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Acknowledgements

 

I would like to thank all my tutors for their continuing interest, encouragement, and support in helping me reach this stage. They have guided me to the path of eternal learning through their unparalleled wise thoughts, and by sharing their knowledge have instilled in me a desire to achieve excellence through dedication, determination and devotion.

 

I would also like to thank all my students who honored me with their excellent assignments, giving me immense pleasure in both reading and marking them. At the same time, I would also like to thank all those students too who failed miserably in their assignments for one reason or the other. However, their efforts did not go waste as they served a horrible example which ought not to be repeated after having read the contents that follow.

 

I offer this final word of thanks and appreciation to all my future students and tutors whose willingness to read, use and critique parts of this document at various stages of their life will add immensely to my understandings. I sincerely hope that the results of my efforts meet everyone's great expectations. 

 

Contents

 

Title                                                                                                                             

 

1.      Acknowledgments                                                                                                 

2.      List of Figures                                                                                                        

3.      Preface                                                                                                                  

4.      Introduction                                                                                                                       

5.      Writing an Assignment                                                                                                       

6.      Time Management                                                                                                 

7.      Understanding the Assignment Question                                                                             

8.      Analytical and Critical Thinking                                                                                          

9.      Sources of Information                                                                                                       

10.  Tutor's Comments                                                                                                             

11.  Tutor's Preferences                                                                                                

 

12.  Assignment Front Sheet                                                                                                     

13.  The Cover Page                                                                                                                

14.  The Acknowledgements Page                                                                                            

15.  The Contents Page                                                                                                

16.  The List of Figures Page                                                                                                    

17.  The Abstract Page                                                                                                             

18.  The Introduction                                                                                                                

19.  The Main Body of Text                                                                                                      

20.  Other Areas of Importance                                                                                                

(a)    The Language                                                                                                              

(b)   Spell check and Grammar                                                                                            

(c)    The Font                                                                                                                     

(d)   Graphics                                                                                                                      

(e)    Color                                                                                                                          

(f)     Use of Bullets                                                                                                              

(g)    Header and Footer                                                                                                      

(h)    Borders and Shading                                                                                                   

(i)      The Formatting                                                                                                            

(j)     Importance of Neatness                                                                                               

21.  The Conclusion                                                                                                                  

22.  Save your work from Plagiarism                                                                                         

23.  Referencing                                                                                                                       

24.  Bibliography                                                                                                                      

25.  Appendix                                                                                                                          

26.  The File itself                                                                                                                     

27.  Quality                                                                                                                              

 

28.  A Final Check List                                                                                                 

29.  A Word on Examinations                                                                                                   

30.  Conclusion                                                                                                

31.  How much can you score…                                                                                   

 

List of Figures

 

 

1.      Drawing showing the use of picture layouts for assignments                                     

2.      Samples of cover pages                                                                                         

3.      A sample of a contents page                                                                                       

4.      A sample of a list of figures page                                                                                        

5.      Diagram showing the importance of organizing                                                                   

6.      Diagram showing the use of graphs in assignments                                                 

7.      Diagram showing the use of models in assignments                                                 

8.      Diagram showing the use of tables in assignments                                                    

9.      Diagram explaining the importance of formatting                                                     

 

Preface

 

 G reetings to all.

 

"The Art of Writing Assignments" is a small attempt towards makings assignments a more simpler process for all. It was a shock for me when I noticed that quite a number of students, even of level II and level III, lost crucial marks due to major flaws in the presentation of their assignments. This compounded with other errors in the language, style, tone, referencing etc made matters even worse and at times even resulted in a student failing on account of having committed the cardinal sin of plagiarism.

 

The intended audience for this script are all students, at any level, who wish to enhance their assignments to the best possible level. I would also be glad to receive any comments, regarding any aspect of this document. Of course one has to realize that learning is an ever- going process and that one should never assume that his/her work is the best. Always work with the ideology that "the best is always yet to be…"

 

The content that follows in this book have made an attempt to address the various issues of assignment writing from personal experiences both as a student and as a lecturer. I have used examples to clarify the point from both perspectives and hope that it will go a long way in serving as a useful guide for the assignments that you'll encounter throughout your educational career and beyond.

 

Introduction

 

Hold it right there !!!

 

I am glad that you have picked up this book and started reading it's contents, which shows your general interest and curiosity in the subject matter being discussed, but before you read any further please answer the following question :

 

How much can you score in an assignment ?

 

Ø      If you answered "the best" or something equivalent to that, then read on. This book is especially meant for students like you.

 

Ø      If you answered "above average" or "average" or something similar, then please read no further BUT go directly to the last page. You will be surprised to see what awaits your presence there.

 

Ø      If you answered "the pass marks" or something similar, then you are in deep trouble friend. I recommend you read the last page not once but twice.

 

 

Everything settled, now let us move further by addressing the key issues in greater detail. The following topics will look at each specific issue and will give you a clearer understanding of how it can be made the best. Though they are divided into separate topics, it should be remembered that they are not water-tight compartments. Linkages, wherever appropriate have been drawn to allow you to get a more holistic viewpoint.

 

Writing an assignment

 

We were often told in school that if you have to ensure that you have learnt a particular answer well, then it is best to try writing down the answer. Well, that must have been a pretty good way but personally I never relied on it coz writing consumes a lot of time and ofcourse is tiring too.

 

In case of assignments, however, we have no choice but to write (type) them as assignments cannot be presented in a oral format. Ofcourse the rules of the game might change with the ever so fast changing technologies of the futuristic world. Presently after all, assignments are required to be typed and presented in a hard copy format. But what needs to be clearly distinguished is the fact that writing an assignment is not as simple and straightforward as common day writing.

 

Writing an assignment has never been an exciting or enjoyable time for most. Some get tensed about it because of their circumscribed language abilities. Others worry about it because in some modules it is marked towards 100 % of the total marks. Some dread it to such great magnitude that they even go to the extent of having other friends or colleagues write up their assignment ! and some are not at all clear about what really is this so-called thing named "assignment".

