All reports will be assessed for both presentation and technical content.
This information is intended to help you to maximise your marks for presentation. "Good presentation" has nothing to do with typed or word-processed reports, or the use of computer graphics, fancy fonts and lettering, colours, etc. Effective presentation of equations, calculations and diagrams is often spoiled by poor use of these. As long as reports are clearly legible, it is perfectly acceptable for them to be hand-written and hand-drawn. Time spent at a keyboard is wasted unless the following points are observed first. "Good presentation" for all reports means specifically:
Each report should contain the following:
9.2.1 Title page:
To enable submissions to be identified unambiguously, this should include:
9.2.2 Summary or abstract
A summary of the whole report (no more than one page) should identify briefly its scope and relevance, objectives with corresponding conclusions, and final results where appropriate. The summary does not form part of the text of the report and should stand alone in its own right. Though occurring first it should be written last.
9.2.3 Contents list
The report must be organised into numbered sections(1,2,3,etc), with sub-sections (1.1, 1.2, 1.3, etc) as necessary. These must be logically ordered, starting with an introduction and finishing with conclusions and then references. The lengths of sections should be appropriate to their importance for the report as a whole.It is usually not necessary to have more than three levels of subsection e.g. 2.1.2. An excessive hierarchical structure can make a report difficult to read. Styles are an advanced feature provided by Microsoft Word for performing section numbering automatically.
Normally, for a laboratory experiment report, the intervening sections would present information in a logical order:
For a design report, a logical and systematic order would be:
For a project report or dissertation the exact structure may vary considerably depending upon the area of work. However, the following sections would typically be expected:
9.2.4 Algebraic notation and units ( if appropriate )
All algebraic notation and abbreviations used in theory, calculations, tables and figures, text discussions, etc should be defined both:
All final results must be given in SI units using the internationally recognised standard abbreviations (which do not need to be defined or listed) and conversions provided for non-SI quantities. All numerical values for dimensional physical quantities should have the appropriate units associated with them - a number without its units is physically meaningless. Equations should be placed on a separate line and numbered. Advanced users of Microsoft Word manage equation numbers using captions and cross referencing which automatically updates the numbers.
9.2.5 Numbered SECTIONS (and sub-sections if necessary)
The introduction should briefly set out the background and relevance of the subject and provide clearly defined and stated objectives. Particular attention should be paid to the objectives and all other sections should be organised in line with these. For each separate objective in the introduction section there should be a corresponding statement in the conclusions section. The emphasis should be on precise objectives, with considered analysis and explanation of the methodology and results leading to carefully assessed conclusions. Follow the old guidelines: "Tell them what you are going to tell them (in the introduction), then tell them (in the main part of the report), then tell them what you have told them (in the conclusions)!".
Appendices are not normally necessary except perhaps in an extended Thesis or Dissertation. They may be used sparingly for an extensive theoretical exposition, instrument calibration, raw data, calculations, etc, where these do not relate to the primary objectives of the report and would interfere with the balance or the natural "flow" of the text if included in the main sections. Sometimes students are unsure whether they should put particular material into an appendix. A reader should be able to fully understand the report even if all appendices are thrown away.
Within the format set out above, all sections of a formal technical report should adhere to a standard style of presentation:
9.3.1 Presentation of text
All text must be written in grammatical English using proper sentences and paragraphs throughout. Notes, even footnotes, and "N.B." are not appropriate. All equations, calculations, tables and figures must be introduced by relevant text. For technical reports it is standard practice to write in the third person, avoiding first and second person i.e. never use the words 'I' , 'we', 'us' or 'you'.The style to adopt is that of recommended engineering textbooks, rather than that of lecture notes. It is important to make sure that all abbreviations are defined before they are used.The excessive use of acronyms can make a report difficult to read. A glossary can be helpful if a lot of abbreviations are used. It is also helpful to occassionally redefine abbreviations to make the report more readable.
