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Assignment types

At university, you will be asked by your lecturers to complete tasks that demonstrate you have learned the core material in your discipline.

For example, to demonstrate that you have read and understood a variety of texts, you may be asked to produce an annotated bibliography, to critique a book, a chapter of a book or a journal article.

Information on what these tasks involve and how to develop your writing skills is provided.
 

Essays

Structuring essays

When we are ready to start writing, the first attempt is always a draft.

Some guides on writing introductions and conclusions, paragraphs and using linking words and phrases are provided in this section.

  • Every piece of formal writing that you complete must contain a clear introduction and conclusion. The purpose of the introduction is to prepare the reader for what they are about to read. The conclusion should summarise the content of what you have discussed.

    Introduction

    An introduction should include the following:

    Background information

    This is normally two or three sentences which give the reader general information about the topic that you will write about.

    Thesis statement/topic

    This is the most important part of the introduction. It introduces the main topic or argument on which the essay will be based.

    Outline

    The outline tells the reader what the sub-topics of the essay will be and in doing so how the essay will be organised.

    Scope

    This section is only required if you are going to narrow your discussion of the topic down e.g. to a particular time or place.

    Example 1: The highlighted section of the paragraph is the thesis statement.

    Education plays an important role in the community’s capacity to deal with emergencies, following a disaster or when a country is in conflict, contributing stability to the lives of girls and boys and helping families to heal and look forward. The benefits of educating girls have long been established. Now there is new understanding as to why educating girls is the most urgent task facing the global development community. This paper will argue that it is girls’ education that is the most effective means of combating many of the most profound challenges to human development, and that for communities, the strategies for providing girls the opportunities to complete their education yield benefits for all. 

    Example 2: The highlighted section of the paragraph is the thesis statement.

    Increasingly, research associated with prenatal development suggests the mother’s health and lifestyle have some influence on the life of the foetus. This essay will show that the physical health of the mother and her lifestyle will greatly influence the development of the foetus. It will show this by examining the effects of the following on a mother and in turn on her unborn child: smoking, malnutrition, drugs and diseases.

    Conclusion

    The conclusion usually starts with ‘In conclusion’, or ‘To sum up…” and should:

    • restate your thesis or the main idea of the paper
    • give an outline: This provides a summary of the sub-topics/issues covered in the essay
    • qualify your thesis: Review the thesis statement acknowledging significant counter evidence if necessary.

    Example 1The highlighted section of the paragraph is the thesis statement

    The arguments presented in this paper have shown that educating girls from the very early years not only ensures that girls grow up healthier and more able to protect themselves and ensure their own well being; educating girls also benefits communities. Through the provision of resources and improved services implemented to support girls’ education, the lives of all people in a community improve. In addition, educating girls equates to educating women who will in the future be able to better nurture and support their families. All in all, it has to be said that educating a girl is equivalent to educating a whole family and educating a community.

    Example 2: The highlighted section of the paragraph is the thesis statement

    In all, it is possible to conclude that the physical health of the mother will greatly influence the development of the foetus. In the majority of cases, the factors influencing the mother’s health such as smoking, malnutrition, drugs and diseases are closely related so that it becomes difficult for researchers to determine which factor and to what extent that factor is responsible for the adverse effects caused to development of the foetus. However, a great deal of the research associated with prenatal development does indicate that the main influences on the environment and development of the foetus are from controllable causes.

  • What is a paragraph?

    A paragraph is a group of sentences that relates to a certain theme or idea. The length of a paragraph may vary, but the average paragraph should be between 80-120 words long.

    Ideally, a paragraph should have a beginning, middle and an end. This should include a topic sentence which is the main idea or theme of the paragraph, supporting sentences which provide further information and explanation of the main idea and in some cases a concluding sentence. (This concluding sentence is not always necessary but in longer paragraphs it does help to add clarity and strength to your discussion).

    In the following examples, the topic sentences are underlined. In example one and two, the supporting sentences explain the topic sentence further. In example 3, examples are given to support the topic sentence.

    Example 1: The highlighted section of the paragraph is the topic sentence

    In most education systems, the consequences are very serious if children do not learn to read by the end of grade three. This is because teachers in the upper primary years do not think that they should have to teach students how to read. Instead, they expect students to develop skills in learning from reading. By the time students reach high school they are expected to learn through reading texts. Thus, the child who reaches upper primary school without being able to read, will never be able to complete school.

    Example 2: The highlighted section of the paragraph is the topic sentence

    Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. Inequitable access to land complicates the dependence of the largely rural population on subsistence agriculture, and has meant a growing reliance on the cash economy. This means increased migration for men for work, heavier workloads for women and children, and an erosion of traditional family patterns. Internal conflict over recent years has caused even greater hardship for the country’s poor.

