Syst 798-001 -- Research Project - Fall 2003

Subject to revision to correct errors and omissions and/or in the interest of fairness. GMU policies and procedures take precedence should there be a discrepancy between any of them and this syllabus.




William Adams, PE, PhD

Other contact information will be given in class.

Office: TBD - best to see me before or after class





(but see schedule of classes for recess, holiday closings, one time exceptions, snow cancellations, reschedulings. ) Check the GMU phone number for late breaking snow cancellation information.


Time: 1920-2200J **

Bldg.- Room -- ST 112


(See Detailed schedule: Lecture and assignments in separate file(s), which may include other schedule changes) Some generic assignment dates will be instantiated in class eg which specific date(s) you/your team is assigned.


Schedule Strategy

Because of the Labor day holiday, we must get a running start or risk not being able to complete the project on time without a lot of effort concentrated near the end of the semester.


Students should come to the first class with a possible topic, a general outline of the report, and a moderately detailed list of steps that need to be performed.


We will discuss these and tailor them as appropriate.


No class is held the second week due to labor day. Students should continue to be working diligently and have finalised topics/focus, schedule/plan, and DID by the next class session.


Most classes will start with group discussions and or presentations, followed by team working sessions/faculty consultation, and followed by optionally individual consultation as desired.


If we do not need all the class time then the groups should use the rest of session to coordinate their work and continue working on their TR.



Students should subscribe to the listserv to receive announcements and other information broadcasts for this course.



Course Description

Research Project. Prerequisite 21 Graduate Credits.

Research project chosen and completed under the guidance of a graduate faculty member, which results in an acceptable technical report (TR).


This course will use the systems engineering and related skills normally developed through previous classes and as would be used in a business teamwork environment. Soft skills as well as technical ones will be exercised.




Create a technical report using the KSAs gained through previous coursework or experience. The report must be acceptable to the student's advisor.


The report should be comparable to one given at a conference or printed in professional publications.


Ideally the TR will be accepted by a conference, or journal, or published internally by the student's employer.



Textbook and Reference Materials

Text: None.


Recommendations for useful references are given below.

The first class will have an announcement about reserve books.

Some of the following are in the reference section of the library.

Browse the stacks for others with similar call numbers.


Useful references:


        How To Write And Publish Engineering Papers And Reports 3E

Michaelson, Herbert B.

Phoenix AZ

Oryx Press 1990

T11.M418 1990


        How To Write And Present Technical Informaton 3E

Sides, Charles H.

Phoenix AZ

Oryx Press 1999

T11.M418 1990


        Writing And Speaking In The Technology Professions: A Practical Guide

Beer, David F.

New York

IEEE Press c1992

T11.W75 1992


        Technical Report Writing

NASA Technical Memorandum 105419

Was recently available at


        The Craft Of Research

Booth Colomb and Williams

Q180.55.M4 B66 1995

University of Chicago Press


        Practical Research Planning and Design 6E

Leedy, Paul D.

Q180.55.M4 L43 1997

Prentice Hall (Simon & Schuster) 1997


        Handbook of Systems Engineering and Management

Sage and Rouse ed

TA168.H33 1999

John Wiley & Sons 1999


        The Portable English Handbook 2E

Herman, William

PE1112.H38 1982

CBS College Publishing


        Merriam Webster's Manual for Writers and Editor

PN147.M49 1998





Other Assistance



For help with research, Kelly Jordan, Information Technology and Engineering Librarian, is a useful resource. Stop by the Fenwick library or email her at



For help with writing, the GMU writing center may be useful. There are many web sites that provide writing and grammar assistance. Many universities have on line writing centers (OWL = online writing lab) for assistance. The GMU center is at


Others are listed at




This one has good handouts to print


Good links to resources for evaluating web data, avoiding plagiarism, etc.


Group Writing - Recommended!


Peer Review Writing Process




Whilst grammar and style are important, quality content is the first priority. Do not get sidetracked with mechanics before the content has been instantiated. But allow time to create a quality document.



Course Requirements

See details in separate file.


Students will tailor and use a process to be followed. Metrics will be captured and progress tracked versus the schedule based on the process' steps. Students will tailor a DID to guide the documenting of their report.


Interim status presentations will be made periodically as if to a corporate director.


A final presentation will be presented as well as a final hard and soft copy of the report being turned in. This would be comparable to one given to a corporate VP or at a technical conference.


Faculty and advisors will be invited to the final presentations.


A take home "mid-term" exam will be due that includes a MS Project type view of the detailed process and schedule with progress to date indicated.


A take home "final exam" will be due that includes the final MS Project type Gantt view with actual results indicated. Additionally, metrics captured that can help future planning are to be turned in. Lessons learned and suggested process improvements are to be documented. A final generalised DID is the final item included with the take home exam.


The key deliverable is the technical report and a formal presentation.

There will also be interim presentations and status reports required.


There are no formal exams.

Additional deliverables will take the place of exams.

These include items such as a project plan, DID, lessons, learned, actual metrics, etc.



Grading Criteria

Grades will be per GMU policy.

This course uses required grading scheme GT for graduate courses.


Students will be required to turn in a self assessment as well as one for their team. Students will assess the other presentations.


Faculty will be invited to the final presentation and to review the final TR. Their feedback will be given considerable weight.


The final grade will be determined by myself with consideration given to inputs from student and faculty evaluations. NB these normally raise grades not lower them :)


Grades will be based on the following items - with the noted relative weighting factors.

        25% - Final written Technical Report - teams self allocate distribution of total awarded points

v     Emphasis is on content, but presentation and mechanics will count ***

        20% - Final Presentation - teams self allocate distribution of total awarded

        20% - Final exam substitute -

        15% - Mid term exam substitute-

        10% - Teamwork/Participation- scored by team members

        10% - Status reports -

        Bonus points may be awarded for

Draft presentions

Class participation - PAL contributions

Miscellaneous - TBD


Late work

Late work is accepted but the grade is reduced by 10% a week unless an acceptable reason is provided.