9.3.2 Use of figures and tables
These should be used extensively in a technical report. They can often provide information in a more compact yet structured way than a long rambling passage of text. Each Figure and Table should have a Number (consecutive in the order referred to in the text) and a meaningful Title and be referred to in the text only by the former (not "as shown below", etc).If a figure has been copied from the literature it must be referenced. All raw experimental data should be tabulated exactly as read from the equipment, without any arithmetic manipulation, to enable test points to be identified and repeated. All graph axes and table headings should be clearly identified with:
Graphs should use distinctive symbols to identify clearly each measured or calculated point. Any curves plotted should take into account the likely accuracy (uncertainty bands) associated with each point. Avoid pictorial diagrams which are usually difficult to draw well but technically uninformative. Use schematic engineering diagrams or drawings which indicate precisely how apparatus was controlled and how and where measurements were taken. Advanced users of Microsoft Word manage table and figure numbers using captions and cross referencing which automatically updates the numbers and generates indexes.
9.3.3 Presentation of calculations
All calculations should be explained but it is sufficient to outline in full only one specimen calculation to illustrate the method. All other similar results may simply be tabulated, but the specimen calculation should be clearly related to the tabulation, for example, by identifying table column or row numbers. For ease of reference it is usual to number each equation consecutively in the text.
9.3.4 Presentation of numerical results
All numerical values and especially final results in conclusions should be presented with:
9.3.5 Presentation of references
References are expected in a technical report for:
References should only be listed if you have actually referred to them in your text. It is also dangerous to use 'second hand' references that have not been read.
It is perfectly valid for a formal report to draw on results from other students' Log-books (particularly those in the same activity group) providing that this is acknowledged in the references. The presentation of references should help the reader to identify and locate them quickly and should contain the following:
All information and arguments in a report must be substantiated through referencing the source, through data or through logical argument. It is not normally necessary to use a range of sources. Most current work appears in journal articles and conference papers. Books tend to take a long time to publish and therefore tend to focus upon well established work.
Unfortunately there is no universally accepted way of referencing material. The precise format of citations and references varies between journals and each publisher provides detailed guidelines for authors. However, there are two general methods for referencing material which will be explained with typical examples. Some of the detailed points are not rigid rules, but it is always good style to ensure consistency in the ways indicated.
The Harvard Method
With the Harvard Method, the author's surname and year of publication are inserted into the main text. The reference section contains the detailed information and should be first sorted in alphabetical order. If there are several references relating to the same author(s) they should be placed in chronological order. The International Journal of Production Research (available through the Robinson Library as an e-journal: search at http://www.ncl.ac.uk/library/resources/ejs/) is an example of a journal that uses this method.
Examples of citation
Barber and Hollier (1986) investigated the effects of implementing different types of computer aided production management (CAPM) system in different types of company. They concluded that ...
Material Requirement Planning (MRP) packages typically contain a number of control parameters such as minimum number of days between orders, order quantity category, planning horizon , safety stocks and safety lead times (Monniot et al. 1987).
Note that if there are one or two authors their names are specified. For three or more authors, the primary author followed by 'et al.' is shown. If a particular author is cited more than once in the same year the citation must be modified slightly to prevent ambiguity e.g. (Smith 1997a), (Smith 1997b).
Examples of referencing using Harvard
Barber, K.D. and Hollier, R.H., 1986, "The effects of computer aided production management systems on defined company types", International Journal of Production Research, 24(2), 311-327.
Monniot, J.P., Rhodes, D.H., Towill, J.G. and Waterlow, J.G., 1987, "Report of a study of computer aided production managemen in UK batch manufacturing", International Journal of Operations and Production Management, 7(2), 2-57.
Pongcharoen, P., Hicks, C., Braiden, P.M., Metcalfe, A.V. and Stewardson, D.J., 2000, "Using Genetic Algorithms for scheduling the production of capital goods", The Eleventh International Working Seminar on Production Economics, Igls, Austria, 21-25th Febuary, 429-458.
