Chapter 12Research and Business Proposals and Planning for Business Reports

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Learning Objectives 1

12.1 Explain how planning and conducting business research for reports impacts your credibility.

12.2 Create research objectives that are specific and achievable.

12.3 Explain principles of effective design for survey questions and choices.

12.4 Develop charts and tables to concisely display data and accentuate key messages.

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Learning Objectives 2

12.5 Evaluate the usefulness of data sources for business research.

12.6 Conduct secondary research to address a business problem.

12.7 Evaluate research data, charts, and tables for fairness and effectiveness.

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Analyzing Your Audience for Business Reports

Developing Research-Based Business Reports

Identify what decision makers want to accomplish.

Consider your target audience of decision makers’ primary business goals, research objectives, and expectations.

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Gathering Information through Primary Research 1

Primary Research

The analysis of data that you, people from your organization, or others under your direction have collected.

Generally most useful for business reports.

Common types include analysis of internal data, survey research, focus groups, interviews, and case studies.

Secondary Research

The analysis of data collected by others with no direction from you or members of your organization.

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Gathering Information through Primary Research 2

Survey Research

Increasingly common because of the ease of administering online surveys.

Generally involves written questionnaires.

Closed questions.

Open-ended questions.

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Table 12.1 Creating Research Objectives

Less Effective Determine how satisfied our conference guests are. This objective is not specific enough. The statement does not lead to a focused approach to research.
More Effective Determine guest satisfaction among conference attendees for key conference amenities and services. This objective is specific. The statement leads to a focused approach to research.
Less Effective Understand VR technologies. This objective is not specific. It is too broad and lacks context.
More Effective Identify use cases of and market demand for VR technologies in group tourism. This objective is specific. It focuses on a context that is relevant to the Aicasus Tours.

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Create Surveys 1

Online Surveys

You can quickly get the responses of dozens if not hundreds of colleagues, current or potential customers, or members of other groups of interest.

You can dump the data into a spreadsheet.

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Create Surveys 2

Principles for Survey Questions

Simple to answer.

Non-leading.

Exhaustive and unambiguous.

Limited to a single idea.

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Create Surveys 3

Survey Questions Should Be Simple to Answer

Should contain short questions and short response options.

Read in 10 to 20 seconds per question.

Answer in a few seconds.

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Table 12.2a Creating Simple Survey Questions

Less Effective On a scale from 1, not satisfied, to 4, extremely satisfied, how satisfied were you in the following areas related to your conference experience (if you have no opinion or did not use the following services, simply mark N/A)?

The question is 39 words long. Many respondents will be confused about how to answer the questions without labels for the numerical values.

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Table 12.2b Creating Simple Survey Questions

More Effective How satisfied were you with the following aspects of your conference experience?

The question contains just 12 words. Formatting and labels allow respondents to quickly and precisely process the information.

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Table 12.2c Creating Simple Survey Questions

Less Effective Rank-order each of the following guest services and amenities in providing value to you during your conference stay. (Rank-order each item. Place a 1 next to your favorite item, a 2 next to your second-favorite item, and so on. Do not place a number next to an amenity or service that you did not use during your stay.)___ Spa___ Fitness center___ Outdoor swimming pool___ Prestigio golf course___ Prestigio comedy club___ One of the Prestigio restaurants This question is complicated to answer. Many respondents will not spend time to carefully rank each item. Other responses may be inaccurate or unreliable.

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Table 12.2d Creating Simple Survey Questions

More Effective Which of the following GUEST SERVICES AND AMENITIES did you use during your conference stay? Check ALL that apply.

This question is easy to answer. Respondents are given just one choice and can make this judgment within a few seconds.

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Create Surveys 4

Survey Questions Should Be Non-Leading

Do not suggest an answer.

Otherwise, it will produce unreliable and unusable information.

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Table 12.3 Creating Non-Leading Survey Choices

Less Effective To show my support for the green meeting movement, I would recommend the Prestigio as a good site for a business conference.Strongly disagreeDisagreeNeutralAgreeStrongly agree This survey question is leading. It suggests to respondents a correct or right answer. It would not provide reliable or useful results.
More Effective I would recommend the Prestigio as a good site for a business conference.Strongly disagreeDisagreeNeutralAgreeStrongly agree This survey question is non-leading. It does not suggest or manipulate a response. It would likely provide useful data.

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Create Surveys 5

Survey Choices Should Be Exhaustive and Unambiguous

Exhaustive: All possibilities are available.

Unambiguous: Only one choice is available.

