Synthesis Project Description:  Research Briefing Paper

HRMD 620

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Synthesis Project Description:  Research Briefing Paper

This document explains the requirements for the briefing paper.  Please read all sections carefully.  In some instances, the instructions intentionally do not follow APA format.  If you have questions about this assignment, please post them in the discussion forum so everyone will have the same information. 

TIP:  Begin checking for available material right away to be sure there is enough for you to do what you intend.  Engage a librarian to help you obtain the best material available.  Librarians often know more sources to consult. 

General Description of the Assignment (from the syllabus)

Research Briefing Paper (Synthesis category = 20% of Course Grade)  – The purpose of this assignment is to strengthen your research skills, enhance your presentation skills, and expand your knowledge.  You will need to research material beyond the class readings to investigate labor/employee relations at a specific organization.  You will report your findings to the class in a briefing paper (5 or 6 double-spaced pages, not including the title page and reference list).  You’ll need between 15-20 sources. Scholarly sources from academic libraries should dominate your research.  Wikipedia is not an acceptable source. Of course, you may use online libraries, such as the one at UMGC.  Given much of the information available via the web is not screened for accuracy, you should be careful in selecting information from this source.  In other words, website information should be used appropriately (i.e., to describe a specific company’s program or report a governmental policy).  APA should be used to reference your sources.  Additional instructions will be provided.  (Course Objectives 1, 2, 3, 4, 6)

Note:  Graduate School courses require about 25 sources for a standard term paper.  The 15-20 sources needed here are part of the overall research requirement.  Instead of writing an 18-25 page paper, however, this assignment reduces the requirement to 5-6 double-spaced pages of an executive briefing.  This way you meet the research requirements but have a smaller writing task.  Being concise and knowing which information to include, however, can be challenging; so, allow yourself enough time to craft a suitable product.  Good presentations of any nature have much more research to support the amount of material that is presented, so this is a good skill to develop.  It may help to think of this assignment as a presentation to a meeting of very busy people.  They will give you a few minutes of their time to present your 5-6 double-spaced pages of information.  You’ll want to include the key points in it.  Exceeding the 6 page limit does not indicate a “better, more thorough” paper.  Having less than 5 pages raises the question of adequacy. 

Identifying your Topic

Choice of Organization

Assume you are an external consultant hired to provide executive level management a concise report about labor relations in an organization.  Choose one current organization in the private or public sector. You will likely need to choose a large, visible organization in order for material to be available. There is usually a sufficient amount of material for retail giants, supermarkets chains, clothing manufacturers, prominent hotels, key airlines, automotive manufacturers, hospitals, mining companies, and large government agencies.  In order to keep an objective mindset, do not select an organization for which you work or did work.  Perhaps you’d like to choose an organization that provides a product or service that you use.  Just be sure there is enough accessible information.  You will need to consult publicly-available material, such as reputable news reports, journal articles, and government documents.  Confidential information internal to the organization should not be used, but public material provided by the organization and/or a union can be used as long as its credibility is given appropriate weight. 

Once the organization is selected, discuss:  How well does it manage its labor/employee relations?   What are its strengths and weaknesses?  Tip:  One way to think about the content is through a series of questions:

–Definition:  For purposes of your analysis, who is the organization?  Is it only part of a larger enterprise?  For instance, is it only the U.S. locations or specific operations within the U.S.?  What role does labor have in its operations?  For instance, how large is the labor force?  Who are the employees?  Is labor a critical piece of production or does technology do most of the work?  

–Management’s view:  How well does it think its employee/labor relations is going?  Is it meeting its own criteria for “good”? Does it do what it claims in its strategic plan and public professions? What is the evidence that it is or is not?  What would it continue or change if it could?

–Labor’s view:  How do employees think they are treated?  What is the evidence?  What role have unions had/tried to have in this relationship between employees and management? What would employees/the union continue or change?

Tip:  To obtain needed evidence, also consider other points of view:  How does the government, industry, and other facets of society view the organization’s labor relations?  For instance, has the NLRB ruled against the organization consistently for the same reason?  Did the organization win any industry awards for managing its people?     

Briefing Paper Checklist


Administrative Preparation

_____The paper is posted by the deadline in the proper place, using a Word file format.   Per the syllabus, a grade penalty can apply if the document is late. 


_____The title page contains your name and class section.  

_____Pages are numbered.

_____The page number does not exceed the stated limit.  (The page limit asks you to think about what is most important and to communicate it concisely.  This is a valuable business skill since managers often have time to read only the executive summaries or the first page of a resume!  Note:  This does not mean that substance should be sacrificed; it just means it should be presented concisely.)

_____A 12-point font is used, and margins are reasonable. 

Content (Body of the Paper)

_____ Special terms are defined. 

_____ The content is substantial and represents a significant literature review.  In other words, the material extends substantially beyond the course readings. The issues discussed are key facets of the topic.  

_____ The data sources demonstrate a solid method of evaluating labor relations; the types of sources are meaningful and appropriate.      

_____ Both labor’s and management’s views are presented in an unbiased manner.  Your task is to be a neutral fact-finder.  You may draw a conclusion based on the facts that you discover, but it would not be appropriate to do the research by trying to prove one position vs. the other.

_____ The ideas express your own analysis, and borrowed material is used primarily to substantiate your points.  Remember that long quotes are usually not needed.  Paraphrasing shows that you understand what the other author has said.  You wouldn’t paraphrase, however, if you want expert support for a particular idea; a direct quote is preferable then.  

_____ Points are logically sequenced.

_____ Points are well supported with logic, data, and/or examples.

_____ Conclusions demonstrate integrative, critical thinking.

Presentation

_____The introduction tells the reader the purpose of the research and the agenda for the paper.   Do NOT use an abstract. 

_____The summary recaps the key points and provides psychological closure to the discussion.

_____Technical aspects of writing (i.e., grammar, sentence structure, and spelling) are correct.  Tip:  If writing is not your strongest skill, consult the free writing tutors who are available via the classroom.  Plan enough time for a tutor to assist.   

_____Academic style (i.e., appropriate diction, clarity, smooth transitions, and an audience-oriented approach) is demonstrated.  Tip:  Each organization has its own style for reporting to its leaders.  What is important in our class is to remember that you are talking to the top level of an organization.  What would they want/need to know about your topic? You don’t get much of their time in the meeting, so you need to present the most important information right away.  You need to set the stage/orient your audience quickly then raise the key points.  Nitty-gritty details are usually left for follow-up activities if the leaders are interested.  Use enough details to support your point, but don’t get bogged down in things an executive would not want/need to know.  

_____Citations are given for non-original material, using APA format for the in-text citation as well as the reference list. 

Reference List

Organize your reference list into two sections: 

1)  Those that are cited in the body of the presentation.  This is a standard APA requirement. 

2)  Any source that you do not cite in the body of the presentation.  Annotate these in the reference listing.  Think of those as additional resources to use in a Q&A period after your presentation.  This, of course, is not standard APA protocol. 

_____The references conform to APA format (author, year, title, etc.)

_____ The sources are appropriate (i.e., pertinent, reputable and time-sensitive).

_____ The sources that are not cited in the body of the presentation are annotated in the reference list. 

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