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Problem Solving Cycle

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image CHAPTER OVERVIEW

Unit 9.1 Problem solving cycle
Unit 9.2 Information management

image By the end of this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Discuss the different methods that can be used to collect data.
  • Process and analyse data.
  • Present data..

INTRODUCTION

Every day, we are presented with new problems and challenges. These problems can be simple, such as deciding what to have for breakfast, or more complicated, such as trying to find out why your car is not starting. To solve these problems, you need to find and process data so that you can do the following:

  • Identify what the problem is or how the problem occurred.
  • Find a possible solution.
  • Find out how to implement the solution.

You can do this by following the steps in the information management process, shown in the diagram below.

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Figure 9.1: The information management process

The information management process is a good example of how to collect, organise, interpret and present data as information. To help you get a better understanding of this process, we will take a closer look at information management. We will start by looking at how data can be gathered. We will then discuss how data can be stored, how to check the quality of the data, as well as how to process the data. Finally, we will take look at how data can be interpreted to give us information and how we can present this information to others.

UNIT
9.1 Problem solving cycle

In previous years, you learned that data is raw, unorganised numbers or facts and that these facts are difficult to use without being organised or changed. When data is organised so that it can become useful to people, it becomes information. Converting data into information can be seen when solving a problem. Problem solving is a process where you attempt to determine a solution to your problem by looking at the data and trying to organise it into useful information. Problem solving consists of the following five steps:

1. Define the problem: Here, you need to determine what the problem is you are trying to resolve. In order to do this, you need to understand what the problem is. The best way to do this is to write down everything you know about the problem. Make sure to include the following:

  • What is known about the problem?
  • What information is missing or is needed in order to determine the problem?

After you have written down everything that you know about the problem, you need to determine how you are going to find the missing information. One of the ways in which to do this is to use questions or questionnaires to collect data on the problem. This data can then be sorted into useful information that you can use to identify the problem as well as possible solutions.

2. Identify possible solutions: Once you have identified the problem, you need to research ways in which to solve the problem. You can use information sources and data-gathering tools for this. Information sources include electronic sources, such as wikis and internet articles, and printed media, such as books and standard operating procedures (SOPs). Data-gathering tools include conducting questionnaires and interviews with the relevant people or targeted market. Both of these sources will provide data that can be organised in order to come up with possible solutions.

3. Choose a solution: Your research would have identified several possible solutions to the problem, but how do you determine which solution is best? To do this, you need to apply your knowledge of the subject. Knowledge is something you gain through experience and education. Your knowledge of the subject should enable you to sift through all the information that you have obtained in order to identify the best possible solution to the problem.

4. Implement the solution: If you use your knowledge as well as the information that you have gathered, you should now have identified the best possible solution. Make sure that you implement the solution according to your knowledge and research. A solution that is not fully implemented might create new problems.

5. Review the solution: Problem solving does not end with the implementation of the solution. You still need to determine if the solution is effective for resolving the problem. If the chosen solution is not effective in resolving your problem, you will need to go back to Step 1 and identify why the solution did not work. Then repeat the process by choosing a new solution and testing to see if it resolves the issue.

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Something to know

Sifting through information is the process of ONLY keeping information that will enable you to solve the problem.

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Figure 9.2: Problem solving

Example 9.1 Use data to solve a problem

Miss Peterson is a High School Natural Sciences teacher who is very concerned for her students. Not only does she want her students to pass; she wants them to strive to be the best that they can be. So, in order to determine which students are underperforming, Miss Peterson has decided to look at the school’s database to see how her current class is performing when compared to previous year’s classes.

When Miss Peterson opens the database, she finds hundreds of pages containing data for each student that has enrolled in the school over the last five years. Miss Peterson requests the database to convert all the data into percentages and to display only the data for students that take her Natural Sciences class.

