WRITING GUIDE


Below is the department's Writing Guide For Formal Technical Reports. This is the official format for MET lab reports and reports for my classes follow these guides with some changes. Please check the web pages for the course(s) you are taking to see what specific changes are being asked for. Instructions for a particular course take precedence over this Formal Guide.

This Writing Guide is a very good and comprehensive document. If you follow the recommendations given your technical reports will be considerably above the norm within industry and you this will promote your career. But, producing good reports is a learned skill and requires practice.

This web page is new. Please let me know if you find errors within it. It was scanned and converted to text so I'm sure there are problems I haven't yet found. Thanks.



Oregon Institute of Technology
Mechanical Engineering Technology Department


WRITING GUIDE FOR FORMAL
TECHNICAL REPORTS


Robert K. Wattson, Jr.

In Collaboration With:

Wayne E. Phillips
Charles A. Hermach



4th Revision: June 1987


FOREWORD

This is not a technical report. It is not intended to read or to look like one. It is a very small book about technical report writing.

Read it carefully. Use it when you are writing reports of laboratory projects. It is the Department's style manual in the same sense that commercial companies have style manuals. You will be required to comply most rigidly with its instructions.


CONTENTS

I.INTRODUCTION
II.ELEMENTS OF THE ENGINEERING WRITING STYLE
III.ORGANIZATION OF A TECHNICAL REPORT
IV.MAJOR SECTIONS OF THE TECHNICAL REPORT
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 First Page of Text
 Summary
 Introduction
 Notation
 Analytical Development
 Experimental Apparatus and Method
 Results
 Discussion
 Conclusions and Recommendations
 References
 Tables
 Illustrations
 Graphs
 Appendix
 Binding and Labeling
V.EFFORT REQUIRED (by Wayne E. Phillips)
VI.GRADING (by Wayne E. Phillips)
VII.ERRORS FREQUENTLY FOUND IN STUDENT REPORTS

I. INTRODUCTION

Engineering writing style is quite structured, has been for many years, and will undoubtedly continue to be so. The reasons are:

  1. Care must always be taken to use words the exact meanings of which are known to the engineering community. Words, phrases and sentences must say exactly what is intended. Unusual terms, when first introduced, must be defined.

     

  2. Technical writing. is high-density stuff; the information is packed in; indeed it must be, for there is mo much of it. Every sentence in an engineering report must convey additional information, and to the extent possible must relate that information to what went before.

     

  3. Because of that high information density, technical reading is a slow process; in the toughest cases sometimes a single sentence can take minutes to assimilate. For this reason the reader should be confronted with familiar terms, uncomplicated sentences, short paragraphs; these help him go faster.

     

  4. The readership is already familiar with the style, is reasonably comfortable with it, and expects more of the same.

     


II. ELEMENTS OF THE ENGINEERING WRITING STYLE

  1. A definite detailed organization scheme is followed.

     

  2. The general style is terse, the sentences short to only moderately long. Word usage, grammar and sentence structure must be impeccable.

     

  3. Third person is used in descriptive material. An exception is the use of first-person plural in mathematical developments:

    Thus we see that . . .

    Occasionally--once every few years--you will simply have to mention yourself specifically., Do not be stilted about it.

    Good: my experience is that . . .
    (or I have found that . . . )

    Bad: It is the experience of the author that

    Second person is never used.

     

  4. Use of the third person almost compels the use of passive voice. Passive voice directs attention to the project, not to the persons who performed it.

    Thermometers were located at . . .

    This is not a fast rule; many sentences, though not referring to what someone did, work out better in active voice (this one did).

     

  5. Past tense is used for descriptions of work already done, and for descriptions of equipment which has since been destroyed or modified. Present tense is used for investigations in progress, for mathematical expositions, and for descriptions of equipment still in existence. Present tense may also be used for conclusions which have a continuing existence:

    The optimum path is generated when . . .

    Future tense is used for technical prediction:

    The trend will be toward shorter
    wheelbase and turning radius . . .

     

  6. Engineering reports are usually expository, so declarative mood is appropriate. Exception: directions in a manual may use imperative mood.

