, an executive summary, and an introduction for your report. You certainly may develop each of those if it feels appropriate to you, but for most of you the report you’re working on won’t necessarily need each of those. For a more technical report, it might be necessary to include each of those components. However, for the reports we’re working on, it’s not necessary to include all of those.
You need to introduce your report and provide the essential background about the problem and the need to address it. It’s more important for our purposes that you effectively introduce your topic and why it needs attention, and then move into your solution.
Here’s the essential matters that will determine the effectiveness of your Recommendation:
Do you make a convincing case?
Is your case well-supported?
Do you provide compelling evidence? Do you address opposition concerns?
Is your presentation clear, organized, and effective at conveying your proposal?
Could the appropriate LU officials follow your recommendation to implement this?