* Final report guidelines

hand pen computer guidelinesThe seminar paper accounts for fully half of your final grade in this course.  The way in which you present it is important and in the following we set out the standards and details of presentation that we expect will be rigorously adhered to.

Once you have absorbed the following, I invite you to have a close look at the section on Bibliographic Referencing and Citation, to which you can link  here.

Fair use, copyright, citation and original work

Before we get into the details, let me plead with you to be very careful as you prepare your working materials and start to  write to be careful to acknowledge your sources in the proper way. We live in an era of such enormous availability of materials on just about any subject, and all that often only one easy click away. But we also have minds. So show me in your paper how you use your mind and acknowledge all those sources in the appropriate way.

Failure  to attribute your sources properly in academic work or journalism is called plagiarism, that is: appropriating ideas or words of others and presenting them as your own without attributing those words or ideas to their true source.   Today it’s a serious generational problem — always existed but today in the era of the internet and infinite information on an infinity of topics, the temptations and tools are there for all of us (this writer included)

The Wikipedia article on plagiarism at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagiarism does a pretty good job on the topic.

Within academia, plagiarism by students, professors, or researchers is considered academic dishonesty or academic fraud, and offenders are subject to academic censure, up to and including expulsion. In journalism, plagiarism is considered a breach of journalistic ethics, and reporters caught plagiarizing typically face disciplinary measures ranging from suspension to termination of employment. Some individuals caught plagiarizing in academic or journalistic contexts claim that they plagiarized unintentionally, by failing to include quotations or give the appropriate citation. While plagiarism in scholarship and journalism has a centuries-old history, the development of the Internet, where articles appear as electronic text, has made the physical act of copying the work of others much easier.

It is important for you to be able to read and interpret a reference, and for your assignments in this course to know how to write one properly. There are no absolute rules for setting out references, but certain information must be given.

You must always give a reference in the text during, or directly after, each sentence or short section in which you draw upon or summarize someone’s work or ideas. When referring to a particular source, you give:

  • Author (s) name
  • Title and date of publication (in brackets)
  • Page number if quoting directly or referring to a point clearly located on a particular page

To conclude: Have confidence in your ability to express yourself in your own words. Do not ever, EVER  use the words of someone else without properly and clearly acknowledging your source.

 Summary of Guidelines for your reports

1. Do a proper title page
2. Prepare a brief abstract
3. Table of contents (With page numbers of sections)
4. Number all pages
5. Create and number section titles for clarify and to facilitate rapid reading
6. Draft a final chapter to summarize your: Findings, Conclusions, Recommendations and suggestions for Next Steps, if any
7. Follow course guidelines for all references, foot and endnotes, and bibliography – http://wp.me/P1zD54-fA
8. Run spell-check one last time

1. Title page
• Name of course and school at top of page, centered
• Title

o Your choice of title should make it immediately clear to the reader who was not involved in the course what you are reporting on.
o You may want to give a thought to a double title: the first half telling the reader about the general area under study. And the second half telling more about the particular approach of the author. Here’s an example:
o “A new approach to carsharing in Greece: Outline proposal for a business Plan”

• Author’s name, Place of writing, date of submittal
• “Term paper submitted for accreditation for the course: “Sustainable Development, Business & Society”, Professor, Eric Britton, course date.

2. Abstract
• 150 word max abstract of your paper. To appear immediately after the title page.
• Best written towards the end, but not at the very last minute because you will probably need several drafts.
• It should be a highly succinct distillation of the paper: a concise description of the issue(s) addressed, methodology, main results and conclusions.
• An abstract must be self-contained. Usually they do not contain references. Remember: even though it appears at the beginning, an abstract is not an introduction. It is a concise résumé of your main points.
• For those who chose to have their papers on file for future reference in the course library at http://www.scribd.com/my_document_collections/3136287 I the entire abstract is entered into the introductory section, along with the key words.

