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Recently I created a project report for the project that me and my classmate are working on. The project report goes to the external examiner to whom later we have to give a demo on our project.

Me being inclined to designing (web designing, graphic design, etc) I decided to make the project report look really good. A nice clean report with good choice of paper. And care taken while choosing font etc.

It turned out to be much much better than anyone else's report. BUT! The first thing I heard from other classmates was. "Making project report look good is of NO USE. Your project (Application) should be good enough and it's all that matters"

Is it true? from a general perspective of people. Does "making it look good" matter at all?

I couldn't find any other section more relevant enough to discuss this question. Please let me know if there is any.

  • The most important thing is the report itself, and making it looks better can make it even better. making it looks good is very important, it can gives you a competitive advantage ;) – Alaa Abdulsalam Mar 31 '13 at 23:59
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    In brief, in addition to good fuller answers: yes, always make it look professional. The fact that you'd take the effort is a sign of your general conscientiousness and care and competence. Insufficient in itself, but surely manifest by a serious person. The "false converse" of the idea that geniuses neglect ordinary things... is ... false... and irrelevant. :) – paul garrett Apr 1 '13 at 1:48
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    Related: academia.stackexchange.com/q/7948/102 – user102 Apr 1 '13 at 9:01
  • My opinion here would depend strongly on the details of what you did. If "care taken while choosing font" means avoiding Comic Sans, then yes, that's worthwhile. If it means worrying whether to use Times Roman instead of Computer Modern, then no, the difference won't be noticed. – Andreas Blass May 16 '16 at 1:57
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A good-looking report will put me in the mindset that you took the assignment seriously, and aimed to turn in quality work. I think that counts for something, not nothing.

That said, if a report is just that – good looking, with little substance behind it – I will see through the façade very quickly, and all those superficial niceties might even count against you.

Assuming that's not the case, though, if two people turn in equally good work, yet one is formatted much more professionally than the other, that might earn an extra point or two – assuming I'm grading with some level of subjectivity, and not merely following a strict rubric. Shame on me, though, if I let mere appearance carry much more weight than that.

That all said, your classmates seem to be very shortsighted. Okay, maybe your extra effort will get you a 94 instead of a 93. Or maybe you'll just get a 93, with nothing more than a mental note that I thought your report looked really good. However, what you do in my classroom might – and perhaps should – extend far beyond my class. Presumably, you're in my class for an education, not merely for 3 or 4 credits. Get in the habit of turning in good work, and that might turn into something that translates into a valuable life skill.

One more thought: what's going to happen after you graduate, when all those folks from human resources ask you to include the names of three professors on your job applications? One of them might well call me, and ask, “What do you remember about this guy?”

Perhaps I'll answer, “Oh, I remember him. He always turned in exceptional work.”

Those two sentences might prove to be worth far more than an extra point or two on an assignment.

Incidentally, I had one student bring her term project into a job interview. They hired her, largely based on what they saw in that class project. Just a couple weeks ago, another student asked if my name could be listed as a reference.

“I hope they call me,” I replied in my email. “I distinctly remember how your work always seemed to go above and beyond what everyone else was turning in.” Imagine how that will sound in the ear of a corporate recruiter who is sifting through a pile of job applications.

It's your call. It's also your future.

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    Thanks, our project has enough substance, as I said,myself having that "it should look good no matter what" mentality. I made sure I do whatever required so that I'm satisfied with it. – md1hunox Apr 1 '13 at 6:42
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If your content is as good as the cover you used, it is ok. But if you are trying to create a good looking report about a badly implemented project, it is just a waste of time and shows that you concentrate on the trivial things rather than on important ones.

Those who judge your work won't judge it by its cover, I hope. That said, if the report is about a project aptly implemented, it shows that you are a perfectionist and is a good thing.

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    I don't think it's clear that showing perfectionism is a good thing. There is such a thing as diminishing returns, after all. – Nate Eldredge Mar 31 '13 at 20:59
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    @Nate: I noticed that if I mentally changed "you are a perfectionist" to "you show attention-to-detail", it was easier for me to have wholehearted agreement. – J.R. Mar 31 '13 at 22:31
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The answer by Abraham is spot on. I would just like to add the following: Good design will not kill anyone but bad design can. By design I am primarily thinking typography and illustrations. I am not so concerned about reports made during your studies but rather when you are in the work place. A report, no matter how well conceived can become overlooked if it is hard to read and if illustrations are not clear enough. There is of course a risk of over-doing the design and a somber tidy look is usually the best. So if your work is good and your design of the report also allows people to grasp the content with ease, you are doing very well!

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    Tufte's Visual Explanations offers an excellent case study of what can go wrong if you don't present things well in the Challenger explosion. – aeismail Apr 1 '13 at 4:43
  • @aeismail I agree, Tufte is a very good source. I have all his books and really recommend them myself! – Peter Jansson Apr 1 '13 at 6:41
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In my honest opinion,it's impossible to separate content from presentation. They may be two separate aspects of one thing but they are not two separate things. Taking your classmates' view to extremes would have us turning in work without bothering to check for spelling or grammar.

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You heard from your classmates that the look of the report is of no use.

But your report was better. I.e. they turned in work inferior to yours.

In life, you can generally disregard the worthless advice and nay-saying of your inferiors, and just do it your way.

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    Left unqualified, that's a rather cavalier attitude to take, and I would advise caution. Just because they're not your "equal" doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't learn from them. – aeismail Apr 1 '13 at 4:46
  • i like criticism on my work. and its good, it helps to improve one's work. but this was more like a statement by a group of people. So I was uncertain whether, mistake, if any, is on my part or not. – md1hunox Apr 1 '13 at 7:50
  • I mean, obviously, if the substance of the paper is bad, the polish will be, well, "lipstick on a pig". – Kaz Apr 1 '13 at 21:45
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There are two key elements in a report: content and structure. These can boost each other. A better content will make a judge (referee, reviewer, etc.) feel that the person has something to say, and thus the judge can overlook small mistakes in structure, and only ask for corrections. On the other hand, when a moderate content is prepared really good, the judge will give credit to the work and instead of rejecting it, (s)he would ask for betterment of the content. Usually those who prepare a very good-looking project, pay sufficient or professional attention to other aspects (the content) of the work too. At least they show they are fond of this work, no matter how their content is moderate or even not so good.

So I suggest you keep up the good work and always make your (important) reports super good-looking. That works most of the time. It has worked for me all the time.

Besides, it is normal for people to try to underestimate people who are very superior to them. :) So don't take them seriously.

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