Survey Questions Should Contain One Idea

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Table 12.4 Creating Exhaustive and Unambiguous Survey Choices

Less Effective Age:Under 3031 to 4041 to 5050 to 64 These choices are neither exhaustive nor unambiguous. They are not exhaustive because respondents who are 65 and over would not have a choice to select. They are not unambiguous because two of the choices overlap (C and D); in other words, a person who is 50 could select either option.
More Effective Age:30 and under31 to 4041 to 5051 to 65Over 65 These choices are both exhaustive and unambiguous. Any respondent of any age would find just one correct response.

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Table 12.4 shows less-effective and more-effective survey choices.

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Table 12.5 Creating Survey Questions with a Single Idea

Less Effective How much do you know about green meetings and possible savings on these meetings?Nothing at allA littleSomeA lot This question contains two ideas: (1) what the respondent knows about green meetings and (2) what the respondent knows about possible savings on green meetings. This is confusing to the respondent and impossible for the researcher to interpret.
More Effective How much do you know about green meeting options for your business?Nothing at allA littleSomeA lot This question contains one idea. As a result, the question is easy for the respondent to answer and easy for the researcher to analyze.

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Survey questions that contain more than one idea are difficult for respondents to answer (see Table 12.5). Furthermore, they are impossible to analyze correctly.

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Analyze Your Data

Advice for Analyzing Data

Learn about forecasting and other forms of statistical and quantitative analysis.

Learn about spreadsheet, database, and statistical software.

Rely on others in your analysis.

Stay focused on your business problem and look for the big picture.

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Communicate with Charts and Tables 1

Statistics and Figures

Don’t overload your audience members with data.

Focus on the main (nonnumerical) message.

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Communicate with Charts and Tables 2

Designing Effective Charts

Can express a strong message and leave a lasting visual impression on viewers and readers.

Have the potential to draw readers into a document or presentation almost instantaneously.

Planning is key.

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Designing Effective Charts

Line Charts

Useful for depicting events and trends over time.

Pie Charts

Useful for illustrating the pieces within a whole.

Bar Charts

Useful to compare amounts or quantities.

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Create Effective Charts

Criteria:

Title descriptiveness.

Focal points.

Information sufficiency.

Ease of processing.

Takeaway message.

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Figure 12.2 Less Effective and More Effective Line Charts

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Design and Formatting of Line Charts 1

Key Design and Formatting Problems in Less Effective Chart Adjustments in More Effective Chart
Title descriptiveness Nondescriptive, bland title. It does not tie into any primary message. Title and subtitle focus on intentional improvement.
Focal points Lacks focal points. All parts of the chart are treated equally—thus, there is no emphasis or indication of what should be the key points of comparison. The callout box focuses attention on the staff and service initiative as the cause of rising customer satisfaction. A darker, thicker line with a bold label draws attention to the Prestigio data series.
Information sufficiency Inadequate information about the rating scale. What do the numbers represent? What is the year for which data was gathered? The note provides information about the rating scale.

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This table presents design and formatting problems with line charts as well as suggested adjustments.

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Design and Formatting of Line Charts 2

Key Design and Formatting Problems in Less Effective Chart Adjustments in More Effective Chart
Ease of processing Legend placed on the right side. This forces the reader to move back and forth between the legend and the data series in the plot area. Further, the colors do not aid in the information presentation. Instead of a legend, data labels are placed directly at the end of each data series (line) to make identification of each hotel’s performance easier. Additionally, the color scheme is kept to a minimum, thereby prominently displaying the dramatic rise in ratings.
Takeaway message Staff and service ratings have improved for the Prestigio over the past year. However, the message requires too much effort for the viewer and could easily be missed or forgotten quickly. All elements of the chart capture the message that the Prestigio staff and service initiative has successfully improved customer satisfaction compared to competitors.

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This table presents design and formatting problems with line charts as well as suggested adjustments.

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Figure 12.3 Less Effective and More Effective Pie Charts

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Figure 12.3 shows less-effective and more-effective pie charts.

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Design and Formatting of Pie Charts 1

Key Design and Formatting Problems in Less Effective Chart Adjustments in More Effective Chart
Title Descriptive but unexciting title. Descriptive title focuses attention on the fact that these are 3-day conference attendees.
Focal points The main focal point is the large pie slice. The colors used give a very dense and dark feeling to the visual. The primary focal point is the slice highlighting those not purchasing any Internet service. It is labeled more effectively (“No Purchase of Internet” versus “0 days” in the less effective chart) and is written in bold text on a darker-colored background to draw attention to this key point.
Information sufficiency Absence of data label on each slice makes this chart difficult to interpret. Data labels are provided in percentages.

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This table provides design and formatting problems with pie charts as well as suggested adjustments.

