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ENGL 312 - Technical Writing ( Skucek ): Home

Online library guide for Assignment #4: Report for Decision Making

Step 1: Define a Problem

A. Answering the journalist's questions (who? what? where? when? why? so what? ) will help you narrow down your problem. For instance, I am thinking about implementing a library service to support undergraduate students during stress-ridden finals at the end of a semester. Below are my answers:


Library staff in collaboration with other campus units


A variety of library activities, such as puzzles, drawing, yoga, pet therapy, nutritional snacks, postcards... 


During the finals week from 7-9 p.m.


In the library lobby


To help students relax, relieve stress, get nutritional snacks to fuel the brain, enjoy breaks between studying for exams and writing papers

So what? 

The library is the busiest place on campus during the finals and its space could be utilized to provide students with different relaxing and therapeutic activities to support them during the most stressful times. 

Now it is your turn to answer the journalist's questions. 


B. Which question  are you trying to answer?

  1.  Will X work for a specific purpose? (feasibility study)
  2. Is X or Y better for a specific purpose? (comparative analysis)
  3.  Why does X happen, and what can be done about it? (cause-effect analysis)
  4.  How can we use X to best advantage?

My answer: 

Will the library activities (.e.,g recreational and therapeutic) help students relax, take a break, and slow down during the finals? I am trying to write a feasability report and explore the first question.

Now it is your turn to specify which question you are trying to answer.

Step 2: Define Your Audience/Stakeholders

Brainstorm answers to the following questions about your audiences:

1) Who is your primary reader? Who are you writing a report for decision making?

 In my case, I will be writing a report to the administration of the library

2) Who are you trying to help? Your target audience?

 In my case, I am targeting undergraduate students

3) Who are the stakeholders? Who can help you solve the problem?

In my case, I will be looking for funding and  partnerships  across the campus, e.g., Student Affairs, Wellness Center, Honors College, Dining Services.. .

Now it is your turn to identify your audiences/stakeholders.

Step 3: Create a Research Plan

Research Strategy # 1:  Library Research

1) Review your answers from Step 1 and identify what questions you need to find answers to by conducting library research.

For instance, I need to find studies:

  • about stress experienced by students during finals and stress management techniques;
  • the value of taking short breaks while studying for exams
  • the value of relaxation while studying for exams...

Also, I will need to find examples of other libraries' successful programs, activities, services similar to what I am proposing...

2) Brainstorm where you are going to find these answers:

a. In-depth studies>Journal Articles>Library Search search box on the library home page (a great starting point for a multi-disciplinary search). For instance, I will search on "college students and stress and exams" and limit my results to Scholarly/Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles on the left hand side.

b. Best practices/programs from a disciplinary perspective>Library home page>Articles & Databases>Databases by subject on the right hand side, e,g. Sociology, Psychology. For instance, I could not find Library Science subject, so I went to Databases by Title and found Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts database that will provide me with some examples from other libraries.

c. Current outlook of your problem and local community's views about it>Local Newspapers>Library home page> Articles & Databases>Newspapers>Lexis-Nexis. Watch the video how to find PA local newspapers.


Research Strategy # 2: People Research

1) Review your answers from Step 2 and identify what questions you need to find answers to by conducting people research.

2) Brainstorm where you can find the answers to your questions:

a. Do you need a demographic/social profile of your target audience? American FactFinder from Census Bureau is a great source for finding popular facts (income, race, language) about your local community. Type your country/town/city in the search box and see what you can find about the target audience.

b. Learn about your stakeholders. You may find their web sites, check any documentation, policies, and programs. Consider interviewing them.

c. Find out about your primary reader as well.


Research Strategy # 3:  Web Research

1. Try Advanced Google Search and limit to .gov domain to discover any government agencies tacking your issue.

2. Need statistics to discuss the prevalence of your issue? Tons of government agencies collect various statistics. Check the list here.


Research Strategy # 4: Ask Questions

1.  Schedule an individual research consultation with Tatiana via

2. Email Tatiana your questions if you cannot make to any of the research clinics

3. Ask your professor

Below are resources I have discussed above and more:

Subject Guide

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Tatiana Pashkova-Balkenhol
McNairy 202

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