Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Refining the assignment: telling the story.

This info was aimed at undergraduate students approaching the stage of reviewing and refining work in the weeks approaching the submission deadline for their major project. 
The final activity before preparing your files for handing in should be a thorough spelling and grammar check to ensure no errors were introduced in last minute changes such as copy pasting phrases within a paragraph into a better order. You should also check your citations and References are in line with Anglia regulations while doing your last checks.
Below are some general thoughts on refining UMP assignments: 

Its getting rather late to be checking that you have done what the module guide requires but you should remember not lose sight of that. 

You need to show that you have set out on, and completed, a well planned and purposeful learning journey. The account should include reference to meeting Anglia Ruskin ethics guidelines. The required documentation for this should be in your appendices. 

When presenting your assignment you need to check you have told a cohesive story, its not quite a simple as needing a ‘beginning - middle – end’ structure but that is a good framework to check for on the level of the whole project, each chapter, your paragraphs and sentences. 

Whichever option you chose your narrative should show that you have applied your planned approach to achieve a systematic and objective exploration of your topic. Your research question/s provide a focus within the topic, the themes and issues you explored should have relevance; they should clearly be part of your attempt to address your research question/s. The research question/s should be a particular focus in your conclusion.

Reference to a range of perspectives and the wider context can help develop a more complete story. Where there are differing perspectives or opinions you should show you have compared and contrasted views of key authors and taken into account practitioner perspectives or analysis of personally collected data where relevant. You should ensure that the assessor can see that you understand both the local environment and the wider ecosystem in which the research is set. Have you provided sufficient evidence of local detail and wider context? Getting the balance right will help you construct a clear and cohesive story.
For example:
  • A case study of assessment practice in an educational institution can provide insight into a local environment.
  • A review of assessment policy documentation could provide insight into relevant factors from the wider context that govern such institutions. 
  • Analysis of recent government statements could indicate possible future developments and how that could influence local environments. 

Exploring any one of those as an information source is interesting but bringing them together provides a more holistic perspective. 

A strong conclusion is important, this should refer to information presented in earlier chapters but should not repeat it. In the concluding section you will present a commentary that discusses key themes and findings that emerged from your research and how these are connected to the research question/s. This is an opportunity to show that you can construct informed evidence based statements that convey what you have discovered. You are unlikely to have found a perfect answer to your research question/s, however; what you should be able to demonstrate is a graduate level engagement with the research question/s that extended your knowledge base about the project topic. 

Once you have got to the end go back and check your introduction does introduce the assignment you ended up writing.

Are you over the word count? 
Have you checked Assessment regulation 6.63 for what can be excluded from the count? You should see the regulations in Misspelled Wordmy.anglia.

Have you checked the study skills documents for info on precise and concise writing and on what is key to a story and what can be left out? http://anglia.libguides.com/studyskills

Have you said: 
"I found that Doctor Henrietta Red Herring, a renowned and respected psychologist and educator in the United States of America, wrote a book in 1999 called: 'I don’t need a title here but I will put it in anyway.' In this book in Chapter 2 she says…" 

Or have you said: 
"Herring (1999, pp22-35) suggested…" 

The latter will generally be sufficient unless you have been instructed to provide detailed background information. 

Check your style and reduce to the essence. 

If your ‘final draft’ is still over the word count you could try colour coding using the highlight tool, this will help identify priority areas for editing and those that you can leave alone. This does take time and you might find that after trying it for a page or so you can then stop such detailed highlighting and just see the main priorities and address them. 

some ideas are below:

What is
essential? – Pale green - pale because you don't need to check it again
What is important? – Stronger green - stronger because if you have done all you can to reduce amber and red bits these are the nest bits to try and reduce.

What is interesting/relevant but not essential to the main focus of the module - Pale amber - of the priority areas this is the least important as tangential comments can evidence transfer of knowledge or extensions to learning.
What might be overly descriptive? - Pale amber, reducing description should be done. Cut down descriptive words, change to more analytical text or remove. 

What is repetition? – Strong amber - This must be addressed, repetition is seen as a weakness.

What is not relevant? - Red 

Check each highlighted bit in your assignment again then delete everything in red. 

The stronger highlight colours are the areas where you are most likely to be able to reduce words without impacting negatively on the value of what is written as far as assessment goes. For example; where you have identified repetition you might combine statements to produce 1 succinct statement then consider where it is best placed in the narrative and where you can now refer back to that original statement rather than repeating it in a different form. Where you are overly descriptive cut out all but key detail, then address the engineering of the narrative, cut out superlative adjectives and adverb clauses. Sometimes a long sentence can be shortened by breaking it down into several shorter sentences. Just the act of removing the linking words should do that - and, furthermore, because, additionally, they also...

Some draft text:
Smith (2002) reports that his study findings suggest that time spent learning outside the classroom reduces stress in primary age children, he also mentions several other benefits identified in the study including opportunities for exercise, strengthening the immune system and collaborative social learning and many more from which he constructs a strong argument in favour of developing policy to promote higher levels of learning outside the classroom

Repetition noted and prioritised with strike through, overly descriptive terms identified:
Smith (2002) reports that his study findings suggest that time spent learning outside the classroom reduces stress in primary age children, he also mentions several other benefits identified in the study including opportunities for exercise, strengthening the immune system and collaborative social learning and many more from which he constructs a strong argument in favour of developing policy to promote higher levels of learning outside the classroom

Final text:
Smith argues in favour of developing primary school policy to promote higher levels of learning outside the classroom. His 2002 study found this reduces stress and improves fitness while strengthening the immune system.

Don’t forget the spelling and grammar and referencing check I​ mentioned back at the start.

Depending on your course you may be required to have your assignment bound, if this is the case it is very important not to leave binding until the last day in case the binders are over stretched - it would be a shame to miss the deadline or to have to hand in unbound work.