Writing tips for student reports

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Introduction

This document aims to prevent the most commonly made writing mistakes in student reports. Some aspects are a matter of taste and style, but the style in a report must at least be consistent throughout the entire report.

Guidelines

  • Try to formulate precise and compact.


  • Equations are part of a sentence and also have interpunction.
Newtons second law,
F=ma,
(1.1)

states that the acceleration a of a body is parallel and directly proportional to the net force F and inversely proportional to the mass m.

Referring to an equation is done using brackets only, so without the word equation, except for references at the beginning of a sentence.

This is equivalent to (1.1) since...
Equation (1.1) shows that...


  • References to chapters, sections, figures, tables, etc. should have capital first letters. However, when the chapter, section, etc is not specified (so without number), use small first letter
In Chapter 2 there are many figures that are very small. One example is Figure 2.3, which is only 1cm x 1cm. The other chapters are ok.


  • Notice the difference between which and that. Restrictive clauses are introduced by that and are not separated from the rest of the sentence by commas.

Non-restrictive clauses are introduced by which and must be separated by commas from the rest of the sentence to indicate parenthesis.

The door, which is blue, is closed. (The fact that the door is blue is additional information in this case.)
The door that is blue is closed. (Use this when there are more doors and you want to specify that only the door that is blue is closed.)


  • Labels of figures should be readable and all figures should have the same fontsize. You can use some tools on this wiki to achieve this Matlab tools


  • Use impersonal form, so do not use we, I, our, etc.


  • Do not use abbreviations for not, are and possessive forms.
don't should be do not
they're should be they are
doesn't should be does not
the machine's dynamics should be the dynamics of the machine
etc.


  • Do not use the -ing form incorrectly. In reports it will not be used often, usually the to + verb form is better.
For deriving this result... should be To derive this result...
etc.
  • Officially e.g. and i.e. have both a trailing and leading comma.
I'm going to the place where I work best, i.e., the coffee shop.
At the places where I work well, e.g., Starbucks, I have none of the distractions I have at home.

Try to reduce the use of i.e. since it disturbs the flow of your report. The expression before and after i.e. often does not add a lot of clarification as it should, but just gives an alternative expression of the same thing. On many occations you can leave one of both out (and i.e. along with it!)

  • In latex, a blank line is treated as the start of a new paragraph. Be aware of this and only start a new paragraph if you really intend to.
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