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Academic Report Writing School of the Built Environment

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  1. Academic Report WritingSchool of the Built Environment Heriot-Watt University – Dubai Campus Sources: HWU SBE Programme Handbook/Dissertation Guide

  2. Preparation Structure Citation/Referencing Plagiarism Example – case of plagiarism Good Practice Submission Outline of Presentation Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  3. Understand ‘what is required (being asked)’ Identify relevant sources of information/material. Plan your approach. Marking criteria – this will be issued or explained by the module leader. Early start clarifies thinking and reveals weaknesses while there is still time to take remedial action. Preparation Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  4. Literature Review • Forms the basis of any research; • Purpose: • Demonstrate skills in information seeking and critical appraisal • Two types: • Critical Review of ‘the literature’ on a particular topic; • Critical Review of one paper.

  5. What are the key theories? Definitions? What are the key sources? How is the knowledge structured? Literature search & critical review What are the major issues and current debates about the topic? What are the main questions and problems addressed to date? Origins?

  6. Information Seeking: Sources • Articles from journals (in print/ electronic) • Industry Reports • Books • Newspaper articles/websites (caution!!) • Commercial reports and stats • Govt reports and stats • Theses and dissertations (internal/external) • Professional bodies (RICS, CIOB,ICE,APM,PMI)

  7. Questions to ask about the study • What is the problem/issue? • Has the author evaluated the literature relevant to the problem/issue? • How good is the study design? • In what way does the article contribute to our understanding of the problem/issue? • In what ways is it useful to practice? • What are its strengths and limitations?

  8. Consideration of the issues: • Provenance—What are the author's credentials? Are the author's arguments supported by evidence? • Objectivity—Is the author's perspective even-handed or prejudicial? Is contrary data considered or is certain pertinent information ignored to prove the author's point? • Persuasiveness—Which of the author's theories are compelling (or not)? • Value—Does the work ultimately contribute in any significant way to an understanding of the subject?

  9. Critical Appraisal – Hierarchy of Learning When writing for academic purposes: • Describe • Summarise • Clarify • Evaluate and • Integrate

  10. Critical Appraisal – Tips on how to do it? • Assess logic and rationale of arguments • Quality of substantiating data • Recognising unstated assumptions • Judging whether conclusions are warranted • Recognise, Analyse, Evaluate • Developing a systematic approach HINT: Being critical is NOT rubbishing/rejecting someone’s work.

  11. Critical Appraisal – Tips on how to do it? • Place your work in context of others • Acknowledging deficiencies of both • Move the debate forward • Criticism is evaluation (‘a considered and justified process’) • Perhaps look at five key areas: • Assumptions, Arguments, Methodologies, Accuracy of data collected, Interpretation

  12. Description vs. Explanation • To describe = to draw an overall picture of what happened to make complicated situation easier to understand • To explain = to account for what happened, how it happened and why to find reasons for things, events and situations We can describe things without explanation. But we cannot explain things before you can describe it. Scientific research pursues EXPLANATION, not description!

