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Practical guidelines for writing a technical or scientific report J. De Schutter, K.U.Leuven/PMA.

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Presentation on theme: "Practical guidelines for writing a technical or scientific report J. De Schutter, K.U.Leuven/PMA."— Presentation transcript:

1 Practical guidelines for writing a technical or scientific report J. De Schutter, K.U.Leuven/PMA

2 n How important are written and oral reporting for an engineer, and why are they important ? n What is the most important basic principle of good reporting ?

3 Overview n Introduction n General remarks n Guidelines for contents n How to structure thoughts ? n Guidelines for style n Examples n Conclusion n Epilogue: guidelines for oral presentations

4 Introduction n Objective – Improve the quality of reports n Reports of project works 1st+2nd+3rd ir. n Reports of design project 2nd ir. n Thesis 3rd ir. + postgraduate programs n Technical report n Publication (journal or conference paper...)

5 General remarks (1) n Reporting is an essential part of any technical or scientific activity ( %...) n Basic principle: Make it as simple as possible for the reader !! –  “Guide” the reader –  Give a clear message –  Be concise

6 General remarks (2) n And, furthermore: – Report is your “name card” – Proper reporting requires special effort – Writing down brings about better understanding

7 Guidelines for contents (1) n Title – Aim: give reader exact idea of contents –  should cover contents as specifically as possible: n as specific as possible n every word is important –  is decided at the very last moment ! – Example: n BAD: “Detector of air bubbles” n GOOD: “Design of an ultrasonic detector of air bubbles for blood lines”

8 Guidelines for contents (2) n Abstract – Aim: n indicates clearly own contributions n helps reader to decide whether report is of interest to him –  Only summarises conclusions, no explanation –  Is written at the last moment !

9 Guidelines for contents (3) n Table of contents – Aim: n allows to jump to specific part of the text n reveals structure of report –  structure should be logical and transparant !

10 Guidelines for contents (4) n Introduction – Situate problem or assignment – Give relation with literature/previous work (  references !) – Give short description of activities/procedures followed – Summarise most important conclusions – Give structure of report (refer to different parts)

11 Guidelines for contents (5) n Chapters/Sections – Logical/transparant structure and sequence – Equilibrated sections (approx. same length) – Limited subdivisions n three for thesis: e.g n two for publication or short report: e.g. 3.5 – Usual order: theory/experimental set-up/ results + discussion

12 Guidelines for contents (6) n Chapters/Sections (continued) – Contents of chapters of thesis: n Introduction: – Short description of activity + procedure – Conclusions of chapter – Structure of chapter n Sections n Conclusion

13 Guidelines for contents (7) n (General) Conclusion – Recaps most important conclusions – Gives suggestions for further study/research – BAD: situate problem, explain, motivate, etc. n References: complete and systematic !! – chronological – order of appearance – alphabetical

14 Guidelines for contents (8) n Appendices – Non-essential details that harm readability n Long proofs n Long calculations n Extensive experimental results n Deviations from main line of thought

15 How to structure thoughts ? (1) n Rule 1: Treat all necessary topics – Example: cycle of combustion engine

16 How to structure thoughts ? (2) – A. Intake stroke 1. Increase of volume 2. Decrease of pressure 3. Inflow of gas mixture 4. Closing of intake valve – B. Compression stroke 1. Decrease of volume 2. Increase of temperature – C. Power stroke 1. Increase of volume 2. Evolution of pressure 3. Opening of exhaust valve 4. Outflow of combustion gases

17 How to structure thoughts ? (3) n Rule 2: Omit all unnecessary (irrelevant) topics – Example: cycle of combustion engine: no description of carburetter – How do irrelevant topics sneak in ? n We work hard on something we are interested in... n Some subject is very close to our subject... n After some time we find out that the original scope was too wide and we have to narrow down.