     

  7. Qualifying adjectives (much, very, extremely),are used only sparingly. Style is frequently strengthened by striking out qualifiers.

     

  8. Contractions, slang, profanity, and vernacular terms are avoided.

     

  9. A tendency exists among students to write "fluff" and redundant phrases simply to fill space. This is never permissible in engineering writing.

     

  10. Use of more than one example to emphasize a point is not acceptable.

     

  11. Paragraphs should be short. Long paragraphs tend to wander and the reader is dismayed to see them. A paragraph of technical writing should appear on a typewritten page as a flat rectangle. The occasional speed reader can read such a paragraph at a glance.

     

  12. The purpose for which the work was done must show clearly, and every part of the report should point to that purpose organization of the text, relationships and emphases must be appropriate.

     


III. ORGANIZATION OF A TECHNICAL REPORT

Though reports of many kinds are written for many different purposes throughout industry, upper-division MET laboratory reporting will follow the general format and standards of the formal industry technical report. Such reports deal with completed analytical or experimental programs. Individual courses may have special requirements.

Formal technical reports are divided into sections of fixed nature and order. For our purposes these sections will be titled:

MET Writing GuideMemo Lab Report - [Currin's]
TITLE PAGETITLE PAGE
CONTENTS 
SUMMARYSUMMARY
INTRODUCTIONINTRODUCTION
NOTATION 
ANALYTICAL DEVELOPMENT or ANALYSISANALYSIS
EXPERIMENTAL APPARATUS AND METHODEXPERIMENTAL APPARATUS AND METHOD
RESULTSRESULTS
DISCUSSION 
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONSCONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
REFERENCESREFERENCES
TABLESwithin sections referencing them
ILLUSTRATIONSwithin sections referencing them
GRAPHSwithin sections referencing them
APPENDICESAPPENDICES

For Prof. Currin's courses Tables, Illustrations, and Graphs should be included in the sections where they are referenced as noted just below.

Some flexibility is allowable:

  1. Though tables and graphs which are to be referred to frequently are best assembled as shown above, if repeated use is not expected they may be scattered through the text. Care must be taken that they appear exactly at the place, or behind the page, where the text refers to them.

     

  2. Major, titled subsections and titled paragraphs are permitted.

     

  3. The contents page may be omitted in a very short report, as may any of the other sections provided their essentials appear in the text. A decision to omit a titled section is not made lightly, however. All titled sections will appear in each of your reports unless there is actually no material to put in them.

     

     

  4. Sometimes when there are no conclusions a short section entitled "Concluding Remarks" is substituted.

     

  5. There is a little difference in nomenclature and arrangement from one company or government agency to another--one division of Boeing used to specify that the conclusions be up front just after the summary, followed by the most important tables and graphs.

     

  6. Reports to be circulated outside the company may be reformatted and restyled, and are usually strictly controlled and heavily, even viciously, edited. They are part of the company's public face, and the firm is very sensitive about them.

     

We are writing formal in-house technical reports of test projects, intended to be viewed by our supervision on up to corporate level if necessary, and perhaps to be circulated discreetly to selected customers of known integrity and competence.

Thus the reading audience for your report is defined: you yourself, your technical associates (fellow students), your immediate supervision (instructor), and higher echelons in the Institute, as well as one outside customer, the ABET--the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. The general rules for communicating with them are:

  1. Your report must record enough detail that you yourself, or some similarly qualified person, can replicate the tests by reading the report, assembling the equipment described (or similar equipment, or equipment able to function similarly), and following the procedure indicated. For example, if it is necessary to take a picture exactly the same as one appearing in the report, the descriptive material accompanying the photograph will include the make and model of camera; make, model and focal length of the lens; manufacturer and identifying number of film; exposure time, f-stop, range; lighting positions, color, and wattage, special camera mounting, developing details, print paper.

     

  2. Your instructor knows too much, is too familiar with what you are doing. Do not write to him. Target someone else: someone generally competent but without knowledge of what you did or how you did it, or why.