Askin, R.G and Standridge, C.R., 1993, "Modelling and Analysis of Manufacturing Systems", (John Wiley and Sons, New York).
Paper in a book
Turnbull, P., 1990, "Buyer-supplier relations in the UK automotive industry", in Blyton, P. and Morris, J. (eds), Flexible Futures? Prospects for Employment and Organisation, (DeGruyter, New York).
Note: Turnbull is the author of the paper "Buyer-supplier relations in the UK automotive industry", Blyton and Morris are the editors of the book "Flexible Futures? Prospects for Employment and Organisation".
Hicks, C., 1998, "Computer Aided Production Management (CAPM) Systems in Make-to-Order / Engineer-to-Order Heavy Engineering Companies", PhD Thesis, Faculty of Engineering, University of Newcastle, England.
Electricity Association, 2001, "UK Electricity Industry", http://www.electricity.org.uk.
Web sites are best avoided because there is no quality control process. Anybody can publish anything, even if it is absolute rubbish. There are several other problems: many web sites are not dated; the author may be unknown; the material may change and the web site may move.
Marsh, P., 1999, "Industry orchestrates trio for brass", Financial Times, 10th June 1999.
Acts of Parliament
Acts of Parliament are referenced by citing the title and including the Act's chapter number for clarity.
Further and Higher Education Act 1991 (c.13)
Acts are organised numerically throughout the year. Public General Acts are given Arabic numerals. Local and Personal Acts are given lower-case Roman numerals.
N.B. Prior to 1963 a different system operated, based on the date of the Sovereign's accession to the throne and the dates of the Parliamentary session.
Education Act 1944 (7&8 Geo 6 c.31)
The Numerical Method
With the numeric method a number is inserted in the text, either as a subscript, or as a number in brackets. The references are sorted in the order of appearance. Each reference should only appear once, if it is reused, the same number applies. There are a number of disadvantages to this approach. The reader may be inconvenienced because it may be necessary to refer to the reference section at the back of the report more frequently. The writer may find updating more problematic. The insertion of a new reference at the beginning makes it necessary to renumber all the other references! The International Journal of Production Economics
(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/09255273) uses the numerical method.
Examples of citation
Barber and Hollier investigated the effects of implementing different types of computer aided production management (CAPM) in different types of company. They concluded that ....
Material Requirement Planning (MRP) packages typically contain a number of control parameters such as minimum number of days between orders, order quantity category, planning horizon , safety stocks and safety lead times .
Examples of referencing using the numerical method
 Barber, K.D. and Hollier, R.H., 1986, "The effects of computer aided production management systems on definedcompany types", International Journal of Production Research, 24(2), 311-327.
 Monniot, J.P., Rhodes, D.H., Towill, J.G. and Waterlow, J.G., 1987, "Report of a study of computer aided production managemen in UK batch manufacturing", International Journal of Operations and Production Management, 7(2), 2-57.
 Pongcharoen, P., Hicks, C., Braiden, P.M., Metcalfe, A.V. and Stewardson, D.J., 2000, "Using Genetic Algorithms for scheduling the production of capital goods", The Eleventh International Working Seminar on Production Economics, Igls, Austria, 21-25 Febuary, 429-458.
 Askin, R.G and Standridge, C.R., 1993, "Modelling and Analysis of Manufacturing Systems", (John Wiley and Sons, New York).
 Turnbull, P., 1990, "Buyer-supplier relations in the UK automotive industry", in Blyton, P. and Morris, J. (eds), Flexible Futures? Prospects for Employment and Organisation, (DeGruyter, New York).
 Hicks, C., 1998, "Computer Aided Production Management (CAPM) Systems in Make-to-Order /Engineer-to-Order Heavy Engineering Companies", PhD Thesis, Faculty of Engineering, University of Newcastle, England.
