• Chris Ireland

What assignment feedback will you get? (Part 1: citation)

A few years ago we did some research into the feedback that university students received from their lecturers on their written assignments. We wanted to find out what the most common feedback items were that students received on their assignments and then work out how we could make sure that the feedback was effective, or even better, that students were aware of the most common issues that lecturers give feedback on before submitting their assignments.

Making sure you attend to the types of things that your lecturers value will ensure that you get the highest credit possible for your assignment. It means that when reading the assignment, your lecturer will not be distracted from what you are saying and is less likely to need to stop to write feedback about something you could have easily avoided.

You lecturer will probably provide feedback by writing a general comment in a few paragraphs which gives their overall impression of your work. It will probably use the language of the marking criteria. Now if at this point you are saying to yourself, ‘What marking criteria?’ then you need to find them. They will exist but might have a different name, such as, ‘Grading Rubric’ or ‘Assessment Grading Sheet’. It is important you become familiar with it and if there is anything you don’t understand or are unsure about then you must ask your lecturer. If you don’t become familiar with it then you will not be sure about what you need to do to complete an ‘A’ grade assignment.

As well as the general comment about your work, the assignment will probably have some comments written on it. It is this that I want to focus on in this blog. We used the research we conducted on the feedback to design short videos addressing the most common feedback items provided by lecturers. In turn, over the years since we carried out the research, we have kept data which tells us which videos have been accessed by students most often. So combining what we know from both sets of data we have an idea of what students need to know and want to know about academic writing.

In this blog I am going to focus on citation. Comments from lecturers on student writing such as, ‘A citation is required’, ‘Citation missing’, or ‘Reference to source needed’ were the most common in our research. We therefore thought that a short screencast showing what this was would be useful as we knew that a large number of students would not know what a citation was. Watch this very short screencast to find out if you are not sure.

So now you know what a citation is but it is important to know why you need to include them. Your lecturers will expect to see citations in most parts of your academic writing. Making sure that you include citations to show where you have found information in your writing is essential. Without them your writing is not be what your lecturer is expecting. There are some students who will say, “But the idea that I have written is my idea.” This is fine but the idea must have some foundation. It must have evolved from something which inspired it. It is important to show this in your writing. You should therefore research these ideas. There is a very good chance that you will find something very similar to idea that you have. You should then cite this in your writing to show support for the idea that you have. If you want to make a very strong point then you can include more than one citation to support an idea. You might do this to show that evidence can be found in different contexts or can be supported by experts from different perspectives.

Some students have said, "By supporting ideas and evidence throughout their assignment means that students show no originality". However, this is wrong. The originality come from how you have put the ideas together and developed an arguement from them. By doing this you provide your unique insight even though the components may have been used many times before.

Supporting the ideas and evidence you include in your assignments with citations is important from as early as possible in your assignment. So by supporting your initial points in your introduction, it sends a message to your lecturer that you have written something which is likely to be academic. This then continues through your writing to support the arguments you develop.

So that is citation but there are a number of other topics which are popular too. We will publish the screencasts of some of these and write a little about them over the coming days.

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