    Example 3: The highlighted section of the paragraph is the topic sentence

    Childhood malnutrition and illness can have devastating consequences for the cognitive development of a child. For example, iron deficiency anaemia reduces cognitive functions, iodine deficiency causes irreversible intellectual impairment and vitamin A deficiency is the primary cause of blindness among children. Childhood malnutrition can also leave individuals more vulnerable to ill‑health in both childhood and adulthood, and thus more likely to exacerbate the cycle of this. While some gains can be made during adolescence, damage done to cognitive development cannot be reversed.

  • The table below shows in bold the meaning of each word and phrase. Then, the two columns show first the words and phrases you can use to express this meaning and the appropriate punctuation to use at the beginning of a sentence and then those used within the sentence.

    Cause, effect, reason or resultComparison, contrast and concession
    Used at the beginning of a sentenceUsed in the middle of a sentenceUsed at the beginning of a sentenceUsed in the middle of a sentence
    As a result,
    Because of this,
    Consequently,
    For this reason,
    Therefore,
    Thus,
    ; as a result,
    ; because of this,
    ; consequently,
    ; for this reason,
    ; therefore,
    ; thus
    However,
    Even so,
    Nevertheless,
    Nonetheless,
    On the other hand,
    In contrast,
    In comparison,
    ; however,
    ; even so,
    ; nevertheless,
    ; nonetheless,
    ; on the other hand,
     because
    since
    as
     though
    although
    even though
    while
    whereas
    in spite of
    despite
    Time-orderAddition
    Used at the beginning of a sentenceUsed in the middle of a sentenceUsed at the beginning of a sentenceUsed in the middle of a sentence
    First
    First of all
    Lastly
    Second
    Next
     Again,
    Also,
    Besides,
    Equally,
    Furthermore,
    In addition,
    ; again
    ; also
    ; besides,
    ; equally,
    ; furthermore,
    ; in addition,
    In the first place,
    In the next place,
    Likewise,
    Moreover,
    What is more,
    after
    before
    until
    when
    while
    as soon as
    In the first place,
    In the next place,
    Likewise,
    Moreover,
    What is more,
     
    ConditionTransition between ideas
    Used at the beginning of a sentenceUsed in the middle of a sentenceUsed at the beginning of a sentenceUsed in the middle of a sentence
    Provided that
    Unless
    As long as
    provided that
    unless
    as long as
    given that
    Incidentally,
    Turning now to,
    Similarly,
    In the same way,
    Equally,
    For example,
    In other words,
    For instance,
    ; similarly,
    ; in the same way,
    ; equally,
    ; for example,
    ; in other words,
    ; for instance,
    ExplanationSummarising
    To express it another way,
    In other words,
    To put it more simply,
    That is,
    It would be better to say,
    In brief,
    To sum up,
    In conclusion,
    To summarise,
    To conclude,
    All in all,
    Overall,
     
    Presenting an alternative idea 
     ; alternatively,
    ; on the other hand,
    , or
      

     

    Examples of usage

    Showing cause, effect, reason and result

    The government has been ineffective. Therefore, the voters rejected it in the last election.

    As the government has been ineffective, the voters rejected it in the last election.

    Showing contrast and concession

    Many people still travel in winter even though the roads are very dangerous.

    Although the roads are very dangerous in winter, many people still travel.

    Showing time order

    The manager asked her staff for their ideas for the new proposal. Subsequently, she ignored all their suggestions.

    After the manager asked her staff for their ideas for the new proposal, she ignored all their suggestions.

    Showing addition

    The five year drought has caused a shortage of staple food products. In addition, recent increases in the price of food have caused food scarcity amongst the farming communities.

    Showing condition

    The President agreed to withdraw his troops from the area; on the condition, that all hostages were released.

    The President agreed to withdraw his troops from the area provided that all hostages were released.

    Once the President agreed to withdraw his troops from the area, all hostages were released.

    Showing alternatives

    The government may consider increases in personal income tax; alternatively, they could introduce some form of indirect taxation.

    The government may consider increases in personal income tax. On the other hand; they could introduce some form of indirect taxation.

Constructing essays

  • Analysing the topic

    Before you begin work on an essay, it is important that you understand what you are being asked to discuss. So you need to analyse the essay question carefully. An essay question usually contains:

    Orientation: A general preamble about the topic which explains why or what the debate is about
    Topic: This is the subject that the question is about
    Focus: This tells you what specific aspects of the topic the question is interested in
    Directions: This tells you what you are being asked to do (e.g. to discuss, explain, argue)

    Example essay question

    Childhood malnutrition and illness can have devastating consequences for the cognitive development of a child.  This can lead to a lifetime of educational and social disadvantage. Discuss the role of the national government in addressing this issue in communities substantially affected by alcohol and drug misuse.

