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4/18/2007

Writing Technical Proposal

Lecture Overview
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Purpose of Technical Writing Proposal Characteristics General Tips on Default Style Tips on Prose Style

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Purpose of Technical Writing


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Present a new idea, product or result


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to an audience that can make use of it in a level of detail appropriate for that audience Algorithm System component (hardware, software, protocol) Performance eval. (analytical, simulated, measured) Theoretical framework (theorems, lemmas, etc) System model (way of looking at an object)
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Types of results
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Many Types of Technical Documents


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Journal Article or Conference Paper


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Tends to be very formal and precise style (3rd person) Novelty of results is of interest to a large audience Like above Synthesize existing results for researchers or students Often precedes formal publication; also formal and precise Results may be of interest only in-house More proactive, positive style (1st person) Must sell the idea on its technical merits

Review Papers/Tutorials
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Technical Report
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Grant Proposal
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Proposal Characteristics
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Straightforward document
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No extraneous or irreverent material


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Dont tell us why you became interested in the topic

The first words you write are the most important ones Clear, sharp and precise economy of words; no rambling sentences Outlined with proper use of headings and subheadings

Not a literary production


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Clearly organized
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Typical Proposal Outline


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Title, Abstract, Keywords (problem statement) Introduction and Overview


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Background information; problem description in context Hypotheses or objectives Assumptions and limitations Significance or Importance and benefits

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Related Work/Literature Review Research Methodology Plan of Work and Outcomes (deliverables, schedule) Conclusions and Future Work References Budget (appendix)
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Abstract
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Must be clear and concise (typ. 50 - 200 words)


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Reader must be able to quickly identify content Helps reader decide whether to read the paper problem significance approach results

Briefly summarize
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Do not cite references (abstract may be published alone)

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Problem Statement
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the sponsor to continue reading the proposal


know the dilemma, its significance and why something should be done to change the current status quo

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Research Objectives
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naturally from the problem statement


state your hypotheses clearly z give the reader a concrete, achievable goal

z Verify
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the consistency of the proposal

checking to see that each objective is discussed in the research design, data analysis and results sections
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Literature Review
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or historically significant research

studies z Always refer to the original source z Discuss how the literature applies, show the weaknesses in the design, discuss how you would avoid similar problems z How is your idea different/better?

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Importance/Benefits of the Study


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of the doing the study now z What are the potential impact on
Research in the area z Applications z Larger community
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you find this difficult to write, then most likely you have not understood the problem
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Research Design & Methodology


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What you are going to do in technical terms.


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May contain many subsections Be specific about what research methodology you will use and why Provide details of your proposed solutions to the problem and sub-problems Provide information for tasks such as sample selection, data collection, instrumentation, validation, procedures, ethical requirements

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Schedule or Planning
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the major phases of the project z exploratory studies, data analysis, report generation z Critical Path Method (CPM) of scheduling or Gantt chart may help

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Deliverables
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instruments z computer program z other technical reports

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Conclusions and Future Work


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Conclusions and future work


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drive the results home clearly and concisely


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restate your main results restate their significance

a reviewer or reader may start by reading the Introduction and Conclusions first Clearly state where we can go from here
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shows the work has a future invites participation from the readers

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Budget and Resources


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to special systems or computers z specialized computer algorithms z Itemized Budget z Budget Narrative
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part is usually an appendix

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Figures and Tables


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All objects and fonts must be clearly readable


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if a figure is too big, break it into smaller figures add a figure to hierarchically decompose it walk the reader through the figure or table clearly state the results you want the reader to see clearly state the relationships between related figures one good figure really is worth a thousand words a thousand bad figures are worth nothing

All must be accompanied by explanatory text


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Know what you want each figure to illustrate


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Figures and Tables


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Try to embed figures and tables in the main text


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if necessary, insert special section after References use hand-drawn figures only as a last resort Locate figure after paragraph containing 1st reference Do not refer to the following figure (they may move) e.g., Figure 1: 1998 Gnu-to-Gnat Population Ratios Generally located under a figure but above a table

Use graphical software if at all possible


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Must be numbered & referred to by number in the text


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All figures and tables need a short numbered caption,


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Appendices
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Use for long complex data of peripheral interest


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Data that would disrupt the flow of the main text, Data the casual reader does not need, e.g.
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Huge figures Large tables of raw data Complete source code listings

