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MBA Writing Guidelines

Last revised: 06/22/07

Each submission will follow these guidelines unless instructed otherwise. Every written work communicates. Good writing presents information that is readily understood by the appropriate audience. Effective writers express their findings and views through the different media with intention. Toward that end, consider the purposefulness of writing to the different audiences. The design of each writing assessment encourages learning different points and points of view in which business entrepreneurs typically engage.

Consider also 1 Corinthians 12:14-22. If managers/entrepreneurs/leaders could only communicate usefully with one audience, there would be no need to reach out to others. However, that does not reflect reality. Therefore, learning opportunities to address different audiences from within a safe academic environment are presented. Take initiative to discover what you can learn from each. Ask God for help before you begin. If you have questions about a specific assessment then contact the grading professor early.


Every submission must be well-written regardless of its media or form (report, presentation, etc). This includes, as appropriate:

  • A clear introduction that sets up the main theme and structure of the document, and convinces the audience to engage it.
  • A coherent body or message structured to provide the audience with a guideline for how the author will present their position.
  • A conclusion that calls for action based on acceptance of the document's premise.
  • Taking expert advantage of writing style, appropriate citations and use of word processing and other software to manage formatting.
  • Accurate grammar, spelling, punctuation, fluency and flow of phrases, transitions, and other appropriate stylistic needs.
  • Any biblical concepts drawn accurately from the surrounding scriptural context, applied aptly in the presented text, and used discretely to support what is written.

Writing Style
Different audiences require the application of different writing styles. While Turabian (for example) may, in general, be acceptable for most audiences, we encourage students to choose the style that is most appropriate for the target audience.

Letter of Transmittal
A letter of transmittal is a message of intended purpose, informing the recipient what is being sent and why it should receive their consideration. Examples include correspondence accompanying manuscripts to publishers (e.g., popular press article submissions) and reports to organizational decision makers. Normally you will submit your coursework via the assignment manager. Therefore use the assignment manager to submit a (no more than) one page in length document (e.g., Word) unless you require additional pages specifically for required guidelines.

The transmittal acts as a cover letter for an article or book manuscript submitted to a publisher. Typically these transmittal letters state the attached manuscript is for potential publication, plus any related necessary information. Indicate clearly in the transmittal message (a) the selected magazine (or book publisher), (b) the URL of the magazine author's manuscript submission guidelines or a copy of the actual guidelines, and (c) an acknowledgement that the article you are submitting fits those guidelines. If you could not locate the author's guidelines, then include support for your understanding of the author guidelines.

Reports always go to key decision makers, so write transmittal letters specifically to them. Establish the tone for how your work will be received. If necessary, you might wish to use the opportunity to note important benefits or findings or to repair problem issues. An example might be a brief statement of how your research or interview skills improved while working on the project. Do not be obsequious however.


Each assessment requires that you address the appropriate audience and convince them to accept your stance on specific issues. If a submission is to vary from the anticipated audience below (e.g., popular press article, presentation, consulting report, etc.), it will be identified in the instructions. It is important to maintain consistent focus on writing to a specific audience. So much so that successful authors sometimes write as if they are communicating to a specific person, and later alter the phrasing if necessary.

Presentations and accompanying materials (PowerPoint slides, notes, handouts, etc.) must be prepared to address the appropriate audience and be well written.

  • Each slide should cover an average of two minutes of presentation content. Accordingly, a 30-minute presentation needs approximately 15 slides.
  • Slides must contain narrative of the presentation in the (speaker's) notes section. Two minutes of presentation is approximately 400 spoken words.
  • The best presentations make appropriate use of color. Projected presentations use light rather than paper to mediate ideas, so rather than dark on bright (such as black on white), it is usually best to use bright on dark (such as yellow on blue).
  • Slides should never include dense text. Seven or eight lines of large type typically is readable from a distance; twelve lines of smaller type might not be readable at all.
  • Graphic images must be clear and help emphasize the narrative.
  • Sufficient, not excessive, media should be used for the specific audience. All selected media should be appropriate and implemented well. Use copy-able paper handouts, evaluation forms, audio or other media only if they add value to influencing the audience to adopt the premise and action called for in the presentation. Redundant (repetitive) ancillary media to the main presentation does not exist.
  • A clear introduction in the speaker's notes should prepare the audience to understand what the presentation is about and how the presentation will support the titled premise. This begins with the opening sentence.
  • No grammar or wordsmithing errors, and the readable text flows well. Lists of phrases with points or bullets or numbers are preferred to long prose.
  • Help your audience accept the intended message (and the presenters) as "smarter" and "acceptable" via accurate grammar, spelling, and consistent presentation style.

Consulting Reports
Consulting reports, such as organizational audits and diagnoses, should be written as final reports to the senior leadership/management of the organization. Make an effort to address them effectively to directly influence them through your reporting.

Expert consulting reports clarify or substantiate what decision makers find obscure or not believed in their organizations. The consultant uses available gifts, knowledge, skills and abilities to perceive what is occurring, then collects and interprets available data, and presents specific, viable, problem-solving instruction in the form of reported choices to decision makers.

Consulting is visceral, structured with reality, contextualized, processed with decorum and presented in palatable terms. It often involves interviews with organizational members. Good consultants esteem people and involve them as participants, not as responding objects. In this manner, consultants discover preferred actionable distinctions in available organizational structures or processes, and report interventions that are likely to succeed so that decision makers can plan accordingly.