Once the database has converted all the data, Miss Peterson is presented with five columns containing the averages for her students over the last five years. She can now use this data to compare the averages and identify the students who will need extra attention and support.

image Activity 9.1

1.Write down the correct answer for each of the following questions

a.Which of the following is part of reading an academic article on the problem?

A.Research

B.Knowledge

C.Experience

D.Work

b.Which is the first step in problem solving?

A.List possible solutions

B.Review the suggested answer

C.Find the answer

D.Define the problem

c.What are raw, unorganised numbers or facts called?

A.Information

B.Knowledge

C.Data

D.Wisdom

2.Choose a term or concept from Column B that matches the description in Column A. Write only the letter next to the question number.

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3.Answer the following questions:

a.What must be included in a problem statement?

b.List the five steps of problem solving.

c.Give four examples of information sources.

d.Explain how an interview can lead to solving a problem.

UNIT
9.2 Information management

Information management is the process of collecting, processing, and presenting data and information. The process consists of the following three main steps:

1. Input: This is the first step of the information management process and consists of identifying the main problems and collecting data.

2. Process and analyse: Once all the data has been gathered, it is converted to information by processing and analysing the data.

3. Output: This is the final step in the process and consists of presenting the information in such a way that it can be easily understood by other people.

The information management process is very similar to the information-processing cycle that we discussed in Chapter 1, with the main difference being that the information management cycle consists of three main steps and not five. To recap, the five main steps of the information-processing cycle include:

1. Input: The first step in the information-processing cycle is when the computer receives data from the user. The data can be either in the form of information or instructions.

2. Storage: The input data is then stored by the computer. This can be either permanently on a hard drive, or temporarily in the RAM (the computers short-term memory).

3. Processing: Once the data is stored, the computer can start manipulating the data. This is done according to instructions programmed into the computer.

4. Output: The manipulated data can now be sent to an output device. This includes a screen that can display the data as well as other devices, such as a printer.

5. Communication: The final step of the information-processing cycle is communication of the information to other sources. This can be done between two computers, or over a massive network, such as the internet.

PAT AND THE INFORMATION MANAGEMENT CYCLE

During your Practical Assessment Task (PAT) examinations, you will be asked to research and present your findings on a given topic. To do this, you will use the information management process.

Start by identifying the potential problems highlighted in the given topic. These problems can then be used to generate questions that you will use in order to gather data. Once you have gathered the data, it has to be processed and analysed to obtain information. The final step of the examination is to take the information and present it in a format that others will be able to understand.

Examples of potential topics include:

  • What is the impact of fake news on society?
  • An investigation into the shortage of high-school pupils and university students studying in the scientific, technical/technology and engineering fields.

In order to assist with your PAT examination, we will be using the following practical example to demonstrate each step of the information management cycle.

Example 9.2 E-learning in South Africa

With the advances in computers and the internet, e-learning has started to replace traditional forms of education, such as printed textbooks. This form of education has become very popular in large parts of Europe and America, but has yet to do the same in South Africa.

As a current student, your task is to determine whether or not e-learning can be implemented in South African schools.

STEP 1: TASK REQUIREMENTS

In order to determine whether or not e-learning can be implemented in South African schools, you need to understand exactly what is expected of you. To do this, you will need to write down the task requirements by looking at the instructions given in your PAT assignment. You can do this in the following way:

1. Identify the main problem you have to solve: Start by writing down everything you know about the problem and determine the main question that you would like to answer.

2. Identify a possible solution: Determine what information you will need in order to answer your main question. This usually requires creating questions with answers that will let you solve your main problem.

You can expand on your task definition by using mind maps, bulleted lists, or any other method that best describes your plan of action.

Example 9.3 Find answers to a question

In the previous example, you were instructed to determine whether or not e-learning can be implemented in South African schools. In order to answer this question, we first need to look at what we know about the given topic, after which we will need to determine a possible solution to the question.

WHAT DO WE KNOW?

E-learning, or electronic learning, is a new method of education that uses electronic technology (computer and the internet) to present a course or subject. It is most commonly used over the internet. However, it can also be used in the classroom as a substitute for physical textbooks. This method of education has become very popular in Europe and America, but has yet to take off in South Africa. Why would this be?

ANSWER THE MAIN QUESTION

Now that we have determined our main question, we need to look at possible questions that will help us gather all the data and information needed to answer it.

Here are some of the questions that we will need to answer in order to solve our main problem:

  • Does South Africa have the infrastructure for e-learning?
  • Do people know what e-learning is?
  • Would people make use of e-learning?

STEP 2: GATHER DATA

Once you have determined your task requirements, you need to start looking at ways in which to gather the data and information needed to answer your main question.

To assist you in gathering data, we will now take a look at some data-gathering techniques that you can use.

INTERVIEWS

An interview is a conversation between two people; the interviewer and the person being interviewed (interviewee). The interviewer asks questions that are then answered by the interviewee. Interviews are an example of a primary data source, because data is gathered and analysed by the person conducting the interview. They can be conducted in a formal manner, focusing on structured questions, or in an informal manner where the interviewer asks general questions. Examples of interviews used to collect data include the following:

  • One-on-one interviews conducted in person
  • Interviews conducted over the phone
  • Group interviews

When conducting an interview, make sure that the questions are clear and focused on the topic that you would like to discuss. Interview answers usually include descriptions that are not numbers and cannot be computed; therefore, this data collected through the interview process.

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Figure 9.3: Conducting interviews
QUESTIONNAIRES

A questionnaire is a research method that uses a series of questions in order to gather data. These questions can be multiple choice, or questions that require the respondent to give a short description. However, it is recommended to use multiple-choice questions, as people are more inclined to want to complete the questionnaire. Questionnaires should, therefore, not require long explanations or descriptions.

Examples of questionnaires used to collect data include the following:

  • Surveys
  • Opinion polls
  • Multiple-choice tests
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Figure 9.4: Completing a questionnaire

Let’s take a look at the following guidelines for preparing a questionnaire:

  • Decide what you are trying to learn from the questionnaire.
  • Identify potential questions that will help you get the information that you need.
  • Use closed questions (yes/no), as well as open questions (questions that require a description).
  • Keep your questions short and simple to avoid confusion.
  • Ask your questions in a way that will not guide people to a specific answer.
  • Keep your questionnaire as short as possible.
  • Test the questionnaire to ensure that it achieves what you are aiming for.

The data collected from questionnaires can be either quantitative or qualitative. Qualitative data is collected by looking at the answers provided. Quantitative data can be collected by assigning numerical values to the questions. An example of this can be seen in a survey that asks you on a scale of 1 to 5, how satisfied you are with the service you have received.

OBSERVATION

Observation is a method of collecting data where the researcher observes and documents participants performing a task in their natural setting. Unlike interviews and questionnaires, observation does not require the researcher to ask any questions; instead, it requires them to observe the task using their senses.

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Something to know

When using observation to collect data, do not disturb or interrupt the person, or process, you are observing. Interruptions might lead to inaccurate observations as it might cause deviations in the process.

Examples of using observation to collect data include the following:

  • Observing the interaction between a teacher and a student
  • Observing a mechanic fixing a car
  • Observing a train conductor operating a train

Observation can be used to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative data is collected by looking at the amount of times a specific task is performed. Qualitative data is collected by looking at how the task is performed.

DOCUMENTS AND RECORDS

Written documents and records are one of the oldest methods used to capture data and present information. These documents can consist of databases, notes, reports, letters, records and written accounts. In the modern day, documents and records are stored electronically on your computer. The data that is obtained from documents and records is classified as secondary data. This is because the data was not generated by the person conducting the research, but rather by someone else. Examples of documents and records being used to collect data include the following:

  • Looking at your financial records
  • Examining the notes for a meeting that you did not attend
  • Using information from a textbook
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Figure 9.5: Documents and records

THE INTERNET

The internet has played a very big role in allowing people around the world to access a wealth of data and information. Using a search engine, such as Google, is much more time efficient and effective than visiting your local library.

