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You have been engaged by the ILO (international labour organization) as a consultant to undertake a sector evaluation of chemical industry in China
The primary purpose of this assignment is to establish the scale and dimensions of any ‘decent work deficit’ and to propose how this deficit might be reduced through a sectoral dimension, creating evidence-based recommendations for the ILO, its constituents and other relevant actors in the sector. In particular, you should consider how a sectoral approach will:
Your report must be 3,000 words or less (excluding references). It should be addressed to the ILO (Sectoral Policies Department).
Guidelines for the IHRM assignment
Argument and structure
We expect you to develop an argument (or recommendation). You should offer a good interpretation of readings and issues, present contrasting views with pros and cons, etc., and most importantly develop a coherent argument throughout your report. What constitutes decent work? Can it be measured? Is there decent work in the sector/ country you have chosen? How can any ‘decent work deficits’ be addressed?
The structure of the report can vary, but you should include an introduction that provides an outline of the report and your key argument, a review of the relevant theoretical and empirical material pertinent to the subject, and a conclusion or set of recommendations. Begin the report with an introduction that frames the question and briefly presents your argument (or recommendations). Then organise the subsequent sections around that argument, bringing in research evidence and relevant theory to support, evaluate, elaborate and perhaps qualify the argument.
Preface/Executive Summary We strongly recommend that you include a Preface or ‘Executive Summary’ - rather like an academic abstract, but more detailed. You should work on the assumption that many (most?) officials/managers will not read beyond the executive summary unless they are ‘drawn in’ by the content (i.e. is it worth reading on?). Busy officials/ managers will expect to get all they need to know from the preface/executive summary, so this is your ‘one shot’ to convey all the key ideas/findings/recommendations. The analogy we suggest is to think about how you would approach a job interview where you are allowed only 3 minutes to tell the interview panel about yourself, as opposed to say 30 minutes. Think of it this way: 3 minutes = executive summary, 30 min = report.
We expect your report to be written in good English. Your writing can often be improved simply by using a spell-check or proof-reading the report (or asking a friend to read it through). This is not a “minor” issue – if a report is poorly written, it casts a shadow on the reliability of other information in the assignment. Please consider as well the following points:
First, we do not expect you to cull all “academic speak”. Students asked us in previous years: “As it is a report, rather than an essay, do we need to write in a style that officials/managers can understand?” Why assume that officials/managers cannot cope with academic writing? Do students understand academic textbooks and journal articles? If you understand it, why cannot officials/managers understand it? Do not patronise them.
Presentation We are tolerant of bullet points (as long as these are fully explained), we encourage the use of tables/figures/charts/diagrams etc, and we do not mind the inclusion of photos. Ultimately, however, this is still a content driven assignment. A well-researched, cogently argued report with no “bells and whistles” will always score higher marks than the “all singing, all dancing” presentation that is rather thin on academic content, lacking analytical rigour, unsupported by research evidence, etc.
You should label or reference all figures and tables in the text. Tables and figures are supposed to be a summary of more detailed information/data/models etc. that you explain/elaborate upon in the text.
Referencing and Bibliography
We expect you to reference properly and include a bibliography. We suggest that you use a numbered referencing system (footnotes or endnotes) rather than the Harvard (author, date: page) system as the former makes the text easier to read. Just look at a few journals and you will soon find one that uses a numbered referencing system.
When you fail to reference in support of certain data or arguments, you are left with nothing more than assertion or opinion. When you cite an author in the text, but the reference is missing from the bibliography, this is either: (a) a simple mistake (sloppy work), or (b) an attempt to deceive the examiner (i.e. unfair practice). We check websites, which all too often entails typing the address, re-typing the address because of error messages, discovering that the site cannot be found or eventually finding the site and then trying to locate the specific information in question, then discovering that the data was unreliable. If the web address was either incorrect or no longer (or never) existed, this is tantamount to unfair practice.
There are two issues here – why you use these sites/sources and which sites you use. If you want to establish a particular fact (e.g. current level of employment of men and women in a particular sector/country) then use of an internet site is perfectly acceptable, especially if you are citing a government agency (e.g. the Ministry of Labour) or a quality newspaper. If you want to refer the reader to information on an organisation (e.g. an NGO involved in labour standards) then a reference to the relevant website is again perfectly acceptable. Beyond that, there will be question marks about the quality of information, and in 99% of cases there are academic sources that are more reliable. As third year students at a research-based (Russell Group) university you should, by now, appreciate the importance of reliable research and how the research process works. Most academic research is funded by an external agency, which means that academics must “compete” for research funds. Research grant applications are peer reviewed and only the best ideas, with a sound methodology, are funded. Research data will be carefully analysed by the researchers. The results will initially be presented as a “working paper”, to be read by colleagues, presented at conferences, and then eventually submitted to an academic journal. It will then be read by a member of the editorial board of the journal and at least two independent referees. In the vast majority of cases, the author will be asked to respond to comments/criticisms before the paper is published. Once published it will be read by other researchers who many seek to develop the theory, compare the results with other research data, test the theory/methods on new datasets, etc. If it stands up to scrutiny, the research may be incorporated into textbooks. Compare this with internet sites. Is the information as reliable? Has the research that is cited on various websites been conducted to the same standard as academic research? Have the findings been subject to the same process of critical review? All too often, the answer to each of these questions is: “No”.
Please include the following information: