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Report Requirements Overview

As part of its technology transfer efforts, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) requires that all projects funded by the agency clearly define their project deliverables. Chief among these deliverables are project research reports, which are essential for documenting not only what was done and what was accomplished, but also for disseminating the research findings to the greater research community. TxDOT has in fact achieved its pre-eminent position among state highway departments through its commitment to a strong research program, which has served to continuously improve its methods and operations.

Because the focus of essentially all TxDOT research is on applied, problem-solving research (as against basic research), and because the state legislature has pressed TxDOT to justify its research expenditures, TxDOT has adopted a program that focuses on implementation of research findings – in other words, the agency needs to show how research findings are being integrated into current practice, and what benefits are being derived from such integration.

Clearly defined and user-friendly project deliverables are meant to facilitate such implementation. The Center for Transportation Research (CTR) produces two kinds of project reports for TxDOT: Research reports (formerly the interim report) and project summary reports (formerly the final or "F" report). All projects are required to have one research report and one project summary report, as described below:

Research Report (minimum of one)

Research reports document in detail the research performed and methods used in gathering information for the project. They should be written so as to be useful to others who may be pursuing related research. This report, which may be any length, may or may not be published by TxDOT.

Project Summary Report (PSR)

One Project Summary Report (PSR) is required for a TxDOT project. PSRs contain the researcher’s general summary of objectives and methods, as well as a detailed description of findings and detailed recommendations for implementation of those findings. Project summary reports are intended primarily for the user audience and not for other researchers. Accordingly, it should be brief (4-5 pages). The subheads should be:

All project deliverables are to be submitted to TxDOT (via CTR) 60 days after project termination (unless stated otherwise in the proposal "Deliverables Table").

All reports, either research or project summary, are submitted as a "Preliminary Review Copy" (i.e., a draft report). Once the Preliminary Review Copy is approved, TxDOT will indicate whether the report is to be published (i.e., printed).

Student Obligation

Unlike some transportation research institutes, CTR, as part of its educational mission, depends heavily on students to undertake much of the research. In most cases, a student’s work on a TxDOT-sponsored project will provide the research material that will be used in a thesis or dissertation. Because the student is a CTR employee, and because he/she is using project funds to produce the thesis or dissertation, it is essential that the student prepare the report first. We have set up our report formats in such a way that, with a few changes, a TxDOT report can be converted to a thesis or dissertation that meets the requirements of the Graduate School.

Students are therefore asked to contact their project supervisor regarding whether the planned thesis or dissertation will be submitted as a project report (in advance of their thesis or dissertation). Planning ahead will ensure that the production of both will require as little rewriting as possible. Students and staff members having a particular question regarding the preparation of a report are encouraged to call CTR editorial offices (232-3122, 232-3128, 232-3085, 232-3129).

Report Text

While the nature and scope of the project work will normally dictate the specific organization of the report, most research reports will contain a statement of the problem, literature reviews and other background information, a section on materials and methods used to collect data, a description of tests performed (lab, field, or both), a discussion of results achieved, and a presentation of final conclusions based on the findings. The project summary report will then summarize the project's objectives, tasks conducted, and procedures used. Most importantly, it will also provide specific implementation recommendations. Note again that the project summary report is to be nontechnical and as user friendly as possible. Accordingly, TxDOT asks that researchers minimize the use of equations, graphs, appendices, and all other technical supporting material that should be contained in the comprehensive research report (specifications, however, can be included in an appendix in the project summary report).

Be concise and clear in your writing. A draft that is well written to begin with will facilitate editing, review, and approval. Although the length of a research report should be commensurate with the complexity of the topic, please limit descriptions to the essentials, excluding all discussion not required by the topic (you can reference much background material, for example). Reports that are needlessly long and repetitive are also needlessly time consuming to prepare and review, and expensive to reproduce.

CTR Report Process

TxDOT has mandated that all reports submitted as drafts be edited for correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, and consistency in formats and terminology. For this reason, CTR’s editorial office will proofread all draft reports prior to their official submission to TxDOT. Within 2 weeks of submitting a draft report to CTR editorial offices, report authors will receive a marked-up copy of their report (i.e., one containing editorial suggestions), along with their digital copy of the manuscript. The authors will then have 2 weeks to review the changes, incorporate them, and resubmit the corrected report and digital copy to CTR. If the primary author desires to have his/her report submitted as it was originally prepared (i.e., without CTR modification), then CTR will reproduce the report as is and will indicate in the official transmittal that the primary author has edited the report and has declined further CTR review.

Please note that the CTR editor will, at a minimum, review the report for TxDOT required elements: If such elements are missing, the report will be returned to the author, who will be asked to incorporate the required elements.

