XS3900 Project Report
XS3900 Project Report: Guidance
Because of the diverse nature of the projects there will be some variation in the format of the work. The guidance below should however be followed wherever possible unless you have agreed with the module leader or project supervisor any variance of this.
Word length: There is a maximum word length of 7200 words (+-10%) for the formal report. Please note that 7200 (+10%) words is the maximum, but this should in no way be interpreted to mean that less than 7200 is undesirable. We would encourage you to be as succinct and economical as possible in your use of words, in order to achieve clarity of expression.
The report must be word processed. Line spacing should be 1.5 (as I have used here). The margins should be 2.5 cm top, bottom, and right with a 3.5 cm margin on the left (to allow for binding). As this is electronic submission only all margins can be 2.5 cm. For printing and binding purposes, the margins would be 2.5 cm top, bottom, and right with a 3.5 cm margin on the left (to allow for binding). Number pages on the bottom of the page either centre or right justified.
Reports will be independently double marked by your supervisor and one other member of the teaching team. The marks will be awarded according the marking criteria in the 2021-22 MIP, these are then discussed, and a final grade agreed. Where the two markers award disparate marks, or in the unlikely situation they disagree, then the report will be marked by a third marker and the final mark awarded. This process is recorded and made available to the external examiner. Familiarise yourself with the marking criteria for both the report and the reflection.
Format of the Formal Report
• Title Page (Project title, Student name, student number, degree course, year or date)
• Signed word length and plagiarism declaration (available on Blackboard)
i. Abstract* (250-300 words)
ii. List of contents (page numbering should identify where key sections begin)
iii. List of tables and illustrative materials (images / photographs etc.) Inc. page numbers
v. Abbreviations (Glossary of terms) if applicable. Note these should be also explained in full where they appear in the text
1. Introduction (typically 1500-2000 words) *
4. Discussion (including conclusion) (typically 2000-2500 words) *
5. Critical Reflection (800 words)
*These sections are included in the word count of 7200 (+10%).
This should be uncluttered and include the title of the project centred on the page. Then in the bottom right-hand corner, your name, registration number, course, supervisors name and date.
Abstract (approx. 250-300 words)
Although some journals still publish abstracts that are written as free-flowing paragraphs, most journals require abstracts to conform to a formal structure within a word count of, usually, 200–300 words. The usual sections defined in a structured abstract are the Background, Methods, Results, and Conclusion. The guidance highlighted below will help you construct your abstract.
Background: This section should be the shortest part of the abstract and should very briefly outline the following information: 1. What is already known about the subject, related to the paper in question
2. What is not known about the subject and hence what the study intended to examine (or what the research seeks to address). State your primary aim/objective and/or hypothesis being tested. Methods: The methods section is usually the second-longest section in the abstract. It should contain enough information to enable the reader to understand what was done and how it was done. State the research design, the setting of the study, how participants were sampled/recruited and sample size. Procedure used, duration of study, interventions, groupings, or experimental manipulations, as appropriate, and the outcome measures should also be stated.
Results: The results section is the most important part of the abstract and nothing should compromise its range and quality. This is because readers who peruse an abstract do so to learn about the findings of the study. The results section should therefore be the longest part of the abstract and should contain as much detail about the findings as the word count permits. Conclusions: This section should contain the most important take-home message of the study, expressed in a few precisely worded sentences. Usually, the finding highlighted here relates to the primary outcome measure; however, other important or unexpected findings should also be mentioned. It is also customary, but not essential, to express an opinion about the theoretical or practical implications of the findings, or the importance of the findings for the field. Thus, the conclusions may contain three elements: 1. The primary take-home message 2. The additional findings of importance 3. The perspective Despite its necessary brevity, this section has the most impact on the average reader because readers generally trust authors and take their assertions at face value. For this reason, the conclusions should also be scrupulously honest; and authors should not claim more than their data demonstrate.
This section is purely for your own use (it is not assessed). It is your opportunity to say thanks to those who have helped with the project. Or if you wish to recognise the contributions others have made to your journey whilst you have been studying for a degree such as your friends and family.