     

  3. As your report moves up the supervisory line it will be viewed by persons with progressively less knowledge of what you are doing. If you talk about "the flow bench" or "the Detroit Diesel" to the department head, he may have an idea what you are referring to, but the director of the division may not. Neither should have to guess.

     

  4. Also, successively higher echelons will have progressively less time to deal with your product. The brevity called for by this lack of time conflicts with the completeness required by Rule 3. You must live with this conflict. The way to do it is to see that, while the necessary points have been made, the wording is as compact and exact as you can possibly make it.

     

  5. Outside the content of the report, the reader will be impressed by seeing that you are intelligent, that you know your material, and that you write about it well. Technical writing leaves little room for variations in style, but lots of room for good organization and clear description.

     


IV. MAJOR SECTIONS OF THE TECHNICAL REPORT


Title Page

On the title page are the following, only:

  1. Centered at the top of the page, the producing organization, in this case the Oregon Institute of Technology, Mechanical Engineering Technology Department.

     

  2. Just above the middle of the page, the title of the report, in CAPITAL LETTERS, centered. A long title is arranged in inverted pyramid form, the longest line at the top followed by successively shorter ones. The shape of the pyramid should be about this:

     

    X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
    X X X X X X X X

    and the length of the top line and the number of lines are chosen to make it so. The length of the top line should not be much over half the width of the page. The title is single-spaced between lines.

    How to ruin a report title: make it so short that it is non-descriptive, or make it so long that the reader's estimate of your good sense is lowered. "Flow Bench Experiments" means nothing to anyone, but "Techniques of Air Flow Measurement and Energy Loss Determination" might. "An Analog Study of the Longitudinal Response of a Swept-wing Transport Airplane to Wind Shear and Sustained Gusts in Landing Approach" is getting out of hand.

  3. Just below the middle of the page, the author's name, in caps and lower case. The "payroll signature" form is used: first name, middle initial if any, last name, suffix.

    Henry G. Beaird, Jr.

    W. David Hammond, III
    (permissible if this is the author's actual formal style)

  4. Below the author's name, the date:

    7 November 1986.

     

  5. Near the lower right-hand corner, the course number and section:

    MET 317
    Lab Section 2.

     

The title page is "page i" but the numeral does not appear on the page.


Table of Contents (or just Contents)

The major sections are listed in the order of their appearance. The first page of illustrations, the first page of tables, and the first page of graphs are listed. The first page of each Appendix is also listed if the pagination runs from beginning to end of the report. There may be a separate "list of tables and figures" on the same page as the contents.

First-rank subheadings may appear in the Contents:

  INTRODUCTION                               6
    History of Mudballs from 3000 B. C.      6
    Present Status of Mudballs               7
    The Need for Tetrahedronal Mudballs      8
  NOTATION                                   8

The Contents page is "page ii", and is so numbered at the bottom center.


First Page of Text

All text is single-spaced between lines, with double spacing between paragraphs. Double-spacing between lines wastes paper and forces the occasional speed reader down to one line at a time.

The first page (Page 1) of the report repeats the title and author at the top, followed by the Summary and the first words of the Introduction. You must adopt a format; here is one:

TITLE
Author

SUMMARY

Text of Summary

INTRODUCTION

Text of Introduction

First-rank Subhead

Text of first paragraph of first-rank subhead

Second-rank Subhead

Text of first paragraph of second-rank subhead

Titled Paragraph - Text of titled paragraph


Summary

The summary states briefly what was done in the project reported on (or during the time period, in a progress report), and gives the major findings. It is not an abstract: an abstract is a very condensed version of the report itself. Do not simply list the conclusions in the summary; condense them to a very few sentences. Do not present or cite references or figures in the summary.


Introduction

The introduction section contains whatever is appropriate of the following types of material:

  1. Background: of the problem, of the project,- even of the activities of major investigators by name, if the activities are important to the present undertaking.

     

  2. Theoretical concepts. These are the physical principles governing the operation of the device being tested. A test of a nozzle, for example, would call for an explanation of the fluid mechanics involved. Go lightly; most of this is better put in ANALYSIS. Exercise your judgment. Mathematics can be used in both sections as needed, but the emphasis in the INTRODUCTION should be on the physical and historical aspects, not the mathematical.

