How to Write a Good Report by thebest11

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									How to Write a Good
      Report

       Alan Lee
             Contents
• What makes a good report?
• Clarity and Structure
• Figures and Tables (floats)
• Technical Issues
• Further reading
• Conclusions
           The purpose....
• The report exists to provide the reader
  with useful information
  – Should this drug be licensed?
  – How do we fit non-linear regressions?
• It succeeds if it effectively
  communicates the information to the
  intended audience
• It fails otherwise!!
             To succeed...
The report must be
  – Clear
    • Well structured, clear, concise, suitable for
      the intended audience
  – Professional
    • statistically correct, correctly spelled,
      produced with a decent word processor
  – Well illustrated
    • illustrations that aid understanding,
      integrated with text
             The audience
Often 3 different audiences

  – The casual reader/big boss who wants the
    main message as painlessly as possible

  – The interested reader who wants more detail
    but doesn’t want to grapple with all the gory
    technical details

  – The guru who wants the whole story
             What to do?
To address all 3 audiences effectively,

  – Include an abstract for the big boss

  – A main body for the interested non-specialist

  – A technical appendix for the guru


Thus, a structure emerges!
             Structure
• Good structure enhances and
  encourages clarity
• Gives signposts
• implements the vital principle
  – tell them what you are going to say
  – Say it!
  – tell them what you have said
          Structure: details
A good report has the following parts
  –   Title
  –   Table of Contents
  –   Abstract/executive summary
  –   Introduction
  –   Main sections
  –   Conclusions
  –   References
  –   Technical appendix
                        Title
Should be informative, “punchy”, can
 include puns, humour
Good
  – The perfidious polynomial (punchy, alliterative)
  – Diagnosing diabetes mellitus: how to test,
    who to test, when to test (dramatic, informative)
Bad
  – Some bounds on the distribution of certain
    quadratic forms in normal random variables
      (boring, vague)
  – Performing roundoff analyses of statistical
    algorithms (boring, vague)
       Table of Contents
• Shows the structure of the
  document and lets the reader
  navigate through the sections

• Include for documents more than a
  few pages long.
 Abstract/executive summary

Describes the problem and the
 solution in a few sentences. It will
 be all the big boss reads!

Remember the 2 rules
  – Keep it short
  – State problem and solution
        The Introduction
• State the question, background the
  problem
• Describe similar work
• Outline the approach
• Describe the contents of the rest of
  the paper
  – in Section 2 we ...
  – in Section 3 we ...
          Further sections
• Describe
  –   Data
  –   Methods
  –   Analyses
  –   Findings
• Don’t include too much technical
  detail
• Divide up into sections, subsections
     Conclusions/summary
• Summarize what has been
  discovered

• Repeat the question

• Give the answer
            Appendix
• This is where the technical details
  go
• Be as technical as you like
• Document your analysis so it can be
  reproduced by others
• Include the data set if feasible
            References
• Always cite (i.e. give a reference) to
  other related work or facts/opinions
  that you quote
• Never pass off the work of others as
  your own – this is plagiarism and is
  a very big academic crime!!
            How to cite
• In the text
  Seber and Wild (1989) state that…..

• In the references
  Seber, G.A.F and C.J. Wild. (1989).
  Nonlinear Regression. New York:
  Wiley.
             Writing clearly
• Structure alone is not enough for
  clarity – you must also write clear
  sentences.
• Rules:
  –   Write complete short sentences
  –   Avoid jargon and cliché, strive for simplicity
  –   One theme per paragraph
  –   If a sentence contains maths, it still must
      make sense!
               AGHHHH!
• He wrote
   Although solitary under normal prevailing
   circumstances, raccoons may congregate
   simultaneously in certain situations of
   artificially enhanced resource availability.
• He meant..
   Raccoons live alone but come together to eat
   bait.
                  Maths
• Good
   From the equation y  ax  b it follows that
   x  ( y  b) / a.

