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A few guidelines on how to write technical papers and reports

1 December, 2009

A few guidelines on how to write technical papers and reports
Marcelo Santos
University of New Brunswick, Department of Geodesy and Geomatics Engineering, Fredericton, NB
Fredericton, 1 December, 2009

Santos, 2009

Presentation to GGEGSS - Fredericton, 1 December, 2009

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Contents
General Line, What is relevant, focus What, Why , How … and what was accomplished Literary Review Role of mathematics Tables, Figures and Plots

Abstract, Introduction, Conclusions
Last things last: Title

Santos, 2009

Presentation to GGEGSS - Fredericton, 1 December, 2009

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Marcelo Santos

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repeat it at the end of each chapter/section and in the conclusions. focus Draw a General Line with a logical sequence. chapter/section. State what is relevant.A few guidelines on how to write technical papers and reports 1 December. First chapters provide the context. Explicitly state the nature of the problem. open each chapter with a small introduction. 2009 Presentation to GGEGSS . 3 Santos.Fredericton.) Repeat the important points of the work three times: at the beginning of the report/paper. scope.Fredericton. 1 December. methods. 2009 4 Marcelo Santos 2 . Introduction and Conclusions. in the body of the report/paper (in detail). Identify what is not yours. They may break the logical presentation of the subject. specially in the introduction and conclusions. Keep your focus on the focus of your contribution. results and conclusions. References will help with that.. Identify the context first. What are the contributions? State them very clearly in the Abstract. Santos. Inside every Chapter or Section. 2009 Presentation to GGEGSS . 1 December. later chapters the specifics.. In a thesis or report. only after that go into the details. so that the reader is provided with a general idea of what is going to be discussed (this may not be possible in papers due to lack of space. 2009 General Line. purpose. What is relevant. Do not include unnecessary details. State the limits of the topic. 2009 General Structure (1) Go from the general to the specific … .

Break the long sentences with a period. Write short sentences. 2009 6 Marcelo Santos 3 . become difficult to follow. 1 December. Santos.Fredericton. Use examples if it helps to clarify the discussions. Avoid chaining several ideas into a single sentence.1. Earth Rotation Santos. 1 December. 3.A few guidelines on how to write technical papers and reports 1 December. with lots of ideas. 2009 Presentation to GGEGSS . Long sentences. 2009 Presentation to GGEGSS . We will also prove that earth‟s rotation causes neither dizziness nor migraines.Fredericton. We will discuss how it does affect the daily life of humans. 2009 General Structure (2) Chapter 3 Impacts of Earth’s Rotation In this chapter we will discuss the effects of earth rotation on the human race. 2009 5 Lay down your ideas with clarity Describe your ideas clearly.

2009 Presentation to GGEGSS . 2009 What.Fredericton. 2009 Presentation to GGEGSS . 7 Santos. why. 2009 Do you want your work to be understood? If you answered „yes‟ to this question … then … KEEP THE READER IN MIND !!! Typical readers ask in the following order: What? Why? How? While reading ask yourself: what question is a typical reader asking at the end of each paragraph? Provide the answer in the following one.A few guidelines on how to write technical papers and reports 1 December. 1 December. how Example of questions that permeate the mind of meddling readers what is the definition of the problem? (what is the question?) why is the topic important? how is the problem being solved? (Literature review? Comparing distinct algorithms? Processing data sets? Theoretical developments?) [  methodology ] what are the outcomes of the study? what are the implications of the study? Santos.Fredericton. 2009 8 Marcelo Santos 4 . 1 December.

2009 Presentation to GGEGSS . 1 December.Fredericton. the introduction chapter or section makes reference at least to the most significant advances so far. report or paper is the result of a great intellectual effort (at least. 2009 10 Marcelo Santos 5 . Santos. Throughout the text. Plagiarism is crime! Santos.Fredericton. when writing. Typically. 2009 Presentation to GGEGSS . Use references galore. Therefore. 2009 9 Literature review You can show how much aware you are on your topic by presenting a “literature review”. 2009 References. references and references … Writing a thesis. A literature Review can be done in two. it should be) This effort starts with an understanding on the state-of-the-art of the subject being investigated. Remember that you are not “re-inventing the wheel”. show your knowledge on what has been done before and currently. non-exclusive ways: A dedicated chapter or section.A few guidelines on how to write technical papers and reports 1 December. 1 December.

