Project Report Guidelines

Master of Publishing Project Report Guidelines

…as of Spring 2018

 

This document is a guide to planning, researching, writing, revising, and finishing your MPub project report.

To finish the program, you must write and submit an approved Project Report to SFU Library. “Approved” means signed off by the three members of your committee: your Senior Supervisor (who should be identified before you get too far into your Internship term), a second reader (one of the MPub faculty), and an Industry Supervisor (ideally your internship supervisor or a mentor), who can ensure that your Report accurately represents the host institution or the context for your project.

During your internship semester and your report-writing semester(s), you are responsible for keeping on top of all administrative tasks: enrolling in the courses, applying to graduate, reporting to the Program Advisor, assembling the necessary paperwork for submitting the report to the library, and so on. The Program Advisor will be in touch early in your project report term with details, deadlines, and the essential document “Last Steps.”

1. Get ready

By the time you get to your professional placement, you should have read at least three MPub project reports. If not, take the time to do so, noting the general structure, tone and voice. MPub project reports are a particular genre; it will help you to have a sense of that before you begin.

An MPub project report typically includes the following (although these might not form individual chapters):

  • introduction and background on the organization,
  • introduction of project topic and context,
  • full description and/or narration of project,
  • discussion, analysis, commentary, comparison, critique, and/or recommendations,
  • summary and conclusions.

An MPub project report is an empirical study of actual practice. It reports from your particular perspective, from your professional experience. But, it is written formally – not in first-person singular – and as objectively as possible.

2. Choose your topic wisely

Your topic will ideally arise from the work you’ve actually done during your internship term. This is why we recommend that you define a project early in the internship term. Writing from your personal experience is far easier than trying to capture the essence of something you witnessed from afar. Watch out for elastic timelines. If the project you’re writing about extends well past your project term, you may have trouble getting full access to the later stages of a project.

Your topic should be one that in its description and your analysis would give a reader insight into an element of actual publishing practice. Err on the side of specificity, and avoid writing about general trends or issues. Rarely is a topic too narrow; often they are too broad. Your project report should present a case study of actual practice. It is not a thesis, where you are conducting original research or aiming to make a new argument or theory. Keep it tightly focused, and stick to specifics.

It’s important to get buy-in from your industry supervisor. Make sure you are clear who this is, and that your supervisor is aware of his or her role in your Project Report. Often, once you have worked out your topic with your industry supervisor, that person may be able to help by giving you extra time with or access to information on your topic. Ideally, by the beginning of June, you have a topic identified.

A note about ethics review…

Typically, graduate research at a University like SFU requires review and approval by the Research Ethics Board, especially when research subjects are human beings. Your Project Report, however, is exempt from this requirement under normal MPub circumstances: where you are writing your project about your experience in an internship or work placement, where you are writing about professionals and their professional practice, and where you have supervision by your internship host.

SFU’s policy on “Research Involving Human Participants”1 makes the following distinction between what the university considers “research” and “quality assurance and quality improvement studies.” MPub Project Reports normally fall under the latter.

7.5 Quality assurance and quality improvement studies, program evaluation activities, and performance reviews, or testing within normal educational requirements when used exclusively for assessment, management or improvement purposes, do not constitute research for the purposes of this Policy. These studies involve assessments of the performance of an organization or its employees or students, within the mandate of the organization, or according to the terms and conditions of employment or training.

If your Project Report goes outside this basic scope, e.g., if you are conducting interviews or surveys that shift focus from the operation of the organization and instead delve into people’s personal attitudes and experiences, or where you are investigating a professional environment where there is no representative committee member, or where you are planning self-directed research, you may need to apply for research ethics review. When in doubt, ask your Sr Supervisor.

3. Write the proposal (ideally by August)

The proposal should be concise and focused: what will you report on, and how will you go about it? It should have two parts: a description and a brief outline, about one page for each.

The description should explain what it is, who’s involved, and why it matters – what is the point of your report? It should outline the scope and timeframe of the project, and briefly state what information you’ll be using, both primary observations and existing literature.

The outline should indicate how you see the structure of what you will write. It should be a simple as chapter headings + section titles and a one-line description of each.

Send your proposal to your Sr Supervisor – ideally before the end of your internship term. Then prepare to take feedback and revise it multiple times. Time and effort spent on getting the proposal really clear (and clearly understood by both you and your Sr Supervisor) is much more efficient than time spend on additional drafts of the report itself. Five revisions of the proposal and two drafts of the report is vastly better than two of the proposal and five drafts.