 

It is normal to see such tendencies among students who never had to do prepare assignments in the past. When I came to know that I would have to prepare assignments as part of my MBA programme, I too was a bit confused initially as I didn’t have any clear idea as to what is to be written in an assignment, how is it to be presented etc. Yes, I had done quite a number of practicals in my school but they weren't similar to what was required at this stage. However, thanks to my professors at the college and with a wider reading I was quickly able to grasp the nuts and bolts of effective assignment writing and would eagerly await my assignment topics…and ofcourse my marks too.

 

Assignments serve a very useful purpose both to the tutors and to the students. They are a test of a student's grasp of the subject matter and an opportunity for the student to present his/her overall knowledge effectively underpinned with theoretical concepts. They help you test your own practical knowledge of the topics learned and the results achieved give you an indication of your practical orientation. In cases where assignments form a part of the total module marks they provide you with an opportunity to help better your overall score by submitting a good piece of work. They help you prepare for the future when you would have to prepare similar reports on market surveys, product launch etc and present it to your superiors or explain it to your subordinates. Assignments provide a platform for imaginative thoughts to bloom in the rich soil of creativity.

 

Having shed some light on the significant role that assignments play in a student's academic life we shall now examine every single aspect of assignment writing in greater detail.

 

Time Management

 

The first and foremost thing required for doing any job well - effective time management. When writing an assignment often students wait till the last week or even the last day for completing their assignments. I have even seen some who were preparing their assignments in the last three hours before the submission deadlines! It is surprising to believe that they even have an excuse for procrastinating their work which upon inquiring they very proudly claim "Sir, I work best under pressure" !!

 

As I mentioned in the very beginning, if your aim is to score the best marks then such a lax attitude will not help at all. What you should remember is that you must start working on your assignment from the very day you receive the question. Why wait for the deadline to come closer. I am not suggesting that you start writing your assignment from the first day itself, but what I am trying to say here is that if you read and explore the question and atleast start thinking about it then your mind will set itself in the flow, and new ideas will automatically start germinating. Another reason why such an approach helps is because if you know about your assignment question and if you have taken the first step towards exploring about the topic, then it gets registered in your mind and even when you are consciously not looking for such information; your sub-conscious mind will help you take notice of relevant information when you come across it anywhere and anytime. 

 

Try spending some time simply scanning through information for the first few days until you get a real good grasp of the topic. Slowly build your assignment structure next. A very important tool that helps in this process is a Rich Picture. It is similar to the commonly used Mind Mapping technique. Such techniques makes use of various rough sketches, diagrams and text that help form diversified linkages and give a direction to the cognitive thought processes. I do realize that to some of you this may sound like a lot of hard, incomprehensible work. But the best part of using such techniques are that they hardly involve any work. There is no right or wrong in such techniques as you are merely jotting down your first impressions about the topic to get a clearer overall view. Ofcourse you could add to your initial ideas as you progress further with your assignment research. We all use such methods, knowingly or unknowingly, for some purpose or the other. The only difference is that here I am asking you to draw such pictures on paper whereas most of draw such images mentally.

 

Consider the following diagram for an assignment that talks about Government's role in setting minimum wages in an economy.

 

 

  

By drawing such diagrams you can get an overall scenario about what you want to include in your assignment. You could then build upon these ideas as you collect more information, which you can include under a segment or draw up a new segment altogether. Further, you could also arrange the size of the boxes to represent the approximate number of words that you will include under each.

 

After having prepared your assignment you should also spend some time formatting it and making it's presentation as good as possible. It is best to complete your assignment atleast a couple of days before the submission date so that you can make any last minute minor changes, if the need arises.

 

Various issues that will help you make your assignment "the best" have been discussed in detail under the headings that follow. 

 

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.

 

It is best, therefore, to thoroughly understand the question before attempting to write the assignment or even looking for the information. You could underline or highlight the key words and then go about doing your assignment. Your tutor will certainly discuss the assignment in the class but if you still are unclear about the question then please don’t hesitate to meet your tutor. You should express your views about the topic and ask for guidance. It is better to know that you are on the right track towards successfully completing your assignment than to find out later that you had taken the wrong route and will have to do it all over again.

 

One way that I personally found useful was to read the question again and again and to memorize it. This helps, both consciously and sub-consciously when you are looking for information.

 

If you have the tendency to wander away from the topic, then it is best to keep a copy of the assignment question with you when looking for information and even when writing your assignment. That way you can look at the question repeatedly and safeguard yourself against writing non-relevant information.

 

Analytical and Critical Thinking

 

Indeed a key quality that an examiner looks for in an assignment is the student's attempt at critically analyzing the topic. 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. What examiners look for is not merely the research findings of others that you gather from various sources but also your own original analysis. This is not to suggest that you should do a very broad research and then have your own research findings in your assignment. What I am suggesting is that you should try to question the various research findings rather than simply taking them at face value. In order to develop your critical thought processes you should read a lot about the subject matter first. When you have adequate information your mind starts forming linkages between the various inputs gathered and any missing or inappropriate links between them become clearer, which can form the basis for your own link into the chain of information available.

 

Sources of Information

 

Students often show short-sightedness in the range of sources that they can get the information from. If you want to find something at a dark corner don’t merely look till the extent of the light available, but instead take the light with you and move into the unexplored regions. What I am trying to indicate here is that you shouldn’t merely look for information at the most expected sources. What makes your assignment stand out from the rest of the crowd is that you have something different to offer, something much better, something unique. This uniqueness can be achieved by first looking for information at all possible sources.

 

So, say for example you get an assignment on "Employee motivation" and you are a Travel and Tourism degree student, where would you look for the information ? Would you go and check for information only in the Travel and Tourism shelves at the library ? If you answered "Yes" for the above question then give yourself a whack on the head. It's high time you hurl out those rigid leeches out of your head before they drink up your whole creative juices !

 

If you are a Travel and Tourism student it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can get information about your assignments only from Travel and Tourism related books. Bear in mind that in any degree you are not only taught about the area that you are going to specialize in but also about other areas that are important to a business. Businesses function as a inter-linked set of diverse departments and some knowledge about these various operations is essential to specialize, grow and develop in any department. So regardless of whether you are doing an IT degree, a Marketing degree, a Tourism degree or whatever look at what the assignment question is asking for and search for information on that basis.