    In discussing either theoretical concepts or history, you may wish to refer to the writings of other authors. This is done using the REFERENCES after the Conclusion section. You may use indirect or direct quotation:

    Indirect: Reference 3 states that the similarity laws for fans . . .

    Direct: Reference 3 states, 'The fan similarity laws, on the other hand, . . .

    In either case the reference should be cited. This is known as "attribution." Direct, verbatim quotations of copyrighted material without attribution or the use of quotation marks around the quoted sentences is a violation of law. A flaw frequently found in student reports is the inclusion of Xeroxed illustrations, taken from published works, and presented without attribution.

     

  3. Present status of the work; need for and purpose of the present investigation. Purpose of this report, if different from simply reporting on the results of the test (some reports deal only with partial results; others diverge to report on special aspects of the test, etc.).

    The purpose of the test as reported here is not to "familiarize the students with..." It is to obtain data on the performance of the test article.

     

  4. Identity of the investigators of the present program (who, but not how or what they used). The investigators are your lab. team (not the whole class). List them by name. They are "investigators," by the way, not "students."

    The course number and lab. section are of no importance (we are simulating an industrial report).

     

  5. Inclusive dates of the project; location (either order). The location need not be stated in detail; the laboratory and institution are enough.

     


Notation (or List of Symbols)

Symbols are listed alphabetically, with dimensions and with formulas where appropriate. Within each letter grouping there is some systematic progression, whether from lower to upper case letter, or from simple to complicated, or whatnot:

Greek symbols are grouped separately, and subscripts may be, but separate subscript lists make for difficult reading.


Analytical Development (or Analysis)

Here you display your detailed understanding of the physical principles underlying the tests you have performed, and of the mathematics which portray them quantitatively.

Decide, consistent with the purpose of your report, how you wish to display the mathematical developments. The considerations are:

  1. "Thrust": The mathematics must support your verbal description of principles and processes.

     

  2. Ease of reading and comprehension. Regardless of how you arrange your first draft, your final version must help the reader, not trip him.

     

Consigning all the mathematics to an Appendix or stating that it is given in the lab. manual is not acceptable. The purpose in having you include mathematical developments in your descriptive material is that you yourself will actually perform the exercise of relating the physical and the mathematical, in logical order and with proper reasoning. It is well known by teachers that one does not really understand mathematical or physical concepts until one learns them well enough to convey them to others.

Copying the lab manual or a textbook will not do: it is unethical and you learn only the wrong things from it. Learn the meaning of the mathematics well enough that you can write about it without the assistance of any piece of written material except a list of the equations.


Experimental Apparatus and Method

Remember that the report must enable your tests to be replicated by a person not initially familiar with what you used or what you did. You must therefore describe your equipment carefully, but concisely. Starting out by saying "The flow bench . . ." is unacceptable; the reader does not know which flow bench (you implied by using "The" that he did) or even what a flow bench is. Instead you must state the purpose of the equipment and describe its components and assemblage; after that you may, if you are going to make repeated reference to the assembly, say something like, "this equipment arrangement will hereafter be referred to as a 'flow bench'."

The reader is assumed to be familiar with general-purpose equipment, such as pumps, electric motors, etc., but he needs to know sizes, capacities, speeds, thicknesses, etc., which pertain to your particular tests. Equipment built specially for your tests must be described and illustrated, as must general-purpose equipment with special features, such as the MET lab instructional air compressor.

The description of your procedure is to be functional, not chronological, unless the test would have failed were not some particular sequence followed exactly. In most tests there is indeed a sequence, or there are sequences, but the reader is assumed to be intelligent and knowledgeable enough to know what the sequence is or to deduce what it should be.

The reduction of the data is part of the procedure, but is not dealt with in the text. However, the ANALYSIS section must have coverage complete enough that the sample calculations in the Appendix will be instantly recognizable and clear.

Do not bother talking about changes of systems of units.


Results

This is a very short section, simply listing the types of results obtained, and telling where the details may be found.

A table of tetrahedronal mudball sizes and corresponding
gage numbers appears on Page 1024.

