How to frame a business case
How to frame a business case

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How to frame a business case

1.2 Processing a textbook text

Throughout this course, you will find references to a ‘US Airlines’ STEP assignment. This assignment can be found in Section 3.

Teaching business concepts is the purpose of another input text – a textbook. A good example of a business concept in the ‘US Airlines’ STEP assignment is external environment. Environment is a word in everyday use but in business studies it has a specialised meaning, as the next activity shows.

Activity 3

Purpose: reading to understand a business concept.

Task: read extract A below which is from a business studies textbook and answer this question: ‘What does external environment mean?’

Extract A

The term ‘environment’ in this case refers to much more than the ecological, ‘green’ issues that the word commonly evokes. ‘Environment’ here is more appropriately interpreted as the external context in which organisations find themselves undertaking their activities. Each organisation has a unique external environment that has unique impacts on the organisation, due to the fact that organisations are located in different places and are involved in different business activities, with different products, services, customers, and so on.

(Capon, 2004:278)

Answer

External environment means the external context.

Comment

Your knowledge of English and of this business topic probably affected how you read this text. If the topic is already known to you, you might have ignored most of the words and searched only for the words which mean external environment. This kind of reading is called search-reading. On the other hand, if you don’t know this topic well, you might have read every word carefully.

Defining concepts

Paragraphs such as this which define key concepts are common in business studies writing. How is this one organised? It starts with a high-level generalisation.

Activity 4

Purpose: to look at how the paragraph on external environment is organised.

Task: use Figure 3 to summarise each sentence in the paragraph. If possible, reduce each sentence to a noun group.

Figure 3 For use with Activity 4
Figure 3 For use with Activity 4

Q1

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Q2

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Q3

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Answer

Figure 4 Answer to Activity 3
Figure 4 Answer to Activity 3

Comment

This paragraph shows that everyday meanings are not business meanings. The paragraph starts with a word from everyday life. It then moves down a level to show what the same word means in business studies. Then it gives more details about the business meaning of the word.

Definition paragraphs use definition words:

term, refers to, commonly evokes, more appropriately interpreted as.

Text books define business concepts carefully. Students are expected to do the same in their assignments. The next activity involves some more examples of how business studies text books define environment.

Activity 5

Task 1

Purpose: to look at how text extracts introduce a key concept.

Task: read Extracts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. They all introduce the concept environment. You will need to make notes for this activity.

Question 1a

Which two extracts directly define what the word environment means?

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Answer

Extracts 1 and 2.

Question 1b

Highlight some definition words. (Some examples are highlighted in Extract 1.)

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Answer

Extract 1

  The term

  refers to much more than

  the word commonly evokes.

  is more appropriately interpreted as

Extract 2

  the term

  has taken on a rather specialised meaning

  it involves ‘green’

  we use the term ‘the environment’ in a much broader sense to describe

  This includes

Question 2a

Which three extracts do not discuss the meaning but describe the environment and how it interacts with business?

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Answer

Extracts 3, 4 and 5.

Question 2b

Highlight some language needed to describe the way business and environment interact. (Some examples are underlined in Extract 4.)

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Answer

Extract 3

  Figure 3–1 suggests the interrelationship between the firm and its remote, its industry, and its operating environments.

  In combination, these factors form the basis of the opportunities and threats that a firm faces in its competitive environment.

Extract 4

  the interdependence between a business organisation and the environment within which it operates

  society depends on business organisations for most of the products and services it needs,

  Conversely, business organisations depend on society for the resources they need.

  Business organisations are not self sufficient, nor are they self-contained.

  are dependent upon the environment in which they operate. Business organisations and society, depend on each other.

  This mutual dependence entails a complex relationship between the two.

  This relationship increases in complexity when certain variables in the environment, such as technological innovation, economic events or political developments, bring about change in the environment which impacts in different ways on the business organisation.

Extract 5

  First, there is the operating environment, composed of elements that the organisation can influence and that also influence the business.

  Second there is the remote environment, composed of elements on which the individual business has no significant influence but which may have a major effect on the operating environment and on the business.