 

Further, when you are looking for information your first attention will go to the most obvious of books that you think will have the relevant information. Continuing with the same example, if your assignment is about "Employee Motivation" you would first look for information in books on Management as any management book will talk about motivation. But what other types of books do you think would have the relevant information.? How about books on Organisation Behavior, HRM, Leadership. Even books on Sales and Marketing will have some information on employee motivation. You will ofcourse find information on how to motivate salesforce (they are also employees after all!) under topics of sales management and sales force. Even books on Strategic Management will contain some relevant information about motivation. So don’t let mental rigidity come in the way of your creative exploration.

 

Apart from these, and various other books, there are other sources like magazines, journals, newspapers (a very valuable source most often neglected), past assignments (not for copying but for merely getting an overall idea !) and ofcourse the internet which has a become a boon for students in this age due to it's wide and easy availability, large information variety and the simplicity of copy-pasting !

 

Another important aspect to remember is that you shouldn’t merely rely on one library but should seek information from other libraries as well. You will be surprised to find the variety of miscellaneous books available, which upon being used rightly can give you an edge over other students who don’t feel the need to go and collect information from 'distant' sources. 

 

Having suggested that you should check for information from a large number of sources I also wish to warn you against "paralysis by analysis". Don’t get so much of information that you become totally lost in the huge information base that you collected and then get so confused that you don’t know what to include and what to discard. You must know where to draw the line.

 

I am sure you must be knowing how to quickly look for a topic in a book. You can either look at the contents page in the beginning or at the subject index at the end of the book. Going through magazine's contents page will give you a good idea about it's contents and moreover today we have magazines which cater to very specific areas of interests which shouldn’t make information hunting difficult.

 

Looking for information on the net is also not as easy as it seems but ofcourse there are various search engines, meta search engines, company web sites, online magazines and journals, virtual libraries and other government and international statistical publications that can serve an invaluable aid for your assignments.

 

Tutor's Comments

 

If you do get hold of some of your previously marked assignments make sure that you go very carefully through the comments that your tutor has put down. It will give you a valuable insight into what areas the examiners look for in an assignment. If you don’t get to see your marked assignments don’t be disappointed you could always check the marked assignments of other students to get some ideas.

 

Here are some examples of tutor comments. Read them and try to guess what scores the examiner had awarded for each one of them.

 

"An excellent assignment showing a comprehensive understanding of the subject. All areas have been broadly classified into appropriate sections and critically analyzed, showing evidence of wider reading and research. The language used is also of a high standard and the work has been properly referenced along with a bibliography."

 

"A fairly well-structured assignment with good introduction and conclusion. Major areas of the topic have been covered, though not in much detail and lacks the use of critical examples. Information gathered is adequate but hasn’t been put to the best effect."

 

"The assignment has several errors in structure and style. Evidence of background research and wider reading is very limited. Some points have been covered vaguely and lack a clear, detailed analysis. Conclusion is not clear and referencing has not been done appropriately."

 

As most of you must have rightly guessed the first, second and third tutor comments are of the "best marks", "average marks" and the "failed category" students respectively. A more closer look will help you identify the key points that examiners look for in your assignments. Go ahead, read the comments and try to find out what these key characteristics are.

 

They are 'understanding of the subject matter', 'evidence of wider reading and research', 'appropriate classification including introduction and conclusion', 'language standard', 'critically analyzed examples', and ofcourse the 'referencing and bibliography'.

 

As we move further we will look into all these areas and more in great detail. .

 

Tutor's Preferences

 

Many a times your individual tutor may have certain preferences in the way you present your assignment. He/She may give you specific instructions regarding the format, structure or other aspects of the assignment based on the requirements of the university and the module. Make sure that you clearly understand them and follow them too. 

 

Assignment Front Sheet

 

One of the first pages that an examiner gets to view in an assignment is the assignment front sheet. Incidentally most students fill it up only at the last. This is not to suggest that you fill this page first, even before writing your assignment. But what I want to emphasize here is that since it is the first page that the examiner comes across you could atleast make sure that it is neat and legible. Some students are in such great hurry (either they want to relieve themselves of the assignment burden or they just didn’t manage their time well) that they don’t even fill up the complete details. Further still, some (especially those who give their assignments in a spiral file) don’t even attach the front sheet. If only someone could tell them that every office of the modern world has been blessed with a small device known as - the stapler, and that they could make use of two of it's accessories - the staple pins, to attach the front sheet to their assignments.

 

So if you choose to spiral bind your assignment, you are welcome to do so but make sure that you either include the front sheet and then get the binding done or staple the front sheet with the assignment in such a way that it does not block the contents of the page that follows. This would, in other words, mean that you staple it either at the top right hand corner and the top left hand corner or the top and bottom left hand side.

 

Remember, the first impressions that you portray are of great importance and moreover another very important purpose, infact the most important purpose that the front sheet helps serve, is that the comments of the examiner and the marks awarded to you are recorded on the front sheet.

 

The Cover Page

 

The next page that follows after a front sheet is the cover sheet. Truly speaking, this is where your assignments actually begins but it should be noted that no page number appears on this page even though this page is counted in the sequence of numbers. 

 

As the name suggests this is the cover of your assignments and hence it automatically follows that it should be attractive. I know, some of you might argue with the quote "Don’t judge a book by it's cover". True, I couldn’t agree more with you on that but think about it yourself. I am sure most of you would be attracted more towards a book which has a colorful cover than towards a book which offers nothing but a simple black and white text to lure you towards reading it. (ofcourse even such a book can be appealing because of it's not so common cover!). But going by the general rule a colorful cover page is much better than a plain, simple one. There are various examples of colorful books that I can suggest here to prove my point and one that strikes my mind most at this moment is "Essential Manager's Manual by Robert Helher and Tim Hindle". One look at this book and you'll know what I mean.

 

The other important reason that color attracts us more is ofcourse due to it's novelty and uniqueness factor. Little wonder that most quiz competitions ask their audiences not to send their answers on a colored paper on account of it's greater chances of being picked up from the raffle box due to it's notability.

