GUIDELINES TO WRITTEN ASSIGNMENTS
This page brings together guidelines explaining the different types of course requirements you may encounter in your studies at the University of Lapland.
Answers on examinations
Formal structure of essays, written exercises and theses
Use of sources in written work
Please remember that you should always check specific course descriptions for details on the written work required. It is also well worth your while to consult the guide General Guidelines for Academic Writing.
A good answer on an examination is a clear, well-organized whole that shows you have understood what has been asked. A rambling, run-on answer shows that the student has not grasped how issues matters are connected or what the core of the topic is. You might want to sketch out the structure of your answer on scratch paper first so that you can structure the paragraphs of the final answer logically. Your answer should start with an introduction, followed by paragraphs presenting the relevant content – the body of the essay - and ending with a paragraph setting out your conclusions. A mere bulleted list of facts is not acceptable. In addition, you should check the language of your answer for accuracy and make sure the handwriting is legible. The content of your answer should address what has been asked and not bring in material that is beside the point.
Answers are not graded based on length and there is no sense in padding answers to make them longer. An answer that is too short, on the other hand, might well show inadequate mastery of the material. The basic guideline is to write as much as you feel is necessary to cover the core issues.
A good examination answer shows that the student
- can answer to the point and comprehensively;
- has read the relevant literature well;
- is able to include the debate related to the topic;
- has ideas of his/her own on the topic, but his/her answer is more than just an opinion.
Assessment of examination answers
In basic studies, students are expected to have understood the basic ideas and basic concepts involved in the material being tested. At the subject studies level, students are also expected to provide justifications for arguments and to understand linkages between issues. An examination answer in advanced studies should form a well-organized piece of writing in which the student demonstrates his/her ability to critically analyse the relevant views in a broad context.
Examinations are usually graded on a scale from 1 to 5; in some cases, the grading is pass/fail.
An essay is a piece of academic writing in which a student examines the literature he/she has read in terms of a particular question or topic and presents his/her views in an organized and analytical way. An essay does not involve summarizing of literature, but rather reflection on and analysis and critiquing of the material.
An essay is a coherent piece of writing that draws on more than one source. Please discuss the topic in advance with the teacher in charge of the course. Your essay should then discuss the topic mentioned in the title in light of the books and scientific articles you have read. You can choose a particular angle from which to approach the topic or question (e.g. in terms of theory, methodology or societal phenomena). An essay should show original thought on your part and a critical assessment of the sources you have read.
An essay begins with an introduction that arouses the reader’s interest, presents the issues to be dealt with and provides guidance for the reader on how you plan to proceed.
It is a good idea to break down the body of the essay into sections, using appropriate headings.
The concluding section should “bring it all together” by summarizing briefly what you have said, presenting your conclusions and putting forward any new questions these may prompt.
An essay cites the references, including page numbers, on which the writer relies, and includes a bibliography of the literature cited.
The length of an essay depends on the number of credits it carries.
Assessment of essays
Essays are graded on a scale from 1 to 5. The assessment is based on the following criteria:
- how well the writer deals with the topic
- how well he/she justifies the points presented
- how clearly and logically the writer expresses his/her views
- how well the writer uses sources.
The assessment also considers the writer’s conclusions, although there are very rarely “right answers”. The overall structure of the essay is evaluated using the following criteria:
- Does the opening paragraph provide an effective account of the main aims of the essay and the points of view to be presented in it?
- Does the text proceed logically?
- Does the essay lack anything essential?
- How well are the writer’s own views justified?
- It is a point in the essay’s favour if the student has used an extensive range of sources or, for example, a set of data.
A book review written as a course requirement is similar to those found in academic journals. The writer tries to give the reader a succinct picture of the content of the book, that is, the questions it addresses, its theoretical points of departure and its principal conclusions. If the book is a single piece of research, the review should also describe the methodology used. Your opinion of the book should be well argued and should focus mainly on the content. A review can be rounded out with ideas it has given you, for example, in light of your own experiences. A book review cannot be a mere summary or mechanical description of the content of the book. The following points should be kept in mind when writing a review:
- Give an assessment of the content and the book’s principal contribution.
- State your view of how well the author has accomplished his/her purpose in writing the book.
- Describe how the work relates to other literature in the field or to other works by the same author.
- Be critical but present grounds for your criticism and give your own views on the content of the book.
For example, you can explore the Internet, the library or academic journals to determine what else the author has written and how his/her work is situated in the academic discipline involved.
The structure of a book review is the same as that of an essay: introduction, body and conclusion.
The length of a book review varies.
Here are some questions you might like to consider:
What is the author’s approach? What are his/her research questions?
What kinds of methods and sources does the author use?
Has the scope of the work – what it does and does not deal with – been successfully defined?
What are the style and structure of the book like?
Does the book produce new knowledge?
Does the author adequately justify his/her opinions and results?
For whom is the book intended and to whom would you recommend it?
What is the book’s place among the other works in the field or in the research landscape?
Assessment of a book review
The assessment criteria for book reviews are largely the same as those for essays.
A lecture journal consists of an analysis of one’s own lecture notes. The aim is to give additional thought to issues, ideas and questions that have come up in the course lectures by commenting on them and relating the content of the lectures to other learning and one’s own interests. A lecture journal is not a mere summary of the lectures: students should present the course content succinctly and analytically using questions and perspectives of their own choice and reflecting on what they have learned.
The following are questions you might want to consider when compiling a lecture journal: Which of the topics covered in the course are particularly important for your own subject and for you personally? What novel connections between questions, perspectives and issues did the course bring to light for you? What all in all did the course teach you?
