Conducting technical research in the workplace is often an important aspect of many careers. The process can be used to troubleshoot and explore new solutions to corporate situations. Writing about a research topic is different from academic writing, although many research aspects remain the same. By carefully following the process of technical writing for the workplace, employees can help to inform colleagues about a particular area of inquiry, potentially helping the company to improve a product or service.
Within the workplace, a problem or challenge may arise that requires further research. The goal of the research will be to gain information that can be shared with colleagues to help come to a solution. The finished researched will ultimately convey the steps necessary to implement the solution. Due to the importance and real-world applicability of the research, it is vital to obtain credible information.
As with any form of writing, the intended audience must be considered. What is the background of this audience? Will they understand the terminology presented with findings? What will they already know about the topic? These are questions to consider in the initial planning of your research. By knowing how to tailor your findings for your audience, it is easier to decide what questions must be asked. Once this has been determined, the research process can commence.
The beginning of research may include making a list of questions to ask, and conducting a survey. Gathering this data can include conducting a survey or researching business archives for topics relating to the intended research (Smith-Worthington & Jefferson, 2011). A survey or letters directly from consumers who experienced a particular problem are considered primary sources. These are sources of information that a derived directly from an incident or problem. Secondary sources, such as news reports, scholarly research, and books written by a third party can be used to support primary data (D’Angelo, 2012). While a primary source comes directly from a firsthand witness, a secondary source is farther removed, but may still contain useful data.
When seeking sources, the credibility of said source is highly important. This can sometimes be difficult to determine on a website, since anyone can create a Web page about nearly any topic imaginable. To evaluate a source or a Website for credibility, the following aspects must be considered:
1. When was it published?
2. Who wrote it?
3. Is it relevant?
4. Is it biased?
5. Are there references?
Knowing the answers to these questions can help you to determine how to proceed. An article published far in the past won’t be able to account for advancements that have occurred since publication. The credibility of a random person on the internet is not considered as valid as a leading expert in a particular field. It is important to “determine whether the source covers the topic in a way that is appropriate for your and your audience’s needs” (Smith-Worthington & Jefferson, 2011, p. 58). If the author of the source has a clear opinion or agenda, the information may be inaccurate or unfairly swayed toward one viewpoint. A source without references of its own may be lacking in legitimate evidence for the topic.
“… the National Rifle Association is unlikely to provide statistics on the number of children killed by guns in their homes”
(Smith-Worthington & Jefferson, 2011, p. 59)
It is important to give credit where it is due. Whenever sharing an idea or concept presented by another, it is vital to include documentation. Any quote or borrowed idea must be equipped with a proper citation so that the idea is attributed to the original author, artist, or photographer. If proper documentation is not utilized, you run the risk of committing plagiarism. Defined, “plagiarism is the act of using another person’s words and/or ideas without properly documenting or giving credit” (Smith-Worthington & Jefferson, 2011, p. 52). The origin of an idea, therefore, must be documented to give credit to the creator of the idea.
After research has been conducted, compiled, and all quotes and borrowed ideas documented, it is time to submit the finished product. All sources should be carefully vetted and cited. Your own primary research should be corroborated by the secondary research you compiled. When the research findings are presented in a language and context that is tailored to the specific audience intended, everything should be ready for submission. Now the intended audience will be able to learn how to implement the solution you found to the problem!
D’Angelo, B.(2012). Student Learning and Workplace IL: A Case Study. Library Trends 60(3), 637-650. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved June 3, 2014, from Project MUSE database.
Smith-Worthington, S., & Jefferson, S. (2011). Technical writing for success (3rd ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.