 

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 :

 

Ø      The module/subject/unit name at the top (ofcourse the font size should be relatively larger and could be of a different style than that is being used for the main body of the assignment)

 

Ø      Your assignment title or a short, snappy caption of your assignment title if the title is too long.

 

Ø      Submitted to…followed by your tutor's name. Make sure that you get the right spelling of your tutor's name as well as the right title (Mr., Mrs., Dr. etc).

 

Ø      Prepared/written/presented by…followed by your name. I hope you get the spelling on that one right :-)) 

 

Ø      Next you could include your class and level

 

Ø      Then ofcourse the college name which could be followed by the name of the university.

 

Ø      You could also include the current date if you wish to.

 

What you could include apart from the list suggested above is a small diagram, picture or a cartoon. This does not imply that you use a Mickey mouse image to make your assignment attractive ! Such an image would look ludicrous. However, bear in mind that the same Mickey mouse image could perfectly fit in well if your assignment is talking about Disney World. So what you need to check is not just the attractiveness of the image, but it's relevance with the topic of your assignment. You could also include the image in the background of the cover as a watermark.

 

Ofcourse all these items could then be fitted perfectly into a border (either straight lines like a shaded box or a graphic border) around the cover page which would serve as icing on the cake.

 

Inorder to make the visibility of your cover sheet more attractive you might want to consider including a semi-transparent sheet on top of the cover sheet. Though it does not directly improve the visibility of your cover sheet, it does improve your cover sheet's appearance and makes it's emergence appear more grand.

 

Given below are samples of a cover page, that will make things more comprehensible.

 

 

The Acknowledgements Page

 

After the cover sheet, comes 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. However, this does not mean that you assume yourself to be receiving an Oscar award and start thanking every actor, junior artiste or extras who put some input or the other in your film. :-))  

 

It is best to put in a word of appreciation for your tutor who gave you the knowledge about the subject matter on which you are doing the assignment. You could also include the names of other teachers and friends or could mention them in general. An expression of gratitude towards the library staff is always welcome. Ofcourse you could go to greater extents and show gratefulness towards your digital friend - the PC, without whose help the world would seem so unworkable.

 

Inorder to make things simpler you could prepare a pre-set acknowledgements page and then use the same for all your assignments incorporating just the changes with regard to people's name.

 

I have included a small sample of acknowledgements, that I used for my assignments, to give you a better picture.

 

"I would like to thank Dr. XYZ, my course leader for Operations Management, for his continuing interest, encouragement and support in helping me complete this assignment.

 

We are all influenced by the thoughts and ideas of other people which tend to drift into the subconscious and are not always distinguished clearly from one’s own. I have attempted to give references for sources of work by other writers but apologize to any concerned if acknowledgement has inadvertently not been recorded. "

 

Another key thing to remember about this page is that the page numbers begin from this page onwards. But what you must note is that these page numbers are in Roman numerals. So, the acknowledgements page will be numbered "I" (Roman numeral one). We shall see the reason for the same later.

 

The Contents Page

 

Numbered as page "II", this is a very important page as it gives an index to the examiner about the location of the various headings that have been included in the assignment.

 

When writing up the contents you should note that the contents page is not included in the contents list. The list begins with the acknowledgements, includes various headings and ends with the bibliography or the appendix (if any).

 

When writing the contents list one should be careful in deciding what headings to include and what to exclude. There is no harm in including every single heading provided it is done in a structured and neat manner. If you wish to include both - the headings and the subheadings then it is best to use sub-bullets. This will give your examiner an initial indication of an organized mind working for the assignment.

 

Care should also be taken to include the list of headings under "Title/Topic" (these could be serially numbered by using numbered bullets) and their corresponding page numbers under "Page Number/Page No." A cardinal sin that must be avoided at any cost is the improper alignment of the page numbers under the list. To ensure a proper alignment use the tab key and not the space bar. 

 

A sample contents page is shown below :

 

 

The List of Figures Page

 

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.

 

A sample is shown below:

 

List of Figures

 

Title                                                                                                         Page No.

 

1. Major uses of advertising                                                                             3

2. Advertisement expenditure of different firms                                                 5

3. Comparison of advertising to brand preference in adolescents and adults      7

4. Market concentration                                                                                  9

  

                     Fig 4: A sample of a list of figures page

 

 

If you look at the sample shown above you will see that the third item in the list is presented in a different manner than the rest. This is because of the extended length of it's title. In such cases it is always better to let it continue in the next line, rather than allowing it to almost touch the page numbers. If you notice further, it's corresponding page number has also been aligned to the line where the title of the figure ends.

 

The list of figures page is numbered "III". Similarly, if you have made use of tables and graphs, then you could use separate pages for their list or could have a common page titled "List of Figures and Graphs" or "List of Figures and Tables". However, if you do use separate pages then make sure that the pages are numbered in the right sequence and that both appear in the contents page.

 

The Abstract Page

 

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. For an assignment ranging between 2500 - 3000 words, an abstract of around one A4 page, i.e. roughly around 10 % of the assignment word limit, is sufficient enough.

 

I always found it best to write this page after having completed the whole assignment as I would then know what exactly I have written in my assignment. It is very important that your abstract talks about most areas that you have covered in your assignment without going into the intricacies of the minute details. It can be written as more of a general guideline about the assignment contents.

 

For certain assignment topics you might have to make certain choices about the industry that you are exploring, the markets that you will cover etc., it is always better to mention these choices in the abstract with a sound reason for having chosen the same.

 

Also bear in mind that this is the page where most of the text flow begins and thus it becomes all the more important to have a very powerful message both in the beginning and at the end of the abstract.

 

It goes without mentioning that this page should be numbered in Roman numerals..

 

The Introduction

 

After having understood the question completely you can begin writing your assignment with the introduction. Note that the numbering of the pages is different from this page onwards i.e. you number the page that includes the introduction as page "1".