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Design and Formatting of Pie Charts 2

Key Design and Formatting Problems in Less Effective Chart Adjustments in More Effective Chart
Ease of processing Legend is placed on the bottom. This forces the reader to move back and forth between the legend and the pie slices in the plot area. Also, the breakaway, 3-D shape of the object skews the data. The pie slices are not arranged for fastest processing. Data series names and data labels are placed together in the pie slices to foster easy processing. The largest pie slice is located at 12 o’clock for quick recognition (most people read pie charts beginning at 12 and continue to read in a clockwise direction).
Takeaway message Most conference attendees do not purchase Internet services. However, getting the message requires a great deal of effort and could easily be missed or forgotten quickly. All aspects of the chart collectively demonstrate that conference attendees are unlikely to purchase Internet services.

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This table provides design and formatting problems with pie charts as well as suggested adjustments.

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Figure 12.4 Less Effective and More Effective Bar Charts

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Figure 12.4 shows less-effective and more-effective bar charts.

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Design and Formatting of Bar Charts 1

Key Design and Formatting Problems in Less Effective Chart Adjustments in More Effective Chart
Title descriptiveness Nondescriptive, bland title. Title immediately recognizes the Prestigio’s leading position in dining ratings.
Focal points Lacks focal points. All bars are treated equally. Darker color of the Prestigio bar draws attention to it.
Information sufficiency Inadequate information about the rating scale. A note about the rating scale and inclusion of data labels provides sufficient information.

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This table provides design and formatting problems with bar charts as well as suggested adjustments.

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Design and Formatting of Bar Charts 2

Key Design and Formatting Problems in Less Effective Chart Adjustments in More Effective Chart
Ease of processing The legend is unnecessary and distracting. The items are not ordered effectively (the order is neither alphabetical nor quantitative) to help draw rapid comparisons. The large gap size compared to bar width reduces quick processing. The axis increments are in rarely used units (generally, units in multiples of 2, 5, and 10 are more natural). The chart is arranged in descending order by average ratings to make comparisons easier. Bar width in comparison to gap width is most conducive to rapid processing.
Takeaway message The takeaway message is that the Prestigio has higher dining ratings. However, the message is weak and could easily be glossed over or forgotten. The Prestigio occupies the proud position of leading its competitors in dining ratings. This is a strong, optimistic, and memorable message.

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This table provides design and formatting problems with bar charts as well as suggested adjustments.

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Table 12.6 Formatting Guidelines for Specific Chart Types

Chart Type Formatting Guidelines
All charts Ensure that all data is appropriately labeled.Avoid using too many bright colors; they can be distracting.Use darker colors to represent your most important data series.Avoid unusual fonts or too many special effects.Avoid 3-D charts.Ensure that all text is horizontal.Avoid white type on dark backgrounds in most cases.
Line Scale should be about two-thirds of the range included in the chart.Series names should be placed on or attached directly to lines.Only four or fewer data series (lines) should be included.
Pie Largest slice should begin at 12 o’clock and go clockwise; second-largest slice should begin at 12 o’clock and go counterclockwise.Exploding slices should be used sparingly.Pie slices should complete a whole (add up to 100% of a data series).
Bar Bars should be about twice the width of the space in between bars.Baseline should always be zero.Bars should be arranged in ascending or descending order in most cases.Legend should only be used if the chart has two or more data series.

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Generally, the formatting should be as simple as possible and should accentuate the key data relationships. If a formatting feature detracts from the key points, remove or improve it. Table 12.6 provides general formatting guidelines for charts.

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Figure 12.6a Less Effective Table

Survey Results
During the three days of the conference you attended at the Prestigio, how many days did you purchase Internet service?
Days of Internet Service 0 1 2 3
All Respondents 154 15 31 36
Gender
Male 82 8 15 22
Female 72 7 16 14
Income
Under $30,000 15 0 1 2
$30,000 to $39,999 41 4 3 7
$40,000 to $49,999 48 3 11 12
$50,000 to $74,999 33 6 7 8
$75,000 to $100,000 12 2 4 4
Over $100,000 5 0 5 3

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Figure 12.6b More Effective Table

