MRes - Collaborative Design Project 2002
septuagenarians the real cyberpunk generation

faq - reports - what goes where

Interfaces for the elderly and their carers

information sources
reporting points
assessment criteria
more on scope

reports - what goes where
where to describe the design process


I'll attempt to clarify the distinction between the report and essay.

You each **individually** produce two reports as per the module handbook:
(a) report on the work and prototype itself (50%)
(b) critique of the group working process (25%)
In addition to support these **as a group** you should supply:
(c) a pack of 'deliverables', working notes, charts, etc.
basically anything that you would wish to refer to in (a) or (b).

(c) will not in itself be assessed, but will be the foundation point for your individual reports and essays, especially (a) which comprises half the total marks for the module.

so what is the difference between (a) and (b)

From the handbook (a) is:
"i. A 2500-word report of the collaborative design work and progress (50%) - Note this report MUST be written separately by each individual."

The critical phrases for (b) include words like 'critique' and 'process'.

(a) is about the outcome - WHAT you have produced and WHY
(b) is about the process - HOW you went about it and what you learnt about group working!!

note though the 'how' in (b) is not 'we used task analysis' but the nature of meetings, decision processes, project planning, delegation of tasks, personal dynamics (with an academic slant not too bitchy please!!)

(a) should include:

  1. brief description of the outputs themselves (deliverables, design and prototype) - this can be brief as we have of course seen the presentations, but do say who they were written/produced for and to what extent they
  2. key design decisions and rationale for them - including techniques used (e.g. interviews, HTA etc.) - again some of this can be by reference to group documents as foundations for your own reasoned analysis. In 2500 words you cannot describe every minute design choice and why, so I would expect different choices between you as to which you found interesting/problematic/surprising/influenced particularly by given techniques etc.
  3. critique of the design and other deliverables - what are the outstanding problems - how would the project continue on if it wanted to address them

(b) should include

  1. brief description of the process you went through - again this can refer to group artefacts such as a list of meetings etc. and shouldn't unnecessarily reproduce these as you only have 1500 words - the aim is to highlight overall features, not list all activities. Do NOT write something like "week 1 meeting Tuesday - discussed board scope, wed looked at web sites , ...". DO describe the broad plan "first two weeks were spent getting out feet after which we worked towards a 3 phase approach requirements gathering expected to take ... In th end the X phase took a lot longer than expected partly because of ....". DO include the low level general mechanisms as well "we met usually N times a week during the early phase when we were establishing our ideas moving to less frequent planning meetings where individual goals for the week were set ... this worked well during the X phase because of ... but during Y phase more continuous contact would have been more helpful" (oops slipping into things under (ii) below in both these examples)
  2. critique and analysis of key points/problems/issues in the process - this may mean individual problematic events (e.g. "in weeks 3 and 4 we made little progress because our group meetings didn't give rise to individual tasks we could follow up out of the meetings"), broader group issues (e.g. "frequently that after long periods of disagreement that we actually didn't fundamentally disagree, but simply had different interpretations of particularly words and terms"), and less personal project management issues (e.g. "the project stages worked well because when we came to implement our prototype on day 3 of week 10 we understood all the critical issues and could implement a perfect system) ... ;-)

individual not personal

Do avoid very personal remarks, especially in (b) DO NOT say things like "X blew his/her mouth off all the time during meetings, was as a complete pain in the butt and never did any real work".

Remember any project you will be involved in in the future will involve a mix of people with different abilities, personalities, motivations - you will get upset, frustrated, annoyed, homicidal - but the purpose of the report is NOT catharis but reflection!

For (a) imagine that the management have sent a technical advisor to assess the work you have done - you are trying to convince her of the quality and validity of the work, but also (as she is too bright to have the wool pulled over her eyes) to say where deficiencies lie and how they might be dealt with in future on this project or if similar work were done again.

For (b) imagine it is a management consultant and you are writing for who is trying to look at ways to optomise the collaborative working of your team - not to assess your personal contribution or sack any of your colleagues.

Alternatively imagine you are were an ethnographic observer sitting in on all your meetings, but not actually taking part. Issues such as disparity of skills and motivation, external pressures, personality differences during meetings etc. are all important, but dealt with in an impersonal way.

If you do end up describing a difficult incident, but which seems valuable to analyse in terms of the general issues it highlights (e.g. how well you as a team dealt or failed to deal with a conflict and why) then anonymise it. Imagine the report was being produced by an ethnographer for external publication but required agreement of ALL parties before publication.

Don't avoid discussing issues of conflict as they are clearly a critical part of group processes, but do avoid writing things that if your colleagues were to see them would cause enmity for life!

transferable knowledge

A final way to look at (a) and (b) is in terns of the transferable knowledge you have gained in the CDP.

(a) is about things that you could use to apply to continue and improve the current project or to apply to a very similar project (e.g. site for a national poetry competition site where people submit poems that are then ranked by popular opinion)

(b) is about things that you could apply if you were involved in virtually any collaborative 'design' project (e.g. asked to plan the UK tour of a major rock band including choice of venue, stage design, publicity, business plan etc.)

references and background material

The two reports may overlap a bit in terns of references, but would largely have different academic sources:
(a) HCI/usability literature, domain references, some business info
(b) psychological or management science material on group design process (e.g. things Linden may suggest), project management literature, software design processes et.

Do feel free to use existing knowledge from your background disciplines: social psychology, software engineering etc., but for maximum marks you should stretch your coverage to give a broad treatment (i.e. a report that only referenced Sommerville or only referenced Jung[**] would not get high marks!)

[[** OK so I know I'm tarring psychologists with a psycoanalytic brush, but I don't know the right equivalent of sommerville!]]


If you are uncertain as to whether to include a certain point under (a) or (b) please ask.