The purpose of this document is to provide information and advice as you embark on your placement. Please read it now and make sure that you do not lose it since you will need to refer to it several times during the forthcoming year.
The document comprises two sections. Section 1 contains information specifically for you, the student. Section 2 is based upon extracts from the official course Programme Document, which have been expanded in order to provide guidelines on the production of the report which you are required to submit as your academic commitment to the course whilst on placement.
Please print the Company Placement Handbook and give it to your Company Supervisor There are also documents that they need to return to us and to ensure an awareness of his/her commitment to the Placement.
Any correspondence to the University should be sent to:
Placements Team Stafford
Placements Team Stoke
Stoke on Trent
Health and Safety Issues
Employers have the primary duty to ensure the health and safety of placement students during their employment. The University has a Health and Safety record form which employers are required to complete and return, to ensure that they meet appropriate standards of health, safety and welfare. During your induction to the organisation the following items should be included where appropriate: emergency procedures, safety policy received or location known, location of first aid box, first aid arrangements, fire procedures, accident reporting, display screen equipment regulations, manual handling procedures, protective clothing arrangements, instruction on equipment you will be using.
If you are in doubt over any of the above issues ask your Company Supervisor for clarification.
It is hoped that your placement proves to be an interesting and stimulating experience, which will provide a good basis for academic work in the final section of the course. Do bear in mind, however, that most jobs have their mundane aspects, so do not be surprised if, at some time, you find yourself having to do what you consider to be routine, and perhaps even boring, tasks, which may not be particularly interesting or intellectually challenging, nevertheless have to be done and their timely and accurate completion could be very important. If, however, you feel that you are being asked to undertake an excessive amount of ‘undemanding’ work or, perhaps, are not being given enough work to keep you constructively occupied then you should take steps to rectify the situation. Often an informal discussion with your Company Supervisor will be all that is required - so do use your initiative rather than adopt a ‘laisser faire’ attitude, hoping that the situation will improve without your intervention. If you are unsure how to proceed, do not hesitate to seek advice from your University Visit Tutor.
It is most important that you use your initiative to gain the widest possible experience of the “real world” aspects of the business environment by taking full advantage of all opportunities open to you, consistent of course with the requirements of the position to which you were appointed.
In the final part of the course you will undertake a dissertation. It is quite likely that your placement will help you to identify ideas for your dissertation.
It is recommended that, once you have settled in and are familiar with your working environment, you should keep a watchful eye open for an opportunity to identify an activity (an analysis, an investigation, a software requirement) related to your work which could form the basis for your dissertation. There is no reason why you should not inform your Company Supervisor about this component of your final studies - doing so may prompt some useful suggestions.
Note to placement students who have a Tier 4 visa
To adhere to the UKVI regulations the Placement Team at Staffordshire University take responsibility to keep track of students who hold a Tier 4 visa who go out on a 12 or 6 month placement. Failure to do this has implications for the student, university and company who you are placed with.
When a Tier 4 student secures a placement, it will need to be authorised by the lead academic before you start and a 5 year study compliance check is completed. Every 4 weeks the placement team will send an email with an attached tracking form to students – please supply a suitable e-mail address. The form must then be signed and returned by the line manager.
The deadline stated on the form must be met. The university is legally obliged to gather this information within a set time limit; any breach of the time limit without communication will lead to the student being reported to the UKVI.
The form is designed for the student to take responsibility for their attendance while on placement and to provide the line manager with the opportunity to feedback comments on any issues that may arise.
International Authorised Leave Process
1. Collect an International Authorised Leave (IAL) form from an Information Point
2. Complete the form fully – including dates and reasons for the request
3. Take the completed form to either your Award Leader, Dissertation Supervisor or your PhD Supervisor who will assess the request and make a decision whether to approve or reject your request
4. If the request is rejected – please contact the International Student Support team who will be able to offer you further advice and guidance relating to this issue
5. If your request is accepted, you can proceed to book your flights. These flights must correspond with the dates you have stated on your IAL form.
6. Once your flights are booked, bring both your IAL form and your flight confirmation to the International Student support team (see below for availability of the International Student Support team) for final approval.
