Technical Writing Advice

In-Text Citations and References Sections

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Today I’m very excited to bring you our first guest post on this blog.  It was written by my colleague Dr. Evan Davies and it’s all about how to handle your citations and references correctly in a formal report or thesis.  I’m sure you will find this information extremely useful!  Thanks Evan for sharing this great advice with us!   Read the rest of this entry »

Referencing (or how to avoid plagiarizing)…

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One thing I encounter consistently and frequently, from undergrads right up to PhD students, is general confusion about properly referencing source material. Whether it be an assignment, conference presentation, or term paper – students repeatedly present photos, graphs, tables, prose, and concepts painstakingly collected and/or developed by others, with absolutely no acknowledgements to the people who actually own that intellectual property. These students don’t (all) intentionally plagiarise, they just don’t seem to realize that copying the thoughts, ideas, or products of someone else’s efforts actually constitutes plagiarism. So if you’re a college or university student, read on and learn how to get it right…   Read the rest of this entry »

Step 4 of your Literature Review – Writing it Up!

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Note –  if you haven’t done so already, I suggest you go back and read the posts covering Steps 1, 2 and 3 of the literature review: finding stuff, organizing and screening, and normalizing.  Then you’ll be ready to hear about Step 4 – writing.   Read the rest of this entry »

Step 3 of your Literature Review – Normalizing

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Note – if you haven’t read  them already, I suggest you go back and read the last two posts covering Steps 1 and 2 of the literature review: finding stuff and organizing and screening.  Then you’ll be ready to hear about Step 3 – normalizingRead the rest of this entry »

Step 2 of your Literature Review – Organizing and Screening

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Note – if you haven’t read it already, I suggest you go back and read last week’s post describing Step 1 in the process: “Finding Stuff”Step 2 (this post) involves organizing and screening your information.  The method I’m going to describe to you was taught to me by my own PhD supervisor many years ago – I still recommend it to all of my students, though with a few modernizations included to take advantage of technologies that weren’t around when I was a student.   Read the rest of this entry »

Step 1 of your Literature Review – Finding Stuff

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There’s nothing more embarrassing that writing an entire report on a topic, then finding out that someone has already done it all.  Multiply that sentiment by a factor of about a thousand if you’re writing a Master’s thesis – start a new project from scratch if this happens during your PhD.  Whatever you’re writing or researching – the first step is always to conduct a thorough literature review.  For a Master’s thesis you might get away with knowing just some of the relevant literature – depending upon your university’s academic requirements – but for a PhD you have to find absolutely everything and that’s a huge job.  How do you tackle it?  Well, like everything else we’ve been talking about in this blog – I suggest you go about it methodically and that means having a plan. There are four key steps in the typical Literature Review: 1) finding stuff, 2) organizing and screening, 3) normalizing and 4) writing.  Today we’ll deal with the first step…   Read the rest of this entry »

How to Write your Introduction, Abstract and Summary

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These are the most important components of your thesis or report.  Put your biggest effort into getting them perfect.  Most professors read the Abstract, Introduction and Conclusions chapters of a thesis first, then they dive into the main body text afterwards.  This means that you have to be particularly careful in wording these sections, since there is some content overlap.  If you just copy and paste text between them, people will notice and it won’t leave them with a very favourable impression.  Many people read technical reports in the same order – in fact, some people actually never read anything but the Abstract, Introduction and Conclusions!   Read the rest of this entry »