All operations researchers are required to write an operations report at some points throughout their career. An operations report must be concise and well-organized. There are specific points that must be made throughout the report in order for the report to be complete and accurate. In order to make sure the report is in the correct format, specific steps must be taken to write the report.
Make Five Basic Points
According to Gerald G. Brown, Distinguished Professor of Operations Research, Naval Postgraduate School, five questions must be answered in an operations report in order for the report to be complete. You must be able: 1) to identify the problem; 2) to explain why the problem is important; 3) to identify a way to solve the problem without your help; 4) to focus on is what you are currently doing to solve the issue; and 5) answer how the reader will know when you have succeeded in fixing the problem.
Write an Outline First
As with all writing, it is imperative that you first write an outline. The outline should identify the five basic points mentioned above. If the outline does not clearly layout these key points, you need to go back and revise it. Once you have included the five basic points throughout your outline, check to make sure they are in an order that flows and makes sense. An operations report should clearly define the key points and the reasoning behind those points to the reader. Regardless of whether or not someone is extremely familiar with the information in the report or if it is new to the individual, the writer must be able to speak to both types of readers. Check to make sure there is nothing awkward about the outline or the information you intend to present before continuing to write.
Choose a Title
Prof. Brown also notes that the title must speak to a wide audience. It should be specific enough that the reader understands what it is about and that his or her interest is peaked, but it must also appeal to a large readership. It is important that the title makes sense to an operations researcher in training as well as a seasoned operations researcher or even the general public. If any of these individuals were to read the title, would each individual understand what the publication was about? If the answer to this question is yes, you have chosen a proper title. You must be able to put yourself in the shoes of every reader in order to determine if the title will work.
Write an Abstract and an Executive Summary
The abstract will be an important part of the operations report. It should be limited in length, approximately 150 words. The word count for the abstract may also vary according to which publication the piece will be published in. It is important that the abstract conveys the problem, its importance, a brief description of how the problem can be solved, your contribution as the writer to solving the problem and how you made that contribution. Technical language should be limited in the abstract and only used if it is relevant to the publication, otherwise write in plain clear English. You must include an executive summary, again, written in plain clear English. The abstract and the executive summary are transmitted to third parties with no additional supporting material, so it is important that they both clearly convey the contents of the report.
Prof. Brown also suggests that using illustrations in an operations report can help draw the audience's attention to the story you are telling. You can pull these graphics and pictures off the Internet, but each one must include a title and information about what you are trying to convey by using the illustration. You also must give proper credit to where the illustration comes from. This information must be included with all photos, tables and graphs.
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