Let’s take a look at the following examples of where the internet is being used to collect data:

  • Wikipedia: This website contains a wide variety of data and information. (Information obtained from Wikipedia should always be checked for quality and accuracy.)
  • PriceCheck: This website allows you to compare the cost of items from different retailers.
  • LinkedIn: This website provides information on job vacancies, as well as the professional profiles of people looking for part-time and full-time employment.
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Figure 9.6: Using the internet to obtain data

Example 9.4 Further research

Unfortunately, the information obtained from the data analysis is not sufficient to make any final conclusions. In order to obtain additional information, we used our own data as a guideline and did further research using secondary information sources, such as the internet and written media. When you use secondary information sources, always check the quality of the information to ensure that it is valid and accurate. You can ask a variety of questions to check the quality of information.

Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • Questions focusing on facts: These type of questions aim to gather as many facts as possible to ensure that the information is accurate:
  • Who generated the information?
  • Is there evidence to support the information?
  • Is the information relevant and up to date?
  • How many times has the information been used?
  • Does the information cover your topic?
  • Is the information biased toward a specific outcome?
  • Questions focusing on exploring the information: These questions aim to help you get a better understanding of the information:
  • What does the information indicate?
  • Why does the information indicate this?
  • How did the information come to its conclusion?
  • Questions focusing on predicting the outcome of the information: These questions help you use the information to predict a possible outcome, or come up with a hypothesis:
  • Will I be able to use this information to find a solution to my problem?

The internet contains a wealth of information that has been uploaded by many different people; however, not all the information is accurate. This is because some people do not do proper research to ensure that the information that they put on the internet is accurate. There are also some that attempt to mislead you on purpose. Due to this, it is especially important to ensure that information obtained from the internet is accurate. Check the website that you are using to make sure it contains accurate and relevant information from a reliable and trusted source. You can do this in the following way:

  • Make sure the website is easy to navigate.
  • Determine for whom the website is intended.
  • Check that the website and its information are up to date.
  • Look at who supports the website.
  • Check the credentials of the author of the information you are looking at.
  • Check that the links on the website are working. This is especially important when checking references.
  • Make sure that the information on the website is similar to that obtained from other websites.

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Something to know

Sites, such as Wikipedia, can be updated by any person who can access the website. Information obtained from such a website should always be verified from another relevant source.

Example 9.5 Further research

In the previous section, we came up with five questions that we would need to answer to determine if e-learning can be implemented in South Africa. After looking at each of the questions, we decided that the best method to answer these questions would be a questionnaire to test the knowledge of students, parents and teachers around e-learning.

Let’s take a look at the following example of our questionnaire:

E-learning

General overview of e-learning in South Africa

Questionnaire/Self-test

The purpose of this questionnaire/self-test is to obtain information about the knowledge of students, parents and teachers of e-learning, and its use in South Africa. Circle the appropriate letter on the sheet to indicate your answer.

1. Are you a student, parent or teacher?

A. Student

B. Parent

C. Teacher

2. Do you prefer physical (newspaper) or digital (internet) sources of information?

A. Physical sources

B. Digital sources

3. E-textbooks are more cost effective than printed textbooks. Choose one of the following:

A. Strongly disagree

B. Disagree

C. Agree

D. Strongly disagree

4. Why did you make the choice you did in Question 3?

5. Do you know of any South African educational institutions that use e-learning?

A. Yes

B. No

6. Do you own any of the following?

A. Smartphone

B. Laptop

7. Does your school have Wi-Fi available?

A. Yes

B. No

Figure 9.7: An example of a questionnaire

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Something to know

Group your files and folders to make it easier to locate and use your data.

SPREADSHEETS

A spreadsheet is an electronic document that can be used to capture data in rows and columns.

