Sample Research Paper: SWOT Analysis Explained

Business WritingSWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis is one of the many strategic business planning methods that experts use for their organizations. This method allows organizations to identify internal and external factors that can affect a business. Experienced leaders and business planners often conduct a SWOT analysis along with other methods, such as Porter’s Five Forces and PESTLE analysis. The complementary nature of these different analyses provides organizations with insightful information regarding their competitive position and capability. A SWOT analysis is an easy but effective method for assessing an organization’s capacity to compete. This sample research paper will aim to discuss the different parts of a SWOT analysis and provide a better understanding of the concept.

What is SWOT analysis?

The term “SWOT” in SWOT analysis refers to the internal and external factors regarding an organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Identifying these factors makes the analysis a business strategy tool that is useful in comparing an organization and its competitors (Teoli et al. 2021). Strengths and opportunities provide insight into factors that can benefit a company and identify attributes that are unique to the organization. Weaknesses and threats allow an organization to assess harmful factors that its competitors may use as an advantage as well as issues that may weaken its competitive position. Additionally, it is important to note that a standard SWOT analysis does not quantify factors nor rank alternatives (Abdel-Bassel et al. 2018). It mostly enumerates an organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Authors may also include a recommendation section that discusses possible solutions and steps regarding the four factors.

SWOT Analysis Introduction

A SWOT analysis should begin with an introduction that will define the objective of the paper. While a SWOT analysis will always aim to identify internal and external factors, the author should also state where they would use the information in the paper. A SWOT analysis can be to discover an organization’s competitive position, identify potential improvements, assess an employee’s ability, or aid in the establishment of a business plan. Stating the objective will allow the reader to understand the context around the paper and have an idea of the implications of identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Aside from the objective, the introduction should provide background information about the company and the organization’s environmental condition. According to Teoli et al. (2019), a SWOT analysis can only refer to a specific time point in a business’ timeline. This statement suggests that the analysis will only be effective for a certain period. The analysis can include information regarding current economic conditions, such as the worldwide effects of the pandemic, which will only be applicable during the current period. An author may include the date when they conducted the analysis along with other significant information regarding the specific time point. Indicating background information will allow readers to understand the status of the organization and the reasoning behind some of the factors.

Strengths Section

The “Strengths” section of the SWOT analysis focuses on enumerating positive internal factors of an organization. These factors can be unique features of a service or an advantageous position in the industry. Mostly, strengths are factors that an organization can directly influence and utilize to its advantage. The strength section should answer questions regarding an organization’s advantages, things they do better than competitors, unique offers, and the market’s perception of the company’s strengths (Toeli et al. 2021). An organization’s advantages and unique offers are easily identifiable factors that they can include in the analysis. An advantage can be a competitive position that allows the organization to get ahead of its competitors. It can be a strategic physical store location that attracts regular customers. A unique offer is a unique service or product that only the organization can provide to customers. This can be an innovative product feature or an exclusive service that is unavailable to competitors.

Factors regarding the market’s perception of an organization’s strengths can be more complex to identify since it may require data-gathering methods. An organization may need to conduct market research to identify its customer’s perceived corporate image. This corporate image will be dependent on customer experience using a company’s services along with publicity attempts. Marketing campaigns can affect market perception, however, social media may also lead to the establishment of corporate image. Whichever the case, an organization can utilize data-gathering methods to identify the customers’ perceived company strengths. Identifying these may provide insight into the effective practices of an organization.

Opportunities Section

The “Opportunities” section is similar to “Strengths” as it enumerates factors that are beneficial to the company. However, the section focuses on external factors that an organization cannot control but can utilize to enhance performance. The section should answer questions regarding the opportunities available to the organization, current market trends, and government policies that may have positive effects (Toeli et al. 2021). Opportunities available to the organization refer to existing deals, offers, and positions that an organization can take. These can include investment offers, advertising deals, a competitive physical location, or a new market segment that they can target. These are the types of opportunities that are already available and will only require action from the organization.

Other opportunities, such as market trends and governmental policies, refer to developments in the business environment that the organization can use as an advantage. Market trends are factors that influence the behavior of the market which can improve sales. It can be increased usage of delivery service applications or high demand for sugar-free beverages. Identifying advantageous trends will help an organization establish a plan to improve its performance and attract more clients. Opportunities regarding governmental policies refer to advantages that come from rules and regulations. New legislation may ban the use of a common ingredient in beverages which can benefit an organization that uses alternative ingredients. Other legislation may allow a business to establish a small store without a permit which can benefit starting enterprises. These opportunities require a more active approach since an organization will need to develop or adjust plans to use them for its benefit.

Difference Between Strengths and Opportunities

The main difference between strengths and opportunities is their relationship with the organization. Strengths are internal factors that include advantages that come from within the organization. Some examples of strengths are highly-qualified manpower, high financial capital, a strategic physical store, and a healthy work environment. On the other hand, opportunities are external factors that can benefit the organization. These factors are mostly changes in the social, economic, or political environments that can be advantageous for an organization. Some examples of opportunities are technological innovations, changes in customer behavior, increased demand for specific products, waiving of taxes/tariffs, and investment opportunities.

Weaknesses Section

The “Weaknesses” section will list internal factors that are disadvantageous for the organization. These can be internal issues that can lower productivity and lead to poor performance. The section should include organizational factors that need to improve, missing services, and the market’s perception regarding an organization’s weaknesses (Toeli et al. 2021). Organizational factors that need improvements refer to an organization’s human, physical, and financial resources. These organizational aspects are integral in a company’s operations and issues regarding them can lead to bigger problems. Weakness in an organization’s financial resources could mean that it cannot pay proper wages and rent. This can lead to high turnover rates and low productivity.

