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Writing Assignments
 
Here are some valuable tips on how to write an assignment:
 
Understanding the Assignment Question
A very important aspect that demands the first attention is the fact that you should understand what the question is asking you to write about. Often there are key words in an assignment topic which you should try to find and get your doubts regarding them clarified with your tutor. Understanding the various terminologies used in an assignment topic is also very important. To give you a more clearer idea the meaning of various terms often used in questions have been given below:
 
        Compare: look for similarities and differences and perhaps reach a conclusion about which is preferable.
        Contrast: set in opposition to bring out differences
        Criticize: give your judgement about the merit of theories and opinions, or about the truth of facts; back your judgement by a discussion of evidence or of the reasoning involved.
       Define: set down the precise meaning of a word or phrase; in some cases it may be necessary or desirable to examine different possible or often-used definitions.
        Describe: give a detailed or graphic account
        Discuss: investigate or examine by argument, sift and debate, give reasons for and against.
        Evaluate: make an appraisal of the worth of something.
        Explain: make plain; interpret and account for; give reasons.
        Illustrate: use a figure or diagram to explain or clarify or make clear by the use of concrete examples. 
        Interpret: expound the meaning of; make clear and explicit; usually giving your judgement as well.
 
Also note that often an assignment topic may have more than one such term in the question. For example: 
 
        Compare and contrast personnel management and human resource management.
        Critically evaluate the role of women in modern management.
        Discuss the meaning and nature of leadership. Explain how leadership is different from management.
 
 
Sources of Information
Having understood the question, start gathering all the required and relevant information pertaining to the topic. Your information search should include a variety of sources such as books, magazines, websites, journals, newspapers, etc.  
 
Analytical and Critical Thinking
Your assignment must show that you have analyzed the information that you have gathered and have been able to put it in a logical and rational manner.
 
The Cover Page
Make your cover sheet as attractive as possible but ofcourse within the constraints of the academic boundaries that a student is expected to follow. The most important items that you would want to include in your cover sheet are :
 
      The subject name at the top
      Your assignment title/question
      Submitted tofollowed by your tutor's name.
      Prepared/written/presented byfollowed by your name.
      Your course, degree program, batch, college name
      Current date
 
The Acknowledgements Page
Simply titled "Acknowledgements", it includes a word of thanks and appreciation to all those who helped you complete your assignment. Though there is no fixed pattern that has to be followed for the acknowledgements, it is always advisable to thank everyone who has made some valuable contribution towards your assignment.
 
Contents
Includes the list of all topics appearing in the assignment and their respective page numbers in a sequential manner.
 
List of Figures  
Very similar to the contents page, this page contains the list of figures that have been included in the assignment and their corresponding page numbers, in a sequential manner.
 
Abstract
As the name suggests this is a summary or a brief outline of the assignment and gives the reader a short but valuable guideline about what you have written in your assignment. Do not simply mention the background of the assignment, but a summary of what exactly you have written in the assignment. The abstract should be around 10% of the total word limit of the assignment.
 
Introduction
It is essential that you begin your introduction with very 'powerful' sentences or messages. You could even use an appropriate quote that fits well with your assignment topic to make the introduction more interesting. Consider the following quote for an assignment on Total Systems Intervention :
 
"The lowest form of thinking is the bare recognition of the object. The highest , the comprehensive intuition of the man who sees all things as part of a system. Plato"
 
Having written the quote you can introduce the topic by talking generally about what a problem is and why organizations face problems today. Remember, I have used the word generally which is to emphasize that you dont need to go into the depths of the topic at the introduction stage. Never begin an introduction with the exact subject matter of the assignment, but instead try to slowly lead the reader towards the topic by beginning with a very general idea and then getting focused on to your assignment question.
 
The Main Body of Text
After having written the introduction you have to start writing about the main topic of the assignment. Say for example, if the topic is about the motivation techniques that can be utilized by a manager, you could begin by writing the introduction, what motivation is, the motivation cycle and then analyze the various motivation techniques that can be utilized by a manager, and finally give a conclusion.
 
