Case Study Abstract Format

Research Data Management (RDM) is an overarching term encompassing the organisation, storage, and documentation of data generated during research projects. RDM deals with the organisation and curation of active research data, with its day-to-day management and use, and with its long-term preservation.
RDM is an important practice for both institutions and individual researchers. Data supporting results should be made available and preserved so as to allow its reuse and the verification of published research. Several other benefits can arise from the implementation of RDM, including increased citations, increased research collaborations, or increased visibility. Today, data has to be managed not only for preservation purposes, but also to fulfil the requirements of most research funders.
Although RDM has been around for a while, the above benefits are usually described qualitatively and the lack of a solid body of evidence makes advocacy difficult. We have sought to fill this gap by using case studies to present a rich and varied picture of the impacts underpinned by RDM.

The case studies assembled here come from a wide range of research fields. Due to inherent differences between disciplines, the benefits of RDM become apparent in different ways. They are more tangible in certain fields, and more abstract in others. Nonetheless, the case studies demonstrate that RDM is a worthwhile activity for all institutions and researchers.
The examples below mostly involve large data management initiatives, as these are more likely to show the wide reach of the benefits of RDM. However, we would like to stress that even smaller data management efforts can have an impact. Unfortunately, this can be very difficult to track, as an individual researcher reusing data from other individual researchers is often lost in a sea of information. Similarly, impact sometimes cannot be traced to a specific source: in some studies, clear evidence of the impact of RDM is available, but they point to a whole repository rather than to a single study or dataset.

The effective implementation of RDM requires both cultural change and specific data skills. This makes its dissemination and practical realisation difficult and is the main obstacle to the above-mentioned benefits. It is, therefore, desirable to examine the RDM environment to investigate its enablers and what has worked historically to encourage future data curation and reuse.
Our research into the benefits or RDM led us to discovering some of the circumstances and situations that facilitate it, along with some of the reasons why this practice should be pursued. A summary of our findings is as follows:

  • Open licensing (e.g., in the case of computer code and algorithms) is essential to allow crowd-sourced improvements.
  • Data repositories and infrastructures are among the most significant enablers of impact: without them, very few of the impact case studies below would have been possible.
  • Collaborations between international bodies or organisations strongly promote data re-use, especially in fields where it was not possible for a single player to take charge. These collaborations create the right environment for sharing and re-use of research data: cultural change is encouraged along with the use of joint infrastructures at a national or international level.
  • The impact of RDM is normally seen after a long time, when, i.e., after has been produced, curated, maintained, and reused. Thus, there is a need for sustained investment in this field, as benefits cannot be seen immediately.
  • Aggregation of data and digitisation of documents are key to encouraging the development of digital humanities. These initiatives often arise from the collaboration between museums, research libraries, and universities. When data that was spread between several sources (e.g., many different books/articles) or held in obsolete formats was organised and analysed through sound RDM, hidden findings could be uncovered. The case studies are grouped into Long Form—more detailed with abstracts etc.— and Short Form. In all cases key information is presented in a table after the text.

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort); Socio/Economic impact; Methodological impact (e.g., new approaches developed)

1: Neurodegeneration and Dementia Research

Leveraging data from cohort studies to accelerate medical progress

Dementia and neurodegenerative diseases affect both individuals and society as a whole. However, neither cures nor treatments are available at the moment. The Dementias Platforms UK collaboration aims to turn dementia research into treatments as quickly as possible, to both improve people's lives and decrease the socioeconomic cost related to these types of diseases

dementia; Alzheimer; cohort studies

MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES

Impact on health and wellbeing

850,000 people with Dementia, £53 million project (DPUK), £6.9 million project financed using DPUK

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Reproducibility; Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort); Methodological impact (e.g., new approaches developed)

2: Biological Data Mining

Difficulties in data handling in the field of biology

Biologists often need to deal with heterogeneous data sources, which makes their work difficult and time-consuming. The InterMine system provides an easy-to-use data warehouse solution that biologists can exploit for their studies with little programming knowledge.

