Roadmap

Reporting

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

Contents (minimal)

  • Orthogonality: Do the chapters cover distinct subjects of my work (good), or are there many overlaps in the subjects covered by the chapters (bad)?
  • Completeness: Do the chapters form a complete impression of my work (good) or do I miss some important issues (bad)?
  • 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)?
  • 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)?
  • 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:

  • Unnumbered region: begin (informal)
    - Abstract
    - Preface
    - List of contents
  • Numbered region (formal)
    1.Introduction
    - Background (Motivation)
    - Goals
    - Approach
    - Structure of the report
    2....N-1 [Body-chapters]
    - N. Conclusions and recommendations
  • Unnumbered region: end (formal)
    - References (literature)
    - Appendices
    - Summary

Writing

  • Take care of the audience you are writing for.
  • Give preference to simple and short sentences.
  • Be precise. For example, use only one term to refer to some concept and keep the terminology consistent.
  • Give preference to the direct forms. For example, it is preferable to write ‘The chapter discusses…’ in place of ‘In the chapter … is discussed’.
  • 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’.
  • 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.
  • Emphasis should be homogenous throughout the text. We recommend the use of italics for emphasis.
  • A clear figure or table says more than 1000 words, but be careful: a bad figure says 1000 wrong words!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.