    Orientation: Childhood malnutrition and illness can have devastating consequences for the cognitive development of a child. This can lead to a lifetime of educational and social disadvantage.
    Topic: Childhood malnutrition and illness
    Focus: What governments can/should do ... in communities substantially affected by alcohol and drug misuse
    Directions: Discuss (present an argument)

    Before you analyse the essay question, make sure that you understand any key terms that have been used. For example: malnutrition, educational and social disadvantage, alcohol and drug misuse

    The next steps:

    1. draft a plan (a taxonomy) of how you will organise your essay
    2. research (see more on conducting a literature search/note taking)
    3. review your essay plan.
  • Your essay needs to be written in an academic style and have the following: 

    Introduction

    A paragraph which introduces the essay topic and gives some background information or   context about this. The introduction also states the main point (thesis) that is going to be argued and an outline of how the essay will be organised.

    Body

    The body is the main part of the essay and is made up of a series of paragraphs which present the argument and the evidence for that argument.

    Conclusion

    The conclusion provides a summary of the argument and restates the main claim. It may also make some final statements about the topic. However, nothing new is introduced in the conclusion.

  • Evidence can come from different sources but should include facts, supported by expert opinions and observations, examples, anecdotes or other illustrations such as graphs and diagrams.

    Evidence should be integrated into your essays through quoting, paraphrasing or summarising. All sources quoted, paraphrased or summarised in your essay must be in the reference list at the end of your work.

Sample essay

Sample essay document

What factors contribute to student success at university?

The modern university serves a wide range of needs in society. In 2018, Australian universities had just over 1.5 million students in full-time and part-time study (Australian Department of Education, Skills and Employment, 2020). 

Download sample essay (DOCX, 30.55 KB)

Reports

Reports are a means of presenting experimental, investigative or research findings.

Writing reports is used by some disciplines as a form of assessment. Report writing is also common in the workplace.

Report types and how to prepare them

  • Differences between essays and reports
    ReportsEssays
    Presents information (description and explanation)Presents an explicit argument
    Makes use of numbered headings, and subheadingsDoes not require headings
    Makes use of dot point presentation as well as short concise paragraphsWritten in paragraphs which are linked clearly to each other
    Can be scanned quickly for specific informationNeeds to be read in detail to gain understanding of the argument
    Uses graphics where possibleUsually no use of graphics
    May end with recommendationsRarely has recommendations
    Research may be primary and secondaryResearch usually secondary/tertiary sources
    Similarities between essays and reports
    Written in an academic style
    Appropriate referencing in-text and reference list

    Learn how to transform a journal reference to an APA 7th referencing style.

  • Reports are a means of presenting experimental, investigative or research findings. Reports are usually divided into three parts:

    Preliminary information

    • Title page
    • Executive summary/synopsis
    • Table of contents
    • List of illustrations
    • Acknowledgments.

    Body of the report

    • A statement of aims including a hypothesis (that is what you intended to do).
    • A rationale for your research (that is why you did it).
    • A description of the methodology (that is how you did the research).
    • Your results (that is what you found out).
    • Some analysis (that is an interpretation of what the results meant).
    • Conclusion (and recommendations for action).

    Supporting material

    • References
    • Appendices
  • Business reports vary in their subject matter and length, but their structural layout is much the same as other reports.

    Preliminaries

    • Title Page
    • Acknowledgments
      The names of people and organisations that contributed in any way to your research and analysis should be mentioned here. This would ordinarily not include participants who were part of your research.
    • Table of contents
      This lists everything contained in the report excluding the title page and the table of contents page itself. Page numbers must be included for every section listed. Short research reports of less than six pages (that is about 2000 words) would usually not include a table of contents. However, you should check with your lecturer before submitting your final draft for assessment.
    • List of illustrations
      Lists of illustrations, diagrams or tables of figures are provided after the Table of Contents on a separate page with the heading 'List of Tables' or 'List of Figures' or similar.
    • Executive summary
      A summary of the scope and purpose of your report, your methodology, main findings or results and the significance of these. The executive summary is written last after you have finalised your main findings.

