Research Report for International Business

Notes for Research Report for BA 590 International Business

 A major part of the course consists of learning to develop and write a report following all appropriate report rules and formats. The report is to contain both primary (preferred) and secondary research. If you don’t have primary research and only reply on secondary information, you will need very strong research to earn good grade. It must be free of grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors; otherwise a heavy penalty will be incurred (i.e., a minimum of 10 points for 1-2 spelling errors). Remember, you never have a second chance to make a first impression. You need to upload your paper on Blackboard.

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It is extremely important that the report be done according to instructions. Form and format will be a major part of grading criteria as well as content and proper presentation of information according to the requirements of an analytical business report.  Students are strongly encouraged to select a topic that interests them.  If you are not sure what to choose for the research, email me.

Papers should build toward a conclusion of managerial implications.  They may describe issues and practices but must have an implication section in which the student synthesizes the literature and reaches conclusions on how to apply the results of his or her research. You will be analyzing your topic and drawing conclusions as to its significance to the international business community. You will NOT be writing a descriptive report.

Use scholarly refereed journal articles for the foundation of your paper. Practitioner-oriented journals can be used sparingly. Care must be taken to reference any ideas obtained from articles and books as well as any quoted material.  It is preferred that you also use primary sources such as a questionnaire or multiple interviews with professionals in the field. 

Identify your primary sources in the reference section (i.e., person’s title, company, telephone number).  Do NOT rely heavily on information found on the World Wide Web as some are of questionable value to a researcher. A minimum of eight (8) professional scholarly, refereed research journals or research-based publications is required as source material. You will need 12 articles minimum; therefore, you can use several practitioner-oriented journals.

Papers should be properly documented according to the American Psychological Association (APA) style.  (This is a convenient referencing style that does not use footnotes).  Papers should be well written and carefully organized.  The organization of papers benefits from the use of headings and subheadings

Your research paper should be 11-12 (Times New Roman 12 font) double-spaced pages excluding the list of references and Appendices.  The reference list should be single-spaced except to double space between entries. Do NOT use books as references.

Spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, paragraph structure, grammar, and overall readability of the paper will be MAJOR factors in the grading criteria. Your paper should reflect your status as a graduate student pursuing a MBA or MPA.

Research Papers Specifics

When choosing a topic, choose something that would help you at your workplace or something that you are interested in. You will have much greater success with something of personal interest and benefit.

*See separate Topics file.

*****CASE WRITING If you are currently employed at a company, you may write a case about an international situation and how it was resolved at your company.









Watch using journals that are very narrow in focus; example: Arabian Accounting Review.

Graduate Class Research Papers

A business report is an orderly, objective presentation of factual information that helps in decision making and problem solving.

The Quality of the Process Affects the Quality of the Product

Before you can write your recommendations at the end of the report, do your homework.  If information is wrong or incomplete, the report is useless.  The final product can be only as good as the weakest link in the chain of events leading up to the report. For example, if you use weak sources, your paper can never be strong or solid.

Preparing to Write

Formal reports begin with a definition of the project.  Probably the most difficult part of this definition is limiting the scope of the report.  Every project has limitations.  Decide at the outset what constraints influence the range of your project and how you will achieve your purpose. 

  • How much time do you have for completing your report? 
  • How much space will you be allowed for reporting on your topic? 
  • How accessible are the data you need? 
  • How thorough should your research be? 

For example, if you are writing about low morale among swing-shift employees, how many of your 475 employees should you interview?  Should you limit your research to company-related morale factors, or should you consider external factors over which the company has no control? 

In investigating variable-rate mortgages, should you focus on a particular group, such as first-time homeowners in a specific area, or should you consider all mortgage holders?  The first step in writing a report, then, is determining the precise boundaries of the topic.

Once you have defined the project and limited its scope, write a statement of purpose.  The statement of purpose should describe the goal, significance, and limitations of the report. Then this purpose statement will serve as a check to keep you on task. As you research, read, and write, refer to the purpose. I have taped my purpose statement to my monitor to keep me on tract!