 

An introduction, as the name suggests, introduces the topic to the reader. It is very essential, therefore,  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 that I had used in my introduction 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 I introduced the topic by talking generally about what a problem is and why organisations face problems today. Remember, I have used the word generally which is to emphasize that you don’t 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 focussed on to your area of research.  Consider the general words that I used:

 

"A problem is any situation for which we need new ideas or plans. It is the gap between where we are and where we want to be. The technological upheavals and cultural revolutions have imposed new adaptations on the society, widening the gap between the perception of the global problems and formulation of their solutions. Such sets of interacting problems and messes call for a new approach to problem-solving."

 

And then fine-tune your words to focus on the topic that you are writing about. Accordingly the next line that I used was:

 

"A  gap had long been existing for a holistic approach which effectively addresses the issues of social interactions in organisations. This gap has been filled by Total Systems Intervention (TSI)."

 

After this the next topic in my assignment was Total Systems Interventions.

 

I hope the above example makes it clear how you can write an interesting and effective introduction and at the same use it to serve as a launch pad for the next topic of your assignment. The next topic to follow the introduction can be written on a separate page or can follow the introduction on the same page itself. What is more important is that a separate heading "Introduction" should be given.

 

Remember, this is the first actual text of the assignment body that the examiner will read very carefully and hence you should take every possible measure to make it as interesting as possible and to encourage the examiner to read further with a positive framework of mind.

 

Many a times students don’t put much effort towards the introduction and this is turn has an impact on how an examiner views the other contents that follow. Though, it is not necessary that a student who writes a poor introduction also writes the other content poorly, but what I am trying to emphasize is that good introduction sets a good tempo flowing right from the very beginning.

 

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 personal conclusions where appropriate should be drawn to add originality towards the analytical perspective.

 

Taking another example, if the assignment question is "What is scientific management theory. Evaluate the role of scientific management in today's work organisation" For the above assignment a logical series of headings would include the following:

 

Introduction - introducing in general what is management, it's history and the movement towards the growth of scientific management theory.

 

The next topic could be What is scientific management or simply Scientific management. Under this topic you could define scientific management and briefly mention about the contributors to this theory.

 

Then you could have Principles of scientific management as the next topic which could explain the various principles of scientific management.

 

Having explained the first part of the question you could then move on to examine the role of scientific management in today's work organisation by using a heading such as Appropriateness of scientific management in today's world. You could further divide this heading into two sub-headings viz. Advantages of scientific management and Disadvantages of scientific management or any such further sub-headings that may seem suitable to you. 

 

Finally you could give a Conclusion or even include Suggestions/Recommendations if you choose to do so.

 

Ofcourse what will logically follow after the conclusion is the Bibliography and Appendix (if any).

 

Thus you can see that it is very important for an assignment to flow in a composed manner. A haphazard sequencing of ideas gives the examiner an indication of the student's lack of proper planning and results in valuable marks being deducted. 

 

Other Areas of Importance

 

Having discussed the main constituents of the overall structure of assignments we shall now look at other relevant areas. These issues may seem irrelevant to some and negligible to others, but if you are working towards "the best" then you would sure agree with me that 'every detail counts'. Let us take a look at these issues.

 

The Language

 

I am sure all of you do understand that by 'the language' I do not wish to specify the language - English, Arabic, Hindi, etc that you will write your assignment in, but the tone and the style of your language. Ofcourse it is self-understood that you will write your assignments in the language that is used as the medium of instruction at the college. If some of you are still wondering what language that is then you better get enrolled for some English language training now! :-))

 

Remember that you are writing an assignment for an academic purpose and hence should be of a language standard that is acceptable at your level. Certain assignments may be written in a style suited for a management report format but only if the question specifically states so. A limited grasp over the language can hinder your clear explanation of a topic.  If you are weak in English then make sure that you effectively use the various spell-check and the grammar-check tools available in your MS Word software.

 

Closely related to the issue of language is spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.

 

Spell check and Grammar

 

The technological developments in the world have proven a boon to the students and another aspect which supports this statement is that of the spelling and grammar tool. Even though you may have a good command over the English language there is no harm in running the spelling and grammar check as it will only take your few precious minutes but save you lots of trouble at the end.

 

However, an important point to be noted here is that not all spelling or grammatical errors can be detected by your computer. Take for example, I reed the newspaper daily. When you spell check your document the above error "reed" will not be detected as reed by itself is a word, however using reed instead of read changes the whole meaning of the sentence and thus will be counted as an error. The only way to avoid handing in such errors is to proof-read the whole document before printing it.

 

It is always better to have someone else proof-read your assignment after your initial proof reading. A fresh pair of eyes can always find errors that you left unnoticed. Another way to do it is to change the font style, color or background of your document temporarily and then proof read. You will be amazed to find out the number of new errors that you can notice by doing so. 

 

The Font

 

The most commonly used font style for assignments is the "Times New Roman". As you can very well see I too have used the same font here. You may use other font styles like "Arial" but while choosing a font style remember that it should appear formal and should be legible. Just as our handwriting reveals a lot about our personality, the font style used is a reflection of our personality too. But when writing an assignment don’t use any font style that you just feel like using. Some students use font styles like "Sheer beauty", "Sheer Elegance", "Aladdin" etc without realizing that some letters get so jumbled up with these font styles that they are hardly legible. Ofcourse it goes without mentioning that to venture into such bold endeavors is to do so at your own risk.

 

Apart from the font style, it's size too is very important. The ideal size for assignments is "12" as used with "Times New Roman". Using a font size "14" is okay too, but try to avoid using "10" and never use size "8"…you don’t want to face the wrath of your examiner for having strained his eyes :-)) 

 

When you want to stress on any particular "key word" then you can make it ALL CAPS, bold, in italics, underline it or use a different font style. Whatever method you use make sure that you stick to the same throughout your assignment.

 

Before reading the next para count the number of circles in each figure given below:

 

 

In which figure do you think it is more easy to count the number of circles. Obviously the number of circles in Figure A are more easier to count even though both figures have the same twelve circles. This is because the circles in Figure A appear more clearly and consistently. Our mind too looks for such consistent patterns when perceiving any stimuli to help organize things easily. The same concept is applied by examiners when marking your assignments.

