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Guide to writing assignments

Assessment for the CIPR qualifications involves submission of written assignments and you are expected to undertake a wide range of relevant reading of academic, industry and media sources (online/offline) to develop your understanding of the syllabus and to demonstrate this understanding through your writing. Assignments must be written in a formal academic style using the Harvard referencing system.

Your study centre will provide guidance on this and you are also advised to check this Harvard Referencing style guide (produced by Bournemouth University).

In general, all assignments should:

  • show evidence of wide ranging, current reading of appropriate material
  • follow a logical process in presenting a case, supported by evidence
  • demonstrate critical reflection on theory and practice
  • express ideas clearly and fluently, using an easy to read style
  • use the Harvard system of referencing to indicate reading and acknowledge sources properly.

Writing style

All assignments should be written in accurate, easily understood language. Plain English should be used, but the work should not be informal. Slang and colloquialisms should be avoided. Any abbreviations or contractions should be clarified.

The reader should always be able to understand what is being communicated, particularly when persuasive arguments are made.

A confident style of writing demonstrates understanding and knowledge. You should not lecture or criticise the reader and avoid asking questions where it is better to demonstrate understanding.

Accurate grammar, spelling and use of language are all important elements of working in public relations. Work that shows flaws or errors will be penalised when assessed.

All work should be clearly structured so that the content and flow of ideas are apparent. Sub-headings and other presentational devices may be used where appropriate to clarify the structure.

In the case of academic assignments or supporting rationales, you should write in an impersonal style (third person), eg, "it can be seen that…"; reflecting caution and lack of emotion.

A clear direction should be apparent in taking the reader through a logical sequence of ideas from introduction to conclusion. Ideas should be linked through use of sentences and paragraphs that contribute to a clear line of reasoning. Ideas should not be random and unrelated.

Opinions should be justified with reference to reading, reasoning, examples and evidence. Unless you are stating an absolute position, use qualifying phrases such as "it seems", "it is probable that", "the evidence suggests".

Work should be analytical and reflect understanding of different perspectives, which should be assessed in an informed and critical manner. It should be recognised that there may be no right or wrong answer, particularly in relation to complex investigations. You should question positions on the basis of objective identification of limitations. Following clear evaluation of the evidence, you should be able to make valid recommendations.

You should take the position of an objective onlooker; avoiding emotional language. Be prepared to challenge your own arguments to avoid bias.

Writing should be objective, precise and avoid apologising for any weaknesses in your own studies or approach to the subject.

Presentation

You should very carefully proof read every assignment before handing it in. Grammatical, typographical and spelling errors will be penalised. A spell-checker can be useful when word processing work, but remember this will not eliminate every problem, such as the correctly spelt word in the wrong context (i.e., 'conservation' instead of 'conversation') nor accidentally used plurals.

Make sure that the assignment is of the correct length (stipulated in the assignment briefing documents). Any work that is under or over the word count will be downgraded. Word count should be included at the end of all assignments.

Assignments should be word processed and a header detailing your CIPR membership number and consecutive page numbers is essential. Work should be clearly presented on a page with margins of at least 2.5cm and preferably 1.5 line spacing.

You should keep a copy of all your assignments, and ensure that work is submitted using a secure delivery route that can be monitored.

Seeking guidance

You should read carefully the briefing documents provided for any assignment and ensure that you understand exactly what is required of you. Seek clarification from your study centre or CIPR on anything you do not understand.

If you experience any problems or need further assistance in writing or presenting your work, please discuss your concerns with your tutor. They may be able to look at examples of your writing and give feedback on how it can be improved. Of course, any assignments submitted must be entirely your own work and tutors are not able to comment on assignments prior to submission.

Useful reading

Daymon, C & Holloway, I (2011) Qualitative Research Methods in public relations and marketing communications, 2nd edition. London: Routledge

Denscombe, M (2010). The Good Research Guide for small-scale social research projects, 4th edition. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Newsom, D & Haynes, J (2011). Public Relations Writing Form & Style, 9th edition. Boston, MA: Wadsworth