Guidelines For Submission Of Doctoral Research Proposal

Guidelines For Submission Of Doctoral Research Proposal








GUIDELINES FOR ASSIGNMENT WRITING
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Guidelines for Assignment Wrting

The need to write this document has been driven by two things: a) many years of experience of marking assignments at all levels and seeing the same issues crop up time and again, and b) the desire to see you all do better in your assignments by being aware of, paying attention to, and thus avoiding, simple and careless errors that result in lower marks being awarded.

A great deal of time is spent by tutors in writing feedback which is intended to be meaningful and constructive, yet time and time again the feedback is clearly unheeded as the same careless errors appear in assignment after assignment. Tutors are well aware that receiving marks and feedback on an assignment which has involved much hard work is an emotional and, for some, a challenging experience. Some take it as personal criticism or see only criticism in what is written. Others see it as a development opportunity. The former is negative, the latter positive. Here at MMU we take the giving of feedback in a positive and constructive way very seriously, and whilst pointing out the shortcomings of an assignment, which is necessary, we also endeavour to explain what is needed to gain higher marks.

In writing this document it is assumed that you are all highly motivated, independent learners who value feedback as a tool for development, which is exactly what it should be.

The purpose of this guide is to take you through the processes involved in marking assignments so that you have an opportunity to better understand how marks are arrived at.

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First, a reminder about where to find information about the requirements of the assignment:

Online – the VLE All students enrolled on the programme have access to the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment), Moodle. In Moodle each Unit on the programme of study has its own 2

Course Area‟. Each course area contains programme information such as The Definitive Document and The Student Handbook.

The Definitive Document

The Definitive Document is a very important source of all the information about your course. It explains, in fine detail, what the course is about and, more especially, has specific details about the content; it lists the learning outcomes and assessment criteria for each unit being studied. You need this information for your assignments.

The Student Handbook

The student handbook gives all the details of what happens when, including hand-in dates for assignments and the marking criteria. In addition to this the course area for each unit contains detailed information about the learning outcomes for the unit, the assignment, and again includes the marking criteria.

Feedback should be full and detailed enough for students learn from it.

No mark should be entered on the feedback form, but instead entered a mark on the MSc Dissertation Mark Record Sheet.

Checking for Plagiarism

There are guidelines later on how to read a Turnitin report. If, following your own assessment of the Turnitin report, you believe there is cause for concern, please first discuss this with your dissertation coordinator. Likewise, if you have good cause to suspect plagiarism but it does not show on the Turnitin report (possibly purchased), please first discuss this with your dissertation coordinator. Any suspected cases of plagiarism should then be forwarded to Humphrey Bourne together with as much evidence as can be found.

Tackling your assignment in the right way

First and foremost, the assignment is designed to test what you have learned by studying the unit. If you aim to merely achieve a „pass‟, what you are saying is “so long as I get a mark of 50, I‟m happy”. If you aim for a mark of 50, you are highly likely to fail! If you aim for a high mark (80 or above), you are highly likely to pass! If you want to achieve a high mark – read on…

Each unit has specific learning outcomes. In order to pass the unit you must be able to demonstrate that all learning outcomes for that unit have been achieved. This is normally achieved through the assessment processes for the unit. So look carefully at the learning outcomes for the unit before you start and make sure that your assignment will demonstrate that you have achieved them. When you have completed your assignment check this again.

Read the assignment instructions, and any guidance notes, carefully and thoroughly. Many assignments fail or lose marks because the instructions in the assignment have not been followed. For example, if you are asked to take an example from your area of practice to discuss the issues asked in the assignment then you should do 3

just that and not discuss the issues in generalities. If it asks you to discuss the wider issues using your practice as an example then the example is meant to illustrate your points. In the first example the focus is on your practice, in the second the focus is on the wider issues. Some assignment details include specific guidance notes. The following are guidance notes for all units on the programme:

For each assignment students should refer to the Specific Learning Outcomes for the relevant unit. In writing the assignment students should ensure that they have

Interpreted the instructions provided to produce a critical and balanced review of practitioner issues. organised and structured their arguments based on their own independent study.

used appropriate resources and quotes in supporting arguments, referencing all sources correctly. demonstrated the interaction between academic input and practitioner issues.

provided not only an understanding but also an application of course work and private study together with a critical analysis of practitioner experience. provided evidence of a wide range of reading material relevant to their practice and used this in arguing their ‘case’.

integrated their understanding of course work with a critical review of practice in a manner original to their own professional experience. actively debated issues relating to the issue under discussion, rather than having merely presented a balanced case for a given position in relation to this issue.

What do all these mean?

“interpreted the instructions provided to produce a critical and balanced review of practitioner issues.”

This is about making sure you have read, thought about and interpreted the instructions of the assignment. The word „critical‟ appears several times in 4 these guidance notes as well as in the marking criteria, and commonly in the feedback. Being critical does not necessarily mean „criticising’ in the sense of pointing out the shortcomings. In academic terms it means evaluating, considering and making clear the position that the work being critically analysed has in the argument you are trying to make. What does the work contribute to the argument? Finally it is important to present both sides of an argument and then demonstrate why you are taking your particular stance.

