Written assessments: Marking criteria

In the run up to assessments, I’m running two workshops in the coming weeks:

  • Essay Structure and Assessment Criteria (02/03/2017)
  • Presentations and Poster/Pitch (30/03/2017)

As examiners, members of staff will be marking your essays and presentations based on objective criteria.

Note: If you want to access the marking sheet in the LLM Programme Handbook, which can be accessed online via Blackboard. The LLM Handbook is a handy reference point because it gives you examples of dissertation title pages, permission form for the dissertation, and deadlines.

For written assessments, examiners are looking for 5 main elements, which you should bear in mind as a ‘checklist’ to see whether you are meeting all of the following criteria.

  1. Identification of the principal legal concepts and issues – i.e. what are the main legal problems or relevant laws?
  2. Understanding of the law – your ability to apply the law to the question/issue you’re examining.
  3. Critical analysis – Synthesis of the legal arguments, law, theories, ideas for reform and the wider context, as well as engaging with academic literature.
  4. Originality and creativity – Are you adopting an interesting stance or arguing in a persuasive way that reflects solutions/challenges with regards to the law?
  5. Research process and presentation – Spelling/grammar, use of OSCOLA, bibliography, structure of your essay, use of subtitles and clarity of your work.

Of course, the above is just a short summary of the marking criteria and feedback sheet, which is more detailed (see: LLM Programme Handbook). But it gives you a quick introduction as a starting point.

 

 

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Handy Tip: Using Google ‘Define’

When studying law, understanding the terms that you use and how to use them is important. This is because a level of precision regarding language is needed within legal studies.

A lecturer once told me, “You can physically take a glass out onto the terrace, but you may not!” In these circumstances, knowing the difference between ‘must’, ‘shall’, ‘may’, ‘can’ or ‘cannot’ may help with your essay writing. It can improve the style of your writing and make the central argument and analysis more convincing.

Other times, you will be expected to use specialist legal terminology. If you are unsure, you  you should look up the terms in a legal dictionary. There are lots of physical copies of legal dictionaries in the UWE library, as well as, electronic copies that you can access online.

Additionally, you may read something in a journal article or book that you may not understand. I often underline this word and use ‘Google define’ to help me understand what it is and write a note in the margin to myself.

Using Google, if you type ‘define’ and then the word that you are looking for, it acts as an online dictionary. For example, if I were looking for the term ‘sanction’, I would type in ‘define sanction’ into Google. A box with definitions will then appear on your browser, like below!

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Just be aware that there may be one or more definitions for a given word. A sanction in law means something different from that used in ‘normal English’, so in that case, it would be worthwhile to consult a dictionary specifically for law.

Workshop: Assessment Criteria & Essay Structure

It was lovely seeing you at the workshop on ‘Assessment Criteria & Essay Structure’ yesterday.

Here are the slides that were used: Assessment Criteria Powerpoint Slides

We highlighted that it is important to have a good structure to help develop your arguments and make it easier or the reader/marker to understand the point that you are trying to make. To do so, we revisited the burger analogy from an earlier post.parts-of-a-paragraph

A good essay like a burger, will have an introduction (the bread bun), analysis (the filling – with different/separate components that support each other) and a conclusion (the bread bun base). It should have a logical and coherent structure, where the central argument is evident and the sections complement each other.

  1. Introduction

The introduction should outline the rationale behind your approach/work – that is, why it is relevant. Also, what is relevant i.e. what law you will use; scope and limitations – recognising the parameters of the task, as well as, your central argument. From there, it should also briefly touch upon how you’re going to answer the question, which primarily refers to the structure of your essay e.g. Part 1… Part 2… Part 3…

2. Analysis

In a burger, the ‘filling’ is arguably the best ‘bit’ of the burger, so the analysis should be the main section and ‘best bit’ or bulk of your essay. It will be formed of different components, which should be linked to each other and your central argument.

As per the assessment criteria, you should:

  • Summarise and synthesise issues arising from the law;
  • Be able to use academic arguments to support your work in a concise manner;
  • Be able to engage with these academic arguments;
  • Narrow and focus on relevant issues;
  • Consider areas for reform or recommendations

(For further details, please refer to the LLM Assessment Criteria in the LLM Programme Handbook, which can be found on UWE Blackboard).

To help your analysis, sub-headings can help ‘sign-post’ different aspects of your work and help break it down into specific sections.

3. Conclusion

The conclusion will finish your essay. It should link back to your introduction and the central argument that you introduced and summarise the earlier analysis. Because you’ll have already undertaken the analysis, the conclusion can draw on these earlier arguments. It should be noted that the conclusion is not a place to introduce new arguments or concepts.

 

 

 

Essay Structure

In this post, you can access an example of an LLM essay:  Example essay

This essay has been annotated to give an explanation of how essay structure has been used to answer the question. It must be stressed that there are many ways to structure an essay, and that a lot will depend on your personal writing style, the topic and the argument/s you wish to build. This example is intended only to show how structure may be used to form an answer, and illustrate the importance of structure within essays.

Please note: If you have problems downloading the essay, open the folder containing the download, right click on the file, and open with Microsoft Word.