18 How to structure thoughts ? (4) n Regel 3: With a top-down procedure: divide each topic in all its sub-topics – Every sub-topic can only belong to one sub- topic of a higher level (‘father’) – Every sub-topic should be at the same level with at least one other sub-topic

19 How to structure thoughts ? (5) n Regel 4: Order each group of sub-topics in a good way – Avoid cross division: use unique criterion ! – Example: n A. Machines – 1. Pumps a. Principle pumps b. Secondary pumps c. Tertiary pumps d. Centrifugal pumps...

20 How to structure thoughts ? (6) – Avoid cross division: use unique criterion ! – Example: n I. Shoes – 1. Leather – 2. Wood – 3. Textile – 4. Cardboard – 5. Safety shoes – 6. Health shoes – 7. Child shoes

21 How to structure thoughts ? (7) n Rule 5: Use as much as possible parallel treatment and parallel structure – Example: n BAD: – I. How heat is generated – II. Measurement of heat – III. Heat transfer

22 How to structure thoughts ? (8) n GOOD: – I. Generation of heat – II. Measurement of heat – III. Transfer of heat – I. Heat generation – II. Heat measurement – III. Heat transfer

23 How to structure thoughts ? (9) – Questionnaire – Does the table of contents express a certain objective ? – Does the table of contents contain the essentials of the subject ? – Does the table of contents include the whole subject ? – Is the table of contents clear ? Do the topic headings make sense ? – Is every topic sufficiently divided in sub-topics ? – Are the chosen headings the most appropriate ones (for your objectives) ? – Are all superfluous topics omitted ?

24 How to structure thoughts ? (10) – Do the groups of headings express the relative length of all parts of the finished report ? – Does the table of contents a feeling of unity, rather than a simple collection of headings ? – Does every heading, if it is subdivided, have at least two sub-headings ? – Are there less than six sub-headings ? – (If not: check if all sub-headings are indeed at the same level) – Is every sub-heading placed under the right heading ? – Is every group of sub-headings free of cross division – If advisable, is parallel treatment and parallel wording being used ?

25 Guidelines for style (1) n General – Conciseness n Delete all meaningless words, sentences,... n Avoid repetition – Guide the reader n Use introductory sentences and refer later on n Define all concepts !! n Never leave the reader with questions n Do not try out the reader’s curiosity

26 Guidelines for style (2) n Paragraph – ‘Topic sentence’: sentence around which the other sentences of the paragraph are being developed – Methods to develop the paragraph ? n from general to detail n from physical cause to consequence n order according to space or time n by analogy n by example

27 Guidelines for style (3) n by comparison or contrast n by explanation of a definition n from simple to complex n by proof (induction or deduction) n by order of importance n...

28 Guidelines for style (4) n Sentence – Use short, simple sentences – Introduce only one new idea per sentence – Make the most important element subject and place it in front – Avoid the use of we/I/one n BAD: “In this chapter we describe how we have extended the 2D system to a 3D system”

29 Guidelines for style (5) n Sentence (continued) – Indicate clearly relation with previous sentence n use reference words – conjunctions – prepositions – demonstrative pronouns n punctuation marks (between parts of compound sentence) – Use parallel wording for parallel constructions

30 Guidelines for style (6) n Verbs – Active: prefer active form over passive form n BAD: “In this chapter it is described how the 2D- system is extended to a 3D-system.” n GOOD: “This chapter describes the extension from a 2D-system to a 3D-system.” n BAD: “Following results are obtained in this experiment:...” n GOOD: “This experiment yields following results:...”

31 Guidelines for style (7) n Verbs (continued) – Active: replace noun by verb n BAD: Title: – “Control of heavy machines … for … in...” n GOOD: Title: – “Controlling heavy machines … for … in …” – Simplicity: use as much as possible present tense – Direct: avoid verbs like would/should/can/could/may/...

