Oct 21: Writing A Proposal - Faculty of Computer Science

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should
contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph
no unnecessary sentences, for the same
reason that a drawing should have no
unnecessary lines and a machine no
unnecessary parts. “
From : William Strunk ‘s (1918) The Elements of Style.
The Dalhousie
Writing Centre
Computer science
 Dalhousie help and resources you can use.
 Getting started.
 Proposal writing
 Good writing practices/science writing tips.
 Revision
 References
The Dalhousie Writing Centre
Visit us online,
or in person:
Room G40C Killam
Library Learning
6225 University
My contact
[email protected]
Other recommended resources:
 Subject librarian
Gwendolyn McNairn
 Ref works
 Online Writing Style guides
 Online assignment calculator
Academic Integrity at Dalhousie
Online Writing Lab (OWL at
 A great online resource
(grammar, structure, etc.):
Please also see
 the Writing Centre LibGuide
 Australia’s University of Adelaide Writing Centre for a
webinar on intellectual property (and other materials)
The writing ...
 Planning, thinking, researching (reading, note taking)
 Outlining (going back)
 Writing in stages (especially for longer papers)
 Getting feedback
 Rewriting/revision
 Researching, rewriting
 Rewriting
 Finishing – final check & submitting
Before you start…
some things to consider
Developing good organizational and writing skills
 Know your assignment guidelines (read, re-read, ask)
 Create good notes (at all stages)
 Research/incorporate responsibly. Remember what is
 Give yourself time –be prepared to revisit and revise
the plan as you go.
When you begin the process
Know your
(who, why, what, how/when)
Recall that reading is part of the ongoing process…
 Read (and notice) good writing --for style, and for
• clarity (how did they
achieve it?)
• organization/structure/flow
• tone (discipline-specific
As you read, read actively…
Annotate the text with thoughts, questions, ideas…
Ask yourself:
 What is the author’s thesis?
 Have they supported their arguments? If so, how did they
do so?
 What have they left out?
 Have they thought of…?
As you research
 Limit your topic – continue to develop a strong thesis
 Use acceptable evidence
 Keep the reader in mind (tell them what you are doing –
share your logic)
 Make notes in your own voice
We’ll talk more specifically about your research proposals,
But now that you’ve done some research
 How do you go about incorporating
other writers’ work into your own?
Recall that other scholars’ ideas should
provide support, evidence, context for
your argument…
…they should not be the backbone of your writing—
You are becoming a part of the ‘culture of enquiry’ in which
your ideas are …
“informed by but separate from those of [your] sources”
(Gallant, 2011)
*Especially avoid “the world according to ____” and excessive
Writing academically
 Know the rules on using intellectual property
 Carefully indicate the work of others and your own work in
your notes
 Integrate source material into your work with clear
 Use a standard documentation/source guide (e.g. APA,
Vancouver, IEEE)
 Double (or triple) check everything before submission —
and don’t forget to check the work of group members***.
Some techniques that have worked for others
Find a way to keep track of your references without losing
the flow of your writing.
(But start the literature cited page immediately, and add to it
as you go.)
Student tips:
 Cue cards– can be shuffled
 Insert/comment feature
 Organize topics— numbering?
 Create clear file names
What exactly do we have to cite?
 The quick answer is:
Well, okay. There are two big exceptions:
 Your own thoughts and ideas*
 General knowledge (but be careful about what is general
Back to the how.
Generally speaking, there are three main
techniques or methods of incorporation.
Although much depends on the nature of the material and your
purpose, you’ll see and use the incorporation of
 Must be identical to the original – word for word.
 Must be indicated as a quotation in the text (with
quotation marks or blocking)
 Should have a ‘lead-in’
 Must be attributed
Should be used sparingly, if at all, in academic
(especially in scientific) writing.
When do we use direct
 When we need a sample of a writing style or dialect.
 When the way the speaker/author has said something is as
important as what they have said.
 To state the exact phrasing of a policy or law.
 For specific words or phrases pulled from the text.
 There are special considerations when using a chart,
graph, etc. from another source. Follow your citation style
As always, remember to include proper citations in each of
the above cases.
 Interpreting or restating source material in your own
 Please note: It is not just a rewording or rearrangement of
words, and it is not just replacing words with synonyms
(Beware of reaching for your thesaurus here!)
 Remember, even though you have used your own words,
the thought still belongs to another scholar.
 Paraphrases must be attributed
 Synthesizing and extracting the main idea(s) and
expressing it in your own words.
 Significantly shorter than original and takes a broader
overview of material than paraphrases or quotations.
 Must be attributed
The research proposal
Is an action plan that provides the rationale, justification,
and description of your study.
 Clearly states problem and associated hypotheses
 Frames your research and links it to previous research
 Explains proposed method & plans for data analysis
(qualitative/quantitative, both?)
Three key questions to keep in mind
1. What are we going to learn from as the result of the
proposed project that we do not know now?
2. Why is it worth knowing?
3. How will we know that the conclusions are valid?
From Adam Przeworski Department of Political Science University of
Chicago and Frank Salomon Department of Anthropology University of
Wisconsin . The Art of Writing Proposals
Refining your research question
Read over sources
Ask questions such as:
What is known about the topic?
What are the gaps on the topic?
What has been proposed as ‘future directions’?
How can existing studies be improved?
Can similar ideas be explored from a different perspective, different goodaboutlife.blogspot.com
group, etc?
Come up with a specific question of interest
Ask: Do I want to analyze, explain, or take a position on a topic?
