Macalester College, Mathematics and Computer Science Department
This document provides you with some tips and some resources to help you write a technical research paper, such as you might write for your required capstone project paper. First, congratulations are in order– you are embarking on an activity that is going to change the way you think and add to the overall body of human knowledge. The skill of gathering information, deciding what is important, and writing about it for someone else is extremely valuable and will stay with you for the rest of your life. Because we humans have been doing this for quite some time, we have some reasonably …show more content…
Understanding Your Readers
Though you are working closely with your capstone advisor who is primarily reading your drafts, you should be writing for a broader audience. You want to write with your readers in mind. In your case, your readers might be professionals who are familiar with your topic, or they might be a more general audience, who may or may not have diﬀering levels of understanding of your topic area. Booth, Colomb, and Williams (Booth et al., 1995) suggest that you keep the following questions in mind while you are writing:
• Who are your readers?
• What do they expect you to do for them? In your case you are trying to inform them, not entertain them. • How much do they know?
• Do they already understand your problem/question? You should not assume this in your paper– you should provide some background and explanation of what you have studied.
• How will they respond to your solution/answer? You must try to anticipate questions or misunderstandings that they might have and provide enough explanation to avoid them.
• In what forum will they encounter your report? You should be writing your technical research paper as if it might be published in a journal, professional society magazine, or conference proceedings. Because of this, there are some standards for formatting that you should use, and are discussed later.
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