7. Provided your Award Leader, Dissertation Supervisor or PhD Supervisor has approved the leave and it does not exceed the period of time allowed, the International Student Support team will authorise your leave and provide you with a copy of the finalised IAL form which you must carry with you when you travel.
8. Students currently on work placement can undertake this process via Email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
9. Please remember you are only entitled to 14 days or 10 working days of International Authorized leave and any period beyond this will most likely be declined.
- International Authorised Leave must be no longer than 10 working days – this is non-negotiable. If you wish to request leave for a longer period – please speak to the International Student Support team before completing the form.
- Upon return to the UK, you must report to the International Student Support team in order for them to take a scanned copy of your passport and new entry clearance stamps. This must be done within 5 working days of your return.
- Tutors will NOT authorise any leave if they feel that you have not been attending or engaging with your studies to a satisfactory level.
- You MUST complete an International Authorised Leave form before leaving the country for any reason. Failure to seek approval before leaving the UK would be deemed to be a breach of the University Tier 4 regulations and could result in your withdrawal from your course. Any student withdrawn from their course would subsequently be reported to the UKVI and the University sponsorship of their Tier 4 visa would cease.
Supervised Work Experience
The pattern of the MSc includes a supervised work experience period, which comprises of at least 24 weeks, to a maximum of 52 weeks in industry.
This experience is viewed as an opportunity for the student to sample a real working environment, which will help with study in the final year and also with students’ career development.
During this period it is hoped that at least part of the previous studies will be brought to focus on a problem or task having direct practical application and probably of a size not practicable in the University environment.
The placement period also provides a time for reflection, consolidation and maturation, with the student able to consider the direction of future studies.
The aims of the placement year are as follows:
(i) To provide practical experience of working within and for an organisation;
(ii) To increase awareness of the financial and other constraints within which organisations function;
(iii) To apply and further develop skills in communication and decision making within a practical environment;
(iv) To develop appropriate behaviour and attributes within the work environment;
(v) To experience at first hand the practical application of some of the theory and methods studied during the previous year.
At the end of the placement period the student should be able to:
(i) Understand how an organisation is subdivided and managed;
(ii) Appreciate the wide range of skills and knowledge that are required to practice successfully in commerce or the public sector and, in particular, appreciate the roles and requirements of multimedia and/or computing professionals and how they can complement each other;
(iii) Write a report on the organisation and a major part of the work in
which they have been involved;
During your placement period you will be required to submit a report giving an account of the environment in which you have worked and a description of the activities in which you have been engaged. The production of this report will be regarded as an opportunity to demonstrate your written communication skills.
The report is to be produced by you alone. If there is likely to be any difficulty with regard to the availability of typing or word processing facilities then you should bring this matter to the attention of the Visit Tutor at an early stage.
For this process it is a good idea to keep a diary or log of your activities from the start, which will help you to construct your report at a later date.
One copy of the report
One copy of the company assessment sheet
Submission will be via Blackboard under ‘My Courses’ INDUSTRIAL PLACEMENT (COMPUTING STAFFORD)
Please submit as two separate items on Blackboard by the appropriate date; Each student is responsible for retaining a safety copy of their own report.
The company assessment form available from:
Company’s Placement Handbook – Computing MSc Student Handbook and the Blackboard Placements Community
by the appropriate date; Each student is responsible for retaining a safety copy of their own report.
A wide variety of working environments make it difficult to lay down a set format, but the following may be used as a model.
(a) Introduction - a brief description of the company, its sector of business, organisation (including chart), and perceived major strategies.
(b) The technological environment - a background to the technology systems used or planned in various functional areas, and any relationship between them.
(c) An outline schedule of the work programme.
(d) Project description(s) - an overview of the objectives of any projects with which the student becomes involved, with more detailed notes of the student’s contribution and experiences.
(e) Conclusions - a summary of what the student has learned during the placement and, possibly, recommendations on the future course of projects in which he or she has been involved.
(f) Appendices - specifications, plans, listings, etc.
For further advice, both general and specific, on report writing you should refer to the Report Writing Guidelines at the end of the handbook.
The report should contain approximately 3000 words of text (+/- 20%), excluding contents page and any diagrams, charts and appendices, which are considered appropriate. A word count must be included and should this differ substantially from the recommendation above a penalty may be imposed.