  13. Sections of the report (dissertation) should appear in the following order: Title/cover page Statement of authorship/checklist Table of contents (dissertation) List of tables and illustrations (dissertation) Acknowledgements (dissertation) Abstract (approximately 300 words in length - dissertation) Glossary of abbreviations (dissertation) Main sections/chapters References Appendices Structure -layout Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  14. Report should be written in an impersonal style, i.e. the use of 'I'or 'You' should be avoided. Should be written in a consistent manner, i.e. in the same tense and format. It is important to adopt a mode of writing that keeps the reader interested (and aware!), and this can be achieved more easily if the active voice is used PASSIVE "The site was studied and it was seen that ..." ACTIVE "Examination of the site showed that ..." Personal pronoun can be used occasionally but should be discreet - to establish the authorship of opinion For example: " ... and I believe that this was because ... " " ... this argument leads me to conclude that ... " Structure - style Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  15. Structure…. • Provide clear & cohesive arguments • Respond to the issue (s) in question. • Font size – 12 point Times New Roman generally throughout the script • Graphical communications are more efficient than words - but choose them wisely; e.g.: -pictures, graphs, diagrams, maps, flow-charts. Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  16. Text style -use full left and right justification. Use bold emphasis carefully. Use capital letters as little as possible, usually for the first letter of headings, sub-headings, captions, names and proper nouns. Headings, -ranged left in bold not underlined in 14 pt Times New Roman Main headings - leave two blank lines above and one blank line below. Initial capital letter for first word only. Number headings in sequence within a chapter - indent between the number and the heading. Do not end headings with a full stop. Range any second line of a heading left. Do not start headings at the foot of a page or with only one line of text below. Sub headings – bold not underlined, in 12 point, one blank line above & no blank line below. Structure – Features Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  17. Poor or inadequate referencing – always use the Harvard style of referencing (e.g. Green (2009)). Unsubstantiated assertions – always try and support what you say with RELEVANT and CREDIBLE sources Excessive amount of words – writing clear and concisely is a core business skill! Little or no critical analysis – presenting information is the first step, explaining and evaluating it is what counts!! Lack of academic rigour and clarity Common Mistakes Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  18. Common Mistakes • Inadequate evidence and lack of argument • Untidy or poorly presented graphics and text – standardise the presentation and make it • Bad spelling and poor grammar, even with spell-checking software • Lack of focus • Conclusions which are not supported by the results Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  19. Always indicate the exact source of material which is not your own - direct quotations, indirect quotations, closely paraphrased material, facts which may otherwise be disputed opinions or authorities that you use in your arguments etc. It is a matter of academic integrity - meticulously referenced piece of writing is a sign of academic strength not weakness and it serves to give your work authority. This should be done in two ways: by referring to source material in the text of the essay or report itself (citation) by including a reference list at the end (reference) Citation/Referencing Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  20. Why Citation/Referencing • Demonstrate how widely you have read; • So that those reading or listening to your work can, if they wish, check that facts have been reported accurately, follow up opinions or arguments referred to, or find out more about the topic from another source; • So that a judgement can be made about the skill with which other writings or information are being used to construct arguments in the essay. • Avoid plagiarism. Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  21. Recommended form of referencing to be used is the Harvard or numeric system. Harvard system requires you to include the appropriate reference to the authors surname and year of publication in rounded brackets, at the appropriate point in your text. List of references provided at the end of the paper, sorted alphabetically, by authors’ surnames, and presented without bullets or numbers. Referencing Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  22. Referencing - Harvard • Referencing a paper/chapter in a book • Flint, F.O. (1984) Advances in light microscopy of foods. In: G.G. Birch and K.J. Parker, (eds.) Control of food quality and food analysis. London: Elsevier Applied Science Publishers. • Referencing an article in a periodical • Wantanakorn, D, Mawdesley, M J and Askew, W H (1999) Management errors in construction. Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, 6(2), 112-20. Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  23. Reference to a thesis El-Askari Khaled Mohamed, S (2000) A methodology for expenditure planning of irrigation infrastructure using hydraulic modelling techniques, Unpublished PhD Thesis, Department of Engineering, University of Southampton. Referencing a paper in a conference Ashton, P and Gidado, K (2001) Risk associated with inadequate site investigation procedures under design and build procurement systems. In: Akintoye, A (Ed.), 17th Annual ARCOM Conference, 5-7 September 2001, University of Salford. Association of Researchers in Construction Management, Vol. 1, 961-9. Referencing - Harvard Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  24. Referencing material on the internet Smith, R (2004) Regional feature- London’s Docklands. Hay Montrose. Updated 2004, Available: http://www.hayspersonnel.com/uk/index.jsp?channel. Accessed, 2004, June 25. Referencing a government report DoE (1990) Housing and Construction Statistics 1979-1989 Referencing a book Walker, A (2002) Project management in construction. 4th ed. Oxford: Blackwell Science. Referencing - Harvard Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  25. Plagiarism involves the act of taking the ideas, writings or inventions of another person and using these as if they were one’s own, whether intentionally or not. Copying the work of others, including that of other students in the class or group, is an indication of unfair means whereby one person gains credit for the work undertaken by another – if permitted extent of reproduction permissible must be declared. Collusioninvolves an agreement to deceive. This means that more than one person is involved in the deception Plagiarism, cheating & collusion Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  26. Plagiarism, cheating & collusion • The School treats plagiarism, cheating and collusion very seriously in accordance with University guidance. • Working with other students in informal study groups is a desirable part of the academic experience but students must ensure that the work that is finally submitted is theirs and not that of anyone else • Take responsibility for applying principles of best practice and integrity within all of your work. • Be aware that your written work will be checked for plagiarism and that all incidents of plagiarism, if found, are likely to result in severe disciplinary action by the University. Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  27. Scenario 1: University and college managers should consider implementing strategic frameworks if they wish to embrace good management standards. One of the key problems in setting a strategic framework for a college or university is that the individual institution has both positive and negative constraints placed upon its freedom of action. Managers are employed to resolve these issues effectively. Examples – case of plagiarism Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  28. Examples – case of plagiarism • Scenario 2: “One of the key problems in setting a strategic framework for a college or university is that the individual institution has both positive and negative constraints placed upon its freedom of action” (Jones, 2001, p121). • Scenario 3: “It has been asserted that Higher Education in the United Kingdom continued to be poorly funded during the 1980’s [Brown, 1991], whereas more modern writers [Smith, 2002] argue that the HE sector actually received, in real terms, more funding during this period than the thirty year period immediately preceding it”. Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  29. Generally, referencing systems fall into the Harvard (where the text citation is by author and date) and numeric (where the text citation is by using a number) Citations: when a direct quotation, a figure, a general idea or other piece of information is taken from another source, the work and its source must be acknowledged and identified where it occurs in the text; Quotations: inverted commas must always be used to identify direct quotations, and the source of the quotation must be cited; Good Practice Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  30. Good Practice • List of References: the full details of all references and other sources must be listed in a section at the end of any piece of work, such as an essay, together with the full publication details. • Bibliography -generally contain references and sources which, although not directly referred to in your work, you consulted in producing your work. Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  31. Coursework must be submitted with a School of the Built Environment Coursework Submission Cover Sheet Softcopy must be clearly labeled providing students details – same as on the cover sheet. Where required – submission is to be uploaded to the “FINAL Turnitin location” prior to handing over/submitting your work. Note: Refer coursework instruction/check with your module leader/tutor Submission Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  32. Submission… • Important : Students who are having problems throughout the coursework period are requested to consult the staff member responsible for the coursework at least 1 week prior to the submission date • Remember: Draft – Edit – Final document for submission. Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook

  33. Approach

  34. All the best Sources:HWU SBE Dissertation Guide & CMS Programme PG Handbook