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FACULTY OF ENGINEERING AND THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT

DEPARTMENT OF INDUSTRIAL ENGINEERING

AUTOMATION (ATM 301B)


GUIDE TO WRITING A PRACTIAL REPORT

Prepared by : Mr O.T. Adenuga

This document serves to give you a clear outline of what you will be
expected to present in your reports. The document gives, in detail, the
aspects that need to be clearly presented in the reports that will be
submitted at the end of each practical.

1. General Format of Practical Reports


The most common format for a scientific paper is to have sections headed
as follows:

Introduction: This section of the report, basically sets the scene for
the work that is presented in the report. This section include suitable
references, states clearly the aims/objectives and explains why you
are doing the work. An abstract and summary of findings or the
aims of the practical may be required.

Materials and Methods: In this section, students are required to


give a concise description of the method they used during the
practical. The materials are rarely reported separately but
incorporated in the description of the method. The method is
presented chronologically; (for example, the sample was mounted
on a microscope slide and a labelled diagram prepared not
labelled diagrams were prepared after the sample was mounted on
a microscope). Students are advised to give enough detail for the
work to be repeated by any reader so as to ensure that the method
has been fully explained.

Results: In this section, the outcomes of the practical are presented


in the form of tables, figures or graphs and a brief description must
be presented as well, but the amount of text should be kept to a
minimum.

Discussion: This mainly gives statements on what your results


have shown but must not be a repeat of the results section.
Students are advised to discuss the significance of their
observations and point out any limitations to their methods.

Conclusion: This section presents the closing or final statements


about the validity of the results and the methods used.

References: All references used in the report should be credited


and acknowledge in this section. This section comes at the end of
the report and it gives the references in a list as they appear in the
report.

2. Style of writing

The style should be kept as simple and straightforward as possible in order to


avoid elaborate vocabulary and long sentences. Shorter sentences make it
easier to understand what you have done and important points are given
more emphasis.
Write the Materials and Methodology section in past tense this is
because you have undertaken the work and you are reporting what is in the
past. You should use an impersonal style when writing up your work. An
impersonal style uses:
the third person ( it rather than I or we)
things rather than people as subjects of sentences.
Avoid:
Instead use:
I observed the angle to be
The angle was observed to be
I suggest
It is suggested or The author suggests
that
We used a standard graphical
A standard graphical representation was
representation to
used to
I found
It was found that
I assumed that
It was assumed that
I noticed
Analysis of the raw data indicated
In this report I show
This report presents

3. Write exactly what you mean


Take care when using the words proves or definitively. Avoid the use
of the term significantly unless statistical analysis is taking place.
Scientific claims are often expressed with cautious or tentative language
i.e.
Increased nitrate levels in bodies of water may cause eutrophication
instead of Increased nitrate levels in bodies of water cause
eutrophication.
Common words that can you can use:
Nouns
Supposition
Idea
Speculation
Conjecture
Possibility
Inference

Adverbs
Presumably
Probably
Possibly
Apparently
Not unlikely
Seemingly

4. Write objectively

Verbs
Appear
Postulate
Suggest
Seem
May be
Speculate

You must avoid bias, emotions or subjective writing (found in


personal essays, in autobiographies, and in the editorial section of
newspapers where journalists express their opinions about news events).
Avoid using colloquialisms such as massive change in or results
dramatically showed
Objective writing presents facts and figures only. It does not include the
writers beliefs or feelings.
Look at the examples below:
Avoid writing like this (subjective style)
These results seem to be really quite good. The model fits very well with
the data points as can be interpreted by the R2 values of 0.32 shown in
Table 1 above. But the method used to obtain the best values for a, b, and
c was a little silly and time-consuming as it required putting lots of values
into a changeable Excel spreadsheet over and over to try and get the
lowest R2 value, even though this is probably the only way to do it
accurately. Also, this model can be used to extrapolate the PCB
concentrations of fish of ages not measured in the study, but that's about
it.
Instead write more objectively like the example below
These results appear to be reasonable as the model fits very well with the
data points, as can be interpreted by the R2 values of 0.32 shown in Table
1 above. However, the method used to obtain the best values for a, b, and
c was rather time-consuming as it required putting many values into an
Excel spreadsheet many times to obtain the lowest R2 value. While this is
probably the only way to obtain accurate results, a further limitation is
that this model can be used only to extrapolate the PCB concentrations of
fish within age ranges measured in the study [1].

5. Use figures, tables and photographs to illustrate


your points and results
What is a figure?
Graph, diagram, flowchart, photograph and maps etc.
What is a table?
Data that is presented in a labelled grid of columns and rows.
The famous saying a picture is worth a thousand words illustrates that a
figure, table or photograph can really add to your work. If you insert one in
your report then make sure you:
a) Number it correctly: that is the first figure in your report should
be Figure 1, the next Figure 2 and so on. The same goes for Tables.
b) Give it a title: These are inserted before for a Table and after for a
Figure.

c) Refer to it: that is you must always refer to the table or figure in
the text before you come to it. Do not repeat the details but
summarise what it shows.
d) Source it: If data or material used in your report is not from your
own work then you must always give the source of the data
depicted - Authors surname/organisation name and year (see
Guide to Referencing )

6. Write clearly and concisely


George Orwell wrote some helpful rules for scientists who write. In
summary he wrote:
a) Never use a long word where a short one will do.
b) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out [2].
Some examples of word savings are:
Superfluous words
on account of the fact that
in order to
at the present time
on the occasion of
with the result that
in the college environment
it is apparent therefore
forward planning

Better English
as
to
now
when
so that
in college
thus
planning

7. Abbreviations
Abbreviations are commonly used in scientific writing in order to make
your writing flow and to avoid long technical words maximising your word
count. Remember to always give the term in full when it appears first in
your report and show the abbreviations in brackets after i.e.
Reconfigurable Manufacturing System (RMS) or Flexible Manufacturing
System (FMS).

8. References
Below is an example of how referencing should be done in the practical
report. This example makes use of the referenced material used in this
document.

[1] Skills@Library. 2010. Writing for Science Subjects: 10 Characteristics of


Scientific Writing. [On-line]. University of Leeds. Available from:
http://skills.library.leeds.ac.uk/uploads/Writing%20for%20Science
%20Subjects747.pdf [Accessed on 6th January 2012].
[2] Orwell, G. 1999. Politics and the English language. [On-line].
www.orwell.ru. Available from:
http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit [Accessed on
6th January 2012].