Internet Service Purchases among Conference Guests

Days of Internet Service Purchased (Number of Respondents in Parentheses)
0 Days 1 Day 2 Days 3 Days Total (#)
All Respondents 65.5% (154) 6.4% (15) 13.2% (31) 15.3% (36) 236
Gender
Male 64.6% (82) 6.3% (8) 11.8% (15) 17.3% (22) 127
Female 66.1% (72) 6.4% (7) 14.7% (16) 12.8% (14) 109
Income
Under $30,000 83.3% (15) 0.0% (0) 5.6% (1) 11.1% (6) 18
$30,000 to $39,999 74.5% (41) 7.3% (4) 5.5% (3) 12.7% (7) 55
$40,000 to $49,999 64.9% (48) 4.1% (3) 14.9% (11) 16.2% (12) 74
$50,000 to $74,999 61.1% (33) 11.1% (6) 13.0% (7) 14.8% (8) 54
$75,000 to $100,000 54.5% (12) 9.1% (2) 18.2% (4) 18.2% (4) 22
Over $100,000 38.5% (5) 0.0% (0) 38.5% (5) 23.1% (3) 13

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Glancing at the more-effective table, shown on this slide, rapidly reveals that purchasing no Internet service (0 days) strongly correlates with the lowest income bracket (under $30,000/year). The more-effective table limits the number of grid lines. Furthermore, each grid line serves a distinct purpose. The initial grid lines separate the column labels from the survey data. Subsequent grid lines separate each category of data, including those for all respondents, gender, and income level. Indents of items within each category further accentuate the distinctions between categories. The second table also is more effective because numerical adjustments have been made. By converting the counts into percentages, the more effective table enables readers to process the information more easily. Placing the counts in parentheses makes the data comprehensive.

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Table 12.7 Formatting Guidelines for Tables

Issue Formatting Guidelines
Order Order your entries appropriately (alphabetical or numerical order of categories, or ascending/descending order of values of comparison).
Indentation Indent or otherwise set apart items within a category.
Data series Present comparative data series vertically.
Column/row labels Label columns and rows effectively.
Grid lines Use grid lines for every three to five rows at natural breaks (new categories); this simple design technique allows readers to easily scan rows.Avoid grid lines on all borders; these tend to clutter the table.Avoid alternating background colors on rows in most cases; this is also distracting and unnecessary.

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Overall, more-effective formatting and numerical conversion make a significant impact on the usefulness of a table. The general guidelines in Table 12.7 will help you create more effective tables.

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Gathering Information through Secondary Research

Choose a Research Topic

Avoid settling on your topic too quickly and pace your research.

Choose your topic strategically.

Define the scope of your project.

Find ways to make your research more analytical.

Talk to others who can help you.

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Evaluate Data Quality 1

Important Issues in Evaluating Data

Reliability.

Relevance.

Adaptability.

Expertise.

Biases.

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Evaluate Data Quality 2

Secondary Research Sources

White papers.

Industry publications.

Business periodicals.

Scholarly journals.

External blogs.

Business and management books.

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Table 12.9a Strengths and Limitations of Data Quality for Primary and Secondary Research Sources

Reliability Relevance Adaptability Expert-based Bias
Primary research High High High Medium–High Goals and preexisting notions of the researcher
White papers Low–High Medium–High Low Medium–High Organizational mission and objectives
Industry publications Medium–High Medium–High Low Medium–High Mission of the publication/editing team
Business publications Medium–High Low–Medium Low Low–High Mission of the publication/editing team

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Some secondary research reports cost thousands of dollars to purchase, whereas others are free. You have a variety of options to choose from with secondary research, including white papers, industry publications, business periodicals, scholarly journals, external blogs, and business books. Each of these types of secondary data has benefits and drawbacks (see Table 12.9). Thus, you will inevitably face trade-offs as you select secondary data.

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Table 12.9b Strengths and Limitations of Data Quality for Primary and Secondary Research Sources

Reliability Relevance Adaptability Expert-Based Bias
Scholarly journals High Low Low High Theoretical significance
External blogs, wikis, and other websites Low–High Medium–High Low Low–High Writers’ career objectives
Business books Medium–High Low–High Low Medium–High The latest, greatest idea mentality; easy fixes

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Table 12.9 shows the benefits and drawbacks of scholarly journals, external blogs, and business books.

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Conduct Library Research

Library Sources

Books across a wide range of disciplines and topics.

Digital resources.

Company and industry reports and scholarly journals.

Online databases.

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Table 12.10 Strategies for Using Search Terms Effectively

Strategy Example Number of Hits in ProQuest
Use Boolean operators. “Virtual reality” and “Group tours”Virtual reality and Group toursVirtual reality or Group tours 328145,8227,928,251
Use alternative keywords. "Augmented reality” and “Global tourism”“Emerging technologies” and “Historical tours”“VR headsets” and Tourism 628305

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Table 12.10 provides strategies for using search terms effectively.

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Document Your Research

Excellent documentation helps decision makers evaluate the credibility of your report.

Use a system for documenting sources.

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Use Online Information for Business Research

Strategies

Always evaluate data quality.

