Ethical Issues in Informal Report Writing

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  • 0:01 Informal Reports
  • 0:50 Honesty
  • 2:32 Fairness
  • 4:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

In the business world, informal reports are a common part of communication, but there are some ethical issues that should be kept in mind when writing them. In this lesson, we'll cover common ethical problems in informal report writing.

Informal Reports

Ryan's boss has asked him to put together a report for his team to decide if a new project is possible. Specifically, Ryan's boss wants to know if it would be worth the time and effort for the team to add in a new, interactive feature on the company website.

Ryan's boss is asking for an informal report, or a short communication to two or more people who work in the same organization as the writer. Memos, emails, and short briefs are all formats for informal reports. Ryan is excited about preparing the report, which he is going to distribute to his boss and the team as a memo. But, he's heard there are some ethical issues he should be aware of when preparing informal reports. To help Ryan out, let's look at two major ethical issues he might run into: honesty and fairness.

Honesty

So, Ryan is getting ready to write his report to his boss. He's done the research, and he thinks that it would be worth the time and effort to add the interactive feature into the website. He has evidence that it will drive traffic to the website and that could pay off for the company, even though it will cost the company money to add the interactive feature in.

But there's an issue. Ryan's boss gave him this assignment because she thought that he would come to the conclusion that the feature would cost too much and not bring much value. There's a lot of pressure in the company to save money, and Ryan's boss would rather hear that the feature isn't worth it so that she doesn't have to go to her boss and ask for money.

Sometimes, the company wants one outcome, but evidence doesn't support it. Ryan's boss and the higher-ups in the company don't want to put the money out for the interactive feature, but Ryan's research says that it would be valuable. Ryan's report needs to be honest and explain logically exactly what the evidence says, even if it isn't what the company wants to hear. To go along with the company even though the evidence doesn't support their position would be unethical and dishonest.

Another honesty issue is that of plagiarism, or copying information from a different text without giving credit. For example, Ryan has a paper that explains the interactive feature in simple terms. If he lifted that description and put it in his report without quoting or attributing the description to the other paper, he'd be committing plagiarism. Even if Ryan chooses to copy something that he himself wrote before, it is still plagiarism unless he credits the place from which the information came. If he doesn't, then he is being dishonest.

Fairness

Ryan gets how honesty is an important ethical issue when writing his report. But, he's not sure what fairness has to do with his report. After all, it's just a recommendation about a possible project. How could that be unfair?

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