Table of Contents

Writing the Project Report

Once you have gathered and organised enough material you can turn it into written prose. To write effectively requires sustained concentration over long periods of time. Even with the incremental authoring possibilities that word processing offers, writing is best done in long uninterrupted sessions. Most people find it difficult and tiring.

There are rules you can follow which may make the task easier and which will certainly improve the quality of your writing, but unfortunately there are rather a lot of these and in a guide of this size we can only offer a few pieces of general advice:

The project report's structure does not necessarily dictate the order in which you write it. If you want you can start by writing the Introduction, then the Background section, and so on, but this is up to you. Some people start by writing the Introduction first which gives direction to writing the other sections, but others prefer to leave writing the Introduction until last, as reports rarely turn out as planned. We recommend that you start with the middle sections, then write the Introduction (guiding the reader to what they will find in the report), then the Conclusions (bringing the report together at the end) and Reflection, and finally the Abstract (summing up the entire report). However you tackle the writing up, we recommend that you:

Potential Readership

Always keep your potential readers in mind and repeatedly review what you have written, putting yourself in their place. Look at the draft, sentence by sentence, and ask yourself: 'Will this make sense to the readers given their existing knowledge and what I have told them up to now?' You can consider the potential readership as

So, as noted earlier, do not explain things which are common knowledge to such readers.

Also, if your project report is of sufficient quality, your supervisor may consider submitting part of it to a journal for publication as a paper, in which case it may eventually be read by a substantial number of computing and other professionals.

Identifying Commonality

You can often both clarify text and reduce its bulk if you can identify generality or commonality among the ideas you are expressing. You can then revise the text so that the common factors are described first, followed by details of how specific individual ideas differ from them.

Sections and Subsections

The main body of the project report should be divided up into sections, along the lines suggested in Arranging Material and Structuring the Project Report or otherwise, as appropriate. Each section should, if necessary, be divided up into subsections, and so on recursively. Such nesting can be used to suggest some kind of hierarchical relationship between sections. This can become obscure though if the nesting gets to more than about three levels deep.

It is important that you start each section and subsection with a summary of the rest of the material in it, i.e. inform the reader of what you are about to tell them. This has the effect of “softening up” the reader so that when they move on to the body of the section they feel confident about the direction in which you are taking them. They are reassured at regular intervals when they encounter ideas that you have told them to expect. Without the overview the overall effect is like a mystery tour of ideas, with each new idea coming as a surprise. It is sometimes difficult to appreciate the need for this when you are the author because you are already intimately familiar with the whole route that the report takes.

Each major section should begin on a new page. All sections and subsections should be numbered and headed. Numbering should be like this: 3.10.7 – for subsubsection 7 in subsection 10, in section 3.

Stylistic Conventions

There are all kinds of stylistic conventions relating to technical writing that you should try to follow. For example:

Writing where the language style or typography, e.g. font or character size, change arbitrarily looks amateurish and can be very distracting for the reader. Use typography to support the content. Other places where consistency should be maintained include:

To some extent you can use your own judgement about what conventions to follow. Whatever you do though, you must be consistent.