 

Now, applying the same concept while using a font style and size in your assignment you should ensure that they are properly synchronized. What I mean by that is that if you are using a font "Times New Roman" with size "12" for the text, then maintain the same style and size throughout the assignment. Similarly if you use a font size "16" and "14" for the headings and subheadings (especially in the contents, list of graphs etc pages) then maintain the same throughout the assignment. Doing so will reflect a consistency to your examiner and will reflect the systematization of your thought process. 

 

Graphics

 

Now that we have touched upon the issue of diagrams and tables, let us discuss graphics in more detail (I have used the term "graphics" to refer to any pictorial representation - a diagram, table, graph etc). "A picture is worth a thousand words"….this couldn’t have been more true than in the case of assignment. Your assignments always have a word limit and often students find it difficult to manage the assignment within the word limit. This is because they don’t make effective use of graphics. Remember that I have used the word "effective". Thus, simply inserting some pictures without proper planning do not serve any purpose, but when used effectively you could explain a large amount of information with a single diagram/table/graph etc.

 

When using graphics in your assignment you have the added advantage that whatever text you include in your graphics, it is not included in the word count. Moreover it gives you an opportunity to use color. (This aspect has been discussed later).

 

In drawing graphs make sure that you choose the right type of graph for explaining your information. There are various types of graphs that you can use in MS Excel and other softwares too. Also remember that when using graphs it is always advisable to include a data  label, legend, a graph title and series x and y titles. Also, drawing the graph in 3D effect makes it more attractive.

 

 

 

With the help of a scanner you can also include various images, pictures etc. that you find worthy enough of including in your assignment. When including scanned images in your document do take care of the image's dithering.

 

Often you may also want to include a flow chart or a model in your assignment to explain the relationship between various factors affecting a situation. Use such diagrams appropriately with proper shading, positioning, color, formatting etc so that they display their best effect to the reader. Consider the example given below:

 

 

At times, you may also want to include a table to represent some numerical data in your assignment. When inserting a table make sure that the columns are appropriately sized. You wouldn’t want to create an extraordinarily large column size for inserting serial numbers. When displaying the figures for a comparison, it is best to make the column sizes for all the years being compared equal. The top row of the table which includes the column headings make be highlighted or shaded to give a better effect. Same can be done for the last row which may have the total figures.

 

 

You should also note that when you include a graphic, you must clearly show the reader what the graphic is about by giving an appropriately sequenced number for the graphic and it's title. Moreover, you also have to mention the source from where you got the graphic. Thus when you prepare a graph from your own primary research there is no need for a source. When it is taken from a company report you must mention it accordingly and when you prepare a model by incorporating different models of different authors you must mention that fact as has been done in the model on the previous page. Images taken from the internet too should be acknowledged by including the URL as the source. Also note that separate sequencing of numbers should be included for tables and diagrams. The figure name as well as the source should be mentioned just below the figure itself.

 

Color

 

Color is a very effective tool in the hands of students when used rightly for the assignments. The technology available today has made color printing a very economical and widely available option. Color adds brightness to the monotony of the large flow of text and stands out in visibility due to the 'figure and ground' perception principle.

 

Today, there is a growing tendency to use color to make assignments appear more appealing and stimulating. This is because there is a dynamic quality in color which activates and stimulates emotions and adds life to any issue being covered.

 

However, when using color you should ensure that you do not make excessive use of it. Doing so will make the colored portion of the assignment appear monotonous and thus will have the opposite effect of what was actually intended. The choice of the colors also depends on the subject. Vibrant colors, for example, would be more suited for marketing management than they would be for financial management.

 

The topic being written about and the readability also influences the choice of colors. When trying to write about a comparative situation of a company in the past, present and future you could choose red, yellow and green to show the three different settings in a table or diagram, but remember that the yellow color on white paper is not very readable and hence may be better altered with blue.

 

When using colors for the picture at the cover sheet it is always advisable to use colors that reflect the original image or the corporate colors (if you are doing an assignment with reference to a company case study). Take a look at the images that I had included while explaining the front sheet. The globe, for example, in the first image looks original due to the blue color of the water and the brown color representing land. Similarly, if you are doing an assignment on IKEA, the colors yellow and blue would fit prominently reflecting the corporate colors of the company.

 

Use of Bullets

 

No no, I'm not talking of any artillery here :-)) but what I am talking about is the use of bullets and sub-bullets in your assignment. We had touched upon this area while discussing the contents page, but bullet points can also be used in the body of the assignment. While using bullet points you should note that they are being used in a consistent and synchronized manner. Moreover, the type of the bullets that you use can also be customized for better effect. Thus for example, if your assignment talks about an airline's corporate situation, the use of the following bullet ( would create a better impact than the more commonly used round bullets.

 

Header and Footer

 

Another feature that you could add in your assignment is an appropriate header or footer or both on every page. For example, instead of simply including the page number you could include "Page no. 1" as the footer. You could also write a summarized assignment title (a small caption of not more than a few words) as the header on the extreme left or extreme right. When using headers and footers make sure that it is of a relatively smaller font size (size 10 or 8) or a unconventional font style so that it appears different from the actual text. You may also use a small company logo in the header or footer, preferably as a watermark when doing an assignment on a specific company.

 

Borders and Shading

 

When you decide to divide your assignment into appropriate sections you can use various types of borders on the pages that mark the beginning of the sections but make sure that you use the same border consistently.

 

Text boxes, graphs and other diagrams or key text headings may also be shaded to give a better effect.

 

The Formatting

 

Another area towards which your assignments will be evaluated is the overall formatting. The standard paper that is used for assignments is the A4 size, white paper. All of you must be knowing about the need to maintain an appropriate margin on all sides of the paper. This should be around 1" to 1.2". Make note that if you wish to use spiral binding for your assignment then it would be ideal to leave some more space for the left margin.

 

The spacing that you leave between characters, words, paragraphs or even new pages should also be properly synchronized. Maintaining perceptual consistently is very important as any irregularity will appear non-professional. However, you may use a different line-spacing for the initial pages (contents, list of figures etc) than in the actual body of the assignment. If, for example, you use double spacing to list the topics in the contents page then you may do the same for the list of figures page. Moreover, in the actual text if you press the enter button twice to start a new paragraph then do the same for every paragraph that follows.