The student should check with the Company Supervisor for possible security or confidentiality problems in disclosing material, and inform their Visit Tutor (at an early stage) if this is likely. Such problems may be resolved by a combination of the following.
(a) Removal of data from the report.
(b) Returning the report to the company after assessment.
(c) The University Tutor may visit the company premises to mark the report.
(d) Security vetting of University Tutor. (This should be avoided if possible as it causes delays.)
The assessment of the placement period is based upon the performance of the student in the workplace as perceived by the Company Supervisor, the performance of the student as perceived by the Visit Tutor and the report marked by the Visit Tutor.
Many aspects of the placement experience cannot be controlled as tightly as are the time spent within the University. There are many factors that could upset the progress normally to be expected from a year of real-life work in a business organisation, extreme examples being a company closure or industrial action. In such rare cases, assessors would need to use subjective judgement in awarding an appropriate mark for the year.
The assessment is made up of three components:
(i) the Industrial Supervisors’ mark weighted at 30%;
(ii) the mark for the written report weighted at 40%;
(iii) the Visit Tutor’s mark for the placement period weighted at 30%.
A copy of the Company Assessment Form is included in the Company Placement Handbook. www.staffs.ac.uk/placements
In the assessment process, factors as indicated below will be taken into account.
The Company Supervisor’s Component
(i) How well the student fitted into his or her work situation.
(ii) The student’s performance as a member of the team.
(iii) The student’s ability in carrying out specified work.
(iv) The student’s ability to meet deadlines and to organise his or her workload.
The Visit Tutor’s Assessment of the Report
(i) An assessment of the student’s report as a record of his or her employment experience.
(ii) An impression of the student’s contribution to his or her employer, as conveyed by the report.
(iii) An assessment of the student’s report as a professional communication document.
The Visit Tutor’s Assessment of the Placement Period
(i) A perception of the student’s contribution to his or her employer.
(ii) A perception of the student’s technical ability and its application.
(iii) A perception of the student’s personal organisation and professional behaviour.
Progression to Placement for an MSc student
In order to proceed onto a placement, a student must have passed a minimum of 3 modules as defined by the University regulations.
The form of referral of a failed industrial placement will be decided by the Award Board and will depend on the nature of the failure. It may, for example, take the form of a resubmitted report.
It is your responsibility to contact your level tutor or award administrator if you have any referrals, in order to ascertain what form of referral work will be required for these modules. Re-sits normally take place at different points in the year. These commonly are January, June, and August. Please ensure that you find out when your referral/s will take place.
REPORT WRITING GUIDELINES
A good report will, in general, be easily spotted; its title will be precise and informative, flicking through its pages will reveal an attractive layout and page format, its binding will be such that it opens flat to allow all text and diagrams to be easily seen.
Reading a report should be an interesting and pleasurable experience, made so by the use of a concise and fluent writing style, with non-textual material (tables, diagrams, graphs, etc.) carefully presented with appropriate labelling.
There can be no absolute rules about report writing since reports will vary both with respect to their nature and their intended readership. However, there are some ‘golden’ rules which will usually apply to most reports be they short or long, technical or non-technical. Likewise there are some rules which may not apply in some instances. The following checklist should be a useful guide.
(i) The author(s) should plan and write the report bearing in mind who the reader(s) will be.
(ii) The report should be as short as possible, consistent with the objectives set.
(iii) The report should be structured and organised in a logical manner to aid the reader.
(iv) The writing style should be formal, fluent and concise.
(v) Care should be taken with the preparation and positioning of non-textual material like tables and charts.
(vii) Before submission a report should be meticulously checked for accuracy, consistency, spelling and punctuation errors.
1 OBJECTIVES OF THE REPORT
Before writing a report its author must identify its purpose.
What is its subject matter?
Who will read (and perhaps use) the report?
What is its scope?
During the writing of the report the author should regularly check that it remains correctly focused on the objectives
It should be clear from the list of ‘rules’ above that the reader is of paramount importance and who this will be must be borne in mind when setting the objectives. Some questions to answer might include the following.
(i) What does the reader already know about the subject matter of this report?
