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CIPPET Study Support: Writing at level 7

This guide will help you find resources, understand academic and reflective writing and help you prepare for your coursework and exams

Introduction

Books

When at studying level 7 (Masters Level), your academic writing must reflect the level of critical analysis, synthesis and application to practice commensurate with this level of study.  

Studying at level 7 means developing your studying practices from those suited to being an independent learner to those suited to being an independent practitioner. You will be working at a more complex and sophisticated level, with a need for broader and more independently sourced resources. You will need not only to evaluate what other people have found but also to put your own knowledge and research into context. You will be expected to be meticulous and professional and show higher standards of scholarship. The advice on this page aims to explain some of the differences between undergraduate and Masters level study.

The full marking criteria for taught postgraduate study can be found at the link below, the information in this section of the guide interprets this information to the context in which you are doing your studies.

Tips for writing coursework at Masters level

Principles

Guidance on the requirements for assessments are included in the individual module handbooks.  Some overarching principles will apply across all the assessments for all practitioners:

  • Consider how you can analyse what you are writing to critique your role, the evidence and/or the outcome to show self-awareness of the implications to your practice
  • Avoid simple descriptions and presentation of ideas; try questioning each step in the process, and then use these questions to challenge your practice
  • When analysing situations ensure you consider the opinions of others, either through your workplace-based learning communication and/or the available evidence to produce an outcome i.e. an argument for what you perceive happened/should happen
  • Consider the accuracy, relevance, validity and contribution of evidence i.e. critically appraise the evidence
  • Ensure you bring in reflective elements to your writing, especially in your reflective accounts, remembering these sections should usually be written in the first person
  • When writing reflectively consider how your history/experiences have shaped your career and professional values i.e. how have you been influenced by the circumstances you are describing
  • Think about how you can show critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights in  professional practice

Key concepts of level 7 writing

Achievement of level 7 study includes:

  • ability to deal with complex problems, integrating theory to professional practice
  • make sound judgements and communicating your conclusions clearly
  • demonstrating self-direction in problem-solving
  • acting autonomously, using own initiative and taking personal responsibility for professional practice
  • critical awareness of professional practice, including self-reflection

A focused approach to your evidence

Not only are your assignments longer, but you are also expected to refer to a wider range of reading; it takes practice to integrate more sources and refer to them skillfully in your writing. You may find that even with a higher word count it is difficult to fit all you want to say in. Itis important to make every source work for you in backing up your points, and not waste words in describing unnecessary parts of the source.

You do not have to refer to each piece of evidence in the same depth. Sometimes you need to show that you understand the wider context of the issue, and a short summary of the key issue and key researchers is all that is needed.

For example:

Many studies have investigated household accidents caused by cheese. These studies disagree about the most significant reasons for cheese-based injury with some arguing that choking on cheese poses the highest risk (Muffet, 2008; Moon; 2009; Rennet, 2011). Other studies claim that burns from melted cheese are more hazardous (Rechaud, 1989; Rarebit, 2009), whilst a minority of recent studies have identified slipping on cheese as a growing danger (Skepper, 2011).

A significant amount of reading and in-depth understanding of the field is demonstrated in those sentences above. The summary maps out the state of current research and the positions taken by the key researchers.

Sometimes you need to go into greater depth and refer to some sources in more detail in order to interrogate the methods and standpoints expressed by these researchers. For example:

Skepper's recent study introduces a new model for assessing the relative dangers of cheese related-injuries (2011). He identifies the overall total damage done as more important than the frequency of injuries (Skepper, 2011). However, this model does not adequately take into account Archer's theory of 'Under-reporting' (2009) which states that people are less likely to report frequently occurring small accidents until a critical mass of injuries are reached.

Even in this more analytical piece of writing, only the relevant points of the study and the theory are mentioned briefly - but you need a confident and thorough understanding to refer to them so concisely.

Accuracy and awareness of complexity

Accurate and appropriate use of language in your writing is one way of demonstrating academic rigour. You will need to be more thoughtful about the way you use language.  Remember that the best writing style is clear and accurate, not unnecessarily complicated. 

If English is not your first language, there is more specialised support and advice available: see the International Study and Language Institute website for more details (link below).

At level 7 you cannot get away with writing about something that you only vaguely understand, or squeezing in a theory in the hope it will gain extra marks - your markers will be able to tell, and this does not demonstrate the accuracy or professionalism of a researcher.

Imagine you write the sentence: "Freudian psychoanalysis demonstrates how our personalities are developed from our childhood experiences."

At level 7, the word 'demonstrates' becomes very loaded and potentially inaccurate. This is because you are expected to interrogate the assumptions, boundaries, and way in which knowledge is constructed in your subject. With this in mind, the sentence above raises a lot of contextual questions: To what extent could Freud's theory of psychoanalysis really be said to 'demonstrate' the origins of our personalities? What part of Freud's many theories are you referring to when you write 'psychoanalysis'? What about the developments in psychoanalysis that have happened since Freud, and the many arguments against his theories? Your writing needs to take these questions into account, and at least be aware of them, even if you don't address all of them.

Do not just stop at discussing the pros and cons of a debate; academics rarely agree on interpretations of theories or ideas, so academic knowledge is more like a complex network of views than two clear sides.