Academic Writing AdviceAcademic, Writing, Advice
ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated
2021

How to Write a SWOT Analysis Paper

WriteOn

Successful businesses and people have been conducting SWOTs since at least the mid-twentieth century and have refined the process over time. The four categories you will explore in your SWOT analysis paper are Strengths (S), Weaknesses (W), Opportunities (O), and Threats (T). You can use SWOT analysis to help you assess your position in project planning, business development, finance, relationships, or for personal growth. Since SWOT analysis papers are usually assigned in business school or associated with business planning, we will focus on the steps for writing a SWOT analysis paper for business, but keep in mind that the process can be tailored to any situation—professional or personal.

If this process sounds laborious or daunting, do not fret: As with most things, conducting a SWOT analysis will get easier the more you do it, and eventually it might become an essential part of all of your decision-making processes. As you evaluate your business's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, you will gain skills and insights that can help you evaluate yourself, your business, and various decisions you are facing.

Better than a pros and cons list

Perhaps you are thinking, This sounds just like a pros and cons list. A SWOT analysis provides more information than a simple pros and cons list, and it makes it easier to identify potential action items and areas for growth. SWOT analysis considers more than just the pros and cons of a situation: It helps you identify internal and external factors that contribute to or inhibit your success.

Strengths and Weaknesses are generally considered internal factors, so they are things that you or your company can control or can work to improve.

Opportunities and Threats are typically external factors that occur outside of your business (i.e., things that you cannot control), but they are things that could significantly affect you or your business.

Identify your objective/goal

To get the most benefit from your SWOT analysis, be as specific as possible with your objective. If you are analyzing a business, consider focusing on one particular aspect of the business.

The best way to formulate your paper is to use a SWOT analysis chart to organize your thoughts before you actually start writing.

SWOT Analysis Chart
To make a SWOT analysis chart, simply draw a rectangle or square and divide it into four equal sections. You can also download our SWOT analysis chart.

Write down the initial strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, or threats that come to mind when you consider the objective. Use bullet points to separate items, be specific, and remember that you do not have to write in complete sentences on this chart. To be sure that you explore all applicable points, consider the following questions:

Strengths

  • What does the business do best?
  • What do people like about it?
  • What draws people to the business?
  • What does the business offer that competitors can't or don't offer?

Weaknesses

  • What puts the business at a disadvantage?
  • Consider employee feedback and customer reviews: Are there any items that multiple people have identified as issues?
  • In what areas does the business have less resources than competitors?
  • Why do potential clients choose a competitor over you?
  • What areas would you like to improve?

Be honest as you assess the business's weaknesses. Consider what aspects put your business at a disadvantage or what factors limit your growth potential. If you shy away from identifying weaknesses in this step, your SWOT analysis will not be effective or beneficial. Although it can be painful to identify weaknesses that are currently holding you back from personal or business growth, identifying and exploring these areas will give you the opportunity to improve. If you are uncertain if an item should be classified as a Weakness or a Threat, remember that Weaknesses are internal (things within the business that you can work to change) and Threats are external (things you have little or no control over). Also, accurately identifying weaknesses might help you recognize potential opportunities and/or threats.

Opportunities

  • Are there any potential market trends that suggest growth in your field in the coming year?
  • Does the business have any possible partnerships or sponsorships on the horizon?
  • Is the business considering expanding or developing new product lines or specialties?

In addition to any obvious opportunities, look at the strengths you've listed and see if there are any ways that you can turn strengths into opportunities.

Threats

  • Is the business affected by government policy? If so, are there any potential policy changes in the future?
  • What obstacles prevent you from doing more business or making more sales? Be specific and list them all.
  • Do you have periods of unreliable cash flow that threaten the business?
  • Does the weather or season affect the business?

Once you have listed all the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, prioritize the results in each category from most impactful to least. Prioritizing your results in each of the four categories will help you visualize each item's importance so you can see how it relates to the other areas.

Writing the SWOT analysis paper

Now that you have filled out the SWOT chart and prioritized your SWOT results, you have the basic information to begin drafting your SWOT analysis paper. As with any professional paper, start with a strong introduction and state your objection and the focus of your SWOT analysis. In the next four paragraphs, describe the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats that you prioritized on your SWOT analysis chart. If you have more items for each category than can comfortably fit in a paragraph, consider condensing your list. As you review the lists in each category, eliminate redundancies and consolidate similar items. If you still have too many items to fit in one paragraph after condensing, include one to three bullet points per paragraph, and try to keep the paragraphs balanced. For example, if you write three paragraphs for strengths, try to write three paragraphs for the other three categories as well.

Once you have identified and described your SWOTs, you can use your SWOT analysis chart to develop strategies and create a plan to achieve your business goals. The analysis is the most essential part of the SWOT analysis paper, because in this portion you will create action items and develop plans that can lead to future success. Assess each of the four areas (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) and look for commonalities or links between the categories. Some things to consider during this step:

  • Can you use one of your strengths to address a threat?
  • Look for ways to use your strengths to minimize your weaknesses.
  • How can you use your strengths to seize growth opportunities?
  • Is there a way to use your strengths to overcome threats?
  • Are there any weaknesses that you can address and eliminate?
  • Can you balance out a weakness by pursuing one of your opportunities?
  • Are your weaknesses preventing you from capitalizing on opportunities?
  • Are your weaknesses enhancing the likelihood that the business will suffer from a threat? If so, look to your strengths and see if there is a way to draw from your strengths to reduce the potential impact of the threat.

As you find connections between the bullet points in the four quadrants of your chart, start writing to generate ideas that you can turn into action. You can come back to edit these sentences and perfect these ideas later, but go ahead and record the thoughts now so you do not miss any potential connections. As you identify how different bullet points relate to each other, prioritize items that will generate revenue or reduce expenditure. Now, assess the action items that you have identified and put them in the order that makes the most sense to you. You can arrange your action items in the order that you would like to address them, or you can arrange them in the order that would make the most financial impact on the business. Organize the paragraphs in this section of the paper in your preferred order.

Now that you have performed a comprehensive SWOT analysis and identified action items to enhance strengths and reduce weaknesses, write a strong conclusion paragraph summarizing the most important findings. Keep in mind the purpose of your SWOT analysis paper here: If you intend to share this information with potential investors, make sure that you present a clear vision for growth and that you are realistic about how you will address weaknesses and potential threats. The crucial last step for any paper is to proofread, edit, and revise as needed. Now that you have completed your SWOT analysis and identified action plans, consider if applying a SWOT analysis to another aspect of your business or area of your life. Make a note in your calendar and conduct another SWOT analysis on this issue in six to twelve months so you can measure progress towards your goals.

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