Outlining the Report

No one would think of building a house, computer, or other important and complex project without a plan. Students regularly write papers without a plan. As a result, poor organization is a common weakness of undergraduate term papers.

The best way to construct your plan and to organize information for maximum effect is to put together an outline. An outline serves to lay out your paper’s structure, to ensure that it is complete and logical, and to prevent you from getting off the track.

Determine what you wish to accomplish in the paper; then prepare an outline specifying every step from Introduction to Predictions. Linear writing is crucial. A formal outline provides an orderly visual representation of the report, showing clearly which points are going to be covered, the order in which they are going to be covered, and their relationship to the rest of the report.  Its purpose is to guide the writer in structuring the report.

A formal outline provides an orderly visual representation of the report, showing clearly which points are going to be covered, the order in which they are going to be covered, and their relationship to the rest of the report.  Its purpose is to guide the writer in structuring the report. Although your outline will not have a specific grade, you must bring an outline to class. This will serve as a guide or map for you, keeping you on your task.

Prefatory Parts of Report

Title page:  A title page is used for graduate reports.  It contains the title of the report, the names of the reader and writer, and the date the report was due.

Executive summary:  An executive summary (abstract, synopsis) is a condensed version of the body of the report.  It is especially appropriate when the conclusions and recommendations will be welcomed by the reader, when the report is long, or when you know your reader appreciates having this kind of information up front. 

Keep the summary short, but include as much information as possible.  Suggested length: 150 words maximum. Do not relate what you are going to do, i.e. I will write about the advantages and disadvantages of employee monitoring. Instead write what is important about the topic and mention the results of your primary research.

(Your assumption is that the person reading the summary is not going to read the report.) * Frequently, students lose points here because they do not furnish an abstract of their paper. Instead they ‘tell’ me what they are going to do. That is not an abstract.

Here is an example Abstract: Expatriates represent a major investment for multi-national corporations. The failure rate has been high for United States’ expatriates,

in part due to spousal and family issues. The disruption of the trailing spouse’s career has financial and personal implications for the couple. By understanding some of the dynamics that motivate dual-career couples, such as spillover theory, family and career lifecycle stages, and role conflict, companies can improve their selection and spousal support processes.

The present study was designed to evaluate the willingness and attitudes of potential dual-career employees to expatriation. Only twenty percent of the respondents indicate that they were willing to become a trailing spouse. The primary career concerns were loss of income and independence. Attitudes towards spousal support programs were also gathered.

Body of Report

Introduction or background:   The introduction sets the stage for understanding the information that follows.  In this section, present the background of the problem, a hypothesis or problem statement and sub-problems, This section is short, probably not longer than one page.

Any or all of the following items can be included:

  1. Description of the problem that prompted the report and the specific research questions to be answered
  2. Purpose of the report
  3. You answer the ‘so what’ as to why a person should read this report.
  4. Statistics or numbers frequently can get a reader’s attention as to why this topic is important.
  5. Remember this section just introduces your topic. Note how researchers start their papers.

Review of Literature: The review of literature tells the reader what other noted authorities in the field have discovered about your subject. You can report this by writing what the author stated, observed, believed, found, related, etc. You want the reader to know the status of research on your topic. Then hopefully, you will add to the literature.

Discussion of findings:  This is the main section of the report and contains numerous headings and subheadings.  It is unnecessary to use the title Discussion of Findings; many business report writers prefer to begin immediately with the major headings into which the body of the report is divided.

Using objective language, present the information clearly, concisely, and accurately. Discuss and interpret your data.  Include tables, charts, and graphs if necessary to illustrate findings. Visual aids and tables should be self-explanatory. Summarize important information from tables and figures. 

Discuss only what merits emphasis. Place the table or figure immediately below the first paragraph of text in which the reference to it occurs, or at the top of the following page. Use emphasis, subordination, preview, summary, and transition to make the report read clearly and smoothly.