    Body of the report

    • Introduction
      This sets the context for the report. State what you plan to do in this report and why you have done this research (aim/purpose/your research question(s), important background information, key terms, and scope of the report.
    • Findings
      This is the bulk of the report. It is where the relevant data is analysed, and the main findings of the report are examined. The layout of the findings should be logically organised with each section and sub-section clearly labelled. Competing arguments, interpretations and solutions should be discussed and their relative merits evaluated.
    • Analysis
      This section may not always be necessary. But include this if you want to draw aspects of your findings together and present an explicit argument which will provide a firm basis for the conclusions and recommendations.
    • Conclusion
      This section is quite brief and covers the significance of the findings and implications for future research or practice. It might also mention alternative research tools or research questions to follow on from this topic.
    • Recommendations
      These are included if your research was investigative and your aim to make recommendations. These are based on the findings and analyses. Recommendations can be numbered and placed in priority order. With longer reports, in addition to providing a separate list of recommendations, some writers also prefer to place their recommendations at the end of the relevant sections within the body of the report.

    Supporting materials

    • Appendices
      Include materials which support your research such as raw data, details of surveys or questionnaires.
    • Reference List
      This should include books, journal articles or other texts that you have referred to in your report. Check the referencing style required by your lecturer.
    • Glossary
      If your report uses terminology that is specialised then it will be necessary to provide a list of these terms and their meanings in a glossary.
    • Abbreviations
      If you use a number of abbreviated terms for names of organisations, programs etcetera in your report, you should provide a list of abbreviations which make it easy for the reader to keep track of what these mean.
  • Laboratory reports describe experiments that you have carried out and explain the results.

    Different lecturers may have their individual requirements for lab report layouts. However, most lab reports will require the following sections in the order presented:

    Preliminaries

    • Title Page
    • Acknowledgments
      The names of people and organisations that contributed in any way to your research and analysis should be mentioned here. This would ordinarily not include participants who were part of your research experiment.
    • Table of contents
      This lists everything contained in the report excluding the title page and the table of contents page itself. Page numbers must be included for every section listed. Short research reports of less than six pages (that is about 2000 words) would usually not include a table of contents. However, you should check with your lecturer before submitting your final draft for assessment.
    • List of illustrations
      Lists of illustrations, diagrams or tables of figures are provided after the Table of Contents on a separate page with the heading 'List of Tables' or 'List of Figures' or similar.
    • Abstract
      A summary of the scope and purpose of your report, your methodology, main findings or results and the significance of these. The abstract is written last after you have finalised your main findings.

    Body of the report

    • Introduction
      Include:
      • A brief statement of what your experiment has been designed to test.
      • An overview of the important research that has already been undertaken on your issue.
      Your overview should identify the major theories responsible for, or arising from, the existing research data. This section of your introduction provides the necessary background information for the statement of your hypothesis. This sets the context for the report.
    • Method
      Describe what was done (who or what was involved in the research) and how it was done including the equipment or materials used and the approach taken. The three most common subdivisions are of participants, apparatus, and procedure.
    • Results
      A summary of your findings but not a discussion of these. The raw data of your results should also only appear as an appendices, not in this section.
      If you were exploring more than one hypothesis, then the presentation of your results should reflect the order in which you laid out your hypotheses in your introduction.
      This section may contain graphics as well as text. But data must be clearly represented and explained. Only use graphics when it is the most efficient way of representing the results.
    • Discussion
      Your discussion should analyse how your findings relate to your research question(s) and aims. This section includes an interpretation and explanation of your results and why they are important.
      If the results were statistically significant then you need to reflect on the generality or applicability of the results. Any errors, whether of method or experimental design, should be noted and their influence of the outcome discussed. Similarly, any defects in the application of experimental procedures also need to be noted and their influence on the outcome accounted for.
      Your discussion should link your results and conclusions back to the theory or theories that informed your area of investigation. Here you can consider any implications that your findings might have for subsequent research. (This last section may replace the conclusion).
    • Conclusion
      This section is quite brief and covers the significance of the findings and implications for future research or practice. It might also mention alternative research tools or research questions to follow on from this topic.

    Supporting materials

    • Appendices
      Include materials which support your research such as raw data, details of surveys or questionnaires. Each set of data must be separately identified and labelled accordingly (that is 'Appendix A: Raw Data', 'Appendix B: Transcripts of Interviews').
    • References
      Check the referencing style required by your lecturer.
  • The purpose of a research report is to provide an account of your research in a particular area. This might be quantitative research (involving data that is measured and recorded with numbers in a laboratory or an experiment) or qualitative research (data based on interviews, focus group findings, archival and library based materials), or a combination of the two.

    Your report will need to provide your reader with the following core information:

    • What was the purpose of your research?
    • What method(s) did you use?
    • What were the results?
    • What does it mean?