 Electricity Association, 2001, "UK Electricity Industry", http://www.electricity.org.uk.
 Marsh, P., 1999, "Industry orchestrates trio for brass", Financial Times, 10th June 1999.
Note that the references are in the order of first citation, not alphabetical order.
When material is directly quoted from a reference it is necessary to use quotation marks and specify either the page, paragraph, or article number in the citation. The text must be identical to the source. This approach is particularly appropriate for definitions.
Example of the use of a quote in the text
Financial Reporting Standard (FRS) 2 discusses the legislation governing consolodated accounts. "The term undertaking is defined as: A body, corporate, a partnership or an unincorporated association carrying on a trade or business with or without a view to profit" (Blake, 1997, p32).
The resolution of cases by the European Court of Justice has confirmed a broad definition of the term waste: (s)omething can simultaneously be waste, a product, good, raw material or substance, irrespective of economic value, collection, processing etc. This definition of waste is independent of qualitative or commercial value, possible market, geographical purposes or the destination of waste (EU 1997, p10).
The brackets around the 's' indicates that a capital letter in the EU document has been changed to lower case;
The EU document contained quotes around the word 'waste'. Single quotes ' ' are used within the double quotes " ".
In the reference section:
Blake, J., 1997, "Accounting Standards, Sixth Edition", (Pitman Publishing, London).
EU, 1997, The Legal Definition of Waste and its Impact on Waste Management in Europe, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, November 1997, EUR 17716 EN, Luxembourg.
Examples of 'good presentation' and the style expected of all formal written reports can be found in any of the major professional engineering journals (available in the Robinson Library), e.g. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers [PER 621M-PRO].
You may also find the guidelines and tips on Writing Research Theses or Dissertations, produced by the School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials, to be helpful.
For more detailed advice there are plenty of books available in the libraries,
a selection of which is listed below:
Alvarez, J.A., 1980, "The Elements of Technical Writing", (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York).
Barrass, R., 1978, "Scientists Must Write: A Guide to Better Writing for Scientists, Engineers and Students, 2ndEdition", (Chapman Hall, New York).
Booth, V., 1993, "Communicating in Science: Writing a Scientific Paper and Speaking at Scientific Meetings",(Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K.).
Bowden, J., 2000, "Writing a Report : How to Prepare, Write and Present Powerful Reports", (How to Books, Oxford).
Bowman, J.P. and Branchaw, B.P., 1988, "Business Report Writing, 2nd Edition", (Dryden Press, Chicago).
Comfort, J., Revell, R. and Stott, C., 1984, "Business Reports in English", (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K.)
Cooper, B.M., 1964, "Writing Technical Reports", (Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, England).
Harrison, N., 1987, "Successful Writing", (Francis, Soham).
Kapp, R.J., 1973, "The Presentation of Technical Information", (Constable, London).
Kirkman, J., 1992, "Good Style for Scientific and Engineering Writing", (E & FN Spon, London).
Lewis, R. and Inglis, J., 1994, "Report Writing: The Secret of Successful Reports", (Collins Educational, London).
Milne, P.H., 1992, "Presentation Graphics for Engineering, Science and Business", (E & FN Spon, London).
Reynolds, L. and Simmonds, D., 1981, "Presentation of Data in Science: Publications, Slides, Posters, Overhead projects, Tape Slides, Television"
Turk, C. and Kirkman, J., 1989, "Effective Writing: Improving Scientific, Technical and Business
Communication", (Spon, London).
Wainwright, G.R., 1984, "Report Writing: A New Practical Guide to Effective Report Writing Presented in Report Form", (Management Update, London).
Electronic journals (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/library/resources/ejs/)
Thesis production (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/library/resin/writing_up/thesis.php)
Library catalogue systems (http://sparky.ncl.ac.uk/F)
References databases (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/library/other_cats.php)
Study and writing skills at Newcastle (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/library/teaching/stan/?child_id=6)