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Assignment Writing How to beat the University at its own game and win!

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Presentation on theme: "Assignment Writing How to beat the University at its own game and win!"— Presentation transcript:

1 Assignment Writing How to beat the University at its own game and win!

2 Purpose of assignments Extend learning Opportunity to combine theory and practice Encourage critical analysis Develop business skills Demonstrate your understanding An essential part of the assessment process

3 Content Structure & style Language Characteristics Ten-step process Referencing The marker

4 Four important tools The Question The Assignment Guideline Indicative Marking Criteria (AGC Form) Overall Grading Structure

5 Structuring the assignment Title Page Executive Summary Contents Page Introduction Background Methodology Main Body & figures, tables, models Recommendations Conclusions List of References Appendices

6 Title page Course & Module title Assignment title Name Intake Student number Word count Date

7 The executive summary Provides a condensed version of the longer assignments contents. It’s a self-contained, stand alone document. Provides an overview of the full- length report Usually no longer than 10% of the original document, (often 1 page). A concise summary of the main sections of the assignment & specific recommendations.

8 Contents page All but the shortest of assignments should contain a contents page listing all the section headings and page numbers You may want to number chapter headings and sub- headings in addition to providing page references Be clear and consistent throughout

9 Introduction Sets the scene for the reader. States clearly the issue/problem/area you will address in your assignment, why it is important and how you will address it – your approach. It tells the reader what is coming up, key issues and concerns. Any problems or limitations in the scope of the assignment should be identified. Avoid the dreaded “In this assignment I will describe…..” Write it last!

10 The main body This will cover your problem/investigation and analysis. It requires structuring with headings and sub-headings to achieve coherence & flow. It must contain all the information needed to justify conclusions and recommendations. Is likely to contain figures, tables and models, neatly presented, correctly referenced and labelled

11 Recommendations Make specific recommendations for future action and consideration Must be feasible, avoid “the organisation needs to change it’s culture” type statements (This may be the case but organisational cultures are notoriously resistant to change, how will this be achieved?)

12 Conclusions Highlights the findings of the assignment. Revisits the themes outlined in the introduction and shows what has been established. It should not just be a repeat of what has gone on before. It is not a place to introduce fresh material The conclusion “draws the threads together” Looked at closely by the marker

13 Appendices Provide further background information that may be useful to the reader. The reader must be able to make sense of the assignment without consulting the appendices. Useful for large amounts of data that would otherwise disrupt the flow of the assignment Examples: company history, relevant background information, lengthy calculations, tables of data, long interviews etc.

14 Assignment writing A ten step approach

15 The 10 step process 1.Know the marking criteria 2.Analyse the question 3.Build your list of references 4.Write the middle 5.Write the conclusions & recommendations 6.Write the introduction & executive summary 7.Check your references 8.Spell and grammar check everything 9.Ask a fellow student or other person to read your work 10.Read again in a couple of days

16 A well written assignment.. Has an appropriate structure – it flows Has headings and sub-headings Includes research methods & background information Demonstrates evidence of a wide range of information sources Includes reference to relevant theory, correctly referenced Uses both qualitative and quantitative sources of information Is “analytical” rather than descriptive Uses tables, figures and models to support the narrative Makes appropriate recommendations and conclusions

17 It’s Never to Early to Start It’s never too early to start

18 Why Reference? To provide information to the reader To support you arguments To build credibility To avoid Plagiarism

19 Examples of plagiarism In fields as different as physics, biology, linguistics, anthropology, sociology and psychotherepy, network ideas have been repeatedly involved over the last 100 years. The multiple origins of network approaches for the social sciences contribute to the eclectisism that characterises current work. Kilduff, M., Wenpin, Tsai. (2003). Social Networks and Organizations. Sage Books

20 Examples of Plagiarism Example 1 The multiple origins of network approaches for social sciences contribute to the eclecticism that characterises current work Example 2 The multiple origins of network approaches for social sciences contribute to the eclecticism that characterises current work (Kilduff and Tsai, 2003)

21 Examples of Good Practice Example 3 ”The multiple origins of network approaches for social sciences contribute to the eclecticism that characterises current work” (Kilduff and Tsai, 2003:13) Example 4 Network research embraces a diversity of approaches to studying social relations; Kilduff and Tsai (2003) attribute this diversity to the multiplicity of origins of the network approach.