A typical introduction (review of literature) is about 1500-2000 words in length. The aim of the Introduction is to provide relevant background information, and to explain the rationale for your study. This should be comprehensive and demonstrate a good grasp of the area, structure is important, and it may be that the use of sub-headings is appropriate. The background from your initial ethics form or project proposal is a good place to start and expand on. This scene setting should provide a clear rationale for the study you are about to report. This should include a clear indication of the question(s) you are exploring, or the hypothesis(es) you are testing. You may well be exploring several questions which differ in importance. Your introduction (review of literature) should end with a short paragraph drawing together key points from your literature review which inform your research project. This is a summary/rationale for your research followed by your hypothesis/research question (s) and aims/objectives.
This section should allow your work to be repeated by the reader. It should have exact specifications of all materials and procedures used but should assume that the reader is literate in the area, i.e. absolute methodology is not necessary. Look at journal articles for examples of methodologies and how there are reported. When describing your methods, you should include appropriate references to studies that have used the same techniques. If there are errors or limitations associated with using these techniques, you can state these here or consider if this should come into your discussion section when you address the limitations of your study.
Methods should include sub-headings, and these will depend on the nature of your project:
• Ethics and Participant Recruitment
• Equipment and materials
• Study Design/Study Protocol
• Search Protocol/Strategy
• Results screening and data extraction
• Development of Questionnaire & Pilot Testing
• Data Handling/Analysis
• Statistical Analysis
Use straightforward plain English, always using the past tense passive voice, e.g. “an investigation was carried out – “rather than “I carried out an investigation into -“.
A flow chart or diagram outlining your methodological process can be useful for all research project types but particularly reviews where the inclusion/exclusion process can be outlined.
This section is simply the presentation of your data/findings with appropriate statistical data. For many this will see data presented as means and standard deviations/95% confidence intervals and individual subject data/raw data can be included in the Appendix (refer the reader to the appropriate one, e.g. See Appendix A). Individual data can be presented if this is relevant to your project. For systematic reviews/meta-analyses data will be collated and presented from the research papers included. Statistical analysis outputs should be presented in the Appendix. Only the outcome of that analysis belongs in this section, and clearly labelled graphs or tables are a good way of displaying your results. There must be a commentary (also sometimes called a narrative) which draws attention to the main features of the results which you present in the form of tables, graphs, histograms, or charts. Make sure that the legends of graphs, histograms, bar charts and tables are an accurate. Make sure all tables, charts and graphs are correctly numbered and the correct number is referred to in results text. Ensure that the axes are labelled, and units specified in graphs and tables.
Many results sections will begin with a description/table of participant characteristics or an outline of the search protocol/included study characteristics. Core demographics/characteristics can be presented in a table.
A typical discussion is about 2000-2500 words in length. This section should begin with a summary of the results in non-statistical language. It should then progress to explain/interpret the meaning of the results considering your original research question/hypothesis/aims. You should then compare your findings to previously published research (mainly from your introduction) although there may be new research since the introduction was written. It is important to ensure your literature base is current. How do your results fit in with the findings from previous studies? What are the implications? Critical evaluation is important, if your research contradicts previous research or even your original hypothesis why is this? The Discussion should end with a limitations section (there may be methodological problems that need to be mentioned here, especially if the expected results were not obtained), future research (do you have any suggestions as to what might be an interesting way to progress with future research in the area) and a conclusion (short paragraph with the primary take-home message, any additional findings of importance and the theoretical or practical implications for practice.
There must be a Reference Section at the end of your project report, which includes a list of all articles/ books/ reports/ websites to which you have referred in your text. References should be listed in alphabetical order, author’s surname first and APA or Harvard System is acceptable.
The appendices should include: ‘raw’ data files, copies of questionnaires, diet diaries, SPSS printouts of results. The key to this section is that it keeps the report uncluttered, as you find in a journal article, whilst providing the detail necessary to assess your work. All participant
documents should be templates only. The ethics form and risk assessment should be signed/complete.