Dr. Niall McMahon

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MCM Practicum Paper and Project Planning


Some notes about the MCM practicum paper.

What Should the Paper Look Like?

Be sure to read Andrew McCarren's FAQs and his note about paper format.

Some of you will have already used the IEEE templates for the literature reviews. If you are already familiar with LaTeX, this is the best tool to use. (I have some old notes about LaTeX on Windows here. I haven't used Overleaf, an online LaTeX editor, but it looks interesting.)

If you're not familiar with LaTeX, stick with MS Word or a similar word processor, e.g. LibreOffice.


The paper might be structured this way:

  1. Introduction summarising the broad background and narrowing down to the research question question.
  2. Literature Review
    • Overview of the topic with references
      • This should tell the story of the subject of the thesis through references to earlier work.
    • Specific area or possible research question(s)
      • Once the evolution of the subject has been sufficiently explained, explore possible research question(s), i.e. unanswered, interesting questions or problems.
    • State the research question(s) or problems clearly.
  3. Methods/Theory, i.e. outline how you set about answering the question(s) or solving the problem(s), e.g.
    • What information did you need to collect and organise?
    • What technologies/techniques/ideas did you need to learn about?
    • What codes did you need to write?
    • What mathematics did you do?
    • Etc.
  4. The Literature Review and Methods sections are sometimes combined; this depends on the kind of work the authors are presenting. A paper that describes new work, e.g. new mathematics or new technologies, might focus on methods, i.e. how the problem was solved. Papers that mostly combine ideas from other places might focus on the literature review. Either way, all papers involve some amount of review work and some amount of new work.

    In fact, sometimes papers are even simpler, with just an introduction, a conclusion and a main body of work. There is no strict formula, but the Introduction, Literature Review / Methods, Results, Discussion and Conclusions structure is a solid framework.

  5. Results
    • What did you find out?
  6. Discussion
    • How do the results help answer the research question or solve the problem(s)?
  7. The Discussion is perhaps the most important part of most papers; what do the results tell us? Or if the project involved combining information from different places, what did we discover or produce?

  8. Conclusion: recap of introduction and summary of what was presented in the paper.
  9. References.
  10. Appendix - see Andrew McCarren's guidelines.

Further Notes About Writing and Research

Have a look at:

Although you are writing a paper, not a thesis, some of the ideas from thesis writing are relevant. I have some notes about structuring PhD theses at my website. I will update this and write some more about research at some point.

Some of the references are about PhD level research, so the same depth is not expected of you. Still, they're useful, so take a read. Two worth looking at are:



Be sure to keep an eye on official module emails and notifications as well as Andrew McCarren's website.

Official Information