biology; data warehouse; data mining

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Methodological impact (e.g., new approaches developed); Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort)

3: Gene Expression Omnibus Data to Fight Cancer

Systems biology and enhanced cancer diagnosis

Sharing genomic data on the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) repository has a significant impact on medical research and improves the efficiency of the publishing environment. New approaches to cancer research were developed, including a novel method of diagnosis based on the study of exosomes.

medical research; cancer; repository; publishing

65,000 results from Google Scholar

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort); Socio/Economic impact

Researchers joining forces to sequence bacterial genomes

During the 2011 E.coli outbreak, the release of the bacterial genome in the public domain allowed researchers to reach conclusions quickly and effectively. The strain was tracked to a seed shipment from 2009 and the crow-sourced analysis received high media attention.

infection; e.coli; outbreak

MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES

Impact on health and wellbeing

17 authors working in a crowdsourcing effort;
12 academic publications;
8 media outlets covering the initiative;

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort); Methodological impact (e.g., new approaches developed); Socio/Economic impact

Citation patterns in granted patents in the field of biology

The analysis of data citation patterns in the field of biology showed how over 8,000 patents were based on publicly available data. While this proves the usefulness of repositories as a whole, it also shows how the evaluation of researchers should consider data citations and alternative sources, too, as these are often key to uncover the broader industrial and societal value of academic research.

citations; patents; text mining

Impact on economy and business

8,000 patents thanks to open data

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Reproducibility; Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort); Socio/Economic impact; Methodological impact (e.g., new approaches developed)

6: Sharing Research Data and Infrastructure to Study Proteins

A research group's impact on the study of circular dichroism

The DICHROWEB and PCDDB platforms are widely used for the study of proteins. Since their release, hundreds of thousands of users accessed them, from both academia and the private sector. In academia, the platforms fuel research and teaching, while they led to several advances in industry, including the development of 11 patents.

protein; repository; infrastructure

MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES

Impact on health and wellbeing

375,000 analyses;
3,600 registered users;
over 1,000 citations;

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Reproducibility; Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort)

7: Using Flies to Understand The Human Brain

Harvesting published data to power neurobiology research

Studying the brain of fruit flies is helping researchers uncover how our brains work at the molecular level. Data repositories such as the Virtual Fly Brain help them curate, share, and re-use data in a structured way.

neurobiology; medicine; fly; brain;

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort); Socio/Economic impact; Methodological impact (e.g., new approaches developed)

8: A Data-Based Approach to Preventing Curable Eye Diseases

Leveraging data to inform health policies

The Vision Loss Expert Group (VLEG) gathered and released data on vision loss all around the world. The data is localised, which means that every country can tackle local issues to reduce the burden of eye loss. The findings of the VLEG are far-reaching and were picked up by large organisations such as PwC, the World Bank, and the World Economic Forum, shaping policies, debates, and educations programmes worldwide.

ophthalmology; eye health; VLEG; GBD

MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES

Impact on health and wellbeing; Impact on public services; Impact on politics and governance

15,000 articles harvested;
$2.2 per capita to eliminate avoidable blindness in developing countries by 2020;
collaboration between 79 scientists;

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort)

9: Self Compacting Concrete

Advancements in engineering led by data aggregation

Data from over 250 academic sources was aggregated in the form of a database and used to inform future design of self-compacting concrete. This large-scale study allowed researchers to precisely describe the differences between self-compacting concrete and "traditional" vibrated concrete.

concrete; database; self-compacting

250 articles;
1500 concrete mixtures analysed;

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort); Socio/Economic impact; Methodological impact (e.g., new approaches developed)