    Different lecturers will have their individual requirements for report layouts. However, most research reports will require the following sections in the order presented:

    Preliminaries

    • Title Page
    • Acknowledgments
      The names of people and organisations that contributed in any way to your research and analysis should be mentioned here. This would ordinarily not include participants who were part of your research experiment.
    • Table of contents
      This lists everything contained in the report excluding the title page and the table of contents page itself. Page numbers must be included for every section listed. Short research reports of less than six pages (that is about 2000 words) would usually not include a table of contents. However, you should check with your lecturer before submitting your final draft for assessment.
    • List of illustrations
      Lists of illustrations, diagrams or tables of figures are provided after the Table of Contents on a separate page with the heading 'List of Tables' or 'List of Figures' or similar.
    • Abstract
      A summary of the scope and purpose of your report, your methodology, main findings or results and the significance of these. The abstract is written last after you have finalised your main findings.

    Body of the report

    • Introduction
      This sets the context for the report. State what you plan to do in this report and why you have done this research (aim/purpose/your research question(s), important background information, key terms, and scope of the report.
    • Literature review
      An overview of the sources relevant to the research (e.g. books, journal articles, government documents).
      May not be necessary in a shorter report.
    • Method
      Describe what was done (who or what was involved in the research) and how it was done including the equipment or materials used and the approach taken.
    • Results
      This section includes an interpretation and explanation of your results and why they are important. It may also explain why results were not as expected.
    • Discussion
      Your discussion should analyse how your findings relate to your research question(s) and aims.
    • Conclusion
      This section is quite brief and covers the significance of the findings and implications for future research or practice. It might also mention alternative research tools or research questions to follow on from this topic.

    Supporting materials

    • Appendices
      Include materials which support your research such as raw data, details of surveys or questionnaires.
    • References
      Check the referencing style required by your lecturer.

Reading and writing about data

Academic writing in many subject areas requires the use of graphics. This may include technical diagrams, illustrations or data presented in graphs and tables. It is important if you include graphics that you include them appropriately in your writing.

This information will introduce you to some ways of integrating graphics into your academic written work.

  • What do graphics do?

    Graphics can convey complex information, showing relationships and trends, and sort and classify data. They can also clarify technical ideas and help to emphasise important points.

    There are different types of graphics. These may include:

    • graphs and tables showing data
    • technical diagrams
    • photograph or illustration.

    Before using graphics in your assignments you need to consider:

    • what they will contribute to the reader
    • how best to represent the information that you want to show.

    Once you have included graphics, you will need to ensure that you accurately describe them pointing out the key information that you want to be noticed. This next section looks at writing about data which may be represented in graphs or tables.

  • Getting the main idea

    One of the most important things to do before you start writing about data is to ensure that you have understood the main idea of what the data shows, or of what you want the data to show. In order to do this, you should first identify the main features of the graph or table you are going to describe.

    Ask the following questions:

    • What is the data about?
    • What are the highest/lowest numbers/percentages?
    • If it is a time graph, what are the biggest changes?
    • What are the trends?

    Ideally, you need to find one main idea and, if possible, one or two smaller points.

    In your analysis:

    • don’t have too much information
    • don’t analyse or explain everything in the graph
    • don’t go from left to right, explaining everything. Instead pick the main ideas (pointing out the most important or the most significant first).
  • Example graph of school dropout rates

    Ref: Aga Khan Foundation 2007, Why do children leave school?, Afghanistan

    It’s interesting to see the differences between boys and girls when looking at reasons for dropout. The reason cited most often by boys for leaving school is that they have to work to help their families whereas girls are leaving predominantly because they are targets of traditional practices or customs, including underage marriage.

    The data shows that 61% of boys left school because of the work while only 12% of girls left school because of the work (mainly household chores). 53% of girls dropped out because of their parents while only 6% of boys left school for the same reason. Other factors affecting girls’ survival rates in school are distance to schools and security. Most of the girls said that the long distance between home and school is not secure for them to travel alone, and hence they leave school.

  • Example graph dropout differences

    Ref: Aga Khan Foundation 2007, Why do children leave school? Afghanistan.

    When analysing the dates of dropout, an interesting trend emerges.  Most children drop out from school during the main farming seasons – between March and June. From those students interviewed, 68% of them left school during that time. (Note that 68% is a total of the dropout rate from March to June).

  • Example graph of dropout solutions

    None of the students interviewed were happy about leaving school and all of them wanted to go back to school at some point if they had the chance to go.

    Less than half of the students think that they would be able to return to school at a later date. Overwhelmingly, the students that have dropped out voiced uncertainty about their future plans, since the decision to dropout out of school did not seem to be theirs to begin with, but rather a parental decision.

