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August 10, 2011 / Rohit

Doing A Project Report The Right Way

I have been doing my project report for the last month and due to a combination of laziness and procrastination, I am still not done. Going through the process I have realized few things which I should have done.

  1. Log everything. When working through a project, especially which requires a report at the end, it’s always good to keep a daily log of what you did. It’s best kept at one single place accessible to whoever is working with you. All long email correspondence, long commit messages, hand drawn sketches, discussions should be documented in the log. A blog or a wiki will be ideal for this.
  2. Document immediately after completing a task. Time and again I have made this mistake of not documenting a piece of work, once it was finished. “Yeah, I will remember what I did”, “I have commented the important parts”, “This is trivial, who will forget it?” … Well ..”young stupid me, I have forgotten!” It’s best to document when you are just done, as opposed to later on. It’s still fresh in your mind and you will be able to write without effort. Don’t think that comments in code are sufficient to recollect what you did — you will still need to go through all the code and figure out how it works. These task level documents could become sections or sub-sections in your report.
  3. Start writing your report as soon as you begin the project. You should begin with an outline. Doing so will give some structure to your document and the work which you are doing. Your log (1) and task documentation (2) can be pruned so that they fit nicely into your outline. By doing this, when you are done with the technical work, the report is already done!
  4. Take it one paragraph at a time. If you, like me, didn’t follow any of the above 3 steps, then you are going to trudge and plod and struggle to finish the report. I like writing and in spite of that, I find it hard to make myself type the report at a stretch. One of the reasons is that the problem which I solved is now way in the past. The technical work was done 2 months ago and I wasn’t disciplined with documentation.
    If you are in this situation, the only way out is to do it little by little. Take a bite sized piece and work on it. It could be just a paragraph, a diagram, a graph or something else. Once you are done with that, reward yourself with some Facebook, frisby or chocolate, but then get back to another paragraph. It will take time, but  eventually you will see your document take decent shape.

Documenting is not rewarding in the short term, but in the future you will be proud and relieved that you did. I wish I could go kick some sense into the past-Rohit.

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One Comment

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  1. surya / Sep 30 2011 8:21 pm

    This surely is going to help me !!

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