If you do not have an opportunity to take part in every lecture, you can always ask a fellow student what was covered in a session you missed. Note in the journal that you were not present then and that what you have to say is based on a particular book and/or article. As the course is a lecture course, what you learn in the lectures forms the primary basis for the journal.
In writing up the journal, you may organize it by session or in terms of relevant topics, questions, perspectives. A journal is by nature a summary of one’s lecture notes, augmented by comments, remarks and criticism.
The best approach is to write your lecture journal on a continuous basis throughout the course.
Use headings to break down and bring organization to the content.
At the beginning of the journal, write down the name of the course, the course code, the number of credits the course carries, as well as your name, student number and major subject
The length of your journal will vary depending on the number of credits the course carries.
Assessment of lecture journals
Lecture journals are assessed on a scale from 1 to 5 or pass/fail. A well-written and well-thought-out journal is a pleasure to write and to read. The journal will receive a failing grade if many sessions are missing, if the student writing it clearly has a poor grasp of what the lectures dealt with or if the journal contains no more than disjointed notes. And it is good to know that the instructor will notice very easily indeed if you weren’t at a particular lecture.
A grade of excellent (4) or outstanding (5) will be given to a journal that shows original thought as well as the student’s own evaluation of and reflections and comments on the topics dealt with in the lectures. A grade of 4 or 5 requires that the journal has an entry for each lecture.
A grade of good (3) differs from excellent or outstanding in that the student has been content to merely summarize the main content of the lectures without adding his/her own evaluation or contextualizations.
A grade of poor (1) or satisfactory (2) is given where the journal is no more than the student “writing down on paper what was heard” but where he/she has nevertheless attended the lectures and made an effort to understand most of what was presented.
A learning journal is a reflective piece of writing based on the lectures forming part of a course. In it the student examines the ideas and experiences prompted by the lectures and lecture notes. The journal is not a written account of the lectures or a copy of the written materials given out at the lectures, but rather the student’s original analysis of and reflection on the topics and issues dealt with in the sessions. The function of the journal is to help the student form a personal perspective on what he/she has learned and to encourage him/her to reflect on content and to assess his/her progress. The journal is an opportunity for the student to articulate his/her learning process.
In writing a learning journal, students might find it helpful to consider the following questions: What novel connections between questions, perspectives and issues did the course bring to light for you? Were you able to connect what you learned from lectures to a wider context and your previous knowledge or experiences related to the topic? How important did you consider the topic to be and why? What did you learn from the lectures? To what extent did you achieve your personal goals for the course? What are the things that you would still like to learn about this subject?
Use headings to break down and bring organization to the content.
At the beginning of the journal, write down the name of the course, the
course code, the number of credits the course carries, as well as your
name, student number and major subject
The length of a learning journal varies depending on the number of credits the course carries and the journal is generally grade on a pass/fail basis.
You may have the opportunity to complete some of your studies in the form of a reading circle. The tutor may be a student in a later year in the same subject or a teacher. A reading circle may also operate on a peer-moderated basis, that is, without a teacher-tutor. In this last case, the circle must have their work plan approved in advance by the teacher or other person responsible for the course. A reading circle requires active participation by its members and, depending on the scope of the course, may also require an essay or other piece of writing.
1. Structure of the work
Cover page with title and identifying information (assignment, name of course, student’s name, and student number (in parentheses))
Date (e.g. autumn 2009; date of presentation in the case of seminar papers)
Table of contents (in presentations, research papers and other long pieces of writing)
The paper proper
Appendices (if any)
Font: Times New Roman 12
Line spacing: 1.5
Moderate margins (2-3 cm) on the top, bottom, left and right; the left-hand margin should be at least 3 cm.
Paragraphs should be separated by a blank line.
Pages are numbered continuously starting with the cover page. However, the cover page has no page number on it. The following page is page 2. Page numbering continues through the pages of the bibliography.
The paper is divided into sections using main headings and subheadings. These are numbered (1, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2, 2.1, 2.2, etc.). There should be at least at least two headings at each level.
4. Tables and figures
All tables and figures should be numbered (tables and figures separately) and given captions. Captions are placed above a table and below a figure, as in Figure 1 and Table 1 below:
Figure 1. The number of new infringement cases brought before the Court of Justice (EU-15) between 1997 and 2004. Source: Eurostat / Court of Justice of the European Communities.
Table 1. The total number of new infringement cases brought before the Court of Justice by each member state (EU-15) during the period 1997 to 2004.
Source: Eurostat / Court of Justice of the European Communities.
The text should refer to all tables and figures used in it.
If a table, figure, and/or the information they contain originate from a source other than the author, the source must be identified either at the end of the caption or below the table or figure.
A central element of academic writing is the use of references, and all written assignments must follow standard conventions for citing sources. The purpose of references is to indicate the origin of, for example, an idea, theory or a fact. References also help the reader to find more information on the topic. Furthermore, the reader must be able to determine which part of text is the author’s/student’s own analysis, discussion or information based on his/her own research, and which part is from other sources, such as books or articles. Therefore the students must include a reference in the text whenever the information presented comes from a written or other identifiable source. The only time when a reference is not necessary is when the piece of information is something that is commonly known to the presumed readership of the text (i.e. the information is general knowledge or a commonly agreed fact in a particular field).
The sources of all references in the text must be found in the bibliography and all sources in the bibliography must be cited in text.
Citation of sources is an essential practice in scientific scholarship. It is through references that the text becomes part of the narrative of the academic community. References also signal to the reader that the author subscribes to the rules and principles of the academic community. They show that the author has familiarized him-/herself with the subject-matter and is competent to write about it. Indicating sources is not a mere technical formality: science cannot be written without other texts, that is, sources.
Please check how to cite different types of sources here: https://www.library.cornell.edu/research/citation/apa