Analytic and scientific reports may include another section entitled Implications of Findings, in which the findings are analyzed and related to the problem.  Less formal reports contain the author’s analysis of the research findings within the Discussion section.

Presenting conclusions and recommendations:

Once you’ve decided how to organize your findings, you have to decide where to present your conclusions and/or recommendations. Academic reports and many business reports traditionally present conclusions and recommendations at the end of the report.  The rationale here is that conclusions cannot be drawn until the data has been presented and analyzed, and that recommendations cannot be made until conclusions have been drawn.

If the report has been largely informational, it ends with a summary of the data presented. If the report analyzes research findings, then it ends with conclusions drawn from the analyses. An analytic report frequently poses research questions.

The conclusion to such a report reviews the major findings and answers the research questions. If a report seeks to determine a course of action, it may end with conclusions and recommendations. The recommendations regarding a course of action may be placed in a separate section or incorporated with the conclusions.

Summary, conclusions, and recommendations:  In the summary, conclusions, and recommendations, briefly review the problem and the procedures you used to solve the problem, and provide an overview of your major findings. 

  1. Be sure that your conclusions stem from your findings, and that your recommendations stem from your conclusions.
  2. Provide evidence to support your conclusions and recommendations.

Collecting Data

Effective reports, whether formal or informal, are founded on accurate data.  Data collected for business reports or proposals may be gathered from two sources, primary and secondary.  Primary information is obtained from first-hand observation and experience.  Secondary information comes from reading what others have observed or experienced.

Primary Sources

Because they generally seek to solve current problems, formal business reports rely heavily on primary source material.  Four logical sources of primary information for a report are (1) observations, (2) interviews, (3) surveys, and (4) experiments.

Interviews:  Collecting information by talking with individuals gives the researcher immediate feedback and provides a chance for explanation of questions.  If the information collected is to be used scientifically or systematically, the interviewer should follow an interview schedule—that is, the same questions, stated identically, should be addressed to all interviewees.

Surveys:  If many questions need to be asked of a large group of individuals and if costs must be kept down, then surveys may be used to collect data.  Good surveys, however, cannot be conducted casually. 

Questions should be carefully written and tested on sample groups before actually being administered.  Thought should be given to how the results will be tabulated and interpreted. Always gather demographic data of subjects (age, position/job, sex, marital status, company, company product, or whatever works with your topic).

Questionnaire * Not required; however if using one, the following might help.

When constructing the Questionnaire:

  1. Be sure that every question you ask is necessary.
  2. Your language must be clear, precise, and understandable so that the questionnaire yields valid and reliable data.
  3. Questions should be neutral; they shouldn’t indicate the “correct” answer.
  4. To avoid biasing the responses, arrange them in some logical order—alphabetical, numeric, or chronological, for example.
  5. Be sure that your categories include all possible alternatives by including an “other” category if necessary.
  6. Be sure that each question contains a single idea.
  7. Be sure that there are no overlapping categories. EX: Age: 25 and under, 26-35, 36-45, etc
  8. Emphasize anonymity in your cover letter. Respondents may hesitate to answer sensitive questions or may answer them inaccurately.
  9. Respondents tend to be more cooperative when the answers to personal questions use broad categories.
  10. Make certain to ask demographic data so we know who your sample is, i.e. gender, age, education level, occupation, or whatever is necessary for your particular topic.
  • If possible, test your questionnaire on a small sample and then revise it as necessary before mailing or handing it out.

Secondary Sources:

Library Data: When you go into a library, you’ll probably use (a) indexes to periodicals and /or (b) an on-line catalog for articles.  Magazines, pamphlets, and journals are called periodicals because of their recurrent publication.  Journals are compilations of scholarly articles, are refereed by scholars, and generally provide the most up-to-date information on a topic.  To locate articles in business, industrial, and trade magazines and journals, consult the Business Periodicals Index, ABI Inform, or other indexes on JSU Library Homepage. For your report, books are inadequate because the information they contain is outdated.  Recent issues of periodicals are generally best. When using the Internet, use discernment. There are dubious sources on the Web. Using one page articles is generally a waste of time as the author can not fully cover a topic in such a limited space.

