Assignment writing is a core academic skill that you will learn and master during your time at UBSS. Being able to write at the higher education level means that you have the ability to:
- Research and identify information relevant to your assignment topic;
- Locate and use sources that are academically credible (such as refereed journal articles, book chapters, or publications by relevant professional associations, government departments, etc)
- Organise information using critical thinking that you have researched and collected, as well as your writing into sections - such as introduction, body and conclusion
- Use correct academic referencing when writing to ensure you avoid plagiarism and cite others work correctly.
- Use correct English - this includes correct, grammar, spelling, punctuation and the avoidance of typographical errors, etc
- Present your work to a professional standard
Research and identify information relevant to your assignment topic
An assignment will usually propose a question or a problem and ask you to either solve it or discuss it. This requires you to locate and read information relevant to the topic and obtain information from multiple sources to gain an informed perspective. For example, your assignment topic is "Does effective leadership contribute to an company's success?. To begin your research you would:
- Log into the UBSS e-resources and search for journal articles and ebook chapters etc on leadership or corporate leadership;
- You then need to break this information down - consider what is meant by 'effective' leadership - you probably would want to find out if there are different types of leadership and what the authors say about them
- You might then consider the role of leadership in a company, and see if the material you have located makes this connection;
- Determine if the information you have located has different view points - and note what they are, and WHY
Locate and use sources relevant your you assignment topic
This essentially means that you are able to find, read and analyse sources that are RELEVANT to your topic. Relevant materials ensure you stay focussed on what you are being asked, and do not waste time and effort researching and reading materials that are irrelevant to your topic. Submitting irrelevant information will not earn you a better mark because you satisfied the word limit; it will probably earn you a worse mark! Think of answering an essay question with relevant i information like any other question you may be asked. For example, if someone asks you 'if studying at USS is different to studying at school', you would answer either Yes or No with your reasons - you would not include irrelevant information about something different.
Locating sources is a core academic skill and the UBSS e-resource databases are the first place to start. These databases allow you to search by keywords, author or subejct, and allow you to filter information relevant to your topic. After you have tried a search you will be displayed a list of publications. You then need to read the titles and their summaries to determine if the content appears relevant to your topic - if it is relevant, you should save it for reading and if not, keep browsing. You may have to try a few different searches to find the information you want, such as trying different keywords or combinations of words to produce better search results.
Academically credible sources are those published in academic journals and books which are refereed or peer-reviewed (read and approved by experts prior to publication). The reading list your lecturer provides may include some of these journals. Reports produced by professional associations and government departments are also considered credible sources of information. Information that is NOT credible includes information from websites that do not have rigorous academic quality control, such as Wikipedia, wikianswers, ask answers, ask.com, discussion boards or forums, etc.
Organise information using critical thinking
Critical thinking is the ability to read information and question its value and relevance, particularly against your assignment question and other material you have read. Critical thinkers do not accept everything they are told or read without first asking questions to test its accuracy or validity. It is a key academic skill that you will learn at UBSS during your course.
Correct academic referencing and avoidance of plagiarism
- When undertaking your research, highlight or take notes of the key theories, arguments and facts provided by each author – and always consider 'is this relevant to my topic?" - and make sure you keep a record of the author, the publication, the date of publication and the page number (particularly if you quote a sentence directly);
- When you have finished reading (a minimum of 12 different scholarly sources is recommended for a 1,500 word assignment ), you should summarise what you have read that includes keeping a list of each publication and the key theories, arguments and facts presented by each author. Tabular format is one way to easily compare the summary; this helps you to understand the key arguments and theories of your readings and helps you to organise yourt thoughts and ideas into an outline;.
- Make an outline of your assignment. This should include the introduction, and key theories/facts to be included in the body – order them logically and sequentially; this is followed by the analysis and ctirical thought, and then the conclusion. This will help you digest and organise the research you have undertaken;
- Start writing. Your assignment should begin with the introduction – which introduces the assignment question and then outlines how you intend to answer it - which is essentially a summary of your outline;
- The body should then follow the introduction – this is where you refer to your summary of the literature and then write down the key theories, facts and arguments relevant to your assignment question. You need to write this information in a way to ensure that it ‘flows’ from one point to another and that the reader can easily understand what you are saying
- The body should then evidence analysis and critical thought. This is where, after you have discussed the main theories or arguments related to your topic, you compare and contrast them to each other and discuss similarities, differences and how and why this is relevant to your assignment question. This is the part of your assignment that is most ‘academic’ and valued;
- Your work should end with a conclusion that proposes what the answer or findings to the question are and why – based on the key outcomes of the analysis of your assignment question.
- An example of a HD assignment from a first year UBSS subject is available here
- Remember - you should always write the assignment as if the reader (marker) has no knowledge of your topic. This will ensure that you reflect on the content and structure to ensure that ideas, theorries and your analyses are explained clearly and avoid confusion to the reader.
When you find material to use for assignments you must reference (cite) it correctly. Whilst studying at UBSS you are expected to write to an acceptable academic level. You will need to develop skills displaying academic integrity, which means being honest about your ideas and sources. Referencing, when done correctly acknowledges the work of others and will prevent you from accusations of intellectual theft and plagiarism.