Example 9.6 Capture data in a spreadsheet

The questionnaire regarding the use of e-learning in South African education was handed to and completed by 16 students, 27 parents and eight teachers. To help us get a better understanding of the data collected, we decided to capture the data by using a Microsoft Excel sheet. This was done in the following way:

1. Create a sheet called “Students”.

2. Add headings for each of the questionnaire questions.

3. Capture the data for each questionnaire completed by a student.

4. Repeat Steps 1 to 3 for the questionnaires completed by parents and teachers.

Here is an example of our data captured in Excel.

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STEP 3: PROCESSING DATA

In order to convert your gathered data into usable information, you need to analyse the data. This can be done by sorting and grouping the data in a way that is easy to understand. Once the data has been sorted, you can use various formulae, functions and queries included in spreadsheets and databases to analyse the data.

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Something to know

The method used to sort your data depends on the type of data. For example, numerical data (numbers) can be sorted from lowest to highest, while string data (words) can be sorted alphabetically.

Let’s take a look at some of the tools that you can use to analyse your data:

  • Mathematical operators: Excel and databases use standard mathematical signs, such as a plus (+), minus (-), multiplication (*) and division (/).
  • Formulae: A data analysis can be performed using the following formulae:

    ¿ SUM: This function calculates the total of a range of numbers.

    ¿ AVERAGE: This function calculates the average of a range of numbers.

    ¿ MIN: This function returns the minimum value from a list of values.

    ¿ MAX: This function returns the maximum value from a list of values.

    ¿ COUNT: This function counts the numbers in a list of values.

    ¿ VLOOKUP: This function allows you to search for a value in the left-most column of a spreadsheet. If found, it returns a value.

    ¿ IF statements: This function allows you to output text if a case is valid or false. For example, the formula IF(A1<A2, “Yes”, “No”) will give an answer of “Yes” when A1 is smaller than A2 and an answer of “No” when A1 is bigger than A2.

Database programs, such as Microsoft Access, use queries instead of formulae in order to analyse data. Queries do exactly the same things as the functions and formulae in Excel, but with less manual work.

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Note

There are many more formulas not discussed here; refer to the PAT rubric for more information on the complexity levels for formulas (SPREADSHEET COMPLEXITY).

Example 9.7 Processing data

In order to analyse the data we collected using the questionnaires, we transferred the data to an Excel spreadsheet. From there, we used the COUNTIF function to count the number of answers for each question.

This was done in the following way:

1.Open your sheet containing the answers obtained from students.

2.Create a new table with headings for each answer.

3.Use the COUNTIF function to count the number of times a specific answer was given.

4.Repeat Steps 2 and 3 for the answers obtained from parents and teachers.

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Figure 9.8: Processed data
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Figure 9.9: Query in a database

Using the information obtained from the database, we can now start answering some of the main questions:

  • Does South Africa have the infrastructure for e-learning? We know that more than two-thirds of schools already have Wi-Fi available and that every person that was interviewed owned a device that can be used for e-learning. This would indicate that South Africa does possibly have the infrastructure available to implement e-learning.
  • Do people know what e-learning is? Our data indicates that about half of the people know what e-learning is and that only one-third is aware that e-learning is currently being used in South Africa.
  • Would people make use of e-learning? Slightly more than half of the people make use of a digital platform to obtain their information and when asked if they are interested in making use of e-learning, two-thirds indicated that they are.

STEP 4: ANALYSIS

Once data has been processed it is time to return your problem. Are you able to answer your main question? Based on information from other sources and the results of processing in spreadsheets and databases, you must formulate clear arguments in support of a solution to your problem.

An example would be “Most teachers strongly agreed (80%) that e-textbooks would be more cost effective while 40% of parents strongly disagreed. The introduction of e-textbooks would require an advocacy program to convince parents of the cost saving in using e-textbooks.”

