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Assessment is via an essay of 5,000 words. In their essay the student explores an `issue of concern` and how this is manifest in their particular educational setting. The best essays normally have an argument or key message that is developed throughout. For example with regards to the theme of education and culture, a student might explore the role of textbooks in connection with the concept of multi-literacies. Students build towards the essay throughout the course by constructing and developing a wiki which reflects their growing knowledge and understanding of their chosen `issue of concern`. By exploring the issue in depth, the essay should address different viewpoints, synthesise different approaches, explore assumptions that underpin the issue and examine how the issue influences practice. Some essays will explore alternative ways to respond to the issue of concern.
The assignment for this module should be approximately 5,000 words in length. There is a 10% leeway below or above this word count; please note that any assignments not meeting these parameters will be automatically failed. This word count includes section titles and tables, but not the bibliography.
It is strongly recommended that you read the sections in this handbook about the Expectations of the Coursework (see page 39) before you begin.
Developing an Argument
The Institute`s criteria for the award of a Grade A include "the presentation of arguments" that demonstrate "exceptional clarity, focus and cogency". There are problems, however, when it comes to deciding just what these words mean in practice. For example, what counts as "exceptional", or makes reasoning "sophisticated", and "arguments", "clear, well-focussed and cogent"?
No matter what programme or modules you take, you are certain to be required to "argue" — that is, to adopt a questioning approach, with evidence as the basis for the articulation and justification of your position or hypothesis. You might ask yourself the following questions to check that you are arguing in the way expected in academic writing:
Use of literature of the field
Academic writing involves reading (see notes later in this section). While there are many individual ways of working, a number of students have identified that arguing involves establishing your purpose and your position in relation to what you have read. You might, for example, use what you read to clarify your point of view, or to show conflicting views in the field of study, or to provide evidence. Questions you might ask of your piece of writing include:
In using quotations, have I integrated them into my discussion? Have I quoted only as much as I need for the purposes of my discussion? Have I quoted precisely?
All writing in which you argue should be `personal` in the sense that it should suggest your own engagement with ideas. However, the place in scholarship and research of the writer or researcher as an individual with a personal history is a source of debate. In this programme, you will be expected to include your `personal experience` as a practitioner in geography education (if relevant). Questions you might then ask of your writing include:
If your data comprises of texts of one kind or another that you will be analysing in some detail, questions you could ask of your writing might include:
`Argument` as text
While you will have to the opportunity to investigate the practices of academic writing during the programme, it may be useful to reflect on a few basic ideas here. In other words, what does an effective piece of academic writing look like? Argument in academic texts is primarily a matter of using an appropriate structure (ie organising the content) and of using appropriate academic language: accurate, precise and careful.
Introductions and conclusions are particularly important in relation to argument: setting things up and drawing to a close. Together with the transitions from paragraph to paragraph and from section to section, the introduction and conclusion are the places where you can demonstrate your creativity by making explicit the distinctive logic and direction of your piece of writing.
Writing your abstract is often a useful way of checking if the argument in your essay flows: in other words, what is the `story`? If you find your abstract difficult to write it may mean that the meaning of your essay is unclear. The following are questions that you might ask to check that your piece of writing has a structure that is compatible with `argument`:
Giving your piece of writing a coherent structure is fundamentally a matter of using words and phrases that signal what you are doing in the text. Questions you could ask are:
Criteria for Assessment
Grasp of field of study
High levels of creativity and independence of thought in the application of knowledge
Understanding and evaluating research and methodologies
Structure, communication and presentation