22 Requirements for referencing Assertions or statements of fact Theories views or arguments Where information came from Who created the information Who collated the information The University uses the Harvard system of referencing

23 When to reference I.Brahm’s wrote four symphonies II.Brahm’s compositions were driven by unrequited love III.Harry Potter was a wizard IV.The Harry Potter books constitute a danger to the moral fabric of youth

24 An ideal list of references… Sources from the recommended reading Recognised leaders in the field Some up-to-date sources Something the marker has not yet read Contextualised information Avoids the “Heathrow Library” Avoids Wikipedia

25 Types of referencing “Quotations” Paraphrasing Using your own words

26 Examples QUOTATION: “… to which the automatic human reaction is helpless discouragement. But for the successful leader failure is the beginning, the springboard of hope.” (Bennis and Nanus, 1985:71). PARAPHRASE: Failure is finality, a dead feeling of helpless discouragement. For the successful leader, failure can be the springboard to a new beginning, (Bennis & Nanus, 1985). OWN WORDS: Bennis and Nanus (1985) point out that effective leaders react to failure differently than other people. Rather than becoming de- motivated and discouraged as most people do, leaders see failure as a challenge which rousers them to greater efforts and stimulates hope for a brighter future. REFERENCE: Bennis, W., and Nanus, B. (1985). Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge. New York: Harper & Row, p.71.

27 Referencing – the Harvard System References must be cited in the text, (see example) Remember – include page number for ”quotations” References must be listed in author alphabetical order at the end of the assignment, (after conclusions and before appendix)

28 How many references? Depends on the nature of the assignment and the subject but, for a 3,000 word assignment – not less than 10, 20+ would be better.

29 Style of the assignment Use a title page and number the pages Do what you say you will do in the introduction Footnotes not recommended Use quotes from opposing views Quotes and paraphrasing work well together Avoid excessive use of “bullet points” Plagiarism – don’t do it

30 Presentation style Typed, standard font One-and-a-half spaced Presentation as expected at Masters level Staple it (do not bind it)

31 Writing style Personal Information comes from the writer’s experience Personal feelings and views Recounts, tells a personal story Non-technical vocabulary “I” at the centre Academic Information comes from a range of sources Evidence & argument, citing & referencing others work Comments, evaluates, analyses Subject specific vocabulary Written in the “3 rd person”

32 Language to avoid Obviously… Research shows… It is true that… This proves… Where does this lead us? It’s a well known fact…

33 Language to avoid “I”, “we”, “you” I think…. I feel…. Good, bad, normal Contractions Jargon

34 Language to use “this suggests…” “it is plausible…” This argument appears reasonable / unreasonable because… Use the terminology!

35 A word about word count Most assignments are restricted to a word count +/- 10%  Much less than the word count – you’ve probably not got the depth  Over the word count – markers may stop marking at the word count The word count starts after the contents page and ends before the references Words in the appendix don’t count Words in models don’t count

36 A word about the marker Do not assume the marker shares your point of view Do not bore the marker Don’t make the marker work hard for the information Some markers start with the references The question & assessment criteria are “king” Your assignment will be treated fairly QAA & CASQ Rules

37 What you get marks for… Answering the question Analysis Reference to relevant theory, models etc. Strength of your arguments Breadth and depth of your discussion Realistic recommendations Conclusions × Not generally for Description

38 How to get an ”F” Be too descriptive Don’t answer the question Don’t make reference to relevant theory Omit critical analysis

39 Tackling the assignment Average time per assignment – 50 hours Researching 10 hours – (20%) Writing 20 hours – (40%) Thinking 10 hours – (20%) Excusing 10 hours – (20%)

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