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How to Write a Good Report

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Bánh Mì Thịt Heo

on 25 February 2014

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Transcript of How to Write a Good Report

How to Write a Good Report
Tomas Maul
(This talk is based on slides by Khalid Al Murrani and Michel Bister)


"Without publication, science is dead."

Gerald Piel

"Work, finish, publish."

Michael Faraday

♣ Front matters

Title:
What is this?
Author(s) & affiliation:
Who wrote this?
Abstract:
Summary of the work
Acknowledgements:
Who helped?
(Table of Contents)
(List of Tables)
(List of Figures)

Title
♦ Short
♦ Accurate
♦ Informative
♦ Include key-words:

♦ No abbreviations

1 Preface
Structure
Ngô Thị Mỹ Duyên
Nguyễn Thị Hoàng Thư
Dương Thị Hiền Trang
Nguyễn Hoàng Trúc Linh


Body of the report

Introduction:

What are we talking about?
Method:
How did we measure?
Results:
What did we measure?
Discussion:
What does it mean?
Conclusions:

What should be remembered?



End matters

References:
Whose work was referred to?
Appendices:
Extra information

Outline
1 Preface
2 Structure
Fron matters:
Title
Abstract
Acknowledgements
Body of the report:
Introduction
Method
Results
Discussion
Conclusions
End matters:
References
Appendices
3 Style
4 Grammar
5 General Recommendations
6 Bibliography
2
Khalid Al Murrani,
"How to Write a Good Report", 2008-2009

Allow search engines to find the article
Khalid Al Murrani,
"How to Write a Good Report", 2008-2009
Abstract
Khalid Al Murrani,
"How to Write a Good Report", 2008-2009
☼ Summary of work

☼ Should be self-contained (no references)

☼ 1-2 sentences for each of the 5 main parts (introduction,
method, results, discussion, conclusions) – then streamline

☼ High information content
☼ No abbreviations

☼ 200-300 words

☼ Best (re-)written last

☼ All information should be covered in the body of the report

Introduction
- Usually too long

- Best
written last
(or at least rewritten).
The work it requires (e.g. background reading) needs to be done first.

- Provides
background information:

Starts wide and focuses quickly

- Tries to
catch the interest

-
Introduces
each and every
new idea, concept, symbol, abbreviation

-
Places paper in context
: relation to other work

- Defines scope and
purpose of the work.

- What
problem(s)
are we trying to solve?
What
question(s)
are we trying to answer?

-
Shows what has been done before:
Literature review
Refer to main authors/works in the field (most relevant work)
Refer to most recent work in the field (use Citation Index)

-
Shows what has NOT been done before
(and was done in the present work)
Shows WHY the study needed to be done
Objectives

Khalid Al Murrani,
"How to Write a Good Report", 2008-2009
Method
Khalid Al Murrani,
"How to Write a Good Report", 2008-2009
☼ What
method(s)
did we use to
address our problem(s)
?
What
method(s)
did we use to
answer our question(s)
?

☼ Must allow
evaluation of the results
.

☼ Must allow
verification of the results.

☼Describe
experimental set-up, instruments, rocedures, statistical processing

☼ Describe evaluation
procedure


☼ Mention all settings, controls, variables, processing, etc.

☼Assume
basic knowledge
of the field

☼Can include
photographs
and/or
diagrams

☼May include
limitations, assumptions, range of validity

☼Describe
what was actually done
, NOT what should have been done



Khalid Al Murrani,
"How to Write a Good Report", 2008-2009
Result
☼Purely objective

☼Only facts and observations
- No opinions or interpretations!

☼Text
- Summarizes most important results of tables and figures
- Guides readers through tables and figures
- Provides clarifying information
- Points to anomalies in the results

☼Figures

- Label all axes
- Mention all units
- Use same scaling for figures that need to be compared
- Put caption BELOW the figure
- Number the figures sequentially
- Include the figure immediately after the first reference
to it in the text (unless page layout does not permit)


☼ Figures

- Put all required info on the figure (if possible) – not in caption or text

- Avoid crowded figures

- Avoid the use of color


☼ Tables

- Label all columns

- Mention all units

- Put caption ABOVE the table

- Number the tables sequentially

- Include the table immediately after the first reference to it in the text
(unless page layout does not permit).


☼ Use EITHER table OR figure for a particular subset of results

☼ Do not use more decimals in a number than you could measure

☼ Give an estimate of the measurement error

☼ Also include “negative” results
- They are often the source of the major discoveries




Khalid Al Murrani,
"How to Write a Good Report", 2008-2009
Discussion
☼ Only place where the author can and should be less objective

☼ Interpret your results. Did we solve our problem(s)? Did we answer our question(s)?

☼ Put results in perspective

☼ Major patterns

☼ Relationships, trends, generalizations

☼ Exceptions to observed patterns and generalizations




☼ Only place where the author can and should be less objective

☼ Interpret your results. Did we solve our problem(s)?
Did we answer our question(s)?

☼ Put results in perspective

☼ Major patterns

☼ Relationships, trends, generalizations

☼ Exceptions to observed patterns and generalizations

☼ Differences with published work or expected results

☼ Possible explanations for differences/ discrepancies

☼ Point out potential shortcomings

☼ Recommendations for future work

☼ Theoretical implications

☼ Possible applications

☼ Possible generalizations





9 Conclusion
What do you want the reader to remember?
Should be self-contained (no references)
Typically 2-3 paragraphs (1 idea per paragraph)
Acknowledgements
Thank all who have directly contributed to the work
Thank any sponsoring organizations
Thank any external reviewer
Do not thank relatives and friends
References
All statements, ideas, figures, tables of others should be referenced
Cite current AND recent publications
Current: reference (seminal) papers

Recent: show that you know what are the recent developments in the field (use Citation Index, e.g.: Google Scholar “Cited by …”).

