Analysing issues for a report
Typically, reports will require you to engage in some kind of analysis of the issues or events that the report is based on.
This analysis can vary from quite simple identification and description to a complex comparison of the factors involved as well as an evaluation of the value or effectiveness of particular events, processes, or policies. At a basic level, you may only need to:
- Identify the issues that are relevant to the report
- Describe what they comprise or how they work
- Explain why they are relevant and important, or why you have chosen them from a pool of available issues, or why these issues involve advantages or disadvantages.
Alternatively, you may wish to include a more evaluative focus to your analysis. A common technique, drawn from business studies approaches to report writing, involves looking at the pros and cons surrounding a particular issue. This approach is conceptualised in terms of SWOT:
Each of these headings could form a separate section or a single paragraph within the body of your report's structure. Looking at the issue from different angles, especially pros and cons, will allow a more reflective and objective analysis of the topic. In cases where there are many issues at stake, you may also use SWOT as a method for analysing each individual issue involved in your report.
Force Field analysis
A similar technique to SWOT analysis has also been developed called Force Field analysis. This particular technique is drawn from the management arena. It identifies the process of comparing the pros and cons before arriving at a decision. Three steps are involved as follows:
- Identifying the driving forces in support of a decision.
- Identifying the restraining forces or obstacles against a decision.
- Prioritising the most significant driving and restraining forces that will impact on the decision and writing these up in your report.
A further technique for managing your analysis, which is also drawn from the discipline of management, involves simply addressing the following issues, aspects, or influences in relation to your topic:
Economic (or educational)
Sociological (or social)
Each of these perspectives could form a single paragraph or a separate section of the body of your report. In some cases, you may find that it is more beneficial to select three out of the six perspectives and discuss each of these in depth. Once you have addressed the issues in the body of your report, there may also be a requirement to look at ways to move forward with a particular issue or how to proceed with a particular decision. In such cases, considering the implications for the future or recommendations may be relevant.