If you’ve read part one and two of our assignment writing guide, you’re well on the way to writing an insightful essay. But don’t stop there; join us today for our latest guide. The subject of today’s session is planning an assignment.
Assignment Writing Guide: Planning an Essay
Many students would admit that essay planning is not their strength. Taking the vast amount of information you’ve researched and learnt in class, and putting it into order is no small feat. What once seemed like a logical structure may, in fact, look like the ramblings of a mad-person.
Essay planning is a process that should take time, and starting the plan early has numerous benefits. You may find that if the logic behind the essay plan is sound from the beginning, the whole process of writing and editing is much easier. In short, learning to plan an assignment well can have a significant impact on your grade.
Research or Planning – Which Should Come First?
There’s no easy answer to this question. Planning first keeps your assignment structured from start to finish, but it can feel a little inflexible, especially if you come across some research that results in a creative application of secondary material to your argument. Similarly, researching a topic will bring up swathes of new material, but selecting which is most relevant is not an easy task, particularly if you’re so far down the research rabbit hole that you’ve lost perspective on the question.
We advise students to begin with a vague assignment plan before starting the secondary research to help keep the supporting material focused. Remember, directly addressing the type of question and the topic itself is essential; here’s where we refer back to our assessment criteria to see if we can create a structure from the assessment points we need to hit.
From the marking criteria in UKCBC’s BA (Hons) in Business and Management, we can establish a few important details that could link to our assignment structure. We will need to show evidence that we understand the fundamental concepts the question raises, we will need to analyse the topic critically, we will need to sustain an argument that is supported by critical analysis and secondary research, and we will need to combine all our material for an effective conclusion.
You may already be seeing a structure emerging. Showing an understanding of the central concepts the question raises looks like a logical place to begin the assignment. Critical analysis of the topic follows on from our understanding and eventually leads an argument (and possibly a counter-argument) that is supported by secondary research. We finish by bringing together all the material for a truly original and insightful conclusion.
Here’s where you can play to your strengths. Some prefer to get all the research out of the way before writing, others research and write a section before moving on. If, for example, you find the writing process difficult, it might be beneficial to move through the assignment in a step-by-step manner. Try different approaches to see which suits.
The type of question you answer can help you decide on a structure for your essay. An excellent place to start is to think about the lectures and classes that preceded this assignment question. What context, topics and theories did your lecturer introduce and in what order? They will have thought carefully about the order in which this information is presented to the class, and this can be a point of inspiration for your assignment. If you’re struggling to see why the information was delivered in that order, you can always ask. Another source of inspiration can be the academic essays you find in the library and online. They include clearly signposted headings, and their structures are often worth emulating.
Next, we should begin looking at the critical direction of the assignment; do you want to move from a broad context into a singular event or point, or is it more appropriate to work outwards from the topic? There’s no right or wrong answer here, and both options can result in top marks if done correctly. Likewise, should information be presented in chronological order, or is the prevalence of some theoretical work on the topic far more important than historical events? You must be able to justify your essay structure.
A Working Example
Let’s take a fictional question concerning the marketing campaigns that led to the UK’s decision to leave the EU. We have both strong contextual and theoretical elements at play in that decision. We will begin by contextualising the formation of the EU and continue with a chronological approach; however, after laying the contextual foundations, we will apply various marketing and communication theories in a bid to understand the result. Broader philosophical and socio-economic theories may very well provide us with insight on why the marketing campaign was so successful in some regions of the UK.
Our introduction should establish the context of the referendum result and introduce communication theories that were used by the Vote Leave Campaign but not employed by the EU’s central body or the Remain Campaign. Details of the EU’s formation, events throughout the timeline of the European Union (with a focus on how the press covered inter-EU tensions) and the difficulties in appealing to the interests of each member country would be an interesting place to start. Here we introduce our awareness of how communicating the benefits of EU membership was perhaps mismanaged or neglected. We may even question whether the formation of a Remain group that included all the major political parties had a detrimental effect on the campaign.
Our main argument will look at the events and communications directly leading up to the referendum result. We’ll focus on critically analysing the rhetoric from both campaign parties, as well as the supporting material from media outlets (local newspaper coverage will show the depth of research). In addition to the more directly applicable theories, here we will attempt to include critical material that provides unique insight into the topic; if done well, this is certain to earn us some marking points.
We might conclude with questions of responsibility for communication. To be a member of an organisation without understanding the cost and benefits of membership is dangerous, but who is responsible for such a task? We should aim to bring together our main points, theories and questions to suggest a set of circumstances and events that led to the referendum decision. To critically show where the Leave campaign excelled and where the Remain campaign failed followed by predictions for marketing’s future impact on politics is perhaps an ideal place to close the discussion.
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