Other Sections: Finishing Up
Once you have these three main sections well along, several other sections coming at the beginning and the end should be drafted to provide the opening and closing expected in professional presentations. These sections are listed below and placed in the order they will occupy relative to the three main sections noted in parentheses:
- Title Page
- Table of Contents
- (Literature Review)
- (Procedure, including Budget)
- References -- Footnotes and Bibliography
The title page should contain, neatly arranged, the following:
- title of the project
- project registration number of the project
- name(s) of the author(s)
- name of the faculty advisor(s)
- name of off-campus sponsor, if any
- date of submission
Figure 3 shows a sample title page.
The abstract should be a brief statement of the topic, procedure, and the projected outcome of the project, in three or four sentences. The abstract of the final report (which can be modified from the one in the proposal) is crucial since it goes on your transcript and is circulated widely off-campus. (The final project report abstract should be about 80 words to accommodate the space on your transcript. You will want to make this as good as possible since project abstracts are a major source job interviewers use to formulate questions.)
A three-sentence abstract might well follow this order.
- First sentence introduces the project topic, mentioning (if relevant) the off-campus agency with whom the project is being done.
- Second sentence indicates what material will be examined and procedures employed to carry out the project.
- Third sentence indicates the anticipated conclusions (or results, application, or real world use of the project). An example:
This proposal, prepared for the U.S. Small Business Administration in Washington, will describe Flexible Manufacturing Systems (FMS) and assess their impact on small businesses. Working from literature and interviews, we will describe FMS technology, its use in industry, and its impact on small businesses, especially suppliers. We will assess: 1) if FMS can be used in small businesses, 2) how FMS will impact on small businesses, and 3) if management techniques related to FMS will affect small businesses in the near future.
The table of contents lists (with final page numbers) the location of each separately titled section of the report, usually following the sequence above from abstract through appendices. To the professional reader (who as such is faced with lots of reading and appreciates conveniences), the table of contents also indicates at a glance what material is covered.
References usually consist of footnotes and a bibliography. Footnotes may appear a) at the bottom of the page, b) at the end of the chapters, or c) at the end of the report but before the appendices. Footnotes usually cite appropriate sources of information (including interviews or verbal contributions from others) or occasionally indicate cross-reference to additional material. The form of the note varies with the professional area concerned, so check with your advisor. The standard for such matters is the latest edition of Kate Turabian's A Manual For Writers. Whatever the format, footnotes contain the name(s) of the author(s), book or journal title, date of publication (usually with the place and publisher for books) and, for journals, the volume and page numbers.
The bibliography lists all materials cited in notes. Its value as a list of relevant materials often makes it useful to consult independent of the report itself (so be sure to check bibliographies in your sources for relevant materials.) Bibliographies are often used as the sole source for the full reference for footnotes; the footnotes very briefly cite the work in question (by author(s) and year, for example), leaving the full citation in the bibliography.
Appendices (singular, appendix) contain materials too lengthy for inclusion in the text, or not directly relevant. Certain kinds of raw data, background materials, and the like go here. ALL material in appendices must be referred to in the text so readers know why they are here.
Occasionally a proposal and more often a report will contain an Executive Summary. This section, which comes after the abstract, provides a succinct overview of each section of the entire document in five to ten pages. Executive summaries are required in professional reports, and at WPI, as a part of applying for the President's IQP Award.
A Letter of Transmittal is normally affixed before the title page if the proposal or report is being submitted to an off-campus liaison. This letter is in business-letter format, and tells the recipient briefly that you are submitting the attached proposal as part of an agreed-upon plan to conduct the project with the agency the liaison represents.