SkillsLab Module for 6EMA05 - Topic Guide for Writing a Group Research Report
1. the writing process
2. structure and content of a Research Report
3. language and style
4. citation and referencing conventions
5. using Skills Lab
1. the writing process
The beauty of group writing is that you’re not alone – it’s a shared responsibility:
- you can consult and help each other
- you have a responsibility towards each other, which will benefit you by helping you to stay on track
Useful guidelines and tips for group writing can be found here.
Don’t skip the section “Pitfalls”: it includes some very important advice.
2. Structure and content of a Research Report
A research paper is composed of three main parts:
- Preliminaries – title/title page, authors, Abstract, Contents list (if the paper is long)
- Main body of the text – introduction, development, conclusions
- Final parts – references, appendices, acknowledgements (if you received funding or help from third parties)
You can use two sources of information on structure and content of a scientific paper.
Essentially, the development sections (Methods, Results) tell your reader how you did the research and what you found. In the 6EMA05 course, these will be assessed mainly by your content instructors.
The other parts serve to “sell” your research, and will be of particular interest in the assessment of the quality of your writing:
- the Introduction shows why the research is important, how it fits into the broader research area, and what your purpose was
- in the Discussion/Conclusion sections, you argue why the findings are relevant, novel, and important.
How the body sections are (sub)divided and headed depends on the conventions of your field, the topic, the journal guidelines (if you want to submit for publication).
Below are two examples of how former 6EMA05 students organised their papers:
3. Language and style
All aspects of academic writing aim at making the text easy to understand for the reader, so that the content comes through quickly and smoothly. If readers are distracted by problems of grammar, word choice, and style, this affects their appreciation of the message that you are trying to sell: that you have achieved good research results. If you submit a paper for publication, it may be turned down if these aspects are below standard.
If you are unsure about your English grammar and vocabulary skills, the TU/e language center offers a diagnostic test, which you can use. It gives an estimate of your level in language use.
You can work on your English on your own, by using the Skills Lab materials, or materials in the English Language Toolbox.
For further information about academic language and style, click here.
4. Citation and referencing conventions
All academic work is part of a greater body of knowledge. Showing where your work fits into this is an important part of academic practice at university. For this reason, you should always acknowledge that part of your work is based on the work and material of others, by referring to sources in your text and in the reference list.
The reference list serves to acknowledge other people’s work and avoid plagiarism (which can get a student expelled), and to enable readers to access your source material.
For publishing researchers, it also gives their specialized readers a quick idea of where exactly to place the work in the existing research, and of how current the sources are: if the list contains many outdated references, this will make a bad impression.
For students, the list also serves to show their instructors how thorough their literature research has been (including Wikipedia references may affect the grade).
There are various referencing and citation styles. For the 6EMA05 course, there are no strict requirements on reference formatting, but you must be consistent.
Frequently used styles are APA or Harvard. For scientific writing, one of the most used manuals for style and format is: Scientific Style and Format: the CSE Manual for Authors, Editors and Publishers. 7th edition. Council of Science Editors, 2006. Further information can be found here.
A useful free web-based reference organizer is Mendeley: it gathers, manages, and can create a bibliography of sources. Mendeley allows you to add documents directly from your computer hard-drive, as well as from books, journals, and internet sites. For information, access this website. You might have to use TU/e VPN.
5. Using Skills Lab to improve your academic writing skills
- Use the Thesis writing self-assessment document to guide you while writing. This document also serves as a guide for report writing. Each section of a research report is broken down into its essential components as well as the language typical to that section. You can also find an example of each section in which both structure and language is highlighted.
- Read Becoming a Better Academic Writer for tips on how to get started and become a better writer.
- Use the content in the SkillsLab library to find other resources that you need.
Both the guided learning sections as well as the Skills library can lead you to a vast range of resources for general academic writing. Search with tabs such as verb tenses, use of sources, paragraphs, punctuation etc.
Here is a taste of some of the useful resources that you can find in the SkillsLab library:
- Academic style
This document provides some tips on how to ensure your style of writing is at the required academic level.
- The Academic Phrasebank
This website is an excellent resource to use while writing your report. The academic phrasebank is organized according to the main sections of a research paper. The sections and the detail provided can be used simply to assist you in thinking about the content and organization of your own writing, while the skeleton phrases can easily be incorporated into your writing where appropriate.
- Verb tenses: past, present or future
In a mainstream research write-up, verb tenses are used as follows:
- simple past tense for ‘finished’ actions/events situated in the past
- Introduction, when describing previous research: “In 2004, Chin et al. found that... .”
- Methodology: “For the test setup, we used.....”;
- Results: “The analysis showed...”, “There was some inconsistency...”
- Discussion/Conclusions: “The purpose of the present study was..”
- present perfect tense for actions/events that started in the past but are still ongoing
- Introduction, when describing the current implications/relevance of previous research: “Traditionally, research has always focused..”, “For the past five years, there has been a rapid rise in...”
- Discussion/Conclusions: “This paper has presented an overview of...”,
- present tenses for general facts, conclusions and ideas situated in the present
- Introduction, when stating facts, or referring to the present paper: “Heart failure is the leading cause of death in the Western world.” “The aim of this article is to show...”, “The first section outlines....”
- Methodology: “X was performed using software package Y. This package consists of .....”(the package is in general current use)
- Discussion/Conclusions: “These results suggest..”, “This paper reports the results of....”,
- future tense for indicating plans/prognosis for the future: “Future work will focus on...”
- Modal verbs would/could/should/may for indicating possible explanations or suggestions
- Discussion: “Method variance may have influenced the correlations.”
- Recommendations: “Future research would benefit from..., “Future studies should use ...”
For more information on tense usage and whether to use past, present or present perfect tenses in various sections of your report, these documents can help you.
Verb tenses typically used in different sections of research reports.
Words that go together (collocations)
One of the trickiest areas of academic vocabulary is knowing which words are commonly used together. Such word combinations, also called collocations, are very important in academic writing, but also easy to get wrong.
Is it ‘different from’ or ‘different than'?
What is a nice academic substitute for ‘do research’?
Is it ‘discuss about a problem’ or ‘discuss a problem’?
The following websites can help answer your questions and help determine which words go together.
Here is a so-called corpus-based website that lists the word you enter in 50 or more contexts that it finds on the web (language corpuses). Seeing the word in context will show for example what words it collocates with, or what grammar forms or structures it is used in.
Writing a research proposal
For the guidelines of writing a research proposal, we direct you to this page in the SkillsLab library.
Finally, if you still can’t find the answer to your question, don’t hesitate to ask by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org