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Limit each appendix to 1 major topic Each must be lettered, and cited in the text by letter Remember, page numbers must be globally unique

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References and Citations


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References are listed in the References section


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Do not use footnotes for references Footnotes are used for parenthetical comments Alphabetical by last name of first author In order of citation in the paper All references in the list must be cited in the text All references cited in the text must be listed
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Options for order of the reference list:


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Must have a consistent mapping


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Plagiarism
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The use of someone elses intellectual property without proper citation of the source. Includes:
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Text: direct quotes or very close paraphrasing Ideas: concepts, definitions, observations, results, data, facts, claims, recommendations, etc. Figures or Tables: even if you redraw them

When in doubt, cite the source!

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General Advice on Writing Style


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Read instructions to authors (!!!)


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Also, look at recent issues of the target publisher or other sample proposals. incorrect style may it is rejected without being read
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especially true for grants & more competitive pubs no reviewer wants to read single-spaced 10-pt. font

Visual Presentation
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should be clear, clean, professional avoid cutsy, artsy, or overly distracting cosmetics
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Default Style (unless otherwise directed)


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8.5 x 11 inch or A4 paper


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If single-sided, no garbage on the back side Double-sided OK to conserve paper

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One inch margins all around Single-column format Professional looking font
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e.g. Times New Roman or LaTeX \rm font 12-point for normal text Dark, black, letter quality print (no dot matrix)
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Default Style (unless otherwise directed)


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Double-space or 1.5-space
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much easier to read allows room for reviewers comments Use some! Leave a blank line between paragraphs Indenting the 1st line is optional On-line submission even better
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Paragraphs
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Bind only in a 3-ring binder


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Default Style (unless otherwise directed)


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Numbering pages, figures, tables


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all numbers must be globally unique all must be in lexicographically increasing order, e.g.
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1, 2, 3, 4 I-1, I-2, I-3, II-1, II-2, II-3 (for very long reports)

Numbering Chapters, Sections, Subsections


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must be globally unique and hierarchical, e.g. 1.3 Gnus and Gnats 1.3.1 Gnus 1.3.2 Gnats I.C Gnus and Gnats I.C.a Gnus I.C.b Gnats

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Prose Style
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use the third person

Draws attention to the topic, not the author z Passive voice is quite common,
e.g. the intermediate results are then passed from the ALU to the register bank z heavy use of forms of to be flags passive voice
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Active voice can be clearer and shorter


e.g. The ALU then passes the intermediate results to the register bank z Just beware of anthropromorphizations
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Prose Style
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the First Person to identify your contributions


A gnus is defined as leaves doubt z We define a gnu as leaves no doubt
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Avoid Explicit Second Person:

Readers dont like being given orders. z Exceptions:


Paper navigation: Recall from Subsection 3.3 z Tutorials
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Prose Style
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consistent verb tense

Present tense = default z Past tense:


referring to previous work z backwards references in the paper,
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Future tense:
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Forward references in the paper

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not use contractions in formal writing


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Prose Style
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When used in-line, numbers 10 are spelled out Avoid excessive mathematics in-line Equations need some explanatory text Always define an abbreviation at its first use
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e.g. the Command and Control Bus (CCB) exceptions: universal terms (RAM, ROM, CPU)
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Again, know your audience (e.g. ATM)

If you have not used a term for several pages, then redefine it when it is reintroduced.
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Prose Style
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Be absolutely consistent with important terms Use variation in the little grammatical stuff, e.g.
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e.g., = for example = such as their meaning can get lost easily Short clear sentences = good, Long convoluted sentences = bad, Incomplete sentences = worse.
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Be careful with pronouns,


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Pay attention to your sentence structures


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Prose Style
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Use parenthetical remarks sparingly (as they tend to interrupt the flow of the sentence)
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keep them short, find the least disruptive place to put them in the sentence,

Use footnotes for longer supplementary remarks,


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Less disruptive than a parenthetical remark Still, use footnotes sparingly


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no more than 1 or 2 on a given page no more than a handful in the whole paper
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Closing Comments
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When in doubt, follow publishers instructions When in doubt, cite the source Spelling and Grammar checkers:
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Use them, but dont trust them implicitly use one pick one whose English is better than yours

Outside proofreaders:
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Remember, the reviewer doesnt really want to read this paper. Dont give him/her an excuse to quit.

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