Not every paper, even all the possible papers that draw on source material, looks like a "research" paper. Even research papers in different disciplines look quite different. So don't restrict your thinking to a paper that starts with a claim or statement of focus and then proceeds to draw on source material to develop that focus.
Would a management report be the most realistic way for students to present the information they've collected? If you want students to develop an argument, might an extended editorial for a major newspaper work as an alternative format? Perhaps field notes might best be turned into an article for a mainstream magazine. Brochures, pamphlets, newsletters all provide different formats that students can use to present their ideas. If changing the format will help students take your assignment context more seriously, then the alternative format is essential. Across campus, instructors have used posters, management proposals, design proposals, letters, articles, and even lab reports to help students engage with the specific context (and audience) for an assignment.