How to Write Academic Coursework
Academic coursework is gaining popularity and contrasts with – or can replace – writing of essays or exams, to prove to examiners that students have covered ground. Coursework is assigned to students when they enroll in a degree or diploma course, and it is usually calculated as part of the grade achieved in the course.
There are elements of coursework which resemble – or are constructed to run along the lines of – laboratory work, other kinds of experimental work such as polls, surveys and other observational studies, or can include scientific research, in subject such as the sciences, where it is difficult to prove coverage of material through exams.
Depending on the subject matter, some coursework comprises a dissertation, or the student can be required to undertake an essay or report, especially in arts subjects. The conditions under which these are written vary. Students can be assigned a period up to several weeks to complete the work, and are frequently permitted the use of texts, their own notes, and the internet, to carry out research.
Steps to Carry out Successful Coursework
- Understand what is required from the course outline
- Obtain appropriate guidance from instructors
- Take specific and meticulous notes: do not take shortcuts
- Never miss any sessions or lectures
- Read and re-read all course material
- Adopt an effective methodology
- Seek advice from fellow students
- Help others: this embeds your own knowledge
- Use online resources advisedly
- Never copy or plagiarize materials
Proper topic selection accounts for a large portion of your academic coursework, therefore it is important to make a reasonable and balanced choice. There are several ways to pick a suitable topic. Sometimes a simple consultation with your tutor may help you narrow down your subject to a certain topic. However, it might happen that you will need to decide on your own. To do so, move from universals to particulars. Brainstorming and mind-mapping techniques will help you a lot.
First of all, define the field for your future research; say, it is American literature. Then decide on a school: romanticism, realism, decadency, beat, and so on. For example, you can choose Beat literature, and one of it’s brightest representatives, Jack Kerouac. Keep on narrowing the subject down: choose one of his novels – let it be “On the Road”. Now, think over problems, characters, events, and relationships, described in the novel. After you have finished with all the procedures as previously stated, your topic for the coursework on American literature might sound like, “The Personality of Dean Moriarty as an Incarnation of Freedom Created by Jack Kerouac.”
And finally, remember, that a good academic coursework can be written only if the topic is of interest to you. So, when choosing it, decide for yourself whether you are delighted with it or not.
Key Points to Consider
- Academic coursework usually culminates in a dissertation. All work should be carried out with the aim of increasing knowledge and accumulating material that is useful for the dissertation.
- Working towards a dissertation is not an easy task: tell yourself you can do hard things if you assign enough time, enough concentration, enough discipline and enough dedication to the subject matter.
- Choose topics you are naturally and characteristically inclined towards: do not allow others to tell you what you like or what your personal aspirations and ambitions are.
- Collect all the research matter for your dissertation in a methodical way. Structure your folders in a way that accessing material is easy and logical. Do not be casual: correct writing in taking notes will lead to correct writing for the end paper.
- Understand what style is required in a dissertation: academic language and writing style are necessary at all times. Do not use slang, jargon, informal language or colloquialisms that will lose marks.
- Persuasive techniques must be used in an effective manner to argue the value or otherwise of the texts you have studied. Support all claims and factual statements with appropriate references and in-text citations that conform to the chosen style you are required to use. Check whether you will have to conform to APA, MLA or Chicago/Turabian styles, and learn the fine detail of what the styles entail.
- The most common techniques of persuasive and effective writing appeal to emotion, to evidence, and to facts supported by citation. Ensure you observe some sort of philosophy such as logic.
- A dissertation does not merely mimic or echo the decisions and opinions that others have made in the past. You must find your own arguments and your own decisions after you question everything, analyze, and propose the most suitable options, views and attitudes.
Dos and Don’ts
- Undertaking a poll or a survey with no preparation. All surveys must be thoughtfully constructed to provide outcomes compatible with what the study seeks to prove or disprove.
- Lack of planning: this is easily discovered by the board of examiners. Readers perceive lack of structure, and can easily see evidence of poor research, which costs students valuable marks.
- Planning that does not allow flexibility. Not all research goes according to plan, because of personal reasons, lack of resources, time constraints and ordinary things, such as the weather, or the plans of other people and the length of semesters. Flexibility and good time management are of the essence.
- No dissertation can be perfect after the first attempt. Only many re-writes and consultations with course instructors and supervisors will obtain a reasonable outcome.
- Use of appropriate materials, formulating a well-designed outline, finding helpful group members, keeping to a budget, and understanding course content are all important aspects: ignoring even one of these elements can be detrimental.
- Use of irrelevant materials or inaccurate vocabulary can be disadvantageous. The vocabulary of a dissertation must be compatible with the discipline and the specific topic. Applicable mathematics and theatre studies, for example, are two subjects that employ vastly different language, terms of reference, and expressions. Understanding how language works in different subjects is a vital aspect of the preparation stage of any dissertation.
- Building a whole dissertation upon a single personal opinion is a common error. All students need to present an alternate perspective to their own, which is well reinforced by sound references.
- Using outdated references is a common mistake. This problem is difficult to overcome if you are studying in a foreign country, or in an isolated location. Many libraries have outdated literature, which – for subjects such as ICT, electrical engineering, telephony and mining – are considerably behind the current stage of development. It is important always to use the most recent references available.
- Insufficient drafting can lead to a number of errors. Writing too few drafts is always a risk, and proofing never takes place of proper functional editing, which looks into the logic of each phrase and clause, as well as whether all spelling and punctuation is used correctly.
- Using the wrong writing style is an fault often found by examiners. Conversational style is not appropriate for academic papers. Holding a verbal debate with others is not the same as writing a cohesive and persuasive expository essay. There are rules to which a careful student must conform. Showing ignorance of these rules is unwise.
- Too few or too many references is a considerable flaw. Overloading a dissertation with too many expert quotes from the literature, or using a plethora of unrelated facts, can leave too little room for new ideas or theories. A dissertation must propose some new take or concept which will be studied and questioned by others.
Now that you have acquainted yourself with the basic academic coursework writing tips and rules, you can check the best academic coursework samples to link theory with practice.