Now some of you have asked a pertinent question here and in the other Assignment 2 relevant threads: “How are we meant to write to the word count in some of these sections?” This is a very good point – most of the sections are worth the same (5 marks) and thus you should expect to write roughly the same amount for each of these sections. That means you should be aiming for roughly 200-250 words per section worth 5 marks, and budget for maybe half that for the sections worth less (to meet the 1575 word count maximum). The most common mistake is not sorting through information adequately, and putting barely a few lines for each question, then throwing all the remaining 1,000+ words in Question 6. You need to elaborate on those sections that you think are a ‘one-line answer’, and be parsimonious in the sections that you feel need more detail than the others… they are all worth 5 marks. There is no point allocating all your word count to the intricate detail of the methodology and getting a full 5 marks, but then receiving a 1 for every other section due to a lack of elaboration.
In an earlier practical exercise you had great practice in summarising an article you had selected from the databases, so you’ve already got the hang of summarising key points effectively. The next trick is applying this to ‘flesh out’ key points up to 200-250 words in order to earn your 5 marks. This is tough because it is difficult to elaborate on something whilst still maintaining parsimony – it almost seems like these two are polar opposites! Actually, they aren’t, and being able to carry a message to a reader with enough information to facilitate understanding (whilst excluding superfluous information) is a very important skill in academic writing.
The difficulty in Assignment 2 will revolve around elaborating on some of the items and being concise in description at the same time. For example, once you have written two sentences for Q5, what more would you be able to say without just wasting space? You might have just said “Participants for this study consisted of twenty adult male/female X species. They were collected from Y (name of zoo, laboratory, etc.) and were selected for Z (characteristics if there were defining sampling criteria).”
Instead, think about it this way - you only have 250 words (at most) with which to explain this aspect of the research to the reader, who needs to have a high understanding of the research from your article summary without ever reading the article themselves. Now it seems much harder to fit in to 250 words. Let’s say that you wrote something similar to the example above (only two sentences). If ‘X’ was ‘chimpanzees’, you should probably give another sentence or two about why chimpanzees were chosen for the study (did they select an animal close to humans to perhaps find out more about us?). If Y was a zoo, where is it? Why did they choose it? Perhaps the main author works there? Or is this the only zoo in the researcher’s country where this particular animal species resides? If Z was that they selected animals with a history of a condition (say, Cardio-Vascular Disease), give a brief definition of CVD for the reader. How does it apply to this animal? Are they testing this because it is a commonly found condition in that species?
Suddenly 250 words seems like a very small amount to fit all of this interesting information in! Certainly, you won’t find all these kind of answers in the paper, so you should only write down what is contained therein – you couldn’t, for example, suggest that the researchers selected that particular zoo just due to proximity, unless in the article they specifically state that (or the authors themselves otherwise told you!). Nevertheless, when you are reading with a critical mind, you’ll be able to see that there are a lot of things to write about in each section. If in doubt, explain a key term or technique, describe a little more about the background of the study, or detail why the researchers selected to do ‘XYZ’.