Results may be combined with discussion in a single section, sometimes with considerable saving of words:

TABLE IV, displaying tetrahedronal mudball sizes and gage
numbers (Page 1024) shows that . . .

In general the results are given in three forms: narrative description, tables and graphs. Do not confuse results with sample calculations or data reduction procedures; these latter two belong in Appendices.

Do not show the same results in the body of the text in both tabular and graphical form: choose one. most engineers are graph-minded; they like to see trends illustrated, so they can draw their own inferences. Tables are used for things that cannot be graphed:

ITEMChevroletStanley Steamer
Length  
Width  
Height  
Curb weight  
Rated engine power  

or that require precision a graph cannot supply.

Appendices may contain tabular material, such as test data or data reduction results, that is presented graphically in the text.


Discussion

This section sets forth the meaning of the findings, the inferences to be drawn from them. The RESULTS section might have shown that there is a dependence of distance flown on normal acceleration, but the DISCUSSION section allows the deduction that there is no optimum path; there are only trades, and here are the consequences of trading properly and improperly. Curves derived from those of the RESULTS section may be put here to illustrate inferences to be drawn from the results.

While it is permissible to point out things that may have gone wrong during the test, do not become preoccupied with them. A simple statement that "An equipment malfunction caused loss of the roll data" is tolerable (it explains why the roll data aren't there), but a paragraph lambasting the stupid inaccurate obsolete equipment (or instruction) is not. Either the purposes of the test were achieved or they were not; if they were, the loss of the roll data deserves only passing mention; if they were not, cut the discussion section short and go on to the recommendations. Nobody likes to read a lot of bitching.


Conclusions and Recommendations

The CONCLUSIONS section is a collection of the major findings and significant inferences to be drawn from them. Each conclusion should have appeared in the RESULTS or DISCUSSION section. Do not present new information in the CONCLUSIONS section.

As a rule the readers of technical reports are intelligent and informed enough that they need no recommendations. They will be satisfied with a numbered list of conclusions, the most important ones first.

If the test was a success, "The test was a success" is not a conclusion--it will be obvious. However, if the test truly failed, the failure must be announced and its causes documented.

Do not generalize when drawing conclusions. The conclusions relate to your test: you will conclude that the peak efficiency of the MET lab. air compressor was X percent at Y delivery, but not that compressors display efficiencies of X percent, much less at Y delivery.

You are at liberty, after having stated your conclusions, to make recommendations. They might relate to equipment improvements, procedural revisions, changes of test sequence, additional test possibilities, etc. Keep the tone of the recommendations positive; do not editorialize. Managements--and instructors--are a very humorless lot in this regard.


References

References are publications that have actually been cited in the text of your report. They appear in a numbered list, and are referred to only by number in the citation:

Reference 3 states that . . .

Formats:

Book:

Dommasch, Daniel 0., Sidney S. Sherby, and Thomas
F. Connolly, "Airplane Aerodynamics", New York,
Pitman, 4th Ed. 1967, pp 342-3.

 

More than three authors: Jones, John J. et al.,

Magazine article:

Tarkov, John, "A Disaster in the Making" in
"Invention and Technology", Vol. 1 No. 3, Spring
1986, pp 10-17.

Underlining the book and article titles is acceptable in lieu of quotation marks.

Useful reading material not cited in the text of the report is put in a BIBLIOGRAPHY section immediately following this.


Tables

Tables are Roman-numbered:

TABLE V
Title


Illustrations

Illustrations may be line drawings, computer-generated drawings or photographs. They should serve specific needs of the text, and should be adequately titled, labeled, and located to meet those needs.

Line drawings must be made to drafting standards--they are not sketches. Computer-generated drawings are acceptable only if they are of CAD-level legibility. Photographs of typical 1-hour Frodsham size are usually not acceptable. The industrial standard is an 8 1/2" x ll" black-and-white print on matte paper, with white edge margins and a title block across the bottom, inside the edge margin.

Illustrations are figure-numbered starting with Fig. 1, and the number sequence continues through the graphs. Attribution, where necessary, appears in the Parentheses just after the figure title.