  • When we describe data, we need to be able to talk about differences in numbers, fractions and percentages. Common language that can be used includes:

    NumberMost
    The majority of ...
    The greatest number of ...
    More than
    The least
    A minority of ...
    The least number of ...
    Less than
    PercentageA high percentage of ...
    A higher percentage of ...
    A low percentage of ...
    A lower percentage of ...
    FractionsThe greatest partThe smallest part

    Sometimes we need to talk about changes in numbers, fractions and percentages. For example:

    20002005
    12001800
    • The number went up by 600, from 1200 to 1800. (Number)
    • The number went up by half, from 1200 to 1800. (Fraction)
    • The number went up by 50%, from 1200 to 1800. (Percentage)
    • The number went up 150%, to 1800. (Percentage)

    Look at another example showing an increase over six years:

    2002200420062008
    5001000300012000

    Use "trebled," "-fold," and "times:"

    • The number doubled between 2002 and 2004.
    • The number trebled between 2004 and 2006.
    • There was a twofold increase between 2002 and 2004.
    • The number went up sixfold between 2002 and 2006.
    • The figure in 2006 was six times the 2002 figure.
    • The figure in 2008 was four times the 2006 figure.

    Look at another example showing a decrease over six years:

    2002200420062008
    1000800400100

    Use Fractions:

    • Between 2002 and 2004, the figure fell by one-fifth.
    • Between 2004 and 2006, the number dropped by a half.
  • Example of the London underground graph

    Ref: IELTS graph # 31

    The graph shows the fluctuation in the number of people at a London underground station over the course of a day.

    The busiest time of the day is in the morning. There is a sharp increase between 06:00 and 08:00, with 400 people using the station at 8 o'clock. After this, the numbers drop quickly to less than 200 at 10 o'clock. Between 11 am and 3 pm the number rises, with a plateau of just under 300 people using the station.

    In the afternoon, numbers decline, with less than 100 using the station at 4 pm. There is then a rapid rise to a peak of 380 at 6pm. After 7 pm, numbers fall significantly, with only a slight increase again at 8pm, tailing off after 9 pm.

    Overall, the graph shows that the station is most crowded in the early morning and early evening periods.

    Other useful expressions which will help you to describe change

    Movement down
    (verbs)

    • fall
    • decline
    • drop
    • decrease
    • sink
    • go down

    Strong words
    (use carefully!)

    • plummet
    • plunge

    Movement down
    (nouns)

    • fall
    • decline
    • drop
    • decrease

    Movement up
    (verbs)

    • rise
    • go up
    • increase
    • grow

    Strong words
    (Use Carefully!)

    • shoot up
    • rocket
    • surge

    Movement up
    (nouns)

    • rise
    • increase
    • growth

    No movement

    • remain steady
    • is unchanged
    • does not change
    • remain constant
    • remain stable
    • stabilise

    Changing movement

    • fluctuate

    Reached the highest point or lowest point

    • reach a peak
    • peak
    • reach their highest level
    • reach a high
    • fall to a low
    • sing to a trough

    Adjectives

    • slight
    • a little
    • sharp
    • sudden
    • steep
    • gradual
    • gentle
    • steady

    Adverbs

    • slightly
    • sharply
    • suddenly
    • steeply
    • gradually
    • gently
    • steadily

    Prepositions: Time Expressions: Past

    • between 1995 and 2000
    • from 1995 to 2000
    • up until 1960,
    • before 2006

    Time expressions: Future

    By 2020, it is expected to have reached ...

    By 2020, the total is projected to be ...

  • Example graph dropout regions

    The causes of dropout are different from one region to another. As is evident from this graph, parents were cited as the main reason for children not continuing education in Bamyan and Badakhshan.  This aligns with external reports of the high rates of marriage for young girls in these two provinces. 

    In contrast, work is the main cause of dropout in Baghlan province. Baghlan is one of the most productive and populated provinces of Afghanistan where there is a lot of fertile land and industry.  These attributes create many more work opportunities for young children in this province as compared to the other two provinces.

    School quality is also a serious problem in Baghlan compared to the two other regions. Evaluation surveys show that the number of students in a classroom in Baghlan is three times more than Badakhshan and Bamyan province.

    In contrast, illness is a more serious problem in Badakhshan compared to Baghlan and Bamyan.  Badakhshan reports indicate that while working in the fields, some students have become addicted to opium in Badakhshan, which leads them to drop out of school. 

    Words and phrases for comparing
    Compared to X, ……….
    Compared with Y, ………
    X is more than Y
    X is less than Y
    In comparison, X is …
    In contrast, Y is …
    X is - er than Y (higher than, stronger than)
    X is not as much as Y
    In comparison with X, …..
    In comparison to X, …..
    In contrast to X, ….
    On the other hand, …
     
    X in comparison to Y is …
    X in comparison with Y is…
    X in contrast to Y is
    more/less likely to …
    X is similar to/comparable to/with Y in that …
    There are similarities between X and Y.
    In the same way, ….
    Equally, ….
    Similarly, ….
    X is different to Y in that …
    There are differences between X and Y.
    X differs from Y in that …
    X is …. whereas/while Y is ….
     

