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Recommendation Report Guided Revision
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An executive summary or abstract functions as a cover letter for the resume that is your
recommendation report. If your boss has 50 reports on her desk, she’s not reading all 50.
Instead, she will read 50 executive summaries, and from those summaries decide which reports
are worth reading. Your summary should include the arguments for the importance of this issue,
the arguments for the feasibility of your recommendations, and your recommendations. This
may feel redundant, but in a professional setting this kind of repetition with a difference is
invaluable for a reader with no time to read.
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Your introduction needs to do 3 things: tell your reader what you’re talking about, why you’re
talking about it and what your document is going to do (what are your recommendations). This
is a professional document and your readers aren’t looking to be surprised. Tell them up front
what they will find in your report.
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Your job in this recommendation report is to convince even the most curmudgeonly reader that
the issue or problem is real, it’s serious and it is worth time, energy and investment. Remember
that even causes that seem universally important, such as human trafficking or garbage islands
in the ocean, are easy for many people to dismiss. Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have clean water
and Congress recently wanted to vote against continued funding for Medicaid’s Children’s
Health Insurance Program. People do not care about a lot of things you might expect them to
care about. Have you spent enough time really proving that your issue or problem is real,
serious, worth time energy and investment? How have you been convincing? What kind of
evidence did you use?
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Remember that your recommendation is also an argument – so you need to sell it. Think about
using models that can prove to a reader that your project can be done. Has anyone else done
something like what you are recommending? What did their project look like and were they
successful? Think about it this way: if I say, “Let’s jump in the river and go for a swim,” you’re
going to say “Hell no.” If I say, “Let’s jump in the river and go for a swim. People do it all the
time, it’s totally safe, look there are people doing it right now and they’re having a blast!” Then
you’re going to say, “Oh, well when you have all of this evidence that says it is safe and fun,
sure, let’s jump in the river.” Does your argument for your recommendations provide reasons
and evidence? Does it have a model or proof that it could work? Are you saying more than
simply, “Let’s jump in the river?”
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Professional documents should be easy to read, and by that I mean skimmable. People don’t
read in a work place like they do in college: they are probably not highlighting, taking notes, and
rereading. It’s likely they will miss things and forget things, so it’s important that you hold their
hand and make sure your big claims are repeated – with a difference, of course. Are you
presenting information and answering your reader’s “So what?” Are you reiterating major
claims throughout your document so that a person is able to open to nearly any page and
understand your larger arguments? Is it easy for someone to find any information they might be
looking for: an executive summary, your recommendations, background information that
explains the larger issue?
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Remember that successful documents are functional documents. Double check your headings
and subheadings. Are they functional? Is it easy for a reader to navigate them – to differentiate
between what is a heading and what is text? Do they aid in a reader’s ability to skim your
document, to quickly find information and sections they may be looking for? Consider that a
heading that simply says “Background” isn’t as useful as one that says something longer and
more descriptive, like “Background: Climate Change’s Effect on Coastal Tourism” or
“Contextualizing Today’s Supply Chain” or “History of Happiness Studies in Psychology.” A
reader should be able to use a heading to understand exactly what will come in the section it is
heading.
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A conclusion is often misunderstood in writing. We are taught in school to use them as a space
to wrap up a document, to repeat major claims and close. This isn’t particularly functional or
useful in any setting outside of an academic essay, however, as it is simply too basic. Instead,
consider your conclusion in this report as your last opportunity to sell or cheerlead your ideas.
It’s the final moment of your argument, your closing statement (as a lawyer might make in a
trial), what you will leave your reader with to keep in their pocket. How can you compose a
conclusion that is impactful, memorable, exciting? It might be useful for you to repeat major
claims in a new way, it might be useful to reiterate a major point of your argument or an
especially stunning or interesting piece of data. You might consider an emotional appeal –
should it be positive and exciting, or serious and concerning? What best suits the work you are
doing? How do you want to leave your reader feeling after they’ve read your report?

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