All these points need to be presented in a smooth flow. It should give an evidence of analysis and an understanding of the various issues arising from the chosen topic rather than a being a mere descriptive piece of text. The analysis, arguments etc should be presented in a logical manner and conclusions should be drawn to add originality to your answer. Remember what examiners look for is not merely the research findings of others that you gather from various sources but also your own original analysis.
 
Conclusion and Recommendations
Finally you could give a Conclusion or even include Suggestions/Recommendations if you want to.
 
Referencing and Bibliography
For all data/information that you found from some source (books, websites etc.) you should include proper referencing in the text as well as a full fledged bibliography at the end of the assignment. This is done as shown below:
 
Referencing in the text
 
The Harvard system uses the author's name and date of publication to identify cited documents within the text.
 
        For example: It has been shown that(Saunders, 1993)
        When referring generally to work by different authors on the subject, place the authors in alphabetical order: (Baker, 1991; Lewis, 1992; Thornill, 1983).
        When referring to dual authors: (Saunders and Cooper, 1993).
        When there are more than two authors: (Bryce et al., 1995).
        For corporate authors, for instance a company report: (Hanson Trust plc, 1990).
        For publications with no obvious author, for example the Employment Gazette: (Employment Gazette, 1998).
        When referring to different publications by the same author then the works should be ordered by date in ascending order: (Lewis, 1987, 1991).
        To differentiate between publications by the same author in the same year use a, b, c etc.: (Forster, 1991a). Make sure that this is consistent throughout the research project and corresponds with the bibliography.
        To reference an author referred to by another author where the original publication has not been read: (Granovetter, 1974, cited by Saunders, 1993). In this case the author who cites and the original document's author both should appear in the bibliography.
        Only use author's initials to differentiate between authors with the same surname.
        Quotations should be placed in inverted commas and the page number given, for example: the Harvard method of referencing provides a simple way of coping with the main text and also bibliographies (Bell, 1993:28)
 
Bibliography
 
In the bibliography the referenced publications are listed alphabetically by author's name and all author's surnames and initials are listed in full. If there is more than one work by the same author, these are listed chronologically. Also remember that you should use numbered bullets to list the various sources. 
 
        An example of a reference to a book would be:
Saunders, M N K  and Cooper, S.A. (1993) Understanding Business Statistics, London, DP Publications.
        A reference to a book other than the first edition would be:
Morris, C. (1996) Quantitative Approaches to Business Studies (3rd edn), London, Pitman Publishing.
        A reference to a book with no obvious author would be:
Department of Trade and Industry (1992) The Single Market. Europe Open for Professions UK Implementation, London, HMSO.
        A reference to a particular chapter in a book would be:
Robson, C. (1997) Real World Research, Oxford, Blackwell, Chapter 3.
        A reference to a particular chapter in an edited book would be:
Craig, P.B. (1991) 'Designing and Using Mail Questionnaires', in Smith, N.C. and Dainty, P. (eds) The Management Research Handbook, London, Routledge, pp.181-89.
        An example of a reference to an article in a journal (in this example volume 20, part 6) would be:
Brewster, C. and Bournois, F. (1992) 'Human Resource Management: A European Perspective', Personnel Review, 20:6, 4-13.
        A reference to an article in a (trade) journal with no obvious author would be:
Local Government Chronicle (1995) 'Westminster poised for return to AMA fold', Local Government Chronicle, 5 November, 5.
        A reference to an item found on the Internet would also include the fact that it was accessed online, the date of access and the full Internet address.:
Jenkins, M. and Bailey, L. (1995) 'The role of learning centre staff in supporting student learning', Journal of Learning and Teaching, 1:1, Spring (online) [cited 29 Mar 1996] Available from Internet
URL:http://www.chelt.ac.uk/cwis/pubs/jolt/issue 1.1/page 2.html
 
Appendix
Any additions or supplements that you wish to add to your assignment are included in the appendix. It should be noted that there can be more than one contents in your appendix. These should, however, be numbered sequentially. An appendix may include any information that you feel is worth including. This, however, does not mean that you can include all irrelevant information too. Information such as an article, a print advertisement, a detailed company report, a questionnaire etc may be included but you should also remember to mention it in the actual text of the assignment. When describing a firm's financial standing you may, for example, explain it's liquidity ratio and then mention that complete details are available in the company report provided in the appendix.
 