“organised and structured their arguments based on their own independent study.”

In postgraduate study, there is an expectation that you are responsible for your own learning and that you are reading round the subject in question to acquire your own knowledge and understanding of the issues. Your work should reflect this by the works you cite in your assignments. It is important that your arguments are structured and demonstrated through the literature rather than asserted through your opinion.

“used appropriate resources and quotes in supporting arguments, referencing all sources correctly.”

Appropriate resources means published, and preferably peer -reviewed, work. Quoting lecture material from tutors is not appropriate, nor is quoting from popular press for example. Appropriate also means recent (in the last 5 years), relevant and up to date. Sometimes seminal work does not have any recent updates in which case it is acceptable to refer to it explaining why it has been used in your argument.

There is guidance for you (in WebCT) on how to reference „correctly‟ (according to MMU‟s preferred method – Harvard) both in the text and presenting the bibliography. There is no excuse for incorrect referencing. Correct means accurate spelling, date, correct use of punctuation according to the preferred method, correct presentation of journal title, volume, issue and page numbers, or book title, city and publisher. There are examples for all eventualities in the handbook on referencing using the Harvard output style. Please use it. 5

“demonstrated the interaction between academic input and practitioner issues”.

The programme you are studying is designed to enhance and develop your professional practice through your learning. The assignments ask you to draw on your professional practice in various ways. You need to be able to show how you are integrating your academic study and the relevant issues within your professional practice.

Provided not only an understanding but also an application of course work and private study together with a critical analysis of practitioner experience”.

This follows on from point 4 above. The word „critical‟ appears again here. Remember it means analysis and evaluation rather than criticism.

“provided evidence of a wide range of reading material relevant to their practice and used this in arguing their „case

This links with point 3. Once again this makes reference to constructing an argument or making a case. In so doing you must show evidence of a wide range of reading, relevant to your practice, as well as academic issues.


integrated their understanding of course work with a critical review of practice in a manner original to their own professional experience.”

This shows that you need to have engaged with the coursework in order to be able to address the assignment effectively. It again refers to criticality and then introduces a new concept, that of originality. At Doctoral level you should be able to convey and present some original arguments based on the literature and critical analysis of your experience.

Actively debated issues relating to the issue under discussion, rather than having merely presented a balanced case for a given position in relation to this issue.

This follows on from point 7. Your work should not merely be a presentation of other people‟s ideas, views or findings. You need to be demonstrating your involvement in the discussion, presenting the issues as a debate and synthesising your own argument. 6

What next?

So, having checked the Learning Outcomes that you need to demonstrate, and what should be included in your assignment what else should be considered in order to maximise your chances of achieving a good mark?

Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation

At this level of education there is an expectation that you have a good command of written English spelling, grammar and punctuation. Sadly, our experience as tutors tells us this is not the case.

Spelling, grammar and punctuation are important! The accuracy with which we write our own language says something about the author, in terms of attention to detail, our attitude to quality or even our education. There is no excuse for incorrect spelling. Punctuation and grammar are a little more tricky. Punctuation enables the reader to make sense of what is written. For example, read the following passage:

Newsweek recently ran a piece called who needs a publisher about author boyd morrison first rejected by five agents and once hed finally secured one then rejected by twenty-five publishers with nothing left to lose we’re told morrison uploaded the ark and his two other unpublished novels to amazons kindle store in march 2009 within three months he was selling books at a rate of 4000 a month the article also mentions j a konrath an author of thrillers who had come to my attention through ireader review a blog I follow because its very quick to publish news when amazon has free books in the kindle store konrath has an analogous tale regarding his experiences with the big publishers and now self publishes exclusively primarily e books although if you want a paper book you can get one according to irr, he made $22,000 in december from the kindle store alone

This passage (from http://www.jamiechavez.com) has had all the punctuation removed. How easy was it to read? Now read the same passage again fully punctuated and see how different it is to read and make sense of: 7

Newsweek recently ran a piece called “Who Needs a Publisher?” about author Boyd Morrison, first rejected by five agents and, once he’d finally secured one, then rejected by twenty-five publishers. “With nothing left to lose,” we’re told, “Morrison uploaded The Ark and his two other unpublished novels to Amazon’s Kindle store in March 2009. Within three months, he was selling books at a rate of 4,000 a month.” The article also mentions J. A. Konrath, an author of thrillers who had come to my attention through iReader Review (a blog I follow because it’s very quick to publish news when Amazon has free books in the Kindle Store). Konrath has an analogous tale regarding his experiences with the big publishers and now self-publishes exclusively, primarily e-books, although if you want a paper book you can get one. According to iRR, he made $22,000 in December from the Kindle Store alone.

Bibliography and in-text citations

Make sure that all work you refer to in the text is listed in the bibliography and vice versa. You have all had some basic training in the use of reference-managing software so use it. It will ensure that all referenced material is included in the bibliography. Make sure you put your final draft of your assignment through Turnitin to check that you have referenced others‟ work correctly. Anything less than 20% Similarity Index is acceptable. Anything over 20% needs to be looked at. Don‟t put yourself at risk of plagiarism through carelessness.

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