Missing services refers to products or services that competitors offer and the organization does not. This type of weakness can lead an organization to have inferior service and become a less desirable alternative for top competitors. A missing service can be a product feature, such as a work laptop with replaceable batteries, that can be a deciding factor for customers. Identifying missing services will require market research which is also a step in recognizing the market’s perception of the organization’s weaknesses. Authors conducting a SWOT analysis can utilize data-gathering methods to identify missing services and find out the customers’ perceived weaknesses of the organization. Additionally, authors can conduct efficient market research by gathering customer data that includes the four factors of the analysis.

Threats Section

The “Threats” section focuses on external factors that are harmful to the organization. These factors are mostly changes in the business environment that can negatively affect operations and work performance. The section should answer questions regarding external problems that an organization has, competitors’ advantages, negative technological factors, and weaknesses that can affect customer experiences (Toeli et al. 2021). Identifying an organization’s external problems will allow an individual to list down the threats to their operations. Individuals must remember that “threats” are external and may be related to current social, economic, and political changes. Similar to weaknesses, external factors may also affect human, physical, and financial resources. Enumerating these threats in a SWOT analysis is integral in developing the best course of action for solving organizational problems.

Competitors’ advantages refer to factors that competitors are utilizing to get a better competitive position. A food and beverage competitor may be taking advantage of a local hot spot to distribute marketing materials and attract younger customers. Individuals must identify this type of threat to understand their competition’s operations and the steps they are taking to get ahead. Similarly, technological innovations can have disadvantageous effects on an organization as they can lead to replaceability. For example, the high demand and use of smart devices have replaced print media and have threatened the print industry (Quinn 2017). Lastly, threats should include external weaknesses that can affect customer experiences. These threats may include factors like weather, unforeseen competition, and the dissolution of markets (Kime 2016). These are uncontrollable factors that an organization can only prepare for but not affect directly. Identifying these types of threats can be integral in a strategic plan as it will allow an organization to be prepared.

Difference Between Weaknesses and Threats

Similar to strengths and opportunities, the main difference between weaknesses and threats is their relationship with the organization. Weaknesses are internal factors that can pose problems for the organization while threats are harmful external factors. Weaknesses are issues in an organization; such as poor financial resources, incomplete legal documents, lack of manpower, and inefficient production methods. Weaknesses tend to be problems that an organization can solve internally. In contrast, threats are factors that an organization cannot directly affect. Threats can often force an organization to conduct additional operations and strategies to avoid their negative consequences. Some examples of threats are bad weather, market crash, pandemic, the popularity of NFTs, government legislation banning certain services, and a high volume of new entrants in the industry.

SWOT Analysis Conclusion

After enumerating an organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats; an author should end the SWOT analysis with a conclusion. The conclusion should be a paragraph that will summarize the paper and provide insight regarding the next steps after the SWOT analysis. The summarization of the paper can include a brief restatement of each strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat. Depending on the objective of the paper, the insight can include a statement regarding general actions that the organization will take after the analysis. This can be a statement stating that an organization can move towards developing a plan or an argument that implies that an organization cannot move on with an existing strategy. To ensure that the contents of a SWOT analysis conclusion are complete, individuals can ask instructors about their expectations of the conclusion. For students, this will avoid getting poor marks due to an incomplete entry. For professionals, this will allow them to better understand the objective of the paper and ensure that they are conducting a proper analysis for the organization’s needs.

Should a SWOT Analysis have a Recommendation?

Some SWOT analysis includes a recommendation section to list and discuss the steps after the analysis. A recommendation section includes ideas on taking advantage of strengths and opportunities as well as addressing weaknesses and threats. The type of recommendation in the section will mostly depend on the paper’s objective. A SWOT analysis for a marketing plan can include recommendations about possible marketing campaigns and targets. An analysis to improve an organization’s operations may include discussions on addressing existing weaknesses.

A recommendation section can be helpful in providing the author’s insights regarding the organization’s current competitive position. However, including the section in the paper will be dependent on the instructor. For students, the sections of their SWOT analysis will be dependent on the instructions of their professors. In a professional environment, the recommendation section will be dependent on the party that will read and use it. If an entrepreneur is writing their own SWOT analysis, then including the section can help them establish their next step in developing the business. If an employee is writing the paper, they may need to ask their managers to avoid spending unnecessary time on a section that a separate department may ignore. 

Should You Use Jargon in a SWOT Analysis?

Aside from the recommendation section, a SWOT analysis may include jargon. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, jargon is a technical terminology that a particular group uses. Individuals often use this type of language to refer to a specific object or event in a particular field. However, jargon tends to only contain meaning for those that use it and are meaningless to third-party readers (Nordquist 2019). In a SWOT analysis, utilizing jargon will be dependent on the author’s target audience. If the author will present the analysis to industry experts that are familiar with the jargon they use, then the usage is acceptable. However, if the author aims to present the paper to potential investors that do not have deep knowledge about an industry, using jargon can lead to confusion and misunderstanding. Individuals should carefully assess the objective of their SWOT analysis and apply jargon only if it is necessary.

In conclusion, a SWOT analysis is a tool that individuals can use to assess an organization’s competitive position. It entails the identification of an organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Strengths and opportunities are beneficial factors within and outside an organization. A company can utilize these factors to improve its performance and gain a better competitive position. Weaknesses and threats are harmful internal and external factors to an organization. Addressing these factors is integral in establishing a successful organization and improving productivity. A SWOT analysis is a simple but effective method in business planning that can help in establishing an insightful business strategy.

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