10: Preventing Drug Interactions On Your Mobile

Novel tools for patients and healthcare professionals

The iChart apps developed by the University of Liverpool help clinicians and patients with HIV or hepatitis C better deal with drug interactions. The apps allow clear and ubiquitous access to research data that has been arranged for maximum effectiveness and dissemination, thus, improving patient response and reducing the side effects experienced. In addition, clinicians can save time, as all the information they need is now available directly on their smartphones.

hiv; hepatitis; drug interactions

MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES

Impact on health and wellbeing

128 countries;
17,000 downloads;

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Methodological impact (e.g., new approaches developed); Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort); Socio/Economic impact

11: Meeting Sustainability Objectives

Reducing carbon emissions from agricultural production

Meeting sustainability objectives is becoming increasingly important to reduce the impact of global warming. The field of agriculture has been deemed responsible for a third of our greenhouse emissions, thus, resources such as the Cool Farm Tool are essential to help people in the sector understand how they can reduce their environmental impact.

agriculture; carbon footprint;

800 global datasets for N2O;
100 global datasets for soil carbon sequestrations;

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort); Socio/Economic impact; Methodological impact (e.g., new approaches developed)

12: Finding Offshore Hydrocarbons

Leveraging satellite data to improve the efficiency of exploration

Satellite data has been re-used to produced a more up-to-date and precise dataset helping with offshore exploration. The improved gravity data prepared by the researchers has shown a very high potential and is estimated to be 10% more accurate than previously-available work. The dataset has been used by major oil companies to drive decision-making and improve the safety of their exploration efforts.

oil; exploration; gravity

Impact on economy and business; Environmental impact

$2.5 million per project
£1.2 million received
10% improvement compared to previous data

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort); Socio/Economic impact

13: Geological Data Made Easy

The British Geological Survey and the OpenGeoscience portal

Geological data was released by the British Geological Survey to align their resources to the principles of open science. Their efforts took the form of the OpenGeoscience portal, where data is shared through an Open Government License. Users of OpenGeoscience resources are encouraged to reshape the data to develop new products, called mash-ups, and more than 20 of these are available on the BGS website.

Impact on economy and business; Environmental impact

Over 20 mash-ups (projects derived from OpenGeoscience data)

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort); Socio/Economic impact; Methodological impact (e.g., new approaches developed)

14: Protecting The Oceans By Coordinating Data Sharing Efforts

UNESCO’s efforts to preserve marine environments

UNESCO's efforts to protect marine environments materialised with the creation of IODE in 1961. The programme aims to improve data management in the field and to guide and coordinate the data gathering work by a large number of countries. Such a high-level initiative allows data to be shared very effectively, as no country could possibly gather so much information on its own. In addition,

marine; ocean; coordination; unesco

Environmental impact; Impact on politics and governance; Impact on economy and business

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Socio/Economic impact; Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort)

15: Corruption in Public Sector Procurement

Digital whistleblowing to quantify the cost of corruption

The DIGIWHIST project gathered and elaborated information on public procurement and accountability of public officials within the EU and in neighbouring countries. This was picked up by the European Commission, which released a study showing how corruption may cost Europe up to €990 billion per year.

corruption; european commission; transparency; public sector

Impact on politics and governance; Impact on public services; Impact on economy and business

up to €990 billion lost to corruption yearly

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort); Socio/Economic impact; Methodological impact (e.g., new approaches developed)

Using unmanned aerial vehicles to power new approaches to scientific investigations

Drones are becoming a constant presence in technology news and media, thus, it is not surprising that they also caught the attention of the research community. Drones allow researchers to capture aerial images easily and at a low cost, however, the data they gather needs to be properly curated to allow any applications. In the field of agriculture, drone-captured datasets are being used to spot plant diseases and help farmers better protect their yields. In addition, drone time-stamped drone image sets have been used to study how to best protect crops and land from floods.

AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES

Impact on economy and business; Economic; Environmental

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Reproducibility; Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort); Methodological impact (e.g., new approaches developed)

17: Data-Enhanced Archaeology

Using modern tools to study ancient times

In the field of archaeology, data is scarce and difficult to find. This is simply because it usually comes from excavations or physical operations on artefacts, which are normally expensive and can be performed only in certain conditions. The Archaeology Data Service (ADS) aims to fill the gap by freely providing more than 1.3 million metadata records on archaeological data and by driving developments in research data management in the field. The service enables increased efficiency thanks to data reuse and this is valued at at least £13 million per annum.

archaeological data; repository

£13 million per annum savings due to increased efficiency;
2-fold to 8-fold return on investment;
44% of interviewed stakeholders could not have carried out their work without the ADS;

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Socio/Economic impact; Methodological impact (e.g., new approaches developed)

18: Supporting Science and Industry by Sharing Computer Code

Sharing software as a form of research data

Sharing software is not as common as sharing other types of research data, however, it is sometimes very impactful. The Statistical Parametric Mapping (SPM) software in the field of neuroimaging is an example of how sharing computer code can lead to far-reaching effects. In this case, making the code public allowed the creation of a new field of study and led the software to become the leader in the sector. In addition, thanks to the licensing chosen, some companies were able to exploit the code to create derivative products, which are generating substantial income, while major pharmaceutical companies are using it in the field of drug research.

software; code; algorithms

MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES

Economic; Technological; Health

64% of users in the field use the software;
€5,000 for each license (software derived from sharing);

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Reproducibility; Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort); Methodological impact (e.g., new approaches developed)

19: Citizen Science at Zooniverse

Sharing data and efforts via an online platform

It is not always easy to deal with large amounts of data. At times, algorithms can help researchers make sense of their large datasets, however, sometimes the human mind cannot be replaced. In these cases, platforms like Zooniverse come to the researchers' help, allowing them to have citizen volunteers analyse scientific data and enable new scientific discoveries. More than 130 articles were published thanks to citizen science, showing how wise research data management can allow the crowd-sourcing of scientific research.

crowd-sourced research; citizen science

INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES

More than 130 articles published;
Over 1.5 million registered volunteers;
At least 58 web-based citizen science projects;

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Reproducibility; Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort); Methodological impact (e.g., new approaches developed)

The link between disciplines that seem diametrically opposed

Access to ancient books, manuscripts, and artefacts is often limited due to their fragility and importance. In addition, they are spread between several locations, which makes the work of historians difficult. The digitisation of heritage data by the British History Online digital library bridges the gap by making material available to researchers from all over the world. The application of research data management in this field led to changes in the researchers' workflow and earned the library a large number of citations in the academic literature and mentions in the news.

British history; digitisation; library

330,000 unique visitors a month;
1,410 Google Scholar results;
9 mentions in news;

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Reproducibility; Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort); Socio/Economic impact; Methodological impact (e.g., new approaches developed)

21: Saving the Earth from Mankind

How can we preserve Earth and develop sustainably?

Our planet needs to be protected, as human development tends to ignore sustainability and the effect business has on the environment and on biodiversity. Luckily, things are slowly changing, and better decisions and policies supported by research data can now be made. The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) plays a critical role in enabling sustainable development by hosting evidence on more than 1.6 million species and its data is featured in more than 1,400 research papers. GBIF data is used by scientists, policymakers, and journalists alike.

biodiversity; environment; sustainable development

Political; Economic; Environmental

Evidence on more than 1.6 million species;
1,400 peer-reviewed articles citing GBIF data;
81 countries;

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort); Methodological impact (e.g., new approaches developed)

22: Understanding Mobile Users and Evaluating Vulnerabilities

User data as an investigation tool

The Device Analyzer project gathers data on smartphone usage and curates it for re-use by companies, universities, and research institutes. The project's data led to the development of important statistics on the vulnerability of smartphones using the Android operating system. The researchers found that this is related to the slow pace of system updates and only manufacturers have the tools to address the problem.