Literature review

A literature review is a discussion of scholarly articles relevant to a particular topic or issue. 

In a postgraduate thesis the literature is an important device for setting your study in context, justifying your choice of theoretical or conceptual framework, and indicating your familiarity with the field of study.

At both undergraduate and postgraduate level, the purpose of the literature review gives you the opportunity to demonstrate:

  • your depth of knowledge of a topic or issue.
  • your skills in comparing, analysing and evaluating scholarly writing
  • understanding of scholarly writing, debates and competing arguments.
  • awareness of different research methodologies.

There are several steps in writing a literature review that are explained in the following:

Writing literature reviews from Monash University

Annotated bibliography

An annotated bibliography is a list of references (bibliography) which includes a brief summary of each article reviewed, and often a brief comment about the usefulness of each one.

  • Depending on the assignment, an annotated bibliography can:

    • demonstrate the quality and depth of reading that you have done, and show your critical understanding of the ideas of different authors
    • help you think through various issues related to a subject
    • provide a summary of experts’ ideas that can be used for assignments at a later stage
    • review the literature of a particular subjec
  • Each annotation may contain all or most of these elements:

    • full bibliographic details
    • relevant details about the author
    • content and scope of the text
    • the main argument of the text and key ideas
    • the research methods (if applicable)
    • any special features of the text that were unique or helpful (charts, graphs etc.)
    • a discussion of the relevance or usefulness of the text and/or how it contributes to the subject area
    • a discussion of any strengths or limitations of the text.
  • You may be required to choose texts for your annotated bibliography. If this is the case, consider the following questions before selecting them.

    1. What topic/problem or question am I investigating?
    2. Does each text relate to my topic and assignment requirements?
    3. What kind of material am I looking for? (e.g. journal articles, reports, policies)
    4. Are the texts specific to the question or too generalised?
    5. How useful are the texts to your inquiry?
  • Example 1: Belenky, MF, Clinchy, NR & Tarule, JM 1986, ’Constructed Knowledge: Integrating the voices’ in Women’s ways of knowing: The Development of Self, Voice, and Mind, Basic Books, New York, pp. 131 – 152.

    The authors of this book state that there are five ways of knowing: silence, received knowledge, subjective knowledge, procedural knowledge and constructed knowledge. Their main focus in this particular excerpt is ‘constructed knowledge' defined as a more integrated way of knowing.

    Constructed knowledge has been described as more than the need to acquire knowledge, it is also about knowing how and from where the knowledge was/is acquired. Being a constructivist requires self reflection, inquisitiveness and a need to question outside the normal boundaries. So ‘constructivist women’ display tendencies such as posing questions and posing problems, examining fundamental assumptions, evaluating experts and  showing an appreciation for complexity and ambiguity. They are committed to a quest for truth and learning and are passionate about caring for people and the betterment of the wider community.


    Example 2: Mackie, SE 2001, ‘Jumping the hurdles – Undergraduate student withdrawal behaviour’, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, vol. 38, no. 3, pp. 265–275.

    This study is based on quantitative research conducted on a large cohort of 450 first year students at a new university in 1996/7. This data was used to examine the reasons for students leaving or staying at university, and identifies the differences between those students who voluntarily abandon the university experience and those who share similar experiences and difficulties who remained at university. It explores the issues, behaviour, and in particular, the complex interplay of forces – social, organisational, external and individual – which lead up to and influence the decision made by a student to leave or stay at university.

    This publication, although only representative of students in one particular discipline, is an extremely useful reference for educational practitioners and students alike in helping them understand why students withdraw. The author’s purpose for this investigation is fulfilled as it comes up with some useful insights into why the ‘expectant hope’ of some students turns to fears realised, uncertainty and doubt and eventual departure from university. As the research concluded it is an interplay of forces – social, organisational, external and individual – in particular an individual’s commitment, which affects a student’s decision to stay at or leave university.

Critiques

Summarise and evaluate a book, chapter of a book or journal article.

  • Introduction

    • Full bibliographic details
    • Overview of what an article or book is about
    • Author's conceptual framework.

    Body

    • Summary of the content of the text (could also include the intended readership)
    • Critical analysis discussing the quality of the text (in terms of content/ideas, structure/organisation of the text, language used).