(ii) What further knowledge will the reader expect to gain from reading this report?
(iii) What kind of terminology will be appropriate?
In some instances a report will be written for a disparate readership; for example, both a technical manager and a personnel manager may be readers. Writing separate reports could be time-consuming and may even be ‘politically’ risky, since one reader may be suspicious that the other version presents a different ‘picture’! A partial answer to this problem is to make appropriate use of appendices and summaries. The important point is that the author must recognise when such a situation exists and take a decision on how best to deal with the difficulty.
The approach, the technical level and the style of writing should all be dictated by a knowledge of who the reader(s) will be. A balance should be struck between a relatively informal style, when the reader will be a colleague, and a more formal approach when the report is destined, perhaps, for a managing director or someone in another organisation.
2 THE REPORT FORMAT
Once the objectives have been established, material must be collected and categorised. As it accumulates it should be put into one of three categories:
(i) information, which is clearly very important and will certainly be included in the report since it is completely relevant to the objectives;
(ii) borderline information which might be relevant to some readers, or which might amplify or substantiate other more important material;
(iii) information which, though interesting to the writer, is not relevant to the objectives.
As the report takes shape category (iii) material will probably be discarded, whilst that in categories (i) and (ii) should be further sifted to determine which should become ‘main text’ and which appendix material.
2.1 The Beginning
A conscious discussion must be taken on how to start (i.e. open) the report and this will again be influenced by the objectives and therefore, indirectly, by the reader. The writer should attempt to answer questions like:
How familiar is the reader with this topic already?
How much background information will the reader need in order to facilitate his understanding of the report?
Clearly the answer to the second question will depend upon the answer to the first. If this is ‘not very’ then more background material will be needed than if the answer is ‘quite familiar’. If the answer to the first question is ‘one reader is an expert in this field but another is not’ then a balance will have to be struck between including a lot of detail in the text and relegating some to the appendix.
An appendix (or appendices) should be used as a device for removing from the main text all information, which is not essential to ensure its flow and understanding. Remember that conciseness is important; if the main text is not cluttered by detailed statistics, data tables, explanations of technical terms and the like, it will be as readable as the material allows.
Thus an appendix is a good place for background information which one reader may take for granted but which another may choose to delve into. It is the place for supporting statistics, tables and diagrams which are not needed as the report is read. It is the ideal place for lists of symbols, technical terms and abbreviations that may be familiar to some readers but not others.
As mentioned already, tone (getting the balance right for the readership) is all-important. One reader may feel patronised if too much detailed explanation is included in the text, whereas another may be frustrated (and therefore irritated) if too much knowledge is assumed. Judicious choice of helpful back-up material included in an appendix could be a useful compromise.
2.3 Basic Structure - sections and sub-sections
The main text will usually be comprised of sections rather than chapters. Section headings should be as concise and specific as possible. Often, sections will require sub-division and therefore sub-headings. Adequate spacing (‘white space’) is important since this helps the reader to recognise the underlying structure. In a long report a major section should start on a new page.
If a report is long it may well be that it will be ‘used’ rather then ‘read’. That is, a reader may be particularly interested in certain sections and less so in others. In fact, a reader may well look at the beginning and end of the report first and then ‘pick and choose’ amongst its component sections according to his interests. For this reason each section should be clearly identifiable and its sub-sections easily recognised.
Obviously reports will vary - technical, non-technical, long, short, - and any given report will require some, but not necessarily all, of the following sections.
Table of Contents
Introduction/Terms of Reference
Depending upon the nature of the report, the writer may consider it appropriate to adapt this basic framework to its specific requirements. Whilst the above list prescribes the logical order of sections, there is no reason to assume that they will be written in this order. For example, the Summary will almost certainly be the last item to be drafted.
In technical reports the notation used to reference the various sections and subsections is usually decimal notation. The system is perfectly logical in that, as far as possible, the visual impact of headings, often created by the font style and size, should relate to their importance. The pattern is thus:
1. MAIN HEADING
1.1 LESSER HEADING
1.1.1 Small Heading
Which should be applied to all sections of the report? This notation is usually modified for use with appendices by the addition of a preceding letter. Thus Appendix B.3.4 is the fourth sub-section of the third section of the second (letter B) appendix.