STEP 5: PRESENT INFORMATION

Now that you have collected, analysed and processed the data, the last step is to present all the data and information that you have collected so that it is easy to understand the main focus and outcome of the research. You can use the following methods to do this:

  • Use graphs and tables
  • Create a presentation
  • Create a website
  • Write a report
GRAPHS AND TABLES

One of the best ways to present your data is to use a visual representation of your findings. Table users visualise trends and comparisons by allowing them to organise the data; graphs help to represent the information visually.

To insert a chart in Excel, you can do the following:

1. Select the range.

2. On the Insert tab, select the chart type.

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Something to know

If you are unsure about which chart to use, you can use the recommended charts option.

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Figure 9.10: Inserting charts in Excel
PRESENTATIONS

PowerPoint presentations allow users to create a visual presentation of their findings through the use of slides. These slides can contain text, graphics and other multimedia sources, such as videos and animations. If you are looking to create a PowerPoint presentation in order to present your findings, here are a couple of tips:

  • Keep it simple: Do not include too much information on a single slide.
  • Keep it short: Try and present your information using as few slides as possible. This will keep your audience attentive and interested. However, do not leave out important information while trying to keep it short.
  • Do not use too many animations: Excessive use of animations can cause the audience to get bored and lose attention.
  • Choose a font size and colour that are easy to read: It is important to make sure that the audience will be able to read the text on your presentation, no matter where they are sitting. If the font is too small, or the text colour is unclear, many people might not be able to follow your presentation.
  • Use graphics and charts: Instead of just having text, graphics and charts can be used to present your information in an easy-to-read and understand format.
  • Use the notes: PowerPoint allows the user to make notes for each slide. This is especially useful to help you remember your main talking points for each slide.
CREATE A WEBSITE

During your PAT examinations, you might be asked to create a website to present your findings and information. This website will contain the same basic information that you would write in a report, with the difference being that the website will contain a more summarised version of the information. Follow these guidelines on how to create a website that is engaging and visually appealing:

  • Simple: Simpler is better; websites should not contain too many design features, especially if those features serve no purpose.
  • Understandable: The target audience of a website should be able to understand everything on the website without any difficulty.
  • Purposeful: Websites should have a clear purpose, and every design and programming decision should work toward this purpose.
  • Useful: A website should be useful and easy to use.
  • Consistent: The design of a website should be consistent. This will make the website easier to understand and also make the website’s identity clearer.
  • Visually appealing: It is important to remember that even the most simplest, understandable, purposeful, useful and consistent website will not be used if people do not like looking at it.

High-quality websites should contain good information and have a good design.

REPORTS

Many people look at memory as a filing cabinet in your brain, storing pieces of important information until you need them. However, memories may also be inaccurate, or you may forget certain things. A written report ensures that you have an accurate record of all the relevant information.

A report is a form of communication that provides data and information of an event or incident. It is used to inform another person or party of the facts surrounding the event.

It helps us to clearly state the problem, the solution that was implemented to fix the problem, as well as how effective the problem-solving solution was.

A report can be written in an informal or formal style. An informal report is a short report; usually consisting of one to three pages. It provides information, but contains little to no research. It makes use of personal language and is normally very direct. A formal report is usually longer, contains facts obtained from the research and analysis of data, and is more direct.

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Something to know

Mid- to short-term memories are usually quickly forgotten. In order to help improve your short-term memory, you can use memory techniques, such as chunking. This is a technique where you take pieces of information and group them into larger units. An example of this can be seen when trying to remember a phone number. For example, it is much easier to remember a phone number in chunks, such as 073 252 2103; instead of as a whole, such as 0732522103.

WRITING A REPORT

The information in a report should be presented in a way that is easy to understand and to use. A report consists of the following sections:

1. Introduction: The introduction is used to state the purpose of the report and provides a background on the issue. It is important to use your knowledge of the subject to provide a clear description of the problem that has occurred, as well as the solution that was implemented.