Question 3a

Which two extracts classify environments into types or categories of environment?

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Answer

Extracts 3 and 5.

Question 3b

Highlight some classification language.

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Answer

Extract 3

  can be divided into three interrelated subcategories: factors in the remote environment, factors in the industry environment, and factors in the operating environment.

Extract 5

  The elements in the external environment can be classified by the level of influence that they have on the business and the business has on them. As a result a business can be considered to have two environments, depending the direction of the influences between the business and the elements within them. First, there is the operating environment, composed of elements that the organisation can influence and that also influence the business. Second there is the remote environment, composed of elements on which the individual business has no significant influence but which may have a major effect on the operating environment and on the business.

Question 4a

Which two extracts describe the composition of the environment?

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Answer

Extracts 2 and 5 (and possibly 3).

Question 4b

Highlight some language of composition.

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Answer

Extract 2

  the term ‘the environment’... includes customers, competitors, suppliers, distributors, government and social institutions.

Extract 3

  These factors which constitute the external environment

Extract 5

composed of elements

Question 5

Which extract highlights the word environment with

  • italics – environment
  • inverted commas – ‘environment’
  • bold type – environment?
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Answer

  • Using italics – environment
  •   Extracts 3 and 5
  • Using inverted commas –‘environment’
  •   Extracts 1 and 2
  • Using bold type – environment
  •   None

Question 6

Choose one or two of the word groups below to summarise each extract.

interdependencycategories of factorseverything outside the business
external contextenvironmental impacts on the organisationtypes of influence
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Answer

  • Extract 1: external context and environmental impacts on organisation

    Extract 2: everything outside the business

    Extract 3: categories of factors and interdependency

    Extract 4: Interdependency

    Extract 5: environmental impacts on the organisation and types of influence

Comment

When textbooks introduce a concept they discuss what it means, how it works or what it does, and what it is composed of. These are also the ways you can introduce the concepts you use to frame an assignment.

Introducing concepts

Activity 6

Task 1

Purpose: to practise introducing a concept which frames a case.

write a paragraph introducing the concept environment, based on the noun groups you chose in question 6 in Activity 5.

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Discussion

Task 1 (my example paragraph)

The environment of a business is composed of all the factors that influence the business. There is an interdependency between the environment and the business, with the business influencing the environment and the environment influencing the business. Factors can be classified according to whether they are in the near environment or the far environment. Factors in the near environment are more under the control of the business than factors in the far environment.

Task 2

read Extracts 6, 7 and 8, which are from students’ assignments. Compare how they introduce the concept environment with the way you have. Did they write about what it means, how it works, what it does, or what it is composed of?

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Answer

My paragraph does not use any meaning sentences; Extract 6 does but the other extracts do not. My paragraph looks at the interaction between the environment and the business. Extract 7 does the same. Extract 8 also talks about the level of control that a business has over the near and far environment like my paragraph. My paragraph classifies environments in the same way as Extract 6. Extract 8 classifies environments using the STEP model (or framework).

Comment

When you are analysing a business case it is important to decide which concepts will frame the case and to make those clear to your reader. The next section will look briefly at the grammar for doing this.

The grammar of definition sentences

To write definitions, you can use six kinds of sentence. Look at this sentence:

The governmentderegulatedthe industryin 1978.
nounverbnoun

The verb is an action word, so this is an action sentence. Some definition sentences are action sentences. For example:

1) action sentences

Businesses operate in different environments.

However, not all verbs are actions. There are five other kinds of sentence for defining concepts, as follows.

2) being sentences

‘Environment’ is the external context in which organisations operate.

3) having sentences

Each organisation has a unique external environment.

4) meaning sentences

The term ‘environment’ refers to more than ecological, ‘green’ issues.

5) reporting sentences

Lucas suggests that environment is ‘a set of external conditions under which a business operates’.

6) existence sentences

There are three kinds of environment.

Look back at your paragraph in Activity 6. Which kinds of sentence did you use?

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