Android; smartphone; mobile phones

INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES

30,978 contributors; 87.7% of Android devices are exposed to at least one of 11 known critical vulnerabilities

Maturity of the initiative/data source

Year (e.g., first data release, first output, year of impact)

Type of RDM impact/benefit

Reproducibility; Efficiency in research and data re-use (e.g., reduce duplication of effort); Socio/Economic impact

Data-powered insights into the motives and consequences of war

In the world, there are currently 58 ongoing conflicts. These cause tens of thousands of fatalities each year and are related to reasons that are obscure, complex, and often difficult to understand. Researchers and political scientists have been trying to uncover the reasons for war for a long time. Today, they can leverage data to explain conflicts, and geotagged datasets can be organised to build visualisations that greatly facilitate the understanding of contexts and actors in a war. The use of research data management is instrumental in helping us fully grasp the reasons for conflicts and, hopefully, preventing future ones.

Because they facilitate reading and retaining information from articles, many peer-reviewed journals are adopting structured abstracts as their preferred format for abstracts—including the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication. 

This article:

  1. Explains what structured abstracts are and how they benefit readers
  2. Provides a sample structured abstract
  3. Concludes with a template that authors of Transactions articles should follow when preparing their structured abstracts

About Structured Abstracts

Structured abstracts summarize the key findings reported in an article, as well as the means of reaching them.  Authors write structured abstracts so that readers do not have to read an article in its entirety to learn conclusions or how those conclusions were reached.
Certain types of readers find structured abstracts particularly beneficial:

  • Those who will not read an article in its entirety but need to know the key facts, such as executives, primary investigators on large scale projects, and people trying to keep abreast of the field.
  • Those who have previously read the article in its entirety and need to recall key findings without having to re-read the article, such as researchers conducting a systematic review of the literature.
  • Those who are trying to determine whether or not to read a particular article.

Structured abstracts are similar in format and style to Executive Summaries provided with in-depth engineering and recommendation reports.

Structured abstracts contrast with topic abstracts, which tend to be brief (100 to 150 words, about 100 words shorter than a typical structured abstract) and merely identify the themes addressed by an article, but do not report how the article addresses the themes much less the conclusions reached.

Samples and Guidelines

Sample Structured Abstract—Research Article  and Integrative Literature Review

The following structured abstract summarizes Chen, I. & Chang, C. (2009). Cognitive load theory: an empirical study of anxiety and task performance in language learning. Electronic Journal of Research in Educational Psychology, 7(2), 729-746.

Research Problem: The purpose of the study was to explore the assumption that anxiety inhibits performance because working memory is used for worry instead of task-focused thoughts.Research questions:
  1. Does listening comprehension performance correlate with foreign language anxiety and cognitive load?
  2. Does foreign language anxiety correlate with cognitive load during listening comprehension?
  3. Do cognitive load, foreign language anxiety and performance differ due to linguistic ability and perceived difficulty in listening comprehension?

Literature Review:  The purpose of the literature review was to use a two-part framework to examine learning as relying on a limited capacity of memory, and anxiety making unproductive use of such capacity. The researchers reviewed literature in two main areas: cognitive load theory and foreign language anxiety. For education, cognitive load theory focuses on reducing the extraneous workload on limited working memory to increase effectiveness in learning.

Methodology: The researchers conducted a quantitative experiment with 88 students in a northern Taiwanese university at lower-intermediate and higher-elementary English group levels. Researchers administered the Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale survey, an intermediate listening comprehension test designed to challenge participants and induce cognitive load, then the Cognitive Load Subjective Rating Scale to rate mental effort used for the test. The researchers compiled the survey scores and test scores and conducted a statistical analysis to look for correlations among the scores.

