Matthias K. Gobbert

How to Report on Computer Results

General Purpose of the Reports

The activity of research on numerical methods includes the design, programming, and running of computer code. To make the fruits of this activity useful, you are expected to explain clearly and in a professional style what you did and to present and analyze your results. Please follow the outline given below for your reports for any homework problem that involves computer code.

Required Outline


The above represents the typical outline of a paper that includes numerical results. (More broadly, the experimental sciences use this outline, too.) In times past, students would 'learn' this outline when reading research papers. The problem today is that you need to learn writing, before you have time to read sufficiently many papers to figure this out by observation. Hopefully, this outline now clarifies things, in particular, by giving the titles of sections in more long-hand than a typical research paper would, where you just say Introduction - Method - Results - Conclusions.

The results should appear in the same order as they are mentioned in your text. Assemble everything in the order, in which you want the reader to find it. To aid in grading, maintain the organization in parts (a), (b), etc., if given in the assignment. Keep all pages together that belong to one problem. The text of your report must be complete enough such that the reader can understand how results were obtained; I should not need to have to read code to find out what you did. Include your name in the comments of each of your functions; code without your name is not acceptable. There should not be any hand-written interpretations on your printouts; comments should be contained within your text that introduces and interprets the printed results.

Preparing the report that documents what you did and analyzes the results is an integral part of the assignment, whether the assignment asks for it explicitly or not. Complete and correct computer results will never count more than half of the score for the problem. When grading the reports, I will be guided by the questions: "Based on the information given, could I reproduce your results?" and "Are all pertinent questions about the performance of the numerical method addressed?"

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This page version 4.0, June 2013.