Ask: “How” or “Why” questions about a topic
Identifying Gaps
• Is the evidence in a study convincing?
—Is it clear how evidence supports the
argument? If no, how improve?
—Are alternatives considered?
—Are limitations considered?
—Is the evidence weak or strong?
Research Proposal - purpose
Convince readers that it is interesting and
worthwhileHow will your work make a difference in your field of study?
To do this need to explain to readers:
Big picture – general area of research
Specific area of research and gaps
Rationale for your project
Research question
Significance of your projected findings
Research Proposal - structure
General area of research
Specific area of research
Exercise (for another time)
Discuss with a partner (in any order):
 General area of research
 Specific area of research
 Rationale
 Research questions
 Approach
 Significance
 Write down a point or two for each
Literature reviews
 Lit. review generally organized around ideas or groups of
ideas rather than by author, publication etc. , or subject
 Not only a presentation of what is out there, but a critical
analysis and synthesis of the existing literature in the field.
Why include it?
 Sets up theoretical, conceptual framework, appropriate
 Establishes importance of topic, justifies choice of
 Practically, it provides background and context to your
How much detail?
Handlon’s (1998) film shot analogy:
Long (background-acknowledged), medium(X2),, close-ups
(foreground –most direct relevance –most careful
Circles represent topics,
constructs, ideas, concepts.
The revision process
From the editors of Nature Structural and
Molecular Biology
“Making your story clear is not the same thing as dumbing it
down. No reviewer has ever said that a paper was too easy to
read ...
...We do, however, get complaints from reviewers about how
complicated, convoluted or downright confusing a paper is.
...Clear, simple language allows the data and their interpretation
to come through. Remember that clarity is especially important
when you are trying to get complicated ideas across.” pg 139
Scientific Writing 101, Nature Structural and Molecular Biology 17 (2010)
As you examine the draft
 Read aloud (you will notice more errors)
 Question yourself critically. Would it make
sense if you hadn’t written it?
 Anticipate readers’ questions and try to
identify gaps.
Some science (and other)
writing/revising tips
 Provide reader with essential information (decide on
relevant details)
 One idea per sentence general rule of thumb
 Try short sentences -especially in first draft, can combine
them later (short/long=good flow).
 *Each paragraph should be centered around a main point
or idea –use topic and concluding sentences, and
remember to pay attention to links between ideas (more
on transition later)
Writing/revision tips continued
 Be clear and unambiguous; use key words, define
 Give the sense in the fewest words.
 Value each word and know the meaning &
context. Make every word count.
 “Extra” words & phrases divert attention.
 Avoid quite, some etc. (vague qualifiers) – be
Say what you mean (and carefully
consider subject and action)
Smith’s (2003) research investigated the effect…
Who did the work?
Consider: Smith (2003) investigated the effect…
 Be specific:
Many insect species have been described.
 Nearly one million insect species have been described.
The copper chloride treatment was not affected.
 Cells exposed to copper chloride divided at normal rates.
Build “bridges” for your reader (or, more
on achieving transition)
 Use transition, or in some cases headings
and titles, to guide reader through
 Don’t make the reader work, go back, or
search for missing ideas/material. Share
your logic.
Transitions may be needed
 Between sections: paragraphs summarizing material just
covered and specify how relevant to next section.
 Between paragraphs: a summarizing statement with clue
to context (at end of one, beginning of another.)
 Within paragraphs: usually just a word or two used as cues
[Adapted from Day (1998)]
(e.g. furthermore, however, therefore, indeed, then, by
contrast, subsequently, although, consequently, equally
important,…) * remain aware of usage and context.
Closing reminders
Look for help when (or before!) it’s needed…
 Approach your TA, professor, advisor, subject librarian or
study skills coach
 Come in to see us for an appointment!
Canadian Press. 2008. The Canadian Style Guide
Chinneck, John, W. Department of Systems and Computer Engineering, Carleton University
Dalhousie University Writing Centre-resources and direct communication, consultation, and slide
preparation with Margie Clow-Bohan, Paul Hardman, Krista Patriquin
Day, Robert A. 1998. How to write and publish a scientific paper.
Gallant, K. (2011, January) Addressing unintentional plagiarism by introducing students to the ‘culture of
enquiry’. [Presentation handout] Centre for Learning and Teaching, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS.
Greene, L. 2010. Writing in the Life Sciences: A Critical Thinking Approach. Oxford University
Hacker, Diana. 2009. A Canadian Writer’s Reference
Handlon, Joseph, 1998, as described in Rudestam 1998
Hart, Chris. 2003. Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science imagination. Sage
Publications limited, London
Howard, Rebecca Moore, Tanya K. Rodrigue, and Tricia C. Serviss. "Writing from Sources, Writing
from Sentences." Writing and Pedagogy 2.2 (Fall 2010): 177-192.
Keene, M., K. Adams and M. Clow-Bohan. 2007. Instant Access
Knisely, Karen. 2005. A Student Handbook for Writing in Biology.
Levine, S. 2008. Writing proposals. MSU
Paul, Alana. 2006. Purpose of Writing Lab Reports in Psychology & A Survey of Anxiety in Vampires and
University Students.
MacDonald, Brock. 2011.Oral presentation at CASDW (Canadian Association for the Study of
Discourse and Writing) conference in Fredericton, May 27, 2011.
Pechenik., Jan A. 2004. A Short Guide to Writing about Biology.
Rudestam, K. & R. Newton. 1998, 2007. Surviving your Dissertation. Library of Congress
For further details or questions on references please contact [email protected], Dalhousie Writing Centre