Obtain the appropriate permission before attempting consulting work in an organization. Collect data with reasonable instruments and interview techniques. Avoid researcher bias rigorously. Understand the relevant organizational contexts and environment. Interpret the actual available data, and make specific recommendations predicated upon that data. If you present a structural or process change, demonstrate you understand what accomplishing that will require. Appreciate who the involved organizational members are and how proposed interventions will affect them. Treat them with dignity. Use understandings gained to increase the likely success of your reporting. Compare this to the application Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:6-9 (No fights over theology please: This is a comparison to process, not a doctrinal statement.) If leadership does not have an understandable message, who in their organizations will prepare to engage what is occurring? So it is with consulting. Unless consultants present intelligible words in understandable language, how will decision makers comprehend them? The consultant might just as well speak to the air if they do not make implicit ideas explicit through their reporting.

Popular press
Popular press includes items read by the "populace." Magazine articles should be written to the magazine editor and focused on the magazine's audience. Select one magazine (this includes e-zines and other web-based publications), and locate their author's manuscript submission guidelines. Read the author's guidelines, and compose your writing according to those guidelines. They might not be APA, MLA or Turabian. If you cannot locate the author's guidelines, then review the feature articles to determine the required writing style for acceptable submissions.

Always follow the author guidelines of the publisher when attempting to compose documents to meet their criteria. Be prepared to furnish proof of doing so to the grading professor. The professor will use the author's guidelines to evaluate the writing style you use. Be certain to include an appropriate letter of transmittal with your submission.

World Wide Web documents
Individual or group position papers presented online should be written as if for a personal website. Do not presume to speak for an organization or its leadership unless instructed to do so. Web pages normally intend persuasive ends and need to include sufficient supportive references to satisfy introductory and adversarial readers.

Conceptual Understanding & Thematic Application

All work will show detailed use of extant theories and concepts. At minimum, an exchange of ideas should present in-depth master’s-level knowledge of program concepts and themes and sufficient understanding of their application to compare and contrast related ideas expertly.

This includes thorough discussion and application of appropriate insights to support the theoretical underpinnings of what is proposed to fully answer "why" and "how" questions readers could pose. Offered content should add insight to context, structure and levels of analysis viewed or processed by the professor and the student for both to gain understanding of efficient, effective and efficacious use of all presented ideas.

Critical Thinking

Each submission should contain clear and logical progressions of ideas and concepts that result in logically supported arguments. This includes inductive or deductive reasonings to show that the author understands the necessary critical thinking to support their contribution.

Substantial work on what makes for excellent critical thinking is available from the library databases and the World Wide Web. You should search for yourself, but one website that might offer keywords is Critical and Creative Thinking - Bloom's Taxonomy.

Business Application

Projects must present information, concepts, conclusions, etc., so that others can use the information to improve/transform their lives and the organizations they serve. Student’s work must propose feasible, practical and actionable recommendations and solutions that consider the cost, culture, timeframe, and other critical factors, and are readily transferable to organizational and commercial contexts.

Grading Expectations

As leaders and managers mature they learn to develop and communicate insightfully. In academic environments this is measured partially through grading expectations. When returned grading offers outcomes that are lower than expected for the effort expended, students should consider how that effort might have been more effectively used. Sometimes students feel a lack of support or feedback. This involves the affective and psychomotor domains of Bloom's taxonomy. Each year a number of students create small groups to support each other through their program of studies. Results vary, but many report the feedback they desire is fostered through affiliation with these groups, be they geographically distant or collocated. One reality members of these groups quickly recognize is that feedback does not substitute for inadequate skill preparation that is likely available where they live.

The most brilliant managers and leaders can transcend common reasoning with wisdom that unveils current and future consequences. Here are some generalized ideas of how that translates into incrementally improving grades. Notice that the percentage scores correspond with those on the syllabi. Succeeding at a graduate education is an exceptional achievement.

Unless otherwise stated, each major or minor project, explained in your individual course syllabus will be accompanied by a Grading Rubric (located at the end of each syllabus). This template, with its percentage weights, will be used by your professor to grade your submissions. Each assignment type will have its own unique Grading Rubric. Sometimes the Communication or Critical Thinking dimension (for example) will weight more. Pay attention to these variations.

± 65% : "D" work recites facts or repeats material by rote. Such presentations are perceived as weak and including shallow analyses. Often they retell events or state opinions that might be evident to any organizational participant.

± 75% : "C" work presents basic concepts and expresses them in a person's own words. These might combine both penetrating inductive analyses of facts and thoughtful deductions regarding implications for action if the author is probed by others. However, they typically initiate demonstrations of only one of these two modes of thought, or neither.

± 85% : "B" work relates learning to personal applications and the immediate environment. These might discuss an idea, but not act on it. Alternatively, they often end with what the author knew prior to the current effort. (Some call this "fighting prior battles.")

Sometimes this quality of work thoroughly systematizes data or factual circumstances of analysis. It might recognize patterns to formulate a coherent "big picture" understanding, and summarize this insightfully into charts or graphs. Still, it can fail to follow through with supported conclusions of consequences or actionable recommendations.

At other times, this quality of work quickly develops a unifying conceptual statement of the situation. It can devote considerable effort to articulating logical ramifications. Yet, often it fails to authenticate the author's presumptions with careful investigations and presentations of supportable evidence. As a result, these viewpoints tend to lack credibility or become inadvertently biased. Occasionally, they solve incorrect problems.

± 95% : "A" work applies learned concepts to a broad array of conditions and situations. These communicate comprehension of how to accomplish inter-disciplinary transfers of knowledge globally. They have creative original insights and exercise visionary change leadership/management by anticipating future issues from available tendencies or other signs.