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5.2.2 Opening up ideas: analysing the question

What do you need to know about your assignment? Most importantly, what it's about (i.e. the topic). Once you have worked this out, you are in a better position to gauge how much you already know and how much you will need to find out.

Activity 9

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4.3 Essays

Now let's turn to essays.

Activity 4

Note down what you consider to be the purpose of an essay.

Discussion

Michel de Montaigne, a French philosopher,
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2.2 Developing writing styles

If any of the statements on the previous page rings true, let us reassure you: many other students are feeling the same as you. Writing skills can be learned. We want to emphasise straightaway that this is a process that can be continually developed.

There is no single ‘correct’ way of writing: different academic disciplines demand different styles. This can be confusing if you feel that you've mastered what is required for one course, only to find that something different is
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Learning outcomes

After studying this unit you should be able to:

  • understand what writing an assignment involves;

  • identify their strength and weaknesses;

  • consider the functions of essays and reports;

  • develop writing skills, whatever the stage they have reached.


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Acknowledgements

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Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources for permission to reproduce material in this unit:

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8.6 Research skills

This kind of work teaches some very valuable skills:

  • how to set about an enquiry

  • how and where to find source material and information

  • how to make your own investigations

  • strategic planning

  • time management

  • cutting corners and being pragmatic

  • analysing and interpreting primary and secondary source material

  • forming your own conclusions<
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8.4 Carrying out research

During this stage you get down to the business of analysing and interpreting the meanings of all your primary and secondary source material (documents, reports, newspaper accounts, books and articles), in the ways outlined in the previous sections of this unit. As you do so you will be making notes towards your project report. In this connection, it is very important to write down full references for all the material you use as you read each item. Then you can easily find partic
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6.2.3 Precise reference to ‘linear’ texts

You may find it more difficult to provide evidence from texts in which sounds, words or images follow on from one another over time (such as music and videos, plays and novels). Music is perhaps particularly hard to pin down. Sounds weave in and out of each other so that at first you may experience the music as seamless. But there are different ‘movements’ or ‘passages’ in music; moments at which a ‘melody’ is first introduced and later passages when it is repeated, for example. Y
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5.3 A ‘circle’ of understanding

It may seem as if analysing, interpreting and evaluating a text are ‘stages’ we go through, one after the other. But it's nothing like as mechanical as that. You do not analyse a text into separate parts, then ‘add up’ those parts to produce some interpretation of the whole, and then evaluate it. Rather, analysis–interpretation–evaluation are overlapping processes. They are different kinds of activity, as we have seen by looking at them separately. But when you try t
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4.3 Analysis and interpretation

We have got to the point of recognising that this is a lyric poem, and of thinking that it is probably about a lovers’ meeting. But you cannot reach firmer conclusions about a text's meanings until you have looked at as many aspects of it as you can. I think we need to go back again to the detail of the poem, because the analysis is not full enough yet.

For one thing, there is something odd about the poem's syntax. If you look at the verbs in the first verse you'll see that they are a
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4.1 Knowledge about context and author

After you had read the poem a few times, you no doubt pieced together that the ‘I’ of line 5 in the first verse, the speaker, is rowing in a boat at night. We probably realise that with the word ‘prow’. By the end of the first verse the boat is beached in a cove. The journey continues over the beach and fields to a farm (by foot, presumably, since we hear about no other means of transport). There the traveller meets someone. It appears that they exchange signals – the tap on the pan
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3.2 Carrying out an analysis

Here, then, is the two-verse poem we will focus on in the next few sections of the unit. As you see, I have left out the ends of the lines in the second verse. So it presents you with a kind of ‘puzzle’. (But I have included the punctuation, and added line numbers for ease of reference.)

  1. The grey sea and the long black land;

  2. And the yellow half-moon large and low;

  3. And the startled little waves that leap

  4. <
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2.1 Reading

Before you begin your interrogation of a text, though, you have to get to know it in a general way. In a sense, you can ‘see’ visual texts (such as paintings, sculptures and buildings) all at once; there they are before you. You can move around them, looking at them from different angles. But with written, aural and moving image texts – in which words, sounds or images follow on from one another – you cannot become familiar with the whole thing until
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Introduction

In this unit we turn to the nature of the arts and humanities themselves, and look at the main processes involved in studying them.

Broadly, when you study the arts and humanities you study aspects of culture. You explore people's ideas and beliefs, their cultural practices and the objects they have made. Human history is criss-crossed with the traces of people who did, said and made things and these people were to some extent aware of what they were doing. So all
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1 Communication

The basis of good communication seems very simple, it is speaking or writing clearly such that any message you (the sender) intend to send to someone else (the receiver) is exactly the one which they receive. This means that as well as the detailed content of the message, we have to give some thought to the language we use e.g. ask ourselves if the receiving person might misunderstand any words or phrases we use. We must also be aware of the way we deliver the message –
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Acknowledgements

The content acknowledged below is Proprietary (see terms and conditions). This content is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence

All materials included in this unit are derived from content originated at the Open University.


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9.8 Drawing ideas together

This key skill has used a three-stage framework for developing your skills. By developing a strategy, monitoring your progress and evaluating your overall approach, you take an active role in your own learning. But learning does not necessarily follow a path of steady improvement, it involves change: revisiting ideas, seeing things from different perspectives, tackling things in different ways.

You are unlikely to be able to complete your work by working through it from beginning to end
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9.7.3 Identify ways of further developing your skills in working with others

Use your assessment and reflective comments to suggest ways of improving your own performance in working with others. How do you intend to make these changes? Working in a group is a skill that you may need to go on developing throughout your course of study and in the workplace. All groups vary, and to enhance the performance of any group, as well as to help individual group members develop their skills, it is helpful to look at how the group has operated.

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9.7.1 Negotiate and develop effective ways of presenting the work

As you complete the project, you need to finalise how you will present the work making sure that all involved agree with the decisions. Identify the advantages and disadvantages of the working methods you and others in the group proposed. This may be in terms of resource requirements, legal, health and safety regulations, and so on.


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9.5.2a Exchange feedback

It is important to listen to, and take into account, the views and feelings of others. As a member of the group, you need to provide information on the extent to which your own work is meeting expected timescales and quality requirements: ask for and accept feedback from others on the way you are working and the quality of work being done. These skills take time to develop. Try to establish a climate for learning and developing your skills within the group so you can all actively benefit from
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