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Project report suggestions

The schema of your presentation should be
  1. Question: why are you doing this?
  2. Methodology: what did you do?
  3. Result: what happened?
  4. Conclusion: how do you interpret what happened as an answer to the question?
Each investigation should have all four pieces, almost always in that order.

Here are some writing errors I see in many student papers; please use this as a checklist before you turn in your paper.

1) Since the dawn of time, college students have been writing introductions that are too grandiose (and often false).  Just get into it; you don't have to zoom in from space (and make stuff up).  Write the abstract last and summarize the most important result.  Avoid vagueness like "we explore", "we investigate", etc.

2) The passive voice is a hoax. Please write in the first person singular.

3) If a figure doesn't contain much information, summarize it in text.

4) Write in the present tense whenever possible.

5) Don't use the word "interesting."  Don't use "very", "quite", or other qualifiers.  Be careful with "significant" and "correlation".  "Trend" usually means something is changing in time; "pattern" is more general.  Two variables have a "relationship".

Avoid the word "statistics," and especially "summary statistics."  They are part of the meta-language, not the language of the report.  It's like saying "Table 1 presents some science."

6) Don't compute summary statistics and then try to guess the shape of the distribution.  You have the data; you don't have to guess.  Show the PMF/CDF first, then choose appropriate summary statistics.

7) Motivation, motivation, motivation.  Don't do investigations just because you were told to.  "Here's the PMF you ordered."

8) No personal quests!  I don't want to hear about false starts, trials and tribulations.

9) When you refer to figures and tables, capitalize "Figure" and "Table."  Formal figures have a number and a caption, and they can float.  Informal figures are part of the text flow.

10) Don't report more significant digits than you have.  If in doubt, report 3.

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