Results and Conclusions: The researchers found a negative correlation between foreign language anxiety and performance, and between cognitive load and performance. They found a positive correlation between foreign language anxiety and cognitive load. They found a negative correlation between linguistic ability and foreign language anxiety. They found a positive correlation between perceived difficulty and foreign language anxiety and cognitive load.  They found no significant difference in cognitive load between the higher elementary and the lower intermediate participants, however higher elementary had higher anxiety and lower intermediate had higher performance. Based on an analysis of variance and a Scheffe post hoc test, participants who perceived English listening comprehension as medium or difficult had significantly higher anxiety and higher cognitive load than those who perceived it as easy.

The implication of the study is that reducing learner’s perceived difficulty of listening comprehension can reduce their foreign language anxiety which reduces their cognitive load and provides increased working memory to improve performance.

The limitations of the study were a limited sample size, a limited range of participants, and limited types of listening comprehension tasks.

Future research would examine differences caused by longer listening passages or picture descriptions, and could use structural equation modelling to allow for the inference of causal relationships among the variables.

 

Template for Writing a Structured Abstract—Research Article and Integrative Literature Review

Research problemSummarize your purpose and rationale (1 to 2 sentences)
Research questions:Explicitly state the research questions
Literature review
  • Identify the bodies of literature you consulted
  • Summarize the key points of the review
Methodology
  • Identify your study as qualitative, quantitative, critical, or mixed
  • Identify your study as case study, experiment, survey or other
  • Describe how you chose participants and how many you used
  • Describe how you chose your location and its type
  • Identify your method of data collection
  • Name your analysis techniques
Results and Conclusions
  • Summarize your answers to the research questions
  • Summarize the implications of your results (1 sentence)
  • Summarize the limitations of your study (1 sentence)

Summarize your suggested future research (1 sentence)

Sample Structured Abstract—Case Study

The following structured abstract summarizes Raju, R. (2012). Intercultural communication training in IT outsourcing in India: A Case Study. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication55(3).

Background: This study examines the nature, manifestations and causes of communication problems in international outsourcing engagements. Specifically, it explores a case of business process outsourcing (BPO), which is the transfer of a number of business processes, such as payroll, supply chain management, and customer relations to an external supplier. In this case, a company based in the US outsourced its business processes to a company in India.Research questions: (1) If widespread proficiency in English is the reason for India’s predominant position in outsourcing, then why do we hear about communication problems? (2) What are the causes of such problems? (3) In what forms and situations do they manifest? (4) How could technical communication offer solutions to ameliorate or minimize some of these communication problems?Situating the case: Similar cases studied include Previous studies of call centers in the Philippines and outsourcing relationships in software companies have challenges in those relationships to problems of intercultural communications, such as language use and differences in culture. Three areas of inquiry informed this study. Intercultural communication theories provide frameworks and touch points for assessing the role of culture in communication. Previous studies of outsourcing and offshoring provided definitions of the broad range of arrangements that comprise outsourcing. Although these studies all concluded that communication is a crucial factor in the success of outsourced projects, they offered few details of communication problems, their causes, manifestations, and possible solutions. Accounts of India represent India as a rapidly-growing, dynamic economy with certain typical communication problems. Methodology: The study was designed as a mixed-methods, single-case study with a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods. Quantitative data were gathered through surveys that helped develop a picture of patterns in areas such as communication problems, preferred methods of communication, and patterns of escalation while qualitative data from 45 personal interviews and one group interview provided insights into the nature and resolution of communication dissonances.About the case: The case studied ABC Corporation, a captive Indian company that performed BPO for a major American corporation. Communication problems that arise in the outsourcing relationship include differences in corporate culture and differences in linguistic and rhetorical choices. Issues causing these problems include differences in education and training.

Results:  Not applicable.

Conclusions: Ongoing training in cross-cultural communication is needed at all stages of the outsourcing cycle, with an emphasis on communication skills in the early stages of the process, especially the hiring stage. Technical communication can offer solutions to these problems because our field can help structure suitable training applying theories such as Cross’ Theory of centripetal and centrifugal forces, which provide frameworks for assessing and addressing communication problems.

