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7.3 Drafting essays

As you may remember from Activity 4, the main elements of an essay are:

  • the introduction

  • the main body

  • the conclusion.


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7.2 Drafting reports

As you may remember from Activity 3, the three general principles of a report (whether it is of a social sciences investigation or a scientific experiment) are:

  • Why was it done?

  • How was it done?

  • What does it mean?

You will need to make some decisions, not only abo
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6.3.2 Stage 2 Create a mind map

Now you need to think about grouping the ideas, creating a flow for your assignment.

We started by grouping together our ideas and material for the essay on the possible advantages of being a mature student. This helped us to create a mind-map by seeing where links could be made and so made it much easier to decide where the weight of evidence was taking our argument (Author(s): The Open University

5.3 Researching

‘Research’ may sound rather a grand word for what you feel you do at this point of preparation for your assignment. Don't worry: essentially all it involves is finding out more about the topic in hand.

Let's use a dictionary as an example. In looking up a word, you are effectively ‘researching’ it. We tried looking up the word ‘research’ in a couple of standard dictionaries, not so much to find out what the word means, but to see if a definition might provide a useful slant
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5.1 Estimating the time for the task

First you need to know how much time you have available for your assignment. The pacing of your studies comes outside the scope of this unit, but it can be very de-motivating when you no longer feel in control of your studies because – for whatever reason – you have fallen behind. So it is extremely important to meet the deadlines set by the course team in your course calendar whenever possible.

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1 Good practice in writing

This unit is a general guide and will introduce you to the principles of good practice that can be applied to all writing. If you work on developing these, you will have strong basic (or ‘core’) skills to apply in any writing situation. For assistance with specific aspects of any course you are to study, always refer to any guidance notes or handbooks that have been provided.

This unit won't solve all your difficulties immediately; developing your writing skills is an ongoing proces
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8.5 Writing a project report

Finally, you write up your project report. It is important to recognise that this will go through several drafts. You can't just sit down and write a report on this sort of scale quickly or easily. You will have gathered far too much material for that. And it may take you a little while really to get into the writing. Towards the end of the research phase, as you face up to writing proper, you may reach a kind of plateau where nothing much seems to be going on. The excitement of the pl
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8.2 Formulating a question

When you make your own enquiries you draw on your existing knowledge of a discipline or subject area and decide on a specific question to explore; a question that is relevant to some aspect of the subject and which interests you. That means you must have some understanding of what the important questions and issues are in your subject area, and why they are important. In other words, you must have acquired appropriate ‘frameworks for thinking’ within it. That background ensures tha
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3.1 Why analyse?

Whatever kind of text you study, one of your main tasks is to try to understand it ‘as it is in itself’. That means analysing it. You have to examine it in detail so that you can see what it is made up of and how it ‘works’.

Just as you read, view or listen to different kinds of text in different ways, so you approach your analysis of them differently. In each case, you ask particular types of question using a specialised analytical language. We have
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9.7.2 Assess the effectiveness of your strategy

When you come to make a final assessment of the effectiveness of your strategy, you need to consider aspects such as how progress was made, the quality of the work, the working relationships of the group members, and how difficulties and problems were addressed. If you have been able to maintain good records from meetings, progress reports, and your own reflective comments, you should be able to look back and be objective about the work and strategy that the group developed. Use the goals you
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9.3.2 Identify what you hope to achieve

It is a good idea to know not only what you are trying to achieve, but also when you have achieved it, so it is important that your goals are clear and that you can easily measure your progress against them. Setting realistic targets, planning actions and modifying those plans in the light of experience are all part of developing this key skill, but this time they need to be done and negotiated within the group.

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8.1 Introduction to improving your skills in problem solving

This key skill develops your problem-solving skills in your studies, work or other activities over a period of time. To tackle this key skill, you will need to plan your work over at least 3–4 months to give yourself enough time to practise and improve your skills, to seek feedback from others, and to monitor your progress and evaluate your strategy.

Problem solving runs through many other activities and, rather like the key skill ‘Improving own learning and performance’, it can b
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6.5.1 Explore different information sources

Where and how are you going to look for your information? Finding information effectively involves being aware of techniques for locating and digging out the relevant information. Find out about how the sources you have identified are organised and indexed, and formulate your questions appropriately.

Set up different search strategies and criteria to explore alternative lines of enquiry. If you need to search for, evaluate and select information from the Internet or other databases, fin
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7.2 Developing a strategy

Present notes or records to show you have planned your use of number skills. Include:

  • the goals you hope to achieve for your number skills over 3–4 months or so, taking into account the work you have to do and your current capabilities;

  • notes about the resources you might use and the information you need to research to achieve your goals; for example, discussions and econferences, online resources, skills books, course materials, wo
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8 Part B: Evidencing your IT skills

This Part requires you to present a portfolio of your work to demonstrate that you have used and integrated your IT skills within your study or work activities to achieve the standard required. For example, you might include learning about new software for a particular task, using databases and other resources more effectively in searching for information, setting up and using different ways of communicating and sharing information, setting up and using computer-based models to predict, expla
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3 Key skills assessment units

This section gives advice and guidance to help you compile and present a portfolio of selected work. You are strongly advised to read through this section so that you have an idea of what is expected.

The key skills assessment units provide an opportunity for you to integrate your development of key skills with your work or study. You may choose to concentrate on skills that you need to develop and improve for your job, for a new course, or personally to help you keep abreast of new dev
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Acknowledgements

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

1. Join the 200,000 students currently studying with The Open University.


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Learning direct

This is a telephone line that was set up in the middle of 1998, to help adults to find out about local provision. The number is 0800 100 900. Lines are open 08.00. to 22.00 everyday. Calls are free and you can ring as many times as you like. There is also a comprehensive website at www.learndirect.co.uk.


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4.9 When there's too much to do

This can be a real problem in large conferences. If, for whatever reason, you join a conference later than the other participants, or are unable to be involved for a while, the prospect of joining in can be a bit daunting. There will be lots of messages you haven't read and you may feel that everyone else knows each other.

The main thing to remember is that everyone will be pleased to ‘see’ you when you do join in, and will be helpful and supportive. Here are some strategies you can
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4.6 Not knowing what to say

It's perfectly possible to learn from what other people say without contributing anything yourself. After all, at a face-to-face tutorial some people won't say anything, perhaps because they feel shy. Working online means you can't see other people smiling in encouragement, so it can be hard to take the plunge and join in.

One good thing about online discussions is that they generally happen over a longer period. This gives you plenty of time to think about what you want to say, and eve
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