Essays are an assessment item that can indicate your understanding of a topic. They can demonstrate how well you search for information, put ideas together in a logical sequence and write academically.
An essay can be analytical, argumentative or persuasive. You may be asked to discuss, analyse, explain, investigate, explore or review a topic. Your essay must show evidence of research, using a wide range of quality, peer reviewed academic sources.
Steps for writing an essay
Essays require a specific structure. The introduction, body and conclusion have a specific function within the writing. Check with your lecturer or tutor if you are unsure how to approach your essay.
Report writing is an essential skill in many disciplines. You should develop effective report writing skills because it’s highly likely you’ll be writing reports in the workplace.
A report is a formal written document used to provide concise information on a specific subject. It can be used to communicate the results of an experiment, inform on the progress of a project or to make recommendations.
An effective report is an accurate presentation of information. It should be objective, concise and structured to guide the reader through the main points.
Steps for report writing
The sections included depend on the report type and specific task requirements. It’s your responsibility to find out what to include. A basic report could include the following sections:
- Title page and acknowledgements—include the title of the report, who commissioned it (or for assessment include your lecturer, course code, and student number) and the date.
- Executive summary or abstract—provide a summary of the report's main points. It briefly covers the aims, objectives, research methods and the findings. It identifies what action is required. Although the abstract is located at the beginning of the report, it is usually written last as it is a summary of the whole report.
- Table of contents—outline the structure of the report.
- Introduction—state the aims and objectives of the report, the problem or situation that prompted the report and identify what the report intends to achieve. Include definitions, research methods and background history (if relevant).
- Methodology—explain what you did and how you did it. For instance, the materials used in an experiment, the subjects involved in a survey or the steps you took in a project.
- Results or findings—detail the findings from the experiment, survey or research project.
- Discussion—present and discuss the facts or evidence.
- Conclusions—provide implications from the content of the report.
- Recommendations—describe a clear course of action. Demonstrate your professional competence in a specific situation that clearly aligns with the conclusions.
- References—acknowledge all the sources used in the report. Learn more about referencing.
- Appendices—contains additional graphical, statistical or other supplementary material. Each item should be clearly labelled (for example, Appendix 1) and referred to in the report.
A case study gives you the opportunity to apply what you are learning to a real life or fictitious case. It requires you to do further research to show how the theory applies to the practical situation.
- Get a clear understanding of the case study by reading it several times.
- Make notes and consider how it relates to what you have learnt.
- Reflect on how to show your learning through your understanding of the case study.
- Identify the questions that need to be answered to address the case.
- Determine if the answers will come from the case, the literature or a combination of both.
- Research to find the answers to the questions.
- Take notes to show evidence (such as, theory) to support your thinking.
- Compare your notes—from the research and case—against the marking criteria, have you addressed the required content?
- Use evidence and examples from the literature and case to support your argument in the body of the assignment.
- Avoid summarising the whole case as you will use too much of the word count.
- See how to structure your assignment to help guide you in organising your work.
You may be asked to think about, or reflect upon, a situation or event that has occurred and document your feelings and reactions. For example, you may be asked to write a reflective essay on a work placement experience.
Reflective writing requires you to make a link between your experience and the course content. It’s a way of clarifying the relationship between theory and practice.
Taking time to reflect allows you to become more aware of your own values and belief system and any assumptions you may hold to support those.
Document the facts, what happened, when did it happen and how did it happen?
For example if writing a reflective essay on a work placement experience, include:
- tasks you completed and when
- processes or steps involved to complete the task
- why the task needed to be done
- how long it took to complete
- the challenges involved.
Record all the relevant details.
Describe what you think about the event or experience, dig deep and get in touch with your feelings.
- What emotions did you experience?
- Do you have any new insights?
- Can you make a connection with other things you know or concepts in the course?
- What were the strengths and weaknesses of the concept, process, event or procedure?
Identify what you have learnt from the experience.
- Did it change your thinking or shift your values, assumptions or opinions about the event?
- What else could you have done in the situation or event?
- Are there any actions that could have helped
- What hindered the situation?
- How will you use this information in the future?
You may be required to write a literature review as part of your university studies.
Literature reviews can be used alone or in research projects, reports, articles and theses.
They are a way of bringing together, analysing and evaluating a range of sources in relation to a particular topic or research question.
Writing an annotated bibliography is the first step in collecting information about a topic of interest, or to find the scope of an issue. It helps establish what current research exists, and the value or quality of that research. It allows you to gain a clearer perspective and develop critical appraisal skills.
You may be asked to deliver an oral presentation individually, in partnership or as part of a group.
Consider the following to help inform your style, language and delivery.
- Who is the presentation targeted at or intended for?
- What do they already know on the subject?
- Why are they there?
- What would they like to know?
For example, a Business course presentation may be targeted at stakeholders, or be a pitch for potential investors.
The intention of the presentation influences the type of language, rhetorical features and tone used.
Are you pitching:
- a new service
- an idea or product
- to enlighten and inform your audience?
For example, a persuasive presentation may use more emotive language, rhetorical questions and repetition. Whereas, this approach may not be suitable for a formal report back.
When, where and how will your presentation be delivered?
Will it be delivered live, online or pre-recorded?
This will influence your preparations for organising the visual, environmental and technical elements, to ensure a successful presentation.
Create an effective and engaging presentation
Regardless of the type of presentation and how it is delivered a successful presentation should take into account the following:
- Matter—does the subject and content address the task and marking criteria?
- Manner—practise the verbal (volume, pace, pause) and non-verbal (eye contact, gestures) delivery elements.
- Method—have it structured in a logical way (introduction, body, conclusion) with support of visual aids.
You may be asked to support your presentation with visual aids, such as PowerPoint or an infographic. Visual aids, used appropriately, can enhance your presentation and engage your audience.
Ensure your visual aids support your presentation in purpose and style and reinforce your message.
Communicate your message effectively using a simple and strategic design.
- Limit the text quantity, use three to five bullet points per slide.
- Use high resolution images and pictures.
- Limit animation and flashy transitions.
- Use contrasting colours for readability.
- Maintain continuity in text font, images and colour.
Finally, your choices should reflect the audience, purpose and context.
Practice makes perfect
Practice frequently to ensure a smooth, successful and confident presentation delivery.
- aloud—consider recording yourself to identify areas for improvement
- in front of peers and/or family
- with the techology and visuals that will be used on the day
- with your partner or group members, if relevant, to ensure smooth transition between presenters.
As you prepare for your assignment, be sure to produce honest work so as not to breach academic integrity.
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