3. Keywords:
• You are invited to provide up to ten keywords so that your document can be called up.

4. Acknowledgments
• If appropriate, a concise note of thanks to those who have helped the student to be there to write the thesis.
• If any of your work is collaborative, you must make it quite clear who did which sections.

5. Table of contents
• The introduction starts on page 1, the earlier pages should have roman numerals.
• It helps to have the subheadings of each chapter, as well as the chapter titles.

6. Introduction
• What is your chosen topic and why is it important? State the problem(s) as simply as you can.
• Do not overestimate the reader’s familiarity with your topic.
• Your introduction should remainder of the report. For the first paragraph or two, tradition permits prose that is less dry than the usual academic norm. If you want to wax lyrical about your topic, here is the place to do it.
• This section might go through several drafts to make it read well and logically, while keeping it short. For this section, I think that it is a good idea to ask someone who is not a specialist to read it and to comment. Is it an adequate introduction? Is it easy to follow? There is an argument for writing this section—or least making a major revision of it—towards the end of the report drafting.

7. Language
• Many of you are working with English as you second or third language.
• No problem because in all cases your degree of familiarity with English as a spoken and read language gives you considerable potential to write an intelligible, readable report.
• Simplicity of language will be a big help as well as the rest of the hints that you will find here.
• If it were at all possible, I would like very much to have the paper also available in your first language. That of course is not a requirement, but it would I think be an interesting exercise for you as well to write your piece in your first language once you have finished your formal submittal for credit. And if you do, I would like very much to see it.

8. Style
• Your text must be clear. Good grammar and thoughtful writing will make the thesis easier to read.
• Native English speakers should remember that scientific English is an international language. Slang and informal writing will be harder for a non-native speaker to understand.
• Short sentences are better than longer ones.
• Short paragraphs are better than longer ones (because the focus the reader’s eye and mind. Including by the way your own – leading one hopes to more thought and more clarity.
• Short, simple phrases and words are often better than long ones.
• Sometimes it is easier to present information and arguments as a series of numbered points, rather than as one or more long and awkward paragraphs. A list of points is usually easier to write. You should be careful not to use this presentation too much: your thesis must be a connected, convincing argument, not just a list of facts and observations.
• One important stylistic choice is between the active voice and passive voice. The active voice (“I measured the frequency…”) is simpler, and it makes clear what you did and what was done by others. The passive voice (“The frequency was measured…”) makes it easier to write ungrammatical or awkward sentences. If you use the passive voice, be especially wary of dangling participles. An excellent and widely used reference for English grammar and style is A Dictionary of Modern English Usage by H.W. Fowler.

9. Presentation of report
• I would ask you to submit your reports in MS Word or some compatible form.
• You may also if you wish submit it as a PDF. That would be a nice courtesy

10 Bibliography and references
• Absolutely critical for a paper submitted for credit
• You can see our detailed guidelines at http://wp.me/P1zD54-fA. Please follow them closely.
• In a later edition of these guidelines, the reference section will be redrafted and will appear here.

11. Depository of course papers.
• I keep copies of papers written for all my course in a personal e-library.
• For those who chose to have their papers on file for future reference, we have a library for all agreed course papers at http://www.scribd.com/my_document_collections/3136287
• If you chose not to have your paper on file, please let me know and it will be entered as a private document and not available to anyone other than the professor and the ISG administration. For those that are in the library, the entire abstract is entered into the introductory section.

12. Your comments, criticism, suggestions on these guidelines
• Please do not hesitate to share them with me via eric.britton@ecopllan.org

# # #

[1] I have freely used sections of the report of the University of New South Wales entitled “How to Write a PhD Thesis” in parts of the above. Their much more detailed  guidelines are  oriented to graduate students in the PhD program in physics. You can see their full article at http://phys.unsw.edu.au/~jw/thesis.html

One thought on “* Final report guidelines

  1. Pingback: Quick Reports | Sustainable Development, Economy & Society

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