4. Write the report

The length should be about 10,000 words, not including notes and bibliography.

You are writing, primarily, for future Publishing students and researchers, people who are familiar with the basics of publishing practice, but who will not know the specific contexts surrounding your topic. A secondary audience is your internship host and colleagues there.

The voice should be simple and direct, not overly formal or academic, but also not reportage or journalism. It should be written from your own perspective. While you should note your own personal role in what you are describing, please avoid the first-person voice.

For basic matters of style, mechanics, bibliographies, and footnotes, please use the latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style – unless you have good reason to do otherwise.

The first draft is not a rough draft. Your Sr Supervisor does not have the time nor energy to review rough drafts. Your first submitted draft needs to be complete (including title, abstract, table of contents, list of figures, and bibliography). It also needs to be edited and proofed; if your draft is full of grammatical problems and spelling mistakes, your Supervisor will not be able to focus on the argument. Think of the first draft as a first “release candidate.”

If you intend to complete the program in a given term, the first draft generally has to be in by end of first month of the term in which you intend to finish (e.g., September for a December completion).

At this time, in consultation with your Sr Supervisor, you should finalize the title of your report and the makeup of your supervisory committee, and ensure that the Program Advisor is able to complete the paperwork to this effect.

The formatting of your report should be simple. Use two levels of headings, three if you really feel you must. The library thesis office has very specific requirements for the report’s frontmatter. Beyond that, it should be typographically thoughtful: make it readable and friendly to your readers (especially your Sr Supervisor, who will probably read the thing multiple times). Use a stylesheet; your report will need to be formatted for print (PDF) and online, so do yourself a favour and don’t make it complex.

5. Revise and repeat

Typically, there will be three drafts, plus minor revisions; the first draft is read only by the Sr Supervisor. Only when the draft is acceptable to the Sr Supervisor does it go to the second reader and/or the industry supervisor, who may require additional revisions. Sometimes, a report is considered near perfect on the first draft (you should aspire to this); other times it takes more back-and-forth. Please note this cannot go on forever; the program reserves the right to ask a student to withdraw from the program if no progress is made over three or more drafts.

When you’re working on the final drafts, you should collect signatures from your committee members, both on the Approval page (ii) of your Report and on the “Recommendation of Award of Degree” form. Don’t leave this step to the last minute.

6. Prepare for submission to library and online

Please consult the “Last Steps” instructions from the Program Manager for more detail on the administrative details of completion.

Consult the Thesis Submission instructions from SFU Library, at https://www.lib.sfu.ca/help/publish/thesis and ensure that your report complies with the library’s requirements.

Please note that yours is a “Project” and not a “Thesis” and read the library’s requirements with this in mind. Pay particular attention to the formatting of frontmatter pages. As a Master of Publishing Candidate, you should be able to do somewhat better than the library’s suggested typographic specs (their template uses 11pt Arial for some obscure reason).

The library’s templates default to an “All Rights Reserved” copyright statement on the title page, but the policy of the program is to use a Creative Commons license (CC-By) in the interests of Open Access to scholarly work. If you are using the library template, you will need to replace the boilerplate copyright statement with the appropriate Creative Commons license text. Note that you still need to complete and submit a “Partial Copyright License” form.

Submit the final, complete, formatted Report to the Library as per their instructions. File the completed, signed “Recommendation for Award of Degree” form with the Program Manager. Please send a final version (PDF) to your Sr Supervisor for posting on the program’s website.

7. Get new business cards printed

Once you’ve completed all these steps, you should start using “MPub” after your name. It’s a good conversation starter.

We highly recommend attending Convocation, in June (better) or November (wetter). SFU has one of the more spectacular Convocation ceremonies of any university: the entire graduating class are in brilliant red and blue; MPub grads wear a special hood with a gold braid; the world-champion SFU Pipe Band play for you as you enter Convocation Mall. It’s very photogenic!


  1. Regarding policies governing Ethics Review, please see SFU’s policy R20.01, “Ethics Review of Research Involving Human Participants” http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/research/r20-01.html. This policy is compliant with the standard guidelines outlined in the Tri-Council Policy Statement, Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans, (the TCPS-2): http://www.pre.ethics.gc.ca/eng/policy-politique/initiatives/tcps2-eptc2/chapter2-chapitre2/.

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