2. Body: The body of the report will consist of a summary of information found from various sources such as the internet, books, surveys and so on. Information should be supported by graphs and other evidence such as the output of database queries. This will be followed by an analysis of the information you found. On the basis of the information found, a possible solution to the problem should be formulated. Any references to information sources should be acknowledged (cited). Care should be taken to avoid plagiarism by using your own words.

3. Conclusion: This section is used to indicate whether or not the solution was a success and if any other solutions might be needed. If the solution was not successful, you need to include which steps you are planning to follow in order to make sure that the problem is resolved.

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Something to know

Spreadsheets and databases can be used to organise and interpret any collected data by using tables and graphs. From these, the user will be able to determine trends and patterns that will provide information that can be used in your formal report.

Always remember that it is important to write your report as soon as possible. This is to ensure that you include all the details that you have observed. The longer you wait, the better the chance that you might forget something important.

Example 9.7 Present information

The final step in answering our question is to take all the information and data that we obtained from the questionnaire, data analysis and secondary information sources, and present it in a way that answers our main question. In order to do this, we decided to use a professional report.

A formal or professional report is an official report that contains a detailed data analysis, research, as well as the necessary information to make business decisions. Because of this, formal reports are usually used for problem solving. Examples of formal reports include the following:

  • Inspection reports
  • Safety reports
  • Audits
  • Annual reports

A brief, well-structured report that has clear objectives will get more attention and support, and is more likely to produce the intended results than a vague, poorly constructed report that takes a long time to reach the point. To help with this, here are the steps that you should take when writing a professional report:

1. Determine the purpose of the report: This is the first and most important step of writing a report. You need to decide what you wish to accomplish by writing the report. Make sure to get as much information as possible to help you determine exactly what you should include in the report.

2. Determine for whom you are writing the report: Once you know the purpose of the report, you need to determine who is going to read your report. This is very important as it will help you decide how much detail needs to be included, based on the experience of the readers.

3. Write the report: Now that you have identified the purpose of the report and who the report is aimed at, you can start writing the report. Make sure to have a clear, logical structure (introduction, body and conclusion) with clear headings to show where your ideas are leading. Take care not to make any assumptions about the readers’ understanding and always explain why something is being said. Ensure that your report is long enough to fulfil its purpose, but not too long to lose the reader’s interest.

4. Review and revise: The final step of writing any report is to review and revise what you have written. Make sure that everything makes sense and that the report is indicating what you had intended. It is recommended that you revise the report once some time has passed, for example a couple of hours later. This will allow you to review the report with a fresh mind set and will help identify mistakes that you might have missed previously.

THE STRUCTURE OF A FORMAL REPORT

In the first part of this section, we discussed the structure of a report, which includes an introduction, body and conclusion. However, a formal report may also include some additional sections. We will discuss these sections in three separate parts.

Part 1: Front section

This part of the formal report helps the reader understand what the report is about, as well as what is included in the report. This section contains the following:

  • Title page: The function of the title page is to indicate what the report is about, who wrote the report, when the report was written and for whom the report was written.
  • Abstract: An abstract is a summary of your report which you write after the report has been written. It should be written in the third person and in the past tense.
  • Table of contents: The table of contents gives the reader an overview of the document’s contents. It also allows the reader to go directly to the section in which he or she is interested.

Part 2: Main section

This section contains the main report. It includes the following:

  • Introduction: The introduction states the purpose of the report and provides background on the issue.
  • Body: The body contains a discussion, analysis and provide possible solutions.
  • Conclusion: In this section, the writer indicates whether or not the solution was a success and if any other solutions might be needed.

Part 3: Back section

The last section of the formal report is used to provide additional information that the reader might require. This includes the following:

  • References: This is a list of the resources that were used during the writing of the report. The reader can use these references for additional reading, or to confirm the findings of the report.
  • Appendices: The appendices include all documentation that was too large and bulky to be contained within the main report. This includes data sources, such as spreadsheets and databases. These documents are normally included to provide evidence for the findings of the report.
  • Glossary: This is an alphabetised list of terms, definitions and abbreviations used in the report. The main function of the glossary is to provide the reader with a quick reference to terms that they might not recognise.