• Bad

    y  ax  b     x  ( y  b) / a
 Figures and Tables (Floats)
Golden rules for Figures and Tables:

• Describe float in text (integration), make
  sure it matches description
• Place after the first mention in the text
• Make sure float conveys the desired
  message clearly: keep it simple!
• Provide informative captions
                        Figures
• Always label and give a caption under the figure
• Be aware of good graphics principles: avoid
   –   chart junk
   –   low data/ink ratio
   –   unlabelled axes
   –   broken axes
   –   Misleading scales
• See Cleveland, “The Elements of Graphing Data”,
  “Visualising Data”
• Using a good graphics package (R!) helps
  enforce good practice
                                                                                      African elephant
                                                                                   Asian elephant




                            8
                                                                     Human

                                                                              Giraffe
                                                                               Horse
                                                                  Chimpanzee Cow
                                                                         Donkey
                            6
                                                                          Gorilla

                                                                    Sheep Pig
                                                       Rhesus monkey Jaguar
       log(Animals$brain)




                                                                                                   Brachiosaurus
Bad!                                                             Grey
                                                         Potar monkeywolf
                                                                 Goat
                                                                                          Triceratops
                                                                  Kangaroo
                            4




                                                                                           Dipliodocus

                                                         Cat

                                                    Rabbit
                                             Mountain beaver
                            2




                                              Guinea pig
                                        Mole
                                            Rat
                                  Golden hamster
                            0




                                Mouse

                                                   0                         5                    10

                                                               log(Animals$body)
                                                                                 African elephant
                                                                                               Asian elephant




                                  8
                                                                              Human
                                                                               Giraffe   Horse
                                                                              Donkey
                                                             Chimpanzee                  Cow
                                  6                                    Sheep
                                                                             Gorilla
          Log Brain weight (gm)


                                              Rhesus monkey                      Pig
                                                                              Jaguar        Brachiosaurus
                                                 Potar monkey             Grey wolf
                                                                     Goat
                                                                                                  Triceratops
                                                                         Kangaroo
                                  4




                                                                                     Dipliodocus
Better!                                                        Cat

                                                               Rabbit
                                                            Mountain beaver
                                  2




                                                           Guinea pig
                                              Mole
                                                 Rat
                                  0




                                              Golden hamster

                                      Mouse

                                                       0                        5                     10

                                                                Log Body weight (kg)


            Figure 1. Plot of log Brain weights (gm) versus
                 log body weights (kg) for 28 species
               Tables
• Always label and give a caption over
  the table

• Be aware of rules for good tables:

  – avoid vertical lines
  – don’t have too many decimal places
  – compare columns not rows
Multiple   Prefix   Symbol
1012       tera     T
109        giga     G         Too busy
106        mega     M
103        kilo     K
10-1       deci     d
Multiple   Prefix    Symbol
1012       tera      T
                              Better
109        giga      G
106        mega      M
103        kilo      K
10-1       deci      d
Multiple 1012 109       106    103      10-1   Horizontal
Prefix   tera giga      mega   kilo     deci   hard to read
Symbol   T      G       M      K        d


     Multiple       Prefix     Symbol
     1012           tera       T
                                               Vertical
     109            giga       G
                                               easier to read
     106            mega       M
     103            kilo       K
     10-1           deci       d
Number of
             Time (secs)
Processors
                           Busy – too
    1         28.35221
                           many DP’s
    4         7.218812
    8         3.634951
   16         1.929347

Number of
             Time (secs)
Processors
                           Better
    1         28.35
    4          7.21
    8          3.63
    16        1.92
       Technical Issues
• Sectioning
• Table of Contents
• Spelling and Grammar
• Choice of word processor
           Sectioning
• Proper division of your work into
  sections and subsections makes the
  structure clear and the document
  easy to follow
• Use styles in word/ sectioning
  commands in Latex
  \begin{section}….\end{section}
       Table of contents
• Provides “navigation aid”

• Make sure TOC agrees with main
  body of text

• If you use styles (Word) and
  sectioning commands (Latex) this
  will happen automatically
      Spelling and Grammar
• Use a style manual/dictionary if in doubt
• Spell check!!!!
• Proofread!!!!
  He meant…
  –   This technique can also be applied to the
      analysis of golf balls
   He typed….
  –   This technique cam also by applies to the
      analysis or gold bills
  Choice of word processor
• Word or Latex?
• My spin…..
  – Use Word for a short document with
    few figures and tables and little
    mathematics
  – Use Latex for a longer document with
    many figures and tables and lots of
    complicated maths.
          Further reading
• There are many excellent books giving
  good advice on technical writing.
• Two I like are
  Higham, Nicholas (1993) Handbook of writing
    for the Mathematical Sciences, Philadelphia,
    SIAM.
  Silyn-Roberts, Heather (2000). Writing for
    Science and Engineering: Papers
    Presentations and Reports. Oxford:
    Butterworth-Heinmann.
 Both discuss writing reports and giving
 verbal presentations.
            Conclusions
• Structure is vital
• Write clearly
• Good clear simple illustrations
• Spellcheck and proofread
• Reference all material used or
  quoted

								
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