As to specific formats and styles, TxDOT has indicated that individual reports need not conform to a specific style. Rather, the agency asks that report authors choose a style and then use it consistently throughout the report. What TxDOT does requires is the following:

In terms of formatting:

  1. Double-sided printing
  2. Line spacing no greater than space-and-a half; single space is preferred (double spacing is not acceptable by TxDOT)
  3. Margins of at least 1 inch on all four sides of the page
  4. Consistency in appearance within each individual report
  5. Correct recto/verso page orientation (i.e., new chapters or sections must begin on a right-hand page)

In terms of content and quality:

  1. Accuracy and completeness (as determined by the researcher)
  2. English (Imperial) measurements (if metric units are used, these should be followed immediately by English equivalents in parentheses)
  3. Proper disclaimers, acknowledgments, and credits for sponsors
  4. A table of contents (lists of figures and tables are required)
  5. Consistency within the text in terms of style and usage

In addition, students and staff are asked to ensure that all reports contain the following report elements:

Lists of figures and tables must be included in the front matter following the general Table of Contents.

Metrication

Since October 1998, TxDOT has required that all TxDOT reports that include measurements (e.g., area, length, volume, weight, force, and temperature, etc.) must use English (Imperial) units. If metric units are used, English equivalents must be included (in parentheses) immediately following the metric unit.

References

References, which follow the LAST chapter of a report, are listed in the order they appear in the text. Within the text, indicate references parenthetically, as in the example below. A University of Texas study (Ref 12) has demonstrated that... (i.e., do NOT say "Ref 12 has demonstrated that ..."). If several references are used, indicate the sources in the following way: Several studies (Refs 2, 3) have indicated that...

It is not really useful to reference more than three sources at one time. (The reader will most likely not investigate all.) If there are many sources on a particular topic under discussion, list only one or two of the best or most comprehensive. In addition, we ask that authors observe the following:

Appendices

All highly detailed information should be included in an appendix rather than in the report. Consequently, some appendices may be more voluminous than the report itself. Include in the appendices such material as the following:

Word Processing

It is extremely important that authors use software packages that are compatible with the CTR production and graphics departments at Red River. Most authors prepare reports using Microsoft Word for PC or for Macintosh, which is quite acceptable. For figures, please see the attached information regarding graphics. In all cases, an author must make available to CTR a digital copy (computer disks) of all text, figures, and tables used in the report. Because the CTR editorial office has established electronic publishing of reports (via PDF files), it is important that authors furnish digital information only (no pasted in figures or tables, for example). A hardcopy report is required for reference and editorial review.

Suggested Styles/Format

Again, neither TxDOT nor CTR seeks to impose a standardized style to which all reports must conform. However, many times we receive calls from students and other researchers asking how to go about setting up a TxDOT report. Thus, the following is provided as a suggested format for reports.

Create double-sided documents, with mirrored margins and page numbers. Page numbers can be centered at the bottom as footers or set up as headers, with left and right orientation (i.e., for even pages, place on left 1/2 inch down from top and flush with left margin; for odd pages, place on right 1/2 inch down from top and flush with right margin. The title page, the first page of new chapters, the references page, and all appendices front pages (including the first page of the appendix material) should begin on the right-hand side of the document. Other suggestions include the following:

Headings

Headings help the reader to understand the organization of the report. They should be consistent in order and form. There must be at least two of any heading level used under a higher level heading (i.e., if a subject does not break into at least two topics, leave as is). The following basic series of heading levels are adequate for most reports:

Photographs, Figures, and Tables

Report authors may choose to embed scanned photos or slides into their word processing document. This is quite acceptable practice–if the original photo is of high quality to begin with. Hand-pasted photocopies or screened halftones are NOT ACCEPTABLE. If you have slides or photos that need to be scanned, please call CTR graphics at 232-3085 or 232-3129.

As for figures and tables, please see the attached. We ask that report authors not use color in figures, since all reports are reproduced in black and white. If color is essential, please contact our office and we will seek permission from the TxDOT project director. Again, if you need figures redrawn, please call CTR graphics.

TxDOT Report Processing

As indicated earlier, all research reports are initially submitted to TxDOT as draft deliverables. From there, the deliverables are recorded and then sent to the project director (PD) and other project committee members for peer review. TxDOT instructs the PD to respond with comments, revisions, and/or approval within 30 days of receipt of the draft deliverable.

NOTE: All approvals or other comments will be sent in writing to the university. As indicated in TxDOT’s Research Manual, "Verbal approvals, or approvals from other TxDOT or FHWA offices do not constitute approval." Once approval is obtained in writing, all deliverables to be reproduced must be provided (in printed form) to TxDOT on or before the due date indicated in the official approval transmittal (note that CTR will need at least 10 days for processing and publication).

If a revision is requested and a new draft is to be submitted, then TxDOT will indicate the due date. Note also that if the project is active, all editorial/graphics/printing costs will be charged to the project. If the project is terminated, all such costs will be charged to a TxDOT general publication support project. CTR prints the number of copies indicated and then distributes the reports to TxDOT divisions and offices, as well as to other state DOTs and to libraries. Report authors are sent copies; the CTR library retains 30 copies.

Other Information

For all other information not covered here, please call the CTR editorial office.

The University of Texas at Austin  •  UT's Cockrell School of Engineering