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Something to know

When writing a report, take care not to plagiarise. Plagiarism is against the rules of any learning institution and could lead to you being prevented from finishing your studies. In order to show that you are responsible for obtaining the data and writing the report, you can use a declaration of authenticity.

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1.Choose a term or concept from Column B that matches the description in Column A. Write only the letter next to the question number.

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2.Answer the following questions:

a.List four guidelines to keep in mind when preparing a questionnaire.

b.Explain the difference between primary and secondary data.

c.What is the purpose of an executive summary?

d.Explain the three sections of a report.

e.Discuss the structure of a report. Make sure to elaborate on the three sections.

3.Which of the following criteria must be used to create a good presentation or website? State whether it is a presentation, website, or both. Copy the table into your exercise book and write the correct answer in the right-hand column.

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REVISION ACTIVITY

SCENARIO

Your local community has decided to run a campaign on healthy lifestyles. Amongst the activities they are organising is a triathlon race. They have asked you to help in sending invitations, creating documents that explain the event, recording results, keeping records of athletes and creating a website to market the event.

QUESTION 1: WORD-PROCESSING

Study the questionnaire below and answer the questions that follow.

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1.1Identify any ONE closed question in the questionnaire. Explain why you say that the question is a “closed” question. (2)

1.2Explain why it would be difficult to analyse the answers to Question B in a spreadsheet. (2)

1.3Explain why Question D on the questionnaire is not a good survey question. (2)

1.4The questionnaire does not have an introduction. Give ONE element that should be included in the introduction of a survey. (2)

1.5The above questionnaire was done as a word-processing form. Explain how you would capture the responses to the questionnaire in a spreadsheet or database. (3)

[11]

QUESTION 2

In the PAT of 2018 leaners were asked to investigate the problem of fake news. A learner asked the following question in her survey:

“How often do you see fake news?” Answer 1 to 5 where:

1 = Not at all

2 = Not frequently

3 = Sometimes

4 = Regularly

5 = A lot

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2.1The learner captured the responses from each person who completed her questionnaire in a spreadsheet. Some of the results are shown in the image on the left.
The respondents answered using the number 1 to 5. The learner used a spreadsheet function to convert the number to its matching description.
What spreadsheet function did she use to do this? (1)

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2.2The learner then made a summary of all the responses to the question. What spreadsheet function did she use to do this? (1)

2.3The learner created a graph of the results shown in 2.2.

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a.Write an argument to include in a report based on the information in the graph. (3)

b.The number 0% appears on the graph but is not linked to a “pie slice”. Why is this the case? (1)

c.What other types of graph could you use where it would be clearer which data item this is? (1)

[7]

QUESTION 3

In the PAT of 2016 learners were required to investigate the problem of water shortages. A learner captured data about the capacity of dams which supply the Greater Cape Town area in a database table. The data spanned a period of three years from 2014 to 2015. The learner then created the following query:

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The output of the query is shown in the figure above.

3.1Suggest two query design techniques that will produce a meaningful outcome. (2)

3.2Write down the criteria to inlaced all the dam names that starts with the letter ’S’ and the dams that have exceeded capacity > than 80% in 2015. (3)

[4]

QUESTION 4

As part of the PAT you are required to create a website. The image below shows a small part of the HTML.

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The image below shows the output on the browser screen.

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4.1What is the problem with the browser display? (2)

4.2Make ONE change to the HTML above to correct the problem. (1)

4.3A learner in your class says that if an image is on the internet, it is fine to use that image in your PAT website because it is for schoolwork. Is the learner correct? Justify your answer. (2)

 [5]

 TOTAL: 27

AT THE END OF THE CHAPTER

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