Reference only the works that you have actually read

Should
be clear
enough for the reader to locate it
Should contain:
author name(s), title, location, date
Location
:
Publisher and city (for books)
Journal name volume and page(s) (for articles)
Conference name, date, and location, and page in the proceedings (for conference papers)
Department and University (for theses)
URL (for Web pages)
Follow the imposed format

Refereed journals
are better than conference papers
Conference papers
are better than Web sites
Try to
avoid Web sites
They are not reviewed
They are transient
-> try to locate similar information in regular literature
Encyclopedias, textbooks, lab sheets are poor references
Review articles are particularly valuable

Appendices
Additional material that is only meant for technical reading
E.g.: mathematical proofs, raw results, circuit diagrams, …
Non-essential to comprehension
Further clarify report
Each appendix should contain different data/information
Appendices should be referred to in the text


3 Style
Paragraph
One idea per paragraph
One paragraph per idea
First sentence of paragraph is main idea
Rest of paragraph defines the idea
Tense
Passive
Avoid use of pronouns (I, we, you, …)

Numbering
Number all pages
Number all headings except abstract
Hierarchical numbering of headings
Avoid repetitions
Use
formal and impersonal language
Use
a consistent style
Respect
the structure

Use the standard model unless there is a strong reason for not doing so
E.g
: several radically different parts ~> split up methods, results (and maybe discussion) per part
Advantages of standard model
Helps structure the report
Avoids forgetting essential parts
Helps separate data from opinions
Helps readers to do selective reading
Khalid Al Murrani,
"How to Write a Good Report", 2008-2009
Khalid Al Murrani,
"How to Write a Good Report", 2008-2009
Khalid Al Murrani,
"How to Write a Good Report", 2008-2009
Khalid Al Murrani,
"How to Write a Good Report", 2008-2009
Khalid Al Murrani,
"How to Write a Good Report", 2008-2009
Khalid Al Murrani,
"How to Write a Good Report", 2008-2009
Khalid Al Murrani,
"How to Write a Good Report", 2008-2009
Khalid Al Murrani,
"How to Write a Good Report", 2008-2009
4 Grammar
Should be impeccable
Spelling also
Articles
First time a process, part or concept is introduced: “a” or “an”
Subsequently use: “the”
No article for uncountable nouns (e.g. NOT “a happiness”)
Use short sentences

5 General Recommendations
Be as brief as possible
Avoid unnecessary abbreviations
Know your audience
Don’t repeat the things the reader knows
Don’t copy the information from the lab sheets
Remove unnecessary words, sentences, paragraphs
Weigh each word
Every word should be accurate, justified and useful

The main purpose is to convey information
Don’t try to entertain
Good presentation is less important than sound technical content
Don’t over-emphasize format (you are not studying to be a technical secretary)
Follow the imposed format right from the beginning

Proofread and let it be proofread
Follow preferably the same structure (sub-headings) in methods, results and discussion parts
A good report should demonstrate comprehension, not just state facts
Check visibility and readability


6 Bibliography
UNiM Library:
DG Riordan, SE Pauley, "Technical report writing today,“ Houghton Mifflin Company (Boston), 1999
R Barrass, "Scientists must write: a guide to better writing forscientists, engineers and students," Routledge (London), 2002
JW Davies, "Communication skills: a guide for engineering and applied science students," Pearson Education Asia Ltd (Singapore), 2001
JN Borowick, "Technical communication and its applications," Prentice Hall (New Jersey), 2000
DF Beer, D McMurrey, "A guide to writing as an engineer," John Wiley & Sons, Inc (New York), 1997
R Ellis, "Communication for engineers: bridge that gap," Arnold (London), 1997
S Goodlad, "Speaking technically: a handbook for scientists,engineers, and physicians on how to improve technical presentations,“ Imperial College Press (London), 1996
HF Wolcott, "Writing up qualitative research," 2001
JN Borowick, "How to write a lab report," 2000

Web:
CD Ingersoll, “Scientific Writing,” http://www.healthsystem.virginia.edu/internet/MTPCI/Introcourse04/9.-Ingersoll---Scientific-Writing.ppt , 23 Nov 2004
RL Boxman, “How to Write a Good Paper,” http://www.isdeiv.tavrida.com/instructions.ppt, last accessed: 14 Feb 2005
K Boone, “How to Write a Technical Report,” http://www.kevinboone.com/howto_report.html, 8 Jul 2004
“The Stucture, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Stye Scientific Paper,” http://abacus.bates.edu/~ganderso/biology/resources/writing/HTWsections.html, 25 Sep 2003
“Scientific Paper Writing,” http://www.geocities.com/EnchantedForest/Palace/1170/scipprwrt.html, last accessed: 14 Feb 2005
K Kastens, S Pfirman, M Stute, et al, “How to Write Your Thesis,” http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/~martins/sen_sem/thesis_org.html, last accessed: 14 Feb 2005
R Irish, “Laboratory Reports,” http://www.ecf.toronto.edu/~writing/handbook-lab.html, 19 Aug 2002
“How to Write a Scientific Paper?”, http://www.bioen.utah.edu/faculty/KWH/teach/BE4201/How_to_w.pdf, last accessed: 14 Feb 2005
“How to Write a Laboratory Report,” http://www.mhhe.com/biosci/genbio/maderinquiry/supp/moorech5.html, last accessed: 14 Feb 2005
G Dillard, “The Scientific Paper,” http://bioweb.wku.edu/courses/Biol398/Paper/paperText.html, last accessed: 14 Feb 2005
M Longan, “How to Write a Research Report and Give a Presentation,” http://www.valpo.edu/geomet/geo/courses/geo361/presenting.html, last accessed: 14 Feb 2005
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