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Writing Notes: Document Presentation

Here are some tips to bear in mind when writing and presenting a document that describes a piece of academic work. Although the notes were put together for students writing in the area of language technology, they apply more generally to a wide range of scientific and technical writing. They may not be so appropriate for writing in arts and humanities disciplines.

  1. Give your documents sensible file names, especially when you send them to other people. In particular, when you send a document to another person, it's a good idea to include your name in the title: receiving 50 documents titled 'proposal.doc' doesn't assist the recipient much in file management. The same goes for documents made available by other means, for example via a web site. So, you might have something like 'Smith Honours Proposal.doc'.

  2. It's often useful to include a date in the title of a document, especially when that document goes through multiple versions. The best form of date to use is the 'YYYY-MM-DD' form, since this will cause files with the same name to be listed in temporal order when they are sorted alphabetically. So you might have something like 'Smith Honours Proposal 2002-02-25.doc'.

  3. Make sure your document has a cover page that contains the title and your name. In most circumstances it's also appropriate to include the date of the document on the front cover, again to make it easier for the recipient to manage multiple versions. Version numbers are okay too.

  4. Make it easy for the reader to navigate your document:

    Providing explicit labelling like this also makes it much easier for someone else to refer to your document.

  5. Care about presentation. This is important at a variety of levels:

    By paying attention to these often aesthetic matters, you'll find your document is more warmly accepted by its readers.

[Did you find this page useful? Did it miss out something on the topic you thought was important? Is some part of it wrong? Mail me and let me know.]

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Last Modified: 8 February 2006