If reference is made to other sources of information this must be acknowledged, otherwise the author of the report may risk being accused of plagiarism. In a technical report the Harvard system of referencing is commonly used. In this system brief details of the source are given at the appropriate point in the text and full details are given in a bibliography at the end of the report. The brief details comprise the author’s name, date of publication, and page number(s), enclosed in brackets thus (Smith A B, 1994, p124), and the full details will contain some or all of: author, title, edition, place of publication, publisher, date of publication, page numbers referred to. The bibliography should be an alphabetic listing by author.
3 WRITING THE REPORT
The style should be formal and the English clear and concise. ‘Formal’ means writing in full (e.g. it is rather than it’s), avoiding slang and colloquialisms and using words correctly. Formal writing is more ordered and ‘considered’ than speech, but it does not have to be full of long words.
Usually a report is written in an impersonal style, thereby avoiding over use of ‘I’ and ‘we’. Thus ‘It was clear that...’ is preferred to ‘I could see that...’
The basic component of text is the sentence. Good style involves the use of sentences of different lengths. Short sentences produce a clear, easy-to-read style. Long sentences are sometimes appropriate but they can pose a problem in that the writer may become bogged down in grammatical confusion. Above all, very long sentences should be avoided; a reader is likely to ignore a sentence, which is six lines long!
Variety in the way in which sentences begin is important since this helps the writing to flow easily and adds interest. If this attribute is missing the reader will easily become bored. Care should be taken not to open a string of successive sentences in exactly the same way. However, variety should not be introduced by overuse of clichés or jargon. ‘At the present moment in time’ is verbose; the more concise ‘At present’ is preferable.
A paragraph should focus on a single theme, and will usually comprise a set of sentences designed to develop this theme. As with sentences, paragraphs should not be over long. Several paragraphs on a page, with consequent ‘white space’ between them, will encourage continued reading; conversely, very long paragraphs will create dense blocks of print, which will discourage the reader.
The first draft is likely to be flawed and a significant amount of revision and re-writing will probably be required. This process can be time consuming. Even when the text is considered to be satisfactory, meticulous checking of detail will be necessary - spelling, grammar, punctuation, typing errors, .....
A word processor’s spell check facility is not infallible; - words correctly spelt but incorrectly used will not be identified. For example, misuse of ‘there’ and ‘their’ will not be detected. Thus even after a successful spell check, a conscientious ‘editor’ should read the text in order to detect this type of error.
Whilst most people will, out of habit, perform a spell check, many will probably not follow this with a grammar check. If the writer were not confident in his ability to compose grammatically correct prose, it would be very imprudent of him not to take the time to perform this check also.
Diagrams (tables, graphs, charts, line drawings, or any other non-textual material) form an essential part of many technical reports. There is much truth in the saying ‘A picture is worth 10,000 words’! The guiding principle here might be remembered as the ‘four R’s rule’:
The right diagram with the right labels should be in the right place for the reader.
It can be irritating to have to interrupt one’s reading in order to search for a diagram; it should be presented in the right place, that is, where it is needed. It should not be assumed that all diagrammatic material is to be placed in an appendix or appendices. Only if diagrams are supplementary, having no immediate bearing on the text, should this be done. A diagram, which is essential to facilitate the reader’s understanding, should be positioned within the text. The reader is also helped if labels on diagrams are presented horizontally, so that the report does not have to be rotated in order that they may be read.
A table is the most common form of diagram in a technical report. Tables can provide a great deal of information and care should be taken to present them effectively. The routine use of horizontal and vertical lines to create individual ‘cells’ to accommodate data values should be questioned; the use of blank space may create a more attractive table. To provide more vertical space in a table, units and powers of ten should, if possible, be put into the column heading. Horizontal space may be created by grouping items and introducing a blank line between groups. For example, an annual financial breakdown could have months grouped into quarters.
4.3 Graphs and Charts
Graphs and charts are used to illustrate trends, relationships between variables or to enable comparisons to be made. Computer graphics packages facilitate experimentation to determine, for a particular type of chart, the most appropriate format to use. Care should be taken with the positioning of labels, titles, legend detail and diagram reference numbers. Probably the most sensible method of numbering is to use the decimal system in which, for example, Figure 2.3 would identify the 3rd diagram in section 2 of the report. References in the main text to diagrams should indicate, if necessary, the page number or appendix where the diagram is located.