 

Formatting not just applies to the text but also to the diagrams and the tables that you use. Thus a diagram/table would stand out better when placed appropriately in the text. If the diagram/table is too big to fit in vertically, then change the layout and place it horizontally on a separate page. If it does fit well vertically then make sure that it is aligned with the margins of the text and that it's corners do not jut out into the margin. If you wish to use a small diagram then there is no harm in doing so, but it would be best to align it centrally (not necessarily in the center of the page, but the center of the line) so that it catches the attention more distinctively.

 

 

I hope that you have understood the significance of the right formatting. If you observe intensely you will notice that even the above two figures are formatted appropriately with identical differences on both sides of the page and also between them!

 

Importance of Neatness

 

I am sure all of you would agree with the fact that the PCs have made the issue of neatness easy to handle. Imagine how laborious and painstaking it would have been to use a typewriter or to write up the assignments by hand. It goes without mentioning that graphics would have created further problems in a manual system.

 

When preparing your assignments present them in the best possible manner. Ofcourse you need to check your own 'best' standards if you think that soiled or crumpled paper, ink blots, sticky glue, misaligned text etc are all negligible errors.

 

Neatness can be seen in all aspects of your assignment - the paper, the ink flow, the formatting, the graphs or diagrams or even the file itself. When using a picture from a book the best option is to get it scanned, paste it in your word document and then get it printed in color. If that is not possible for you, (though everything should be possible) then you can make it's photocopy and add it in the appendix with appropriate reference in the actual text. Do not use glue and paste the picture in the actual body of the assignment. That makes the assignment look real sloppy. Ofcourse if the picture is a graph or a table then see if you can draw it yourself using the various drawing options in MS Word or other softwares available on your computer.

 

The Conclusion

 

For those of you why are wondering why I didn’t talk of any other headings in more detail and came straight away to the conclusion…well, it is for the plain simple reason that any assignment will have an Introduction and a Conclusion, but the other headings that form the central portion of the assignment will be assignment-specific. They will vary according to the question that you have been given for your assignment. I have explained earlier how you can write effective headings that progress smoothly. Using the same principles and all the other aspects discussed above you should now be in a position to write effective headings with good quality subject matter.

 

Just as the introduction introduces the topic to the reader and slowly sets the flow of ideas, a conclusion as the name itself suggests helps conclude and summarize the key points. However, this is not as simple as it sounds. A conclusion should be written with great caution. In the need to hurry up and finish off your assignment, you shouldn’t give a poor conclusion.

 

Though I cannot say "all's well that ends well" for an assignment as there are other elements of an assignment, other than a conclusion, that go towards making it good or bad. Nevertheless, always remember that a conclusion not well written can dampen your good overall score.

 

A good conclusion should include your views and analysis that you have found out as a result of your assignment. Some students put one idea in their core contents and then write a conclusion which suggests a totally reverse idea. Such errors can prove fatal and can even make the examiner doubt whether you have actually written the whole assignment or just a part of it. Never give very broad, impracticable suggestions in your conclusion. It ofcourse shows how far your wild imaginations can reach but also shows the absence of a clear understanding of the practical limitations of your suggestions.

 

Another aspect that some students frequently make an error on is to include the definition of the topic again in the conclusion. Definitions are best left towards the introductory portion and shouldn’t be included in the conclusion. The conclusion could restate the aims of your assignment and then the results of each section (if the assignment has been divided into more than one section) should be drawn together and summed up stating the implications of your overall analysis. 

To start your conclusion you can use phrases like "Thus we can see that…", "To conclude…", "As a result of my analysis…." etc.

 

Again, remember just as you had begun your assignment with a very strong and powerful message in your introduction, you should similarly conclude your assignment with a strong and powerful message. The following last line of a conclusion should make things clearer to you.

 

"What is required is not merely the development of sophisticated analytic techniques, but a  real commitment on the part of management to stretch the elegant theory into the complex reality of the new millennium."

 

Using such 'powerful' words and phrases has an impact on the reader in two ways, first it shows your linguistic abilities and second it catches the reader's positive attention towards the end which psychologically helps maintain a positive image for the overall assignment. 

 

If you wish to add a heading like "Suggestions and Recommendations" then you could include it just before the conclusion or as part of the conclusion and could best present your ideas in single /double sentence bullet points. 

 

It is also important to mention here that a conclusion can be written on a separate page or can continue as a flow after the last heading on the same page.

 

Having written the conclusion what needs to be included, on separate pages, is the Bibliography and the Appendix. These have been discussed in detail below.

 

Save your work from Plagiarism

 

It is always best to save your information by maintaining an up-to-date back up at all times. Apart from setting the auto-save function on your computer and having a copy of your document on the PC itself you should keep a copy of it on a floppy as well. Another key thing to remember when saving your work on a floppy is to save the floppy itself. What I mean is that you should safeguard your floppy and should never leave it or it's contents on a shared computer, such as the computers in your college library. By doing so you run the risk of revealing your work to other students. Then ofcourse there is a great possibility of them picking up the 'free lunch' and on being evaluated later both of you will face plagiarism charges!

 

Another thing that I would like to highlight here is the fact that some students prefer to study in a group. There is no harm in doing so and it is a matter of personal preferences. However, when preparing your assignments remember that the same 'group efforts' which help you learn better can actually cause you more harm than good. When preparing assignments in a group (which are supposed to be prepared individually) you are bound to share, either knowingly or unknowingly, some of your actual assignment contents which upon being used by your friends can lead you to unintentional plagiarism. Whether intentional or not, once identical contents have been used both of you will be penalized on account of plagiarism.

 

If you are under the impression that changing the order of appearance of the contents or changing the tone of the contents from an active voice to a passive voice or changing a few lines here and there can fool the examiner then think again. First of all it is very easy for a tutor to pre-judge which of his/her students may attempt a group work. Secondly, when marking assignments, contents that have been read previously in someone else's assignment bring back memories and can lead to the other shared work easily. Finally, once two cases of shared work have been confirmed the examiner's mind becomes cautious and other members of the same group (or new groups) are easily apprehended. 