Do more than just “Google it.”

Go to reputable business and industry websites and conduct searches.

Find online discussions and forums about your selected topic.

Search beyond text-based information.

Be persistent.

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Apply the FAIR Test to Your Research Data and Charts 1

Be FAIR

Examine all the available facts and interpret them from various perspectives.

Don’t make assumptions or draw conclusions beforehand.

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Apply the FAIR Test to Your Research Data and Charts 2

Don’t Mislead

Don’t cherry-pick data.

Provide all the relevant facts, even if they don’t fit into convenient conclusions.

Grant access to your data.

Remember the impacts of your data on others and present it with respect.

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Table 12.11 Creating Fair Charts

Less Fair

By displaying this chart on an axis that contains only part of the scale and no note or legend, this chart exaggerates the differences in cleanliness ratings.

More Fair

Note: Ratings are on a scale from 1, poor, to 5, excellent. All ratings were retrieved from the Wahoo travel website and are averaged for each month across the year.

By displaying the entire scale and providing a note about the ratings, this chart accurately reflects the differences in cleanliness ratings. It clearly shows that although the Prestigio is lower than its competitors, it still has an average cleanliness rating that is good.

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Business Communication: Developing Leaders for a Networked World, 4e Chapter 12

© 2021 McGraw Hill. All rights reserved. Authorized only for instructor use in the classroom.

No reproduction or further distribution permitted without the prior written consent of McGraw Hill.

Because learning changes everything.®

www.mheducation.com

© McGraw Hill

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Accessibility Content: Text Alternatives for Images

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Figure 12.2 Less Effective and More Effective Line Charts – Text Alternative

The first line graph is titled Staff and Service Ratings. It shows four different colored lines that show ratings from 3.0 to 5.0 over a 12 month period. The graph includes horizontal lines across the chart for each tenth of a rating point. A legend labels each of the four colors.

A second line graph is labeled Improvement in Staff and Service Ratings: Raising our performance more than top competitors. It shows four lines of the same color, with the one for Prestigio thicker and darker than the others. Each line has a label next to it. At one point in the graph, the line for Prestigio takes a dip, and this is labeled Launched Staff and Service Initiative. A note at the bottom of the chart reads Ratings are on a scale from 1, poor, to 5, excellent. All ratings were retrieved from the Wahoo travel website and are averaged for each month across the year.

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Figure 12.3 Less Effective and More Effective Pie Chart – Text Alternative

The first pie chart is titled Internet Purchase Patterns Among Conference Attendees. It is 3-D with the slices of the pie in different colors and separates from the pie. A legend labels the colors as 0 days, 1 day, 2 days, and 3 days.

A second pie chart is labeled Internet Purchase Patterns Among Conference Attendees: Survey Results of 236 Recent Guests Who Attended 3-Day Conference. The figure is one color with variations of depth of color. The largest piece of the pie is the darkest color. Labels on each slice read 3 days, 15 percent; 2 days, 13 percent; 1 day, 6 percent; and No purchase of Internet, 66 percent.

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Figure 12.4 Less Effective and More Effective Bar Charts – Text Alternative

The first bar chart is labeled Dining Ratings. The y axis is labeled Great Falls, Grand Swan, Wyatt, and Prestigio. The x axis is labeled 3.00, 3.30, 3.60, 3.90, and 4.20. All bars are the same blue color, and the legend reads that blue is for Dining. The bars are in no particular order.

The second chart is labeled Leading the way in Dining: Comparison of Dining Ratings with Top Competitors. The bars are gradations of the same color. They are arranged in order from highest rating with Prestigio at the top down to the lowest rating at the bottom. The actual rating numbers are shown next to the bars. At the bottom of the chart is a note reading Note: Ratings are on a scale from 1, poor, to 5, excellent. All ratings were retrieved from the Wahoo Travel website and are averaged for each month across the year.

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Table 12.11 Creating Fair Charts – Text Alternative

The first bar chart is labeled Cleanliness Ratings Compared to Competitors. The y axis is labeled Great Falls, Grand Swan, Wyatt, and Prestigio. The x axis is labeled 4, 4.2, 4.4. The bars vary greatly in length, making it appear that Great Falls is much further ahead than the last-place Prestigio.

The second chart has the same title and y-axis labels. However, the x axis is labeled 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Each bar has a label next to it with the actual rating number it received. The numbers range from 4.11 to 4.49 so the bars are similar in length. At the bottom of the chart is a note that reads Note: Ratings are on a scale from 1, poor, to 5, excellent. All ratings were retrieved from the Wahoo travel website and are averaged for each month across the year.

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