This guide outlines the kinds of material you need to collect before you can begin writing in earnest. Most of the necessary research project materials will consist of your own ideas and experiences gained while carrying out the project, and your approach to solving the problem you have decided to address. For the background study or literature review, you will also need references to various resources such as key books and papers, policy documents, Internet resources, etc.
While working on the project you may find it helpful to keep a notebook handy and record all relevant information. Typically such information will include:
- References such as papers, books, websites with full bibliography details;
- Lessons learned, for inclusion in the “reflective” part of your report;
- Notes from meetings or interviews with;
- your supervisor;
- potential end-users and other stakeholders;
- technical experts;
Also, I recommend that you keep a diary of all your project-related activities. This will show the progress made during the life of the project and will provide a record of how you spent your time.
In general, you should supplement the research project materials you generate yourself with relevant project material from other sources. A good project report will show that you are aware of relevant work that other people have done.
You should include relevant references to such work in your project report. References to work in periodicals, i.e. magazines and journals, and conference proceedings may be more useful than references to textbooks, as periodicals and conferences are usually more specialised and up to date.
References to technical manuals, national and international standards should also be included, where appropriate. You may also cite websites as sources, if suitable. However, keep in mind that websites may often contain incomplete or wrong information and in general textbooks or papers are a better reference and show that you have done a more extensive literature review than just searching for some keywords on the Internet.
Arranging research project materials and structuring the project report
You should consider, at the beginning of your project, what you need to do to solve the problem you have chosen to address. This will then inform choices about the structure of your report; your written report needs to be both a “narrative” (telling the story of your project) and an “argument” (providing a logical justification of the steps you have undertaken to solve your chosen problem).
Once you have started to gather research project materials you can begin to arrange it in a form which can then be refined into the final project report, though the outline chapter headings shown below will serve as a good guide in the early stages of your work.
All good project reports whatever their subject, follow certain well-established conventions and have a similar overall shape. They generally consist of a main body surrounded by other information (presented in appropriate formats) that support it in various ways. Some of these are mandatory, others are optional. Your supervisor is the best person to guide you on this.