Reporting

These are the things you need to take into account when writing your report:

Contents (minimal)

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Orthogonality: Do the chapters cover distinct subjects of my work (good), or are there many overlaps in the subjects covered by the chapters (bad)?

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Completeness: Do the chapters form a complete impression of my work (good) or do I miss some important issues (bad)?

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Pertinence: Are all the chapters pertinent (they are about things that are used in the work, which is good), or do I have lots of text just to fill in pages (bad)?

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Balance: Are the chapters balanced with respect to the amount of information (good), or do I have a couple of ‘thin’ chapters and one or two “thick’ ones (bad)?

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Consistency: Is your structure built according to a logical order of subjects, like, e.g., problem definition, approach, produced results and conclusions (good), or is the structure a collection of unrelated items (bad)?

General outline MSc thesis:

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Unnumbered region: begin (informal)

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Abstract

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Preface

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List of contents

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Numbered region (formal)

1.

Introduction

Background (Motivation)

Goals

Approach

Structure of the report

2.

...N-1 [Body-chapters]

N. Conclusions and recommendations

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Unnumbered region: end (formal)

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References (literature)

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Appendices

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Summary

Writing

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Take care of the audience you are writing for.

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Give preference to simple and short sentences.

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Be precise. For example, use only one term to refer to some concept and keep the terminology consistent.

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Give preference to the direct forms. For example, it is preferable to write ‘The chapter discusses…’ in place of ‘In the chapter … is discussed’.

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Give preference to the present tense. For example, it is preferable to write ‘This chapter discusses…’ in place of ‘This chapter will discuss’ or ‘This chapter discussed’.

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Try to make the layout of your text such that it is ‘inviting to read’. For example, do not write too much text in a page without a break (e.g., section, sub-section, figures of tables), separate paragraphs with empty space or indentation, and do not emphasize too many words.

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Emphasis should be homogenous throughout the text. We recommend the use of italics for emphasis.

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A clear figure or table says more than 1000 words, but be careful: a bad figure says 1000 wrong words!

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Be consistent with layout, captions, cross-references, etc. For example, place figures and captions always in the same place, use always the same font for similar things, etc.

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Use chapters and sections to enforce the logical structure of your reasoning. This results in a thesis that appeals to the intuition of the reader.

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Do not go too deep in the sub-sections. This normally indicates that the whole thesis is badly structured. For example, this manual has 20 to 30 pages and goes until level 2 (e.g., section 3.2); for an MSc thesis of around 100 to 150 pages it is reasonable to go until level 3.

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Every time you have numbered sections in a chapter or numbered subsections in a section, you should have at least two. For example, a numbered section hanging alone in a chapter actually means that the chapter remains monolithic.

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Avoid using footnotes, unless you have some remark that would ruin the line of reasoning if placed in the body of the text. These situations are very rare.