- There is one referencing style at UBSS (the Harvard system) which is used in ALL subjects:
- These links provide examples of these referencing types and how to use them.
Plagiarism is presenting, without any form of acknowledgment, the ideas or words of another writer as if they were your own. It is stealing someone else's work.
The referencing and citation of sources is a fundamental convention of scholarly research and publication. It allows you to demonstrate wide reading and familiarity with current ideas. It also allows other academics to follow up sources of interest, which they may, in turn, use in their own research practice. In this way, you contribute to the advancement of your field with academic integrity.
Without an active commitment to intellectual honesty, scholarship becomes meaningless.
Failure to credit the source
using an author’s work (published or unpublished) without properly crediting the author. This includes paraphrasing someone else’s work without acknowledging the source.
Presenting work of others as your own
It is now relatively easy to find assignments and written material online that could be copied and passed off as your own. This is regarded as another form of plagiarism and is in violation of academic integrity.
Unauthorised collaboration (collusion)
This is when students work together to prepare an assignment that is then submitted by each individual as their own work. Obviously this is different from students being encouraged to work together on a group project and asked to collaborate.
Some tips to avoid plagiarism:
- Cite your source (tell your reader where the information has come from).
- Ensure that direct quotes use quotation marks or are in block format so that your reader knows where a quote begins and where it ends.
- When incorporating brief quotes into your own sentences begin with your words then weave your source's words into your sentence.
- Ensure that you have presented the words exactly as they appear in your source.
- For paraphrased material, provide acknowledgment as early as possible in your paragraph. It is unwise to draw on someone's work but only give the reference at the end of the paragraph, or when you have finished making your point.
- Be extra careful with material taken from the internet.
UBSS uses the online plagiarism detection software Turnitin. When you submit your assignment on Moodle, it is loaded into Turnitin which will detect if sections or all of your assignment has been copied from other published sources or if you have colluded with others students on your subject or students who took the subject before you. Your lecturers will then advise on the extent of plagiarism (if any) detected and you will receive a warning or loss of marks or failing the assessment item. See the UBSS Plagiarism Policy in the UBSS Academic Policies & Procedures document located under the policies tab of your MyGCA Account for details.
Correct English - this includes correct, spelling, avoidance of typographical errors, etc
As a future higher education graduate, you are expected to be able to use correct English even if English is not your first language. Correct English broadly includes correct use of grammar and correct spelling. Before submitting any written work, you should:
- Spell check your work AND proof read it for spelling, typographical and grammatical errors.
- Remember that in English, words can be spelt differently if they are used as verbs or nouns. For example: He advised me that (verb)…; He gave me advice that (noun)…the spell check will not always detect these differences
- Use an e-dictionary and e-thesaurus to check your spelling and improve your vocabulary
- Make sure you know the difference between it’s and its. Examples include: It’s (it is) hot today; the cat sat on its mat. In formal writing you should use it is as not it’s, as it’s is informal.
- Don’t use abbreviations such as e.g., they’re, wasn’t etc. Use: for example, they are, was not, instead;
- Use the words there, their and they’re correctly. Examples include: There is no one at the College after 9pm; the students sat their exams today; they’re (they are) not very nice people. Again use the full words’ they are’ in this example.
- Do not use slang in academic writing
- Do not use the words 'get' and 'got' - choose other words such as receive or received or become or became;
- Ensure you use punctuation correctly - full stops, commas; parentheses (). Do not overuse exclamation (!) marks
- If English is not your first language you might want to ask a native English speaker to proof read your work;
- Make sure there are no typing mistakes
- Make use of online dictionaries and thesauruses to improve your vocabulary and check your work.
If you are having difficulty with English, advise your lecturer or the Director of Higher Education. Metro English College, that is part of GCA, offers courses in academic English that can help you with your academic writing requirements at UBSS.
Correct presentation of your work
All written work must be well presented – this proves that you have pride in your work and have consideration for the person reading it (usually the marker). Tips for presentation include;
- Ensure you use ONE font and ONE font size for the whole assignment. Ariel or Times New Roman or Calibri with a font size 11-12 is recommended;
- Use only black font;
- Make sure each page is numbered– such as page 1 of 10;
- Make sure you use at least 1.5 line spacing between sentences;
- Make sure your pages have a margin of at least 2 centimetres;
- Label all tables and graphs;
- Ensure spreadsheets have appropriate headings on each sheet, and that the tabs have titles;
- Ensure spreadsheets use fonts as suggested above, and that sheets are not too long, particularly horizontally ,as it is difficult to read and analyse the information with too many columns;
- Include a cover page with your student number, name, subject name, lecturer name, and course
Submit all work on MOODLE. Paper (hard) copies are not accepted under any circumstances. Ensure you save your work with your student number, name, subject and group in the file name, for example: 123456_Smith_J_Principles_of Accounting_GroupA. This ensures the lecturer can easily find your work!
Remember, it is the content of your written work that counts, but adhering to the above tips will ensure that is it presentable and easy to read.
Refernce was made to the Charles Darwin University study skills wepgaes in the above plagiarism section.