BA 301 â€“ Research & Analysis of Business Problems Research Paper Guidelines and Instructions Purpose This term paper helps you gain skill in applying critical elements of the problem solving process. In addition, it enhances your understanding of real business problems and opportunities, and how you can benefit from using a systematic approach in solving them. While completing this project youâ€™ll have the opportunity to choose a company that interests you, research that company in order to uncover and prioritize some of the strategic and tactical problems facing the management team, and use the problem-solving framework from class to develop some creative solutions to the chosen problem. Youâ€™ll also enhance your long-term perspective and understanding of corporate sustainability by recognizing how economic issues interact with social and/or environmental issues in real business settings. Expectations Although the final report is due at the end of the term, I would suggest that you not wait until the last minute to complete this assignment. As we review key elements of the problem-solving framework throughout the term, youâ€™ll probably want to immediately apply them to your project (you can see that Iâ€™m an optimistic guy). In this way, as you run into issues and concerns, you can discuss them with your group or with me. This is a research paper, and good research takes time. You will be required to provide a draft of your term paper to your group members at the end of the term for review. It always helps to let others review and critique your work. They can often see things that you canâ€™t, sometimes just because you are too close to the material. Early on in the term you will be required to provide a draft problem description for your paper as part of a homework assignment. You will also have a chance to review this with your group. This is a crucial part of the project. If the problem is defined poorly or too generally, it will adversely affect the rest of your paper â€“ and your grade! Problem Selection I have purposely not selected the corporate problems for you, only a list of possible companies for your research. Early in the course we will discuss Problem Description as a key step in the problem-solving process. You canâ€™t solve a problem if you canâ€™t identify a problem. Too often in past terms students have defined a problem as a goal, or an objective, or an issue. Problem definition begins with identifying symptoms. Symptoms are indicators. Find a gap between the actual and the desired or a contradiction between principle and practice. Weâ€™ll talk more about this in class. Youâ€™ll need to do preliminary research on your chosen company in order to uncover some of the problems they face in todayâ€™s global business arena, and then pick one that you specifically wish to explore further in the context of the term paper. Academic Honesty The project is an individual project, and it is critical that you do your own work. Some of you may choose the same company. Although I would encourage you to discuss the project both inside and outside the class, the final work you submit must be your own. Trust me, Iâ€™ll know. And you will be penalized. Final Report Structure The final term paper requires a specific structure and format. You might think that this is restrictive. In a real business environment, you will often be faced with situations where you need to produce a work product that adheres to specific requirements. Get used to it! Express your creative energy in the content and quality of your thought process, critical thinking, research strategy and solutions. Plus, a fixed format helps me to grade consistently. The final paper should describe the problem you have addressed, the solution you propose, and the outcomes the organization can expect in implementing your solution. The template provided on D2L clearly shows the format required for the paper. Look that over early in the term. Write the paper as if I am the audience. I will read and grade the paper with these questions in mind: 1.) Is the problem you describe actually a problem, is it supported by data that you have collected, and is it important to the organization? 2.) Have you exhaustively generated a creative set of possible solutions? 3.) Will the solution you propose effectively address the problem, and have you chosen that solution using effective and proven decision-making techniques? 4.) Have you made a convincing, evidence-based argument for you choice? 5.) Will an allocation of corporate resources achieve the benefits you describe? Your report should convince the decision-maker that the solution you recommend can improve the firmâ€™s multiple bottom line (weâ€™ll discuss this in class if youâ€™re not familiar with the phrase) and is worth pursuing. Formatting The PSU writing center offers in-person and on-line support for student research projects. Their web site is: HYPERLINK “http://www.writingcenter.pdx.edu” www.writingcenter.pdx.edu. Please take advantage of these resources. Your final report should be very carefully organized and formatted â€“ using the guideline found in the template on D2L. Use subheadings and highlighting (italics, boldface etc.) as necessary to guide the reader through your work. Use bullet points and numbering to draw attention to lists of important items. Make sure that your formatting style, organizational approach, and level of detail are consistent throughout the report. Use a formal tone appropriate for business documents. Be consistent with use of tense and person. When presenting numerical data, use appropriate guidelines to present your data effectively. Use 12-point Times New Roman for body copy, and 14-point Arial Bold for major headings (see the template on the course website). As for length, the term paper should be at least ten (10) pages long, not counting the Table of Contents, the bibliography page or any necessary appendices, and no longer than 20 pages. And, if you fill the paper with charts and diagrams, make sure you have ten pages of text. Use the font guidelines listed above, and make sure itâ€™s double-spaced and one-sided. I know that it seems like a waste of paper, but single-sided is much easier to grade if Iâ€™m reading many papers at the end of the term. And you donâ€™t want me to be cranky when Iâ€™m reading your paper. You are expected to follow MLA style guidelines for all citations in the text and on your bibliography page. Be particularly careful when citing materials collected through PSU Library online databases, such as EBSCO Host. The MLA has a web site but does not publish its guidelines there. However, there are many other sources for citation examples, such as: HYPERLINK “http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/library/researchguides.html” \o “http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/library/researchguides.html” http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/library/researchguides.html. You can also find printed MLA style guidelines in the library and at the writing center. Final Thoughts The term paper is 35 percent of your final grade. Itâ€™s hard to get an A in this class if you donâ€™t do well on this project. Start early, particularly the background research and problem definition. Outline your thoughts and update the outline as we cover the problem-solving framework in class. As mentioned on the first page, the problem definition is critical, so make sure you spend some time on it. Trust me, it will help the rest of the paper go more smoothly. If youâ€™re having problems, come see me with your questions. Iâ€™m happy to help. Lastly, good research is the backbone of the paper. And, as I will repeat in class, this means more than just a Google search. Google is a terrific resource, but the PSU Library website is a better one. Experts claim that Google and other common search engines only give you access to less than 1 percent of the data on the Internet. The rest of the information is in the â€œdeepâ€ Web. Corporate and other private databases make up much of this data, and the PSU Library will give you access to some of this. And I had better not see Wikipedia as a source in your citation list.