Examples for your Reference page. Each entry is single spaced with one line space between each.

Journal Article, two authors.

Klimoski, R., & Palmer, S. (2003). The ADA and the hiring process in organizations.

Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 45(2), 10-36.

Magazine Article.  

Posner, M. I. (2000, October 29). Seeing the mind. Science, 262, 673-674.

Daily newspaper article, no author.

New drug appears to sharply cut risk of death from heart failure. (2005, July 15). The

Washington Post. p. A12.

Daily newspaper article, author and discontinuous pages.

Schwartz, J. (2004, September 30). Obesity affects economic, social status. The

Washington Post, pp. A1, A4. 

Book, third edition, Jr. In name.

Mitchell, T. R., & Larson, J. R., Jr. (1999). People in organizations: An introduction to

organizational behavior (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. 

Giving volume and issue number indicates that the article is most likely a scholarly one. 

Example for citations in paper.

Smith (2003) observed that the WTO had become the strongest international organization in the world.


The 144 countries presently comprising the WTO is the largest gathering of nations interested in trade in the world (Smith, 2003). 

To understand what a Scholarly article is:

Check the JSU home page. Click on “Library” ; click on “Tips”; Click on “FAQ.” Read “Is it a scholarly journal?” This will assist you in deciding which article is appropriate. 

Citing Sources 

Paraphrasing Versus Direct Quotation:

A paraphrase is a summary or restatement of a passage in your own words—not just a rearrangement of words of the omission of a word or two.  You must understand the writer’s idea and then restate it in your own language. Give credit by citing the author.

Use direct quotation—the exact words of another—only for definitions or text that is so precise that it cannot be improved on.  Enclose all direct quotations in quotation marks in your notes, check their accuracy, and include appropriate page numbers. Give credit by citing the author and page number where exact quote is located. Use very few direct quotes (1 or 2 max). 

If you use data from secondary sources, the data must be documented; that is, you must indicate where the data originated.  Using the ideas of someone else without giving credit is called plagiarism and is unethical.  Even if you paraphrase (put the information in your own words), the ideas must be documented. Good writers use the exact words of another writer only to (1) emphasize opinions because of the author’s status as an expert; (2) duplicate the exact wording before criticizing; or (3) repeat identical phrasing because of its precision, clarity, or aptness. Citing sources strengthens a writer’s argument.  Acknowledging sources shields writers from charges of plagiarism.  Good references help readers pursue further research.

Citing Sources

When to Cite: Follow these guidelines to protect yourself:

  1. Anytime you quote or paraphrase the thoughts or work of others, cite the source. It is incorrect to believe that only quotations require citations. When you use an article for an entire paragraph, you may put the citation at the end of the article. Do not cite each sentence!
  1. Simple, commonly known facts need not be footnoted. A rule of thumb is that if you did not know the information before you started the paper, then you should use a citation to show where you found the information. Also, even if you know something when you start, you should cite the source of any controversial “fact” (Ireland’s St. Brenden and the Vikings came to the New World before Columbus).
  1. When in doubt, cite the source. Plagiarism is unethical. Instructors and other readers take it very seriously. Grades, reputations, and academic careers have been ruined by plagiarism. Err on the side of safety. One citation too many is far better than one citation too few. *From John T. Rourke, Ralph G. Carter, Mark A. Boyer, Making American Foreign Policy (McGraw-Hill, 1996). Copyright © 1996

Illustrating Data

* If you use several figures, you will need to increase the length of your paper as you must write 11-12 pages. If the figures are larger than 1/3 page, place them in Appendix and not in your paper to see the figure, by number, in your Appendix.