If comments aren’t appearing on the right, you can click on the comment icon and this will open the comment bar.

Saving your work: OneDrive

Did you hear the story of the student whose computer was stolen and their coursework on it? Or the story where the student was in the middle of writing an important paper and there was a power cut?

(The last one was me recently, when there was a power cut on Frenchay campus!)

Or the broken USB stick the day of the oral assessment?

No, these are not horror stories to scare you, they are simply things that happened to friends or even myself! When you lose your work, it’s so frustrating trying to remember what you’ve written or retracing your thoughts, plus it eats into your time for assessments.

In the past, there weren’t many options available, but now you have all sorts of ways of saving:

  • On your computer
  • Google Drive
  • USB stick
  • OneDrive
  • Dropbox
  • Portable hard drive

Handy tip: It’s always good to save more than 1 copy of your work. Just in case something happens! I’ve had USB drives suddenly corrupt, but have always been thankful I keep a spare copy of my work on OneDrive.

Did you know you have 1Tb of cloud storage online as part of your UWE account?

You can access it via email. This can be accessed anywhere via your browser at home or at university or even your mobile phone.

How to access:

Click the little squares in the top left screen after logging into your UWE email. Then click ‘Onedrive’.

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You then can upload relevant documents by clicking the button ‘upload’.

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Not only that, you can make files available to friends and edit the same document at the same time! Here’s what you do:

Click the share icon and email friends. If you give them permission to edit, they can save their changes on the file without the tiresome job of emailing or messaging each other to and fro via email or Facebook!

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Satisfying Assessment Criteria with a Restrictive word Limit

This is a short post aimed predominantly at those of you on the International Banking and Finance Law module, but also, hopefully, useful advice in general for constructing arguments and satisfying the assessment criteria.

Question:       “I am not able to answer the blog questions as the issues discussed are too broad and cannot be answered within 583 words!”

Critically consider this statement, and demonstrate how a blog answer can be achieved within 583 words.

Answer:

A blog answer can be completed in 583 words, the answer should have 1 principal argument, supported by 2 main points; this reduces the size of the answer, while still satisfying the assessment criteria, further by selecting 2 arguments relevant to the main argument, the answer may be focussed and concise. If required, a very short definition may be provided in the introduction, but it may be more beneficial to refer the reader to a definition using a reference.[1]

Having a clear statement at the beginning of the answer will tell the reader which issue the answer will address; this immediately begins to fulfil criterion 1 of the assessment criteria; identifying the key concepts and legal issues.[2]  This approach also helps to create an engaging answer. For instance, Jackson and Newberry argue that “the purpose of an argument, and thus an argumentative essay, is to convince the reader of some- thing, an inviting and compelling introduction is vital.[3] Jackson and Newberry claim this is to demonstrate the importance of the issue and to make it clear to the reader what point the essay will make.[4]

Secondly this approach will begin to demonstrate analysis and evaluation; having identified the concept, the issue is then framed by 2 arguments that support the conclusion. In considering just 2 supporting points this will naturally limit the length of the answer, but still allow around 150 words to explore the argument.

When only a limited number of words are available, being able to focus on the relevant points is vital; only selecting the 2 most relevant points will allow the essay to be focussed, only discussing those points supporting the main argument. By labelling these 2 points and keeping them in mind when writing the answer, losing focus may be avoided. The skills required for successful blog answers include being concise; the marker is fully aware that the answer will not, and cannot address the entire issue. When selecting 2 points, ensure these points support the main argument of the essay, or select one supporting point and one counter point, the important point here is that the 2 supporting points relate directly to the main argument of the essay. An answer can make reference to additional issues to demonstrate awareness, but the bulk of the word count should be prioritised to the 2 main points.

If the essay is to cover additional points these should only be summarised, this would naturally come before the conclusion or as part of it. In order to write a high scoring answer, the writer will need to demonstrate originality and creativity.[5] This can also be demonstrated within this framework as the writer can show these skills through the argument they choose to make. A well thought out main argument, supported by 2 main points can “evidence an ability to independently appraise knowledge.[6]

In selecting 2 points to support a main argument it can be seen that the assessment criteria can be satisfied; by following this format the writer can be analytical, also demonstrating originality and creativity. Secondly the essay can remain focussed on the issue set out by the author; as well as setting a clear structure for the reader, and the use of 2 key points can focus the mind of the writer too, allowing them to be concise. Keeping to a simple structure will allow the writer to clearly convey an argument, and if they choose to, still inform the reader that there are other elements to the issue.

 

[Word Count – 582 Words]

[1] For more on what a critical blog is see C. Jones, ‘How to write a critical blog’ <https://blackboard.uwe.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/pid-5167762-dt-content-rid-9932985_2/xid-9932985_2&gt; accessed 07 November 2016.

[2] E. Grant and L. Singh-Rodrigues, LLM Programme Handbook (UWE, Bristol, 2016) at p.64.

[3] D. Jackson and P. Newberry, Critical Thinking: A User’s Manual (Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2016) at p.287.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Criterion 4 of the assessment criteria: E. Grant and L. Singh-Rodrigues, LLM Programme Handbook (UWE, Bristol, 2016) at p.64.

[6] Ibid.