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How to Write an Evidence-Based Review for Your Assignment: Tips and Guidance

Tips for Structuring Your Review

Evidence Based Reviews: as your assignment requires you to present an evidence-based review, it is useful to spend some time reading and reflecting on some real-life examples. Below you will find links to a range of reviews. You will see that they vary somewhat in their approach and layout, and of course your review has some flexibility in how it is presented too. However, they all broadly seek to do the same thing, namely to illustrate what is known about the topic in hand, identify what gaps in knowledge exist, and make informed suggestions about what works and what doesn't. This is done with the intention of telling the reader what is currently known about the issue, using both older information to provide context, but crucially setting out the very latest information at the time of writing. If governments and others are to use these reviews to inform policy, then they need to be acting on the most current information. The reviews can be found here: one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven. Remember these are just a few examples, and many more are available simply by searching online.

As you will know from the assessment instructions, you are required to include a number of sections. Below you will find some tips and hints about what might be included in each of these: You have been instructed to include:

A clear plan indicating what area/s your review will be based on

Here you will need to introduce your review and explain what area you will be reviewing. This obviously relates to your choice from the list of topics permitted. You should further state what particular aspects of the broader topic you will be referring to, and include some information about the types of information you intend to review.

Here you can expand on the specific questions and themes you intend to address, and explain why they matter. Given that the purpose of the review is to help inform policy it would be useful to outline the policy, or policy area, that you are concentrating on. You could set out the problem with a current policy and explain how your report will contribute to making that policy more effective. For the purposes of this assignment, a policy can be a formal response to any specified problem of youth crime or control, and can be general or specific. For example, prison itself is a type of policy in response to law breaking (very general), or policies on safeguarding young people in care, or privacy policies which protect children online - a few examples of many. The focus can also be on an intervention such as a ‘parenting order’ or ‘youth diversion intervention’ - just examples, again. Equally a law would also count as a ‘policy’ in that it constitutes a response to a given problem of youth crime/control.

Introducing Your Topic

This should form the bulk of your review, and should contain the evidence relating to your chosen topic. Remember that this needs to allow the reader to understand what is currently known about the issue in hand.

In this section you can highlight gaps in knowledge and understanding that have emerged from your review, and offer some thoughts about why these are important. You might also want to offer some suggestions about what needs to be done to fill these gaps, and what the implications of not knowing certain things might be on the policy in question.

Conclusions based on your review of this research

To conclude, you can reiterate what you think the key messages from your review are, and make evidence-based suggestions about what should happen in the future, including what action government could/should reasonably take.

Does the report need to be based in the UK?

No, it can be anywhere – just explain where it comes from in your report.

I am struggling with what to do with this assignment, where should I start?

Start by thinking about the areas of the module which you enjoyed the most. Then when you have narrowed this down, think about what kinds of policies or interventions are used to address the topic issues. It might be that you found the gangs lecture interesting, and you want to think about this as an area to focus on.

Yes, you may do so. 

What is the word count?

2500 words, with plus/minus 10%.

Are graphs/tables included in the word count?

Yes, anything which is included in the main report counts in the word count. i.e. all minus the reference list at the end.

Can I use newspaper sources?

Yes you can. I would emphasise that most of the sources should be academic, but a few newspaper references are fine. 

Do I need to use references in my review?

Yes, this is vital to get a good mark.

What kinds of reviews have people chosen before?

These have included reviews on policy areas relating to school exclusion (linked to preventing crime), addressing cyber-offending, alternatives to gang enforcement through early years prevention, the age of criminal responsibility, decriminalising youth crime, abolishing youth prisons for most offences/offenders, police-youth relationships through youth sports clubs, restorative justice in the youth justice system, family therapy as an effective solution to problems of intergenerational offending, to name a few.

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