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 pretty much the typical outline of a paper that deals with 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 paper would, where you just say Introduction - Method - Results - Conclusions.

For each problem, start with a page of text, that introduces the code, tables, figures, etc. on the following pages. Those results should appear in the same order as they are mentioned in the text. Assemble everything in the order, in which you want me to read it! To aid me in grading, please 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 will not read code to find out what you did! Include your name in the comments of each of your functions; I will not accept code without your name. There should not be any hand-written interpretations on your printouts; those comments should be contained within your text that introduces and interprets the printed results.

I strongly urge you to hand-write your reports on the homework. Unless you are very experienced, using any typesetting system will likely limit you in your use of formulas and arrangement. However, your reports should have the style and arrangement, as if they were prepared for professional type-setting using, e.g., proper headers, displayed formulas, etc. Leave sufficient margins and other spaces for me to provide comments and feedback to you.

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?"

Copyright © 2001-2006 by Matthias K. Gobbert. All Rights Reserved.
This page version 3.5, February 2006.