Tables, charts, graphs, illustrations, and other visual aids can play an important role in clarifying, summarizing, and emphasizing information.  Numerical data become meaningful; complex ideas are simplified; and visual interest is provided by the appropriate use of graphics.  Here are general tips for making the most effective use of visual aids:

  • Clearly identify the contents of the visual aid with meaningful titles and headings.
  • Refer the reader to the visual aid by discussing it in the text and mentioning its location and figure number.
  • Locate the table close to its reference in the text.
  • Strive for vertical placement of visual aids. Readers are disoriented by horizontal pages in reports.
  • Give credit to the source if appropriate.

Supplementary Parts of Report 

Bibliography:  Most formal reports will include a bibliography that lists all sources utilized.

Appendix:  The appendix contains any supplementary information needed to clarify the report.  Charts and graphs illustrating significant data are generally part of the report proper.  However, extra information that might be included in an appendix are such items as a sample questionnaire, a questionnaire cover letter, interview questions and optional tables. An Appendix may not be necessary.


After you make your revisions and format the document, proofread again.

  1. Check for typographical errors.
  2. Check appearance.
  3. If you formatted the report on a computer, be sure that in moving passages you didn’t inadvertently delete a line or repeat a passage.
  4. Run the spell checker a final time after you’ve made all changes; and if you have a grammar software program, evaluate your writing electronically.
  5. Your reports should reflect the highest standards of scholarship and critical thinking.
  6. Errors to look for: spelling (homonyms such as their for there), punctuation (watch for doubled periods or missing parts of paired punctuation such as parentheses and quotation marks), and headings (that material relates to heading),

CRITERIA FOR EVALUATION of your Research Project

Was the assignment submitted on time? Ten point (10) per day for not being on time.

Minimum Requirements

* summary/abstract – detail, format, information

* 11-12 page body (excluding graphics) – good organization and content

* headings

* introduction appropriately titled and divided into sections

* good transitional devices

* purpose or objective statement

* smooth flow of content — easy-to-read style

* NO grammatical errors


* citations in the paper noting credit for the information (Author, date)

* proper spacing and format

* adequate factual information on each topic

* primary information from questionnaires or interviews

* conclusions properly drawn

* recommendation(s)

* principles of good report writing followed

* appendix(es)

* bibliography

Sources consulted:

–    Current journals (2009 ff.) and Interviews or questionnaires

How to find a Business Peer Reviewed Empirical Journal Article

What is a “peer reviewed” or a “refereed journal”?  A peer reviewed or refereed journal article has been reviewed by other scholars for accuracy before being accepted for publication.  Most databases will allow a researcher to restrict their search to these types of journal articles.

What is an “empirical” research article?  An empirical research article is one which reports research based on actual observations or experiments.  An empirical article will often contain some or all of these sections:  Introduction; Literature Review; Methodology; Results; Discussion; Conclusion and References.

Which databases do I search?  When searching for Business journal articles a researcher should start by searching in a Business database. 

Three useful databases to search are: Business Source Premier, Business Index ASAP and Elsevier ScienceDirect.

Tips on how to search for journal articles:

  1. Always use the “Advance Search” option.  This gives you more choices to improve your search.
  2. Always start with a single term or a single phrase search.  Example:  you are looking for a peer reviewed empirical article regarding research about employment and outsourcing of jobs.  The key words or phrases in this research are: employment and outsourcing.   As you type it in you may see other suggested terms or phrases appear.  You may choose one of those if you wish.
  3. Look for “check boxes” to limit your search to “peer reviewed’ and/or “scholarly” and/or “academic” and “full text”.
  4. Look at the results.  Click on the Title of the article to see more information.  Often it will have more possible Subject terms to search on along with an Abstract (Summary) of the article.  Write these other possible Subject terms down.
  5. Click on the “Full Text” or “PDF” or “Link to Full Text” icon to see the whole article.  If the article is not available, choose a different one.
  6. Look through the article to see if it has the sections (some or all) that identify it as an “empirical” research article.
  7. Save or print-out those you wish to keep.

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