PMean: Recommended format for homework assignments

I’m teaching a couple of classes, Introduction to R and Introduction to SAS, and I’m finding that students will turn in homework a variety of different ways. I’m fine with this up to a point, but I think that I should encourage a simple uniform approach, because out in the real world, your boss or your clients will not appreciate a haphazard and disorganized approach. Here’s a suggested format for homework assignments that will (hopefully) get you in the practice of turning into things in an organized fashion.

Here are some guidelines for submission of your homework. Do not follow these guidelines slavishly, and if you have a good reason to ignore one of these recommendations, you will not be penalized. Try, however, to follow these guidelines as best you can. In the real world, you will find that your boss and your clients will appreciate an organized and consistent format.

Every assignment that you turn in should have a report of one page or less. The report is followed by tables, figures, and appendices.

Write your report in plain English with no formulas, no jargon, no computer code, and no raw output. Include the verbatim text of the homework assignment as part of your report, but use a style such as bold, italic, indentation, etc. so it is clear what you have written and what you have copied from the homework assignment.

Your report should have a header with your name, the name of the class, and the name of the homework assignment, and a date.

Your report should be short. Normally one page is sufficient, and for some assignments, you may need as little as a couple of sentences.

If you have graphs, they should be numbered and appear one per page with a brief descriptive title. You can put two or more graphs on the same page, but only if your intent is to compare or contrast those graphs in your report. The interpretation of your graph belongs in the main section and not with the individual graphs, with the possible exception of a brief title or a few labels on the axes or in the graph itself. If a graph that does not warrant a comment in your report, put it in the appendix or (better yet) leave it out entirely.

Each table should numbered and appear one per page with a brief descriptive title. With very rare exceptions, no table should take more than a single page. You can put two or more closely related tables on a single page, but only if your intent is to compare or contrast those tables in your main section. The interpretation of your tables belongs in the main section and not with the individual tables, with the possible exception of a brief title or a few footnotes. If a table does not warrant a comment in your report, put it in the appendix or leave it out entirely.

If you do not know how to interpret a graph or table that you generated, please post a question  in the trouble shooting section of the discussion board.

Your appendix will consist of the data dictionary for the raw data that you used and a changelog file if you made any changes to the raw data. You do not need a data dictionary for any files that you create as part of your homework assignment.

Also include the program code and the unedited computer output as separate appendices. For SAS, you should also include the log as a separate appendix. For R, include your code as a separate appendix, even if you are using R Markdown. For SPSS, make sure that you include the generated syntax with the output, but you would normally not have any code in SPSS if you are using the menu system.

If you use multiple programs to complete your assignment, you can use multiple appendices, but take care so the number of appendices does not become excessively large.

Do not submit any code, log, or output that has error messages in them. If you are getting an error message that you cannot fix, please post a question in the troubleshooting section of the discussion board.

If your code produces warnings, explain what those warnings mean and why it is safe in your particular context to ignore them.

If your output includes a printout of your raw data and/or your modified data, please print only the first ten rows and the first five columns of data. If clarity mandates a larger printout, you can exceed these limits but try your very hardest to keep to a single page for each data set. Please do not print out any intermediate data sets.

Each appendix should have a descriptive title.

Combine the report, tables, graphs, and appendices into a single file. I prefer PDF format, but will take html, doc/docx, or ppt/pptx files. Other formats may be okay, but ask me first. If you have trouble combining your files, please post a question in the troubleshooting section of the discussion board.

I will try to create some simple examples of what a homework submission should look like.