32 Guidelines for style (8) n Choice of words – As specific as possible n BAD: “a transducer” n GOOD: “a strain gauge” n BAD: “is obtained” n GOOD: “is measured” or: “is calculated” – No poetic descriptions n Always use same word for same concept n Choose simplest expression

33 Guidelines for style (9) n Formulas and symbols – Use standard symbols and notations – Avoid double use of symbols – Define symbols where they appear first – Insert short formulas in text – Write longer formulas on separate line – Use punctuation marks, for example: “This yields y = ax 2 + bx + c, where a, b and c result from (3.23).”

34 Guidelines for style (10) n Figures and tables – Sufficiently large and clear – Label axes + units + scales – Show most significant results – Refer to figure or table in text – Add explanatory caption to figure or table

35 Guidelines for style (11) n Appendices – Add necessary explanation !

36 Examples (1a) n Both methods are applicable to systems that can be considered single degree of freedom and few restrictions are imposed upon the type of nonlinearity. The methods are self- consistent in the sense that no apriori knowledge about the nonlinear system characteristics is required and no initial estimates or approximative functions have to be provided. (54 words)

37 Examples (1b) n Both methods apply only to single degree of freedom systems, however with few restrictions imposed upon the type of nonlinearity. They require no prior knowledge about the type of nonlinearity: no initial estimates or approximate functions are needed. (38 words)

38 Examples (2a+b) n De wagen met zijn weggedrag dat bepaald is door de stuurgeometrie en de ophanging, afvering, demping en belading, is wat ze is. (22 woorden) n De stuurgeometrie, de ophanging (vering en demping) en de belading bepalen het weggedrag van de wagen. Zij worden gegeven verondersteld. (20 woorden)

39 Examples (3a) n Indien niet de ideale overbrengverhouding No, maar een andere overbrengverhouding N, gekozen wordt voor de gegeven inerties en de andere gegevens, dan definieert men een energiefaktor rho die de verhouding is van de energiedissipatie bij de gekozen overbrengverhouding N tot de ideale overbrengverhouding No. (44 woorden)

40 Examples (3b) n De energiefactor  wordt gedefinieerd als de verhouding van de gedissipeerde energie bij de gekozen overbrengingsverhouding N tot de gedissipeerde energie bij de ideale overbrengingsverhouding N o. (26 woorden)

41 Examples (4a+b) n A self-calibration procedure will deduce the systematic errors of the CMM’s and this information can be used in an on-line error correction of single measurements by the CMM. (28 words) n A calibration procedure determines the systematic errors of the CMM. These are then used for on-line error correction. (18 words)

42 Examples (5a) – Als er een goede instelling voor de PID- regelaar zou bestaan, dan kunnen we ons voorstellen dat bij uitval van de koppelsensor er wordt overgegaan op een algoritme dat het gemeten koppel aan het stuur vervangt door het berekende T_in_experimenteel. We hebben dan dus een regeling zonder koppelsensor die toch koppelgevoelig is. Evenwel is het adaptatievermogen van de nieuwe regeling zero geworden. (62 woorden)

43 Examples (5b) – Bij uitval van de koppelsensor kan het koppel T in,experimenteel, berekend door een goed ingestelde PID-regelaar, het gemeten koppel aan het stuur vervangen. Zo ontstaat een regeling zonder koppelsensor, die toch koppelgevoelig is. Deze regeling is echter niet adaptief. (38 woorden)

44 Conclusion – Reporting is important; it is an essential part of the work – Reporting requires special effort and critical attitude – Basic principle: make it as simple as possible – Practical guidelines for n Structure of contents n Style – Reports of project works, design projects, thesis projects are very good exercise !

45 Epilogue: guidelines for oral presentations (1) n Same as report: guide listener, give clear message, be concise n Slides: – characters big enough – not too much information on one slide – start with overview + end with conclusion – use pointer – no ‘strip-tease’

46 Epilogue: guidelines for oral presentations (2) n Guidelines for speaking: – speak loud enough – face the audience – do not use stopgaps – respect time limit – prepare very well and practise !


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