    Conclusion

    • Final overall evaluation of how well the text achieves its aims and contributes to the topic. This is based on what you have discussed in the critical analysis section.
  • Full bibliographic detail should include:

    • author(s)/editor(s)
    • publication date
    • title of text
    • publisher
    • place of publication
    • page numbers if from a chapter, or journal article.

    Where appropriate you might have to provide details about editions, translators, prefaces and so forth.

    Author details

    Depending upon the context, details about the author's background are not always essential or appropriate. But if they are, provide sufficient detail about the author's background, qualifications or experiences so that the reader has some idea of where the author stands in relation to the field and the subject matter.

    Author's conceptual framework

    The way in which an author frames the issues under investigation is often referred to as the conceptual framework or methodology or an approach to the topic. It is one of the tasks of a reviewer to alert the reader to the particular framework used by the text's author.

    Subject matter

    This is a summary of what the content of the text is supposed to be about. It should:

    • highlight the main argument including the key points or issues
    • point out the evidence upon which the main claims rest
    • distinguish between the subject matter and the aims or purposes of the text.

    Critical analysis

    This will involve directing several important questions to the text.

    • Has the author achieved his or her aims?
    • How has the author organised the text (in terms of whether such organisation facilitates the argument, etcetera)?
    • Does the evidence adequately support the central argument?
    • How well has the author used the evidence as presented in the text?
    • Has the author ignored relevant evidence?
    • How has the text contributed to the discipline?

    Your concluding interpretation

    Your conclusion will point to the book's/article’s usefulness with respect to other already existing works on the subject. This will also include some comment on the writing style of the text and its accessibility for the reader.

    Finally, consistent with your overall evaluation, you will need to say something about whether others will gain from consulting the work under review.

  • Steps to preparing your critique

    1. Familiarise yourself with the general features of the text. If there is one, examine the table of contents for clues as to the text’s organisational structure. The preface or abstract, will give some idea as to why the author wrote the text.
    2. Skim through the various sections taking a mental note of any headings or subheadings.
    3. Read the introductory paragraphs noting: 
      • the main issues
      • the conceptual framework of the text.
    4. Read the concluding paragraphs to pinpoint the author's main conclusions and the principal reasons for them.
    5. Make some brief notes summarising your impressions thus far.
    6. Return to the article and read it more thoroughly. Make notes about those aspects that will feature in your review, namely the conceptual framework, the key ideas as identified by the author, the data and examples used by the author, and the structure of the main argument(s).
    7. Sometimes you might need to consult other works to clarify or verify the point of view that you are developing with respect to the book or article under review.
    8. Once you have finished compiling your notes you can begin organising them to produce your critique.
    9. Finally, in writing the review you should take extra care to ensure that:
      • you have represented the views of the author and the subject matter of the text accurately and fairly
      • your own views do not intrude unnecessarily into the critique. The reader of your critique will only be interested in your views to the extent that they help evaluate the content of the text. 
  • Gleick, P 1999, ‘The Human Right to Water’, Water Policy vol.1, no.5, pp.487-503

    Peter Gleick sets out to show that the right to water (and sanitation – although not explicitly stated) is a fundamental human right which has been either intended implicitly or stated explicitly in international human rights declarations. In doing so, Gleik explores the question of what it means to ensure that people have their basic needs for water met and how that this is linked with adequate water management and planning. He also points out that water rights are not always about the lack of water but also the quality of the water.

    Gleick explores the argument of whether this right to adequate water and sanitation would be better mandated if it were explicitly enshrined in all declarations. However, he argues that if this were the case, it would place greater pressure on states to ensure adequate access, which would encourage better water management and more discussion on equitable sharing of resources. He also warns that where states were not able to provide for the needs of their populations, it could become incumbent on neighbouring states to do so if they could.

    Gleick goes on to point out the difficulties of meeting the water needs of human populations despite efforts by international organisations and suggests that while it is outside the parameters of this paper to set out any specific strategy, proposes that a mix of economic, political and social strategies could address needs – but if not, states must address this. If this issue is not addressed, the human and economic cost would be far reaching and as well increase human suffering and conflict.

    Gleick bases his discussion on a review of human rights declarations and accompanying documentation and establishes the credibility of his argument that adequate access to water is a fundamental human right. He does not however reach any definitive conclusion about whether such a right would be better enforced if specifically mandated by human rights declarations and only alludes to the potential problems if it was. The other aspect of his argument that could have been sustained but was only alluded to, is the economic cost of such a high proportion of the world’s population without access to clean water or sanitation. While it is beyond the scope of the paper to suggest how states ensure this right for their populations, the author does conclude that it could probably be managed by a mix of strategies including economic, social and political.

    Overall, Gleick is successful in arguing for water as a fundamental right while at the same time demonstrating the complexity of addressing the water needs for populations across the world.

    Links