The mathematical results must be interpreted. 2009 The role of Mathematics We start with a real world (non-mathematical) problem to be solved. but often neglected. 2009 12 Marcelo Santos 6 . plot must be explained in the text. By making necessary assumptions we formulate a model problem to which we can apply mathematical tools – this is a transformation from the real world to the mathematical world. (Wells. 2009 Presentation to GGEGSS . The assumptions must be discussed. 1 December. allowing for a more effective presentation. 1995) Santos. But. Every table. Figures and Plots Tables. Santos.A few guidelines on how to write technical papers and reports 1 December. or you think is clearly seen. they are not self-explanatory. We formulate a solution to the model (mathematical) problem. Do not let to the reader to figure out what you want. Emphasize (in the text. in the figure) what you want to show. figures and plots exist to aggregate information.Fredericton. figure.Fredericton. Describe the figure. 2009 11 Tables. It may not be as clear as you think. We interpret what the implications of our mathematical solution may be on our original real world problem – this is the transformation back to the real world. clear and logical description of the two transformations is absolutely necessary. I believe that a full. 1 December. 2009 Presentation to GGEGSS .

13067 m “…a northeast-southwest trend can be clearly seen …” (can it?) Santos.1 54 0 -0. You do not need to qualify your statements.3 -0. 1 December. 2009 Presentation to GGEGSS .) 0.1 52 -0.3 56 0.Fredericton. 2009 13 Presentation to GGEGSS . 2009 Talking about the word “clear” … Clear or similar words … avoid them! Never use terms such as: … as can be clearly seen … The reader may think you are arrogant. Be direct in your explanations.Fredericton. 1 December.2 0. PITE incl.4 58 0.4 230 235 240 245 Max = 0.66 Min = -0.GGM02-60. Santos.51465 Mean = 6.2 50 -0.5 0.3007e-013 STD = 0.A few guidelines on how to write technical papers and reports 1 December.6 60 0. 2009 What not to do 4-param post-fit residuals (NTdeduc geoid model . 2009 14 Marcelo Santos 7 .

2009 What are the last things to write? Introduction Conclusions Abstract Title Santos.A few guidelines on how to write technical papers and reports 1 December.yourdictionary. he/she may lose interest.Fredericton. Santos. abstruse” Therefore. If it is bad.com) It does not mean “Difficult to understand. 2009 Presentation to GGEGSS . the Abstract must describe the work: what was done why it was done how it was done results obtained (at least the main ones) conclusions (at least the main ones) Remember that a reader goes first to the abstract.” (http://www. 2009 Presentation to GGEGSS . 1 December. 2009 16 Marcelo Santos 8 . 1 December.Fredericton. 2009 15 Abstract “A statement summarizing the important points of a text.

2009 Presentation to GGEGSS . 2009 Introduction Think of the Introduction as an “extended” Abstract Same questions as Abstract. 1 December.Fredericton. Explain them. Present a list of unresolved or challenging issues that have been identified during the work. 2009 18 Marcelo Santos 9 . 1 December. Put them into the context. you must include: how is the investigation placed with respect to the work of others? what are the contributions of the work? describe the structure of the report or paper. In addition to these questions. Santos. but explore in more detail the questions: what was done? why was it done? how was it done? And highlight the results obtained.A few guidelines on how to write technical papers and reports 1 December. 2009 Presentation to GGEGSS . 2009 17 Conclusion Summarize the answer to the questions: what was done? why was it done? how was it done? Review your results and present conclusions based on them (remember that you have already discussed your results in previous chapters).Fredericton. Santos.

Use and abuse of references: show you are aware of what is going on Typical readers ask in the following order: What? Why? How? Use math carefully Never leave table. State what is your contribution and what is not. during and at the end.A few guidelines on how to write technical papers and reports 1 December.ca/Pubs/LN54. 2009 Presentation to GGEGSS . David Wells unpublished notes. 2009 Presentation to GGEGSS .Fredericton. 1 December. 2009 19 References This presentation was prepared based on: My own observations along the years.pdf) UNB Bulleting “Teaching Voices” McKeachie‟s “Teaching Tips” Santos.unb. 2009 20 Marcelo Santos 10 .Fredericton. Santos. figures and plots loose in the text. Wendy Wells‟ Style Manual (http://gge. 1 December. 2009 Conclusions (of this presentation)         Keep the reader in mind Keep the focus of your contribution Repeat the important points: in the beginning.