 

Template for Writing a Structured Abstract—Case Study

BackgroundSummarizes the nature and purpose of the case (1 to 2 sentences)
Research question(s)Repeat your research questions
Situating the Case
  • State the purpose of your review
  • Names similar cases in the literature.
  • Identifies key themes from the literature that guided development of the case.

(Approximately 2- 4 sentences total)

Methodology
  • Indicate whether the case was formally studied as an empirical research project or an experience report
  • Identify your study as qualitative, quantitative, critical, or mixed
  • Describe how you chose participants and how many you used
  • Describe how you chose your location and its type
  • Identify your method of data collection
    • Name the  analysis techniques
About the Case
  • Describes the problem faced (1 sentence).
  • Describes the solution (1-2 sentences).
  • Names the key resources used in the solution (from the Facts about this Case format) (1 sentence)
  • Describes the process for producing the solution and key challenges faced along the way (1-3 sentences)
  • Report the results of the solution (1 sentence)
ConclusionsSummarizes the implications of the completed project (1 sentence)

Sample Structured Abstract—Tutorial

The following structured abstract summarizes

Tuleja, E.A.;   Beamer, L.;   Shum, C.;   & Chan, E.K.Y. (2011.) Designing and Developing Questionnaires for Translation—Tutorial. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 54(4), 392-405.

Problem: Questionnaires are a popular method used by global companies to gain understanding or assess various aspects of their businesses. However, using a questionnaire across cultures requires extra effort in translating it into the target language(s) and culture(s) because a good questionnaire developed in one language/culture may not necessarily “travel well” across cultures due to differences in meaning and interpretation.Research question What is the extant research on cross-cultural communication and surveys, and how can it be applied when preparing cross-cultural questionnaires?Key concepts: Translation affects the design and development of questionnaires to be used across cultures in these ways: (1) It affects the theoretical concepts to be studied: indicators—questions about concrete elements that can be measured and constructs—a series of questions about abstract elements that cannot be measured directly and essentially represent an underlying concept. Constructs must be adapted into a specific cultural context to achieve accuracy in measurements. (2) Differences in the contexts—the overall cross-cultural research context (the setting and the purpose) and the cultural context (the participants and their cultural background) of the study—affect translation because concepts in the source culture might be applied differently or not exist in the target cultures. (3) Translation might unintentionally introduce bias by inadvertently changing the perceived meanings of terms and questions—creating bias in constructs, on individual items on the questionnaire, and in its administration. (4) Translation might affect equivalence of terms in the source and translated versions, including linguistic equivalence (that is, wording of items), semantics (meaning of a phrase or concept), and grammar and syntax.Key lessons: Given these concepts, consider the following items when- – translating questionnaires: (1) accurately adapt or adopt questions from existing instruments, (2) make sure that you adapt the language to suit the situation, (3) hire translators who understand research processes, (4) use the decentering approach (a process in which translators move back and forth amongst the languages, checking for cultural and linguistic accuracy) when preparing the actual translation, and (5) assess your overall translated questionnaire. The questionnaire assessment model is a resource for guiding the assessment.

Implications to practice:  When conducting the same survey in several languages, plan for more than translation—make sure that the translated surveys truly capture equivalent data to the original.

 

Template for Writing a Structured Abstract—Tutorial

ProblemSummarize your purpose and rationale (1 to 2 sentences)
Research questionRestate the research questions or the problem statement
Key Concepts
  • Name the key themes named in the Key Concepts section
  • For each, provide a 1- to 2-sentence summary of the key point
Key lessons
  • Name the key heuristics named in the Key Lessons section
  • For each, provide a 1- to 2-sentence summary that provides the reader with guidance on how to apply this lesson
Implications to practiceSummarize the implications of this tutorial to practice in 1 to 3 sentences.