Graphs

  1. Graphs should be on graph paper (engineering pad paper is not graph paper. Graph paper is available at the bookstore, usually in 10 line/cm. or 10 or 20 line/inch ruling. 10 line/inch is the least acceptable).

     

  2. Leave the margins (outside the gridded area) clear except for the page number. "The margins belong to the company."

     

  3. Do not use the outer grid lines as axes.

     

  4. Use A-size sheets unless it results in too much on the page or in poor scales.

     

  5. Graphs should read from the short side of the page. If you must rotate a graph, rotate it counterclockwise, so it will read from the right hand (unbound) side (see next page).

     

  6. Do not use "bastard" scales--scales that do not fit the grid system.

     

  7. It is usually unwise to suppress zeros on a graph unless the range of variation of a parameter is an extremely small fraction of its values. For example, a range of variation from 101 to 103 might call for suppression of the zero, but a range from 101 to 120 should not.

    Suppressing the zero and spreading the remaining portion of the scale over most of the page can give a false idea of the importance of a trend. Be sure when interpreting plotted data that a suppressed zero and such a large scale does not mislead you into thinking a weak dependence is a strong one.

     

  8. Do not use color; use symbols and callouts to distinguish curves.

     

  9. Draw all curves using instruments. Maintain mechanical drawing standards. Use a template for symbols.

     

  10. Curves showing test results should be faired, not run through each test point. Frequently the mathematical theory will indicate what the general shape of a curve "should" be. Let the theory guide you.

     

  11. Graphical representations of mathematical expressions do not have the plotting points identified by symbols, though a symbol at one end may be used to refer to the whole curve if clarity demands.

     

  12. Do not type directly on the gridded area. If you want to use typed numbers and legends, type them separately on white paper, clip carefully and closely, and tape them to the graph using-mylar tape (not the shiny surfaced kind).

     

  13. Put the curve sheet title in a conspicuous place. Normally the Figure number and title go at the bottom of the graph, within the gridded area (note, however, that this can vary; the company for which the preceding page was produced had a permissive style, and used the margins for figure numbers but not for titles).

     

  14. If in doubt put more, not less, information on a graph, but try to judge the point at which "more" just means "more confusing."

     

  15. Your name and the date you drew the graph go in the lower right hand corner of the gridded area.

     


Appendix or Appendices

The Appendices should accumulate such items as the lab handout, the raw data sheets, calibration data and curves for instruments, classroom notes, illustrative or sample computations, or completed data reduction forms. In short, they should contain all of the information the writer wishes to save about the experiment or test but which, for the reader's convenience, must be kept out of the body of the report.

Divide the material logically, using Appendix A, B, etc. to mark the divisions. Arrange the Appendices in the order in which they are cited in the text, or in order of diminishing importance. If there is more than one Appendix, give each Appendix a title.


Binding and Labeling

Your report must be bound. The only acceptable binder is the stiff-covered Dennison/National type, with separate front and back-covers and two-piece sheet-metal fasteners which go through the top of the covers and the text.

These covers typically have an embossed frame on the front for the label. Sometimes a label is sold with each cover. Whatever the case, get a white, red- or blue-bordered label that fits the frame. Type on the label the report title, author's name, data, and course identification.


                 PERFORMANCE DATA FOR A SMALL
                   RECIPROCATING COMPRESSOR

                   Nicholai C. Lobachevsky

                        31 March 1987

                                             MET 317 L2


If the cover has no frame, the label is placed with its upper edge one-third of the way from the top, and centered.


V. EFFORT REQUIRED *

Any course of significant technical content seems, rule of thumb, to require 25 to 30 hours of student effort per credit (including classroom and homework) per term. Beginning-level technical report writing, however, is slow business and you should expect your initial quarter of laboratory work to require much more than this.

The writing of technical material very much akin to these laboratory reports will constitute a major element of every technologist's professional activity after graduation. These laboratory course writing assignments should be looked upon as important opportunities to practice for that future activity.

The writing should not be put off until the night before the report is due. If the course schedule permits, the report should be drafted very soon after the test phase is started (say the same night), and revised, amplified, corrected and edited between then and due date. The instructor may require submittal of the draft.



