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CO1010

IT Skills in Science
Lecture 3:
Good Practice in Report Writing

Outline

Points to consider in writing technical information


General considerations
Help in writing project report
What makes a good document
Consideration of the audience
How to plan your writing
Graphical communication
Using a computer

Characteristics of a good document

Meets the audiences needs


Well organised
Appropriate jargon & humour
Readable

Aim
What is the purpose of your document?
What you trying to achieve?

Audience
Document must meet the audiences needs
So:
Who are the audience
What do they know about the subject
What do they need to know
What will they do with the information

Who is the audience?

Peers
Students
Teachers
Management
Experts
Computer-phobics
Home computer users
A combination

What do they know?


What do they know already
How much background is necessary

What do they need to know?


What information does your audience need
How should it be slanted informative
instructional
technical

What will they do with the information?

Perform tasks
Increase their knowledge

Humour
Can make a difficult subject easier to understand
Can get in the way of the subject
Your sense of humour may not be the same as the
readers

Jargon

What does the audience understand?


Explain terms when first introduced
Expand abbreviations at least once
Examples:
Email stands for electronic mail, and describes
personalised messages sent between computer users.
Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) is a popular subject
nowadays. There are many HCI courses taught at UK
universities.

Organisation
Most difficult part is getting started
Due to difficulties getting organised
So,
Plan the layout of your document
Plan the layout of each section
Start writing

Why plan?

Easier to start writing


Provides a framework for the document
Helps you get organised
Can be in sentences, words, diagrams
What is NT?
Desktop
Start menu

Icons
Right click menus
Taskbar

Document layout
Beginning
Title
Contents
Introduction
Middle
Chapters cover sub-topics
Each chapter has a beginning, middle & end
End
Conclusion &/or summary
References
Appendices

Writing
Write a draft first
Only writer needs to be able to understand it
Edit it later
(leave for a day or two, if possible)
Correcting:
Logic & Organisation
Style & Clarity
Spelling

Spelling
Spelling is incredibly important!
USE your spellchecker
Dobnt just ignor wiggley red liunes, they are there for a
reason.

Readability

Sentence length
Word length
Sentence structure
Tests may oversimplify the issue
If reader has to re-read to understand,
then the less readable (and usable) your document is

Grammar
Grammar checker: use with care
Technical setting

Gunning Fog Index

Just a guideline
Take a sample piece of writing (100 words)
Calculate average words per sentence
Count words with 3 or more syllables
Except capitalised words
Except combinations of easy words, e.g. bookkeeper
Except words ending -ed, -es
Add the two numbers & multiply by 0.4

Readability Score
5 fairly easy
7,8 standard
9-11 fairly difficult
12-15 difficult
17 or over very difficult

Graphical Communication
Tables & figures
Everything that is not a table is a figure
Can carry more information per space than the
same amount of text
Only if clearly explained in the text
Types of graphics:
Data displayed in table form
Graphs: line, bar, pie
Drawings
Diagrams
Photographs

Data in table form


Lead
Tay
Tweed
Don
Earn
Clyde

(ppm)
112.35
95.21
78.63
65.77
156.25

Cadmium Arsenic
(ppm)
25.12
25.00
36.74
58.59
86.54

Table 1: Pollution data from some UK rivers

(ppm)
45.63
84.52
96.36
84.21
57.54

Data in graphical form


1: Bar charts

parts per million

River Pollution
180.00
160.00
140.00
120.00
100.00
80.00
60.00
40.00
20.00
0.00

Lead
Cadmium
Arsenic

River

Data in graphical form


2: Line graphs
Unemployment in Dundee
14000
12000
10000
8000
6000
4000
2000
0
1979

1982

1987

1992

1997

Data in graphical form


3: Combinations
100.00

120.00

80.00

100.00
80.00

60.00

60.00
40.00

40.00

20.00

20.00

0.00

0.00
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

ppm

g/litre

Air Pollution

g/litre
ppm

Data in graphical form


4: pie charts
Where our students come from

Scotland
Northern Ireland
Other UK
Other EU
Overseas

Drawings & diagrams

Photographs

Placement of graphics
As close as possible to the text which refers to it
Conventionally at the top or bottom of the page (unless
very small)
In formal writing, dont wrap text round graphic
If only included for accuracy, may be put in an appendix
instead

Figure Captions
ALWAYS include a figure caption
Simple explanation of what the figure (or table shows)
Give the source of data (e.g., data from Smith et al., 1986)
or the figure (e.g., after Jones et al, 1997)

Writing using a computer


Easy to produce good quality-looking documentation on a
computer
But, easier to read and edit on paper
Dont forget a back-up of each version, so you can change
your mind
Use Word Outline to plan sections, then fill in details

References
Use Harvard system: Library worksheets
Always cite sources
Be careful of web sources
Plagiarism = cheating
DONT cut-and-paste
Give references

Writing using a computer


Word processed documents NEED TO BE CHECKED
Remember WP guidelines dont dazzle readers with the output of your technology
May be more appropriate to produce on-line rather than
paper document!

Proof reading

Re-read your document, preferably aloud


Note changes to spelling, use of words, grammar
Use spell checker (carefully)
Use grammar checker (carefully)
Often good to ask someone else to read it (if time permits)

Summary
Guidelines for writing
Remember to consider the audience
A well planned document helps you to
write it and the reader to read it
Checking cannot be overstated
Dont forget any additional rules given, such as
assessment guidelines, or exam question