Also check the following:
A final word of caution...copying in any form will lead to drastic deduction of marks and/or failure.
 
 
A Final Check List
As a guidance you might find it useful to check that your assignment structure includes the following :
 
     Cover sheet
     Acknowledgements
     Contents
     List of Graphs/Figures/Tables etc.
     Abstract
     Introduction
     Main Body of Text
     Conclusion
     Bibliography
     Appendix              
 
 
Examinations
 
Apart from assignments, in most modules, you also have to appear for written examinations.
 
Examinations are a test of your grasp of the course and your ability to apply the ideas learnt. Throughout your degree you may have to appear for different types of written examinations- both oral and written. These may include objective-types questions (multiple choice, true or false, fill in the blanks etc.) short answer questions, essay type questions. The time limit for the written exams may range from one hour to three hours. These may be unseen exams, pre-released exams or open-book exams.
 
Whatever the composition, time limit or format, exams require you to expend excellent amount of hard work on acquiring knowledge that meets the standards of high grades. Moreover, you have to be able to think effectively under pressure and get it right the first time.
 
Just as you plan your assignments in a logical manner you must be well planned for your exams too. Listed below are some key points that will help you in preparing for your exams.
 
?   Prepare a time-table for various activities that should help you in optimum time allocation for your subject matter. Learn in an environment that is conducive to your maximum work efficiency and has minimum amount of attention distracting stimuli. If you don't read your course material well even a relatively easy question will appear daunting to you.
?  Go through past exam papers to get an idea about the pattern and the type of questions asked. Make sure you get in touch with your tutor regarding the same.
?   There is no need to feel worried about exams. Even top rankers feel anxious and uncertain about some areas. Being tense will only add to your woes so let that fear take a back seat and build confidence in yourself first.
?   Do not burn your mid-night oil and stay up late studying on the last day. Your mind will not be fresh enough to work at it's optimum capacity on the next day when you actually write the exam. Have a good night's sleep and avoid any troubling incident.
?   Before leaving your home for the exam make sure that you have taken all your writing instruments, calculator etc. and ofcourse your student ID card.
?   Enter the examination hall and settle down in your seat as soon as possible.
?   Be sure to fill up your complete details in CAPITAL letters and write them legibly.
?  Read the questions carefully and make sure that you have understood the questions and the instructions well. In case you want any clarifications about the questions seek guidance from the tutor or the invigilators
?   When answering objective type questions, dont leave any question blank (unless ofcourse there are negative markings for wrong answers) If you have no clue about the answer, just tick any one option as a wild guessyou will surprised by the 'free' marks you score this way. 
?   When answering an essay type question make sure that it is well organized. Ensure the following points specifically for essay type questions:
 
?   Recognize the terminologies in the question and make sure that you have understood the entire scope of the question and it's parts.
?   Give a general introduction in the beginning and gradually lead the discussion to the central idea.
?   Offer your analysis and arguments relating to the question with an unbiased stance.
?   Give as many examples as possible, both real-life or imaginary in support of your answer.
?   Include diagrams, charts, tables etc. wherever possible.
?   Do not end the answer haphazardly, sum up your ideas and do give a conclusion at the end.
 
?   Exams are not a memory or speed test, but they test your recall of key ideas taught to you in the course and your application of those ideas in the practical world.
?   Use your time well. You will not be given any extra time even if you haven't finished answering all your question and hence you should effectively time your answers for each section of the paper. Do not waste time in covering the errors with white ink, you can just strike them out.
?   Present your paper in a structured manner taking note especially of neatness and legibility. Rough work, if any, can be done on the last page or an extra sheet which may be cancelled before attaching it with your answer book.
?   Having completed your answer dont rush to leave the examination hall. Make sure that you have properly attached your extra sheets (if any) in the right order. Also make sure that you have indicated the fact that you have used extra sheet(s) and also their total number. Ensure that you have put in the right question numbers against the answers. Read your paper and check for any spelling errors, missing words etc.
?   Last, but not the least, do not attempt to copy in an exam either from your friends or through 'foreign materials'. !
 
Having handed your answer book to the invigilator, walk out of the examination hall happy and smiling :-)