If you anticipate any religious holidays, employer mandated travel, health appointments, or critical personal issues (tax audits, court appearances, funerals, weddings, etc.), that will require you to miss class or be late with work please notify the instructor as early as possible. And coordinate with your team so they are not impacted too. Confirming documentation is required.




A+ 98-100+

A 93-97

A- 90-92

B+ 87-89

B 83-86

B- 76-82


C 63-75


F 62


Other grades are possible in accordance with GMU policy:

IN incomplete - missing work - shows as F

AB - absent last day with acceptable excuse - ten day limit to finish

S - no grade required

NC - no grade required

IP in process -




Honor Code

Attention should be paid to the honor code provisions.


All work is open book, open notes, as would occur in an industrial environment. For academic purposes though, acknowledgement must be made of sources used.


Work is to be done collaboratively with their team, and/or the class. Teams may help each other but acknowledgement is to be given to such help.


Proper credit is to be given to any other information sources used by citing them in the TR.


Style and usage

Use the GPO or Chicago style manuals for citation format.

Use the Columbia guide for web based content citations.

Harbrace College Handbook or Hacker are good guides for grammar usage.

The Chicago Manual of Style 13E (or later)


U of Chicago 1982


Style Manual rev.



GPO 1973 (or later)


Rules for Writer 3E (or later)

Diana Hacker


St Martin's Press 1991


The Columbia Guide to Online Style by Janice R. Walker and Todd Taylor (Columbia UP, 1998)


Class Policies and Approach

All applicable laws and GMU policies are hereby included by reference.

Students are responsible for knowing the school policies as documented in the Catalog.


Smoking is not allowed in the classroom.


All notes should be annotated with a timestamp and the source. Acknowledgement of all sources is expected if material from a textbook, website, inter-team collaboration, or class discussions is used.


Students are expected to

        attend all sessions on time.

        be prepared

        participate actively

        be alert, having had adequate sleep and rest

        manage their time effectively

   plan their work and budget their time

   keep a log of all resources expended

   do not get behind

        coordinate and work with their team effectively and collegially

        first attempt to do all the work by themselves

   ask for help when necessary


Students are to coordinate as appropriate with their advisors and to get any approvals necessary for acceptance of their report.


You may synchronise your watches by telephone at 202 762 1401.


Teamwork is an integral factor of this course. All students are expected to work in a collaborative and cooperative manner both on their project team and in the class as a whole. Planning and coordination are expected to minimise duplication of efforts.


Communication is vital to success and will be emphasised through in‑class briefings concerning the team projects and written status reports.



Any student needing accommodation for a handicap will be given whatever course modifications they need as determined appropriate by the DRC staff. The DRC form is required.



The main product is a technical report. A final oral presentation will also be given. Interim status reports and drafts will be due. Exams will be take home and consist of providing ancillary artifacts that facilitate the planning and writing of the report.


Each student is to log all resources used by category for the entire course.

This will be used to create the metrics turned in as part of the take home "final exam".


Frequent status reports will be presented by teams and or turned in for evaluation.


Additional items will be assigned in class.



Please provide hardcopy of all assignments. Softcopy is also required for the final report and presentation. MS Project files need to be in MSP-98 format not 2000 or XP. Other files should be readable by Office-97 versions of word, excel, access, powerpoint, etc.


Please use a font that is 12-14 points, with 2-3 points of leading for text.

Do not justify.


Use 1.5" left margin and all other margins set at 1".

If headers/footers are used and/or page numbers, then they should be spaced 1/2" from the text body.


Do not use Garamond or (new) times roman or similar fonts with small x‑height or tight tracking.


Please use American Typewriter aka Editor, or Dark Courier. Other large x-height fonts with uniform stroke weight may be used; but, please confirm readability with the professor first. Thanks!

Georgia, Trebuchet, Antiqua are other MS fonts that may be used.


Fonts can be provided to those who do not have them and are unable to download them from Microsoft, HP, or public domain sites.


Spreadsheets and similar items should use Arial Narrow 8-10 point.





** J = local time. We change from DST to EST in October.




Writing Criteria - General



The company would be delighted to send this message. It not only meets the problem goals, but it does so in a particularly ingenious or graceful way. It is substantially better than the ordinary, acceptable message.



The company would be willing to send this message. It meets the problem goals and communicates adequately in every way.



The company would be unwilling to send this message. Although it is acceptable in many respects, it must be disqualified for one major weakness or several minor ones. It could probably be turned into an acceptable message with some careful revision/editing.



The company would be unwilling to send this message and would be inclined to question the competency of the writer. Although it shows some evidence of an attempt to apply principles discussed in this course, the attempt was not successful. Rather than attempting to revise, the writer should throw away this message and start again.



The company would seriously consider replacing this writer. The message shows no evidence that the writer tried to apply the principles discussed in this course, and the message would probably do more harm than good if it were sent: it could be a serious embarrassment to the company. The writer should study the basic principles carefully and start this message over.


Remember: Getting important piece(s) of information wrong (i.e., an incorrect name or address or figure) would automatically place your letter or project into the "cannot send" pile: you would receive a "C," "D," or "F," depending upon the seriousness of the errors.



Anyone who continues to make silly or minor grammar, punctuation, and/or spelling errors will not long "survive" as a communicator, either in their personal or professional lives. This is not a grammar course-- However your work should be mechanically flawless. Usually you are "allowed" one grammatical/mechanical error per 1/3 letter grade.

Additional errors would lower the baseline grade based on content.