* These sections were written by Wayne E. Phillips.


VI. GRADING *

Nice touches: a writing style with a bit of pep and warmth; carefully chosen words; writing craftsmanship in the construction of statements that are easily read; cover; title page; table of contents; bibliography; photographs; artwork; or quotations from the writings of published authorities on the subject material, will impress the teacher here as surely as they will one day impress the boss. Caution is advised, however. The nice touches will abet the grade only when complemented by care and thought in presenting the technical content of the report. A report that is all fluff and no substance will fare poorly.

A report whose text is, to a significant extent, a direct copy of the laboratory instruction handout (without even troubling to restate that material in new words) will suffer accordingly. Remember that the handout says what to do; the PROCEDURE section says what actually was done.

One or two spelling errors in five or six typewritten pages of text might be forgiven, but one or two per page will spell disaster for the grade. Failure carefully to proofread the text will be particularly expensive. It will be evident in Wandering Person (from Third Person Impersonal to First Person Singular to Plural, etc.); in Incomplete Sentences; in Garbled Meanings; in Typographical Errors; and particularly in Spelling Errors.

There will be no reduction of the score for a correction made during proofreading.



* Sections were written by Wayne E. Phillips.


VII. ERRORS FREQUENTLY FOUND IN STUDENT REPORTS

  1. Writing to the instructor:

    "The flow bench was used to . . ."

    This was the student's first mention of any apparatus. If he had been writing a memo to the instructor about the flow bench, starting this way would have been proper. A report, however, must . introduce the flow bench as though the reader had' never seen one before. See APPARATUS.

     

  2. Meaningless report titles:

    "Flow Bench Experiments"

    (to whom outside your class would that mean anything?)

     

  3. Reference to the project or to the written report as "the lab." The "lab." is a place: the laboratory where the test was done.

     

  4. Vagueness, imprecision:

    "pressure drop inside nozzle"

    "open manometers were placed inside each venturi"

     

  5. Confused appositives:

    "compressible method"

    (How did you compress the method, pray tell?)

     

  6. Poor distinction between physical phenomena and the mathematics that describe them:

    "Compressible and incompressible flow" (of air).

    Only the mathematical technique neglects compressibility. The air is always compressible.

     

  7. Misuse of terms:

    "Arbitrarily" for "read from a graph"

     

  8. Wrong emphasis:

    Important parts of report consigned to an Appendix.

     

  9. Inattention to graphing details:

    Margins used for legend
    Poor line work
    Freehand-drawn symbols
    Non-descriptive or inappropriate title Bastard scales
    Incomplete axis legend
    Graph not dated; name of investigator omitted

     

  10. Wrong or inappropriately-mixed tense, person, voice or mood.

     

  11. Chronological treatment of procedure:

    "then the . . . and then . . ."

     

  12. Mixed phraseology:

    " . . . measured at the fan inlet, and the exhaust, and
    room temperature."

     

  13. Inappropriate conclusions:

    "The lab went good."

    This particular student said absolutely nothing about the test results. In addition he made several other mistakes:

    - the lab didn't go anywhere; it's still there.
    - the test was successful; it didn't "go good" like a used car.
    - Its success shouldn't have been mentioned at all.
    - If "went______" had to be used, it should have been "went well."

     

  14. Incomplete sentences:

    ". . . in the tank. Though the temperature in
    the tank went down."

     

  15. Split infinitives:

    Bad: ". . . to better do the"
    Good: ". . . to do the . . . better"

     

  16. Spelling:

    "to" for "too" or sometimes even for "two." The reverse also occurs.

     

  17. Singular/plural usage confusion:

    "none were" (correct: "none was")

    "data was" (correct: "data were")

     

  18. References not included, or included without citation in the Introduction.

     

  19. Illustrations lacking, misplaced, copied from handouts without alteration.

     

  20. No, or poor, apparatus descriptions.

     

  21. Mixed section content (apparatus descriptions in the Introduction, for example).

     

  22. Efforts to appear learned by using buzzwords or complicated phraseology.

     


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