Over the course of my time at Sussex, I have had the opportunity to write papers on a vast array of topics. For this blog I will discuss some of the particularities of written assessments on a business course, the differing requirements, and finally some tips that I have learnt over the years.
The multidisciplinary nature of a business degree means that papers can vary quite widely in their format and type of content that needs to be included. For example, this term I am currently undertaking a project management module which requires us to carry out the planning phases for a project. The types of materials needed are very different from past modules, including case studies of similar projects and practical guides. When faced with work that requires you to look for very different sources it can be challenging. Skills that I have learnt for finding good academic journals no longer come in handy and it can mean that you have to go back to the drawing board in your approach to finding material.
Lecturers also tend to have differing preferences and requirements. Some fundamental expectations are common to all modules, such as a depths of background reading and criticality. This means that whilst it is important to learn for past work, each piece of work is still very much unique. Some lecturers are very specific about the types of materials to include, number of references, use of examples, or even stating certain papers that must be referenced. Therefore, what might be the perfect paper for one course, is not necessarily for another.
Although I may not have discovered the illusive formula for crafting a perfect paper, I have a wealth of tips and have overcome many struggles along the way:
Start off by going over the brief and module requirements carefully.
Once the starting bell goes, it is very easy to shoot off looking for reading material. However, keeping the brief firmly in mind from the beginning enables you to be much more selective and critical when reading. Carefully keeping records of what has been read and thinking about what parts of your essay it will fit into as you go helps you to be more efficient. I have tried various methods for doing this over the course of my time at Sussex, such as with the Mindmap below.
Finding current information
Finding up to date material does not seem to be too much of a problem on the business course. Lecturers have warned us to be wary of anything before the 2000s as the business environment has changed so much. However, on sites that offer advanced search functions, you can easily filter out any outdated material. For example, there is a wealth of articles on the library database which can be refined down to include only those published after a certain date.
Critical reading and writing
Criticality when reading articles and books can be challenging when first starting. The key is to know what questions to ask. Being structured and systematic in the way that you read papers can help over time. However, when reading very complex papers, criticality is particularly challenging as you really need to understand the material in order to make comments. These challenges often come about when a paper introduces, but does not fully explain new concepts. When researching to understand them, it is easy to stumble upon the wrong definitions. I feel that being more structured in my approach by having a list of key questions to ask and creating a glossary could help a lot. It is easy to get lost in long and complex papers. Therefore creating a standardised map for the process may make the journey a slightly easier one.