 

By listing all the above I do not wish to intimidate you about writing assignments. Assignments can be great fun when done with a whole-hearted effort and can positively set your creative thought processes in action. But when you start considering them a burden, that is when the tendency for copying other's works increases and eventually you fail on account of plagiarism. You must realize that failing on account of low marks is not the same as failing on account of plagiarism. There is a sense of shame associated with plagiarism, a branding that marks a black spot on your academic achievements and hence should be avoided at all costs. 

 

Inorder to avoid being charged with plagiarism you must make sure that you use a proper referencing in your text and also provide an adequate and systematic bibliography at the end. Any idea, definition, statement, data, diagram, model etc that you take from some outside source should be properly acknowledged. There is no harm in using such information. You are more than welcome to use information from various sources but they must be properly acknowledged in the main body of the assignment with their complete details being included in the bibliography. Various aspects and types of referencing both in the text and in the bibliography have been explained in complete detail below.

 

Referencing

 

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 a case-study, 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.

 

The File

 

Having completed the assignment you finally need to insert it in a file. Remember this is the first actual thing that the examiner gets to see when marking your assignment. Now you wouldn’t want to give your examiner an unfavorable first impression about your assignment, would you ? So make sure that the condition of your file is immaculate. The papers in the file should be punched or bound properly so that they fit well in the file and do not appear lopsided or loose. Handle your file properly as any scratch marks or bend marks become easily visible.

 

I know that some of you might find it difficult to digest what I am about to say but even the color of the file chosen makes an impact. This is not to suggest that if you choose, for example a red color file you will get more marks than a person who chose a blue color file. I am also not implying that the color of the file chosen will have a impact on your grades. (though this could be an area of research for some :-))  ) What I am saying, (as I discussed earlier) is that color does have a flair which can add or reduce your assignment's overall presentation quality and you wouldn’t want to spoil a good product in a bad packaging, would you ? So make sure that the color of the file is appropriate.

 

Quality

 

Having discussed the various issues throughout the preceding pages you should realize that all these will serve no purpose if the actual quality of your assignment contents is not worthy enough of commanding good marks. By detailing all the issues above I have made an attempt to make things simpler for you, but these can only serve their purpose of excellence when you support it with good analytical contents showing evidence of research, hard work, creativity, critical thinking, wider reading and originality throughout the assignment.

 

A Final Check List

 

As a guidance you might find it useful to check that your assignment structure includes the following :

 

ü     Front sheet

ü     Cover sheet

ü     Acknowledgements

ü     Contents

ü     List of Graphs/Figures/Tables etc.

ü     Abstract

ü     Introduction

ü     Main Body of Text

ü     Conclusion

ü     Bibliography

ü     Appendix              

 

A Word on 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.

 

?   Read 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 exam slip and 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, don’t 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 by a wild guess…you will surprised by the 'free' marks you score by 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 and sections 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 striked out before attaching it with your answer book.

 

?   Having completed your answer don’t 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 number(s). 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 other 'foreign materials'. !

 

Having handed over your answer book to the invigilator, walk out of the examination hall exhausted but ofcourse happy and smiling :-))

 

Conclusion

 

I hope that the various aspects discussed in the preceding pages have given you a holistic insight into the intricacies of assignment writing. You have seen how the various elements of assignments serve a significant role in making or breaking your grades.

 

Ofcourse I do realize that in comparison with assignments you might be worried more about your dissertations/thesis as it is more demanding and challenging  Most of the issues that we have discussed earlier also apply to dissertations but there are some very specific rules and guidelines that have to be followed while preparing dissertations. The scope of this script does not allow me to go into those details but hopefully I shall prepare "The Art of Writing Dissertations" in the not so very distant future. 

 

I sincerely hope that your efforts in understanding your courses prove fruitful and that you are able to convincingly succeed in realizing your dreams. It would give me immense pleasure if you effectively used the contents of this document for bettering your grades. I believe that all of you have the talent to make it to the top. The only thing that makes the difference is the amount of effort you put in meeting your own benchmark standards. I wish you all the very best of luck and optimistically believe that you will experience the sweet smell of lasting success throughout the years of the new millennium.

 

How much can you score…

 

So you think you can't score the best marks in an assignment. Well ask yourself why you think you can't do it. Why do you think you are not a high achiever.

 

Some of you might say that you don’t have the required intellectual ability or the aptitude for it. Well, yes I would agree with you that the intelligence, creativity, aptitude, interests etc. are different from person to person but they aren't so big a challenge that they can't be overcome.

 

Remember, to be able to do something BIG you have to first think BIG. So first of all change your idea about yourself. Believe in yourself, your abilities and say "I CAN". This is the first step that you should take viz. Self Talk.

 

Having set your subconscious mind in the right framework you will find that no task seems impossible for you. From here you need to Self Visualize i.e. 'see' yourself getting the best marks. Visualize the moment when you are looking at the results and all your friends are applauding at your superlative performance. I know, this might sound like day-dreaming to some but to ensure that those visualizations don’t merely remain as visual pictures in your mind you have to move further to the last and the most important stage viz. Self Action.

 

To accomplish your objective of getting the best marks it is YOU who has to act. No one else will do it for you. Remember Dedication, Determination and Devotion always pays and you will achieve untold success once you lead yourself. I have used these 3 Ds to help me guide in my mission of 3 Es viz. achieving Excellence in Every Endeavor.

 

I hope the above three guidelines have atleast created some ripples in your ideology and your attitude towards your powerful ' Self '.  You could follow the same approach in any given situation that you encounter in your life and come out of the challenge successfully.

 

With these encouraging words I suggest you move back to the first page now. Ofcourse start reading from the second para this time or else you'll have to come back here and will then  get caught in a 'chicken or egg first' situation :-)) 

 

Wishing you all - the very Best of Luck. !

 

Take care and keep smiling :-)) 

 

Yours

 

On and on…

 

Kishore

 

 

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