Sample Structured Abstract—Teaching Case

The following structured abstract summarizes Bednar, L. (2012). Using a Research in Technical and Scientific Communication Class to teach essential workplace skills. IEEE Transactions on Professional CommunicationEarly Access.

Teaching problem: Undergraduate research at the university level often focuses on the production of a traditional research paper, one with an academic orientation, often information heavy and analysis light, emphasizing the importance of secondary sources and documentation style over the process of inquiry.Research Questions: What approaches to undergraduate research would enable aspiring technical communicators to develop research skills that would better prepare them for success in a professional environment?Situating the case: The approaches described in this paper draw on the work of Mel Levine as presented in , in which he delineates several reasons why young people encounter problems when they enter professional environments: overly managed lives, no experience of delayed gratification, inability to think critically, limited knowledge of their own strengths and weaknesses, and an expectation of stability in the so-called adult world. Levine claims that these problems can be addressed by helping students develop a sense of inner direction as opposed to direction from without, an understanding of how to think critically and apply knowledge, a willingness to build and refine skills over time, and competent writing and speaking skills. In addition, the approaches described in this paper draw on three well-established research traditions: mixed methods research, problem-based research, and action research.How this case was studied: This paper describes the experiences of using two approaches to teach Research in Technical and Scientific Communication at a mid-sized state university in Virginia. The material was collected informally over a period of six years of teaching the course—through observation, student feedback, and completed research reports.

About the case: Research in Technical and Scientific Communication required students to produce a research report within the context of real-world inquiry, appropriately focused for a specific audience and purpose, using both primary and secondary sources, and including analysis as well as information. Two approaches were used. The Real Client approach required students to investigate a small-scale, real-world problem or need, which became the focus of a research report that could be submitted to a specific audience for a specific purpose, both identified by the student early in the research process. The Impact of Technology approach required students to consider the impact of technology on modern life, investigate a narrower topic within this broad topic, and prepare a report that could be published in the university magazine or student newspaper. Examples of strong and weak research reports illustrate which features of each approach worked well and which posed challenges.

Results: Overall, students responded well to both approaches, but found the Impact of Technology approach more congenial because it was more familiar to them than the Real Client approach. Nonetheless, with both approaches, but especially with the Real Client approach, students seemed reluctant to make necessary contacts, conduct in-depth interviews, and include well-developed analysis. They were more comfortable gathering information anonymously through secondary source material or online surveys, and presenting that information with a limited amount of analysis.

Conclusions: Both approaches served to move students toward a more realistic understanding of the kind of research needed in professional environments. These approaches also address the concerns raised by Levine. The study was limited by its informal nature, with observations and conclusions resulting from a six-year period of informal experimentation and refinement, during which the requirements for the research report were continually redesigned to better address what students would need to be successful in a workplace.

 

Template for Writing a Structured Abstract—Teaching Case

BackgroundSummarizes the nature and purpose of the case (1 to 2 sentences)
Research question(s)Repeat your research questions
Situating the Case
  • State the purpose of your review
  • Names similar cases in the literature.
  • Identifies key themes from the literature that guided development of the case.

(Approximately 2- 4 sentences total)

How the Case Was Studied
  • Indicate whether the case was formally studied as an empirical research project or an experience report
  • If the case is empirical, identify your study as qualitative, quantitative, critical, or mixed
  • Describe how you chose participants and how many you used
  • Describe how you chose your location and its type
  • Identify your method of data collection
  • Name your data analysis techniques
About the Case
  • Describes the problem faced (1 sentence).
  • Describes the solution (1-2 sentences).
  • Names the key resources used in the solution (from the Facts about this Case format) (1 sentence)
  • Describes the process for producing the solution and key challenges faced along the way (1-3 sentences)
ResultsReport the results of the solution (1 sentence)
ConclusionsSummarizes the implications of the completed project (1 sentence)

 

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