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How to write a good report

How to write a good report

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How to write a good report

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  1. Peter Ross School of Computing Rom D34 P.Ross@napier.ac.uk How to write a good report

  2. In brief: • If you are interested, it shows. If you are not interested, it shows. So write about the interesting stuff ... or get interested • You are telling a story and it is not about you. It is about something you know a bit about. • Stick to the point, don't ramble!

  3. In brief .. continued • Don't overdo the fancy fonts and layouts. • Don't be afraid to scrap a whole chunk and rewrite it – give yourself time to get it right! • Write the introduction last of all. • There is no secret – you get better with practice.

  4. Being precise vs being intelligible What was written: “The Rags (Wiping Rags) (Maximum Charges) Order 1943 (as amended) shall have effect as if in Article 1 thereof for the figure '8' where it occurs in the last line there were substituted the figure 11½ ...” And what it meant: “This Order permits launderers of wiping rags to add 11½ percent to the charges they were making during the week beginning the 31st August, 1942, for such work.”

  5. Being interested, having fun • What are you really writing about? • Didn't work out? It's OK to say so! Tell the reader something helpful .. eg why it didn't work out. • Figure out what the reader would like to know and tell them... • A good report can entertain and amuse the reader.

  6. Do you really need to write all that stuff? • Think about it ... does the reader really need to hear all that technical detail? All that stuff about how you struggled? ...

  7. It does not take much to ruin a report Such as: Tasteless jokes... Inserting boring textbook stuff.. Pointless digressions...

  8. Team work:

  9. Say what you did, not what you said you would do

  10. Writing: using “I” and “we”... You are writing a report, not a diary or a novel. “I did X” => “X was done” can look weird. Lectures, manuals, travel guides ... do they use “I” and “we”? You are informing and instructing the reader.

  11. Keep things short and sensible Q: When he went, had you gone and had she, if she wanted to and were able, for the time being excluding all the restraints on her not to go, gone also, would he have brought you, meaning you and she, with him to the station?MR. BROOKS: Objection. That question should be taken out and shot Q: Now, doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, in most cases he just passes quietly away and doesn't know anything about it until the next morning?

  12. Pictures are worth a thousand words sometimes Literally: “a picture's meaning can express ten thousand words” ... but not always. Think! Could you have used that space on the page better?

  13. Tables, graphs and so on Some headings are too wide; too many decimal places; columns in awkward-to-read order; ...

  14. Tables, graphs, continued The same data, using errorbars. But no axis labels...

  15. Tables, graphs, continued Very few pie-charts are worth the space:

  16. What this report is about Other people's ideas Our design: why & why not Getting it to work Did it really work? So what? Some lessons References Add some individuality • Introduction • Background • Web site design • Implementation • Evaluation • Conclusions • References

  17. Finding good advice There is no shortage. Nike: Just Do It

  18. Some references Sir Ernest Gowers, The Complete Plain Words -- see www.ourcivilisation.com/smartboard/shop/gowerse/ War posters: www.wkac.ac.uk Dilbert: www.dilbert.com Legal sayings: www.fortunecity.com/campus/books/845/lawyer.htm

  19. Some other places to look Hazel Hall's page -- the ``General study skills'' bit: www.bim.napier.ac.uk/~hazel/gen-ho/rep-writ.htm John Ringwood's page (Dublin): odtl.dcu.ie/wp/1999/odtl-1999-03.html