5 FINISHING THE REPORT
5.1 The Summary
The various sections of a report will probably not have been written in the order in which they will appear in the finished document. Some sections, perhaps presenting purely factual material, will be relatively straightforward to compose and are likely to be tackled first; others, involving discussion, appraisal or analysis will be more demanding and will probably be left until later. However, in all cases, the last section to be written should be the summary. This should give, in a very concise form, a general picture (an overview) of the report. It will serve two purposes: a person who needs to decide whether he should read the entire report will consult the summary first, whereas a person who has already read the report would be likely to use it to remind him of the report’s subject matter.
The writer’s first draft of the summary will probably be too long. Close scrutiny, however, will usually lead to economies in terms of words used without sacrifice of information.
5.2 The Contents Page
Even in a short report there should be a contents page. This should list the numbered sections of the report with corresponding page numbers. Under each (main) section heading any sub-section headings should be named, together with their page numbers. This will enable the reader to select a particular sub-section and locate it easily, at the same time seeing its connection to what precedes and follows it.
5.3 Final Check
Ideally someone should check a report for typing errors and inconsistency other than the writer. However, in most cases it will be the writer who has to check his own work. This task, if it is to be done with care, should not be rushed. Further, proof reading should, if possible, be undertaken some time after the report has, supposedly, been completed. A quick check performed immediately after the last page has come off the printer will almost certainly result in many errors remaining unnoticed.
The reader will form an initial impression of the report by just flicking through it, pausing at random to look at individual pages. Poor binding, pages in the wrong order (or even unnumbered), pages missing, narrow margins (particularly adjacent to the binding), too small or too large a font size, unusual font style, overcrowded pages, inappropriate line spacing, - all these faults will put the reader off before he starts to read. Of course, all of these are design and formatting features and should have been decided at an early stage in the report’s production process.
If much time and effort has been devoted to the production of the report it is surely worth binding it within card covers to protect it from damage by creasing. On opening the front cover the first page will be the title page. This should contain the title, author’s name, and date, classification (e.g. Confidential) if appropriate, section or department or company name, perhaps also a logo, and nothing more.
It is hoped that these notes will have provided some useful tips on report writing by indicating not only elements of convention and good practice, but also advising of likely mistakes and shortcomings. One final piece of advice is as follows.
Whatever is the initial estimate of the time it will take to produce the report, then be prudent - Double it!
(These notes are based on a publication of the IEE entitled ‘Technical Report Writing’, by J van Emden and Easteal. www.aston.ac.uk/lis/studyskills/assignments.htm)
STAFFORDSHIRE UNIVERSITY – Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Sciences
INDUSTRIAL EXPERIENCE PERIOD ASSESSMENT FORM
STUDENT’S NAME: ................................................................STUDENT ID: ...............................
START DATE: ............................... FINISH DATE: ..................................
NAME OF INDUSTRIAL SUPERVISOR:................................................................................................
SECTION TO BE COMPLETED BY THE COMPANY SUPERVISOR
This section constitutes 30% of the overall mark for the Placement Module.
The marking scheme weightings in the columns below are designed to reflect the emphasis on different criteria based on the role performed by the student for the majority of the placement.
Please complete only one marking scheme column – scheme 1 for Developer/Design roles OR scheme 2 for Analysis/Support roles OR scheme 3 for custom weightings
Marking scheme 1
Marking scheme 2
Attitude to Supervision, Social Interaction
Problem Solving Ability
Demonstration of Work/Success of Work
Communication Skills (written and oral)
Others (e.g. Special Responsibility) please specify
Signature: ................................................................ Date:.............................................
Placement Experience Feedback Form
Please complete this form and submit it along with your report or to the placements office.
Job Title .......................................................................
What were the main benefits of completing a placement?
Do you have any regrets about your placement year?
What skills in particular have you acquired by doing a placement?
What advice would you give to other students who are about to commence their placement?
Would you allow the above comments to be passed on to other students? YES/NO
Please add any further comments overleaf.