CS 492/CS 692 - Advice for RPEs

Some general advice on writing for RPEs, from the W04 teaching assistant:

I am concerned that I am seeing misspellings, sentence fragements, poor grammar, illogical statements, and poor organization in your papers. I find this situation disappointing, because at this stage in the course and given the additional time teams have to prepare, I would now expect to be reading much more polished papers.

Please remember that there is no course policy prohibiting any team from getting its research and writing underway early. Please take advantage of additional time to prepare a paper that has been thoroughly edited.

  1. submit with sufficient space for the marker to insert comments in the margins; single-sided copying is generally preferable as well
  2. please underline the name of your team captain. Naming your team captain helps me to know who to contact in case I need more information, or I need to give out last-minute instructions.
  3. avoid references which are hearsay. It is alway a good idea to consider the reputation of the person being quoted. However, it is equally a good idea to consider the context in which the person is being quoted. Casual and off-the-cuff comments carry much less weight than official pronouncements and peer-reviewed papers.
  4. write using parallel sentence structures. For example, "They were singing and dancing" is much better than "They were singing and danced."
  5. please say what you really mean and not the opposite of what you intended to say.
  6. sometimes it is better to break long awkward sentences into small simple sentences
  7. avoid incomplete thoughts. It is not sufficient to simply lay out a series of facts. The facts must make some kind of point. This error is most lamentable, because it is difficult if not impossible to evaluate the quality of the team's argument. This error has been committed a few times already. After setting out your facts, perhaps ask yourself "So what?" If the question has no answer, then the thought may be incomplete. The answer to "So what?" may be the point your team is trying to make.
  8. consider the most likely cause. For example, the Government of Saskatchewan was convinced that beer sales were highly correlated with the phases of the moon. It is unlikely that beer drinking habits are influenced by the lunar cycle. Rather, the lunar cycle is monthly, and many people receive their pay cheques bi-weekly or monthly. It is more likely that when beer drinkers get paid, they buy their supply of beer.
  9. investigate your references *thoroughly* please. Make certain that there is no fact or facts lurking in the background that will come out and weaken your team's argument.

Last revised 3 January 2007.