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Individual assignment study skills
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  • 1. Your Assignment
  • 2. Choosing a topic
    • What is the issue that you are going to investigate? Translate this into a research question
    • Is it strategic in nature as opposed to tactical?
    • Is the research question legitimate? Is it of value to your organisation and to you?
    • Is the topic practical; what are the constraints?
      • Cost: money, time
      • Scope: too wide, too narrow?
    • Is it politically acceptable or will exploring this topic be politically sensitive?
    • Is it interesting?
    • Do you want a topic that stretches you, or one with which you are familiar?
  • 3. Study Skills
    • Reading
      • Reading for a higher qualification is going to involve reading widely, beyond the set texts
      • ‘ Snowballing’: when reading something leads to other lreferenced iterature
      • Journal articles may give a neat summary of theory: use them!
      • Abstracts allow you to browse: if it looks interesting read it; if not, don’t
    • Taking notes and Photocopies
      • Reference them as you go: who wrote it? when? where? page numbers etc
      • This could save you hours of searching when you come to write up your work
      • Use quotes to indicate that you have ‘lifted’ directly from the text along with the citation
      • If you summarise in your own words you still need to include a citation for the source(s)
      • Plagiarism is a serious offence in Universities. Quotes and ideas must be fully acknowledged and accredited
  • 4. Sources
    • Literature Review
      • Books; refereed journal articles
      • Peer reviewed literature
      • Review the literature critically
    • Primary
      • Research conducted by you specific to your topic
      • Interviews, questionnaires
      • Field research, generating new insight
      • Building on secondary sources
    • Secondary
      • Web searches and newsgroups
      • Company reports and internal documents
      • Magazine and newspaper articles
      • Consultant’s reports
      • TV and Radio programmes
      • Keeping up to date
      • Look for gaps
  • 5. Being ‘Critical’
    • In an academic environment, being critical means:
      • Being open-minded
      • Being intellectually sceptical about ideas, claims and arguments
      • Not accepting things at face value
      • Questioning assumptions and ‘taken for granteds’
      • Questioning existing structures and practices
    • Focus can be:
      • Underlying assumptions
      • Meaning of words
      • Methodology
      • Data collected
      • Interpretations made on data
      • Reasoning/argument
      • Your findings
  • 6. Being critical when writing
    • Present evidence to support your reasoning
    • Read your own writing critically
    • View the issue from multiple perspectives
    • Acknowledge the contribution, merits and strengths but in a qualified way
    • Reject, rebut, refute, reformulate, test and extend
    • Identify gaps, absences, limits
    • Evaluate the importance of omissions and flaws
    • Take new points of view
  • 7. Recommended assignment structure
    • Title Page
    • Contents page
    • Acknowledgements
    • Abstract
    • Section 1 : Introduction
    • Section 2 : Literature Review
    • Section 3: Findings and interpretation
    • Section 4: Conclusions and recommendations
    • References
    • Appendices
    Inform Discuss Support
  • 8. Assignment structure: inform
    • These elements are not included in your word count. Neither are references, tables and diagrams
    • Title Page
      • Your name, assignment title and number, tutor’s name, date of submission
    • Contents page
      • Itemising chapter headings and page numbers
    • Acknowledgements
      • Optional
      • To recognise those who helped in compiling the assignment
    • Abstract
      • Optional – but good practice
      • Summarises the whole assignment, not just the conclusions
      • State what your research problem was, why you chose it, how you went about your research, what theories you used, what you found and what you have learnt
      • Write it last: 200-300 words
  • 9. Assignment structure: discuss
    • Section 1 : Introduction
      • Identify your focus; your interest; terms and parameters
      • State your aims and purpose for the assignment
      • Set the scene for the reader
    • Section 2 : Literature Review
      • Review and critical discussion of relevant theory
      • Explain why it is relevant to what you are doing
      • Conversely, justify why you chose not to use certain frameworks (where appropriate)
      • Your chance to show how widely you have read and the degree to which you understand what you have read
  • 10. Assignment structure: discuss
    • Section 3: Analysis, Findings and Interpretation
      • Analyse the business issue using your chosen theory(ies)
      • Present what you have found in your analysis; relate your findings to the research question and acknowledge problems and constraints
      • Present a balanced discussion giving opposing views leading to your synthesis
      • What lessons are there for you? What lessons are there for the organisation? How might the issue be taken forward?
      • Logically sequenced sections; helpful headings
      • Use appropriate tables, graphs, charts and diagrams to support/ illustrate your discussion
      • Edit to tell a coherent story
  • 11. Assignment structure: discuss
    • Section 4: Conclusions and recommendations
      • Summarise key elements of discussion then provide a concluding commentary
      • Follow by (if appropriate) recommendations driven by findings/ conclusions
      • No surprises: not the place to introduce new concepts!
  • 12. Assignment structure: support
    • References
      • Acknowledge your sources!
        • In the text: Dicken (1998 p40)
        • In references (book): Dicken,P (1998) Global Shift: transforming the world economy, Paul Chapman, London
        • In references (journal article): Dicken,P (1998) The changing geography of Japanese foreign direct investment in manufacturing industry: a global perspective, Environment and Planning Vol 20 pp 633-53
      • Organise your references as you are reading and writing up
  • 13. Assignment structure: support
    • Appendices
      • Supporting material – not essential reading and not marked
      • Numbered with titles as referred to in the text
      • If you haven’t referred to an appendix in the text, its probably not worth including as an appendix
      • Keep them relevant; restrict to a sensible length and number
  • 14. Assignment writing
    • Getting started
      • No need to begin at the beginning
      • Start writing up well in advance of hand in date – even if revisions are necessary
      • Be prepared to draft and re-draft
    • Assignment plan
      • Brief notes as to what you intend to include in each section of the assignment including word budget
      • What theory(ies) or model(s) you intend to apply
      • Bring to tutorial
  • 15. Assignment writing
    • Writing up
      • Expression should be clear, relevant, simple
      • Suitable diagrams can add clarity
      • Explain and defend your thought processes. What is your evidence?
      • Bring in the theory – how did it work when you put it into practice? What other frameworks could you have used?
      • The reader is interested in your learning
  • 16. Assignment writing
    • Stick to the rules
      • 3,000 words, neatly typed and presented
      • Check grammar and spelling – get it proof-read
      • Name and number all the pages
      • Reference and acknowledge the work of others
      • Start new sections on a new page
      • Hand it in on time
  • 17. Marking
    • Read the handbook
    • You will get credit for:
      • Application of theory to a practical problem
      • Evidence of wide reading
      • Critical analysis
      • Synthesis
      • Clear link between analysis, conclusions and recommendations
      • Good use of English
      • Good signposting