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The information on this page will help you structure your writing so that the ideas you present are clear, easy to follow, and evidence is provided to support your claims.

The structure and the language you use will depend on the assessment task you have been given, so it’s important to read the task and the marking rubric carefully before you begin planning and writing. The marking rubric will appear directly under the assessment task in the Assessments section of the portal. Your facilitator will use this to mark your work, and reading it will give you a good understanding of exactly what they’re looking for. Find out more below!

Top Tip

Learners using eCampus NZ have free access to Smarthinking. You can visit the Smarthinking Writing Centre to receive detailed, personalised feedback on written assignments, such as essays, paragraphs or reports before you submit them! Visit our Smarthinking page for more information.

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Writing an introduction

Sometimes your assessment instructions and marking rubric will have specific requirements on assessment structure. Some may ask you to write an introduction at the start of your written response. Here’s an extract from an assessment task and marking rubric that specifically mention an introduction. 

 


Sample Assessment Task

Communicate with internal stakeholders via an informal report. Your report must include a brief introduction and detailed description of three ways your team can support the psychological needs of employees at your workplace.

 

 

From marking rubric:

Report communicates key ideas in a basic report format. Content is well structured and professionally presented with appropriate use of language for stakeholders involved.


What goes in an introduction?

Generally, an introduction will include:

  • A general introduction to the topic
  • Relevant background information
  • Definitions of key terms (e.g. for the above example, you should define the term ‘psychological needs’)
  • A brief outline of what you will cover in the assessment (e.g. the three ways your team will support psychological needs)

 

In a business report, it may include the aims of the report, the scope and limitations, an outline of the structure, and relevant background material. Remember to check your task and rubric for specific guidelines.

How to write an introduction: Step-by-step

Step 1: Introduce your reader to the topic of your written response and provide relevant background information.

Sentence starters: This report/paper examines…A major concern….It is important to…A leading idea/principle/opinion is…On the whole…Generally speaking…Broadly speaking…

Step 2:  Summarise each of the main points you will present in your written response. 1-2 sentences should be enough to explain each point. Define key terms as you go.

Sentence Starters: Firstly…Secondly…Finally…Furthermore…It is important to note…Interestingly….(Key term) is been defined as…..

Step 3: In the final sentence of the introduction, try to summarise the main point you will make throughout your assessment.

Sentence Starters: Above all…Clearly….In fact…

Here's an example of an introduction for you:

It is widely accepted that businesses that prioritise the psychological needs of employees report increased productivity, sales, and customer satisfaction (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 2021). Psychological needs are the human needs that are essential to good mental health, and form the top four levels of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (American Psychological Association, 2020). In order to support the psychological needs of employees, our department should drive initiatives that help employees to build connections and develop a sense of belonging. Secondly, we should implement processes that ensure that all employees are acknowledged and have the opportunity to feel a sense of achievement. Furthermore, we should ensure that employees have access to professional development opportunities that help them to fulfil their potential. Implementing initiatives to support the psychological needs of employees at our workplace is key to a happy, productive workforce.

*Broad overview of the topic with keywords from the assessment task.

*Definition of keywords

*Idea 1

*Idea 2

*Idea 3

*Summarises the idea that runs through the entire written response

How to express your ideas clearly using paragraphs

Now that you’ve written your introduction, it’s time to explain and develop your ideas as required by the assessment instructions. Whether you’re completing a short written response to a question or writing a report/essay, structuring your ideas in paragraphs will help you present them clearly and convincingly. Each paragraph should respond to and explain one key idea only. Each time you move on to a new idea, you will start a new paragraph. The number of paragraphs you include will depend on the assessment task. 

How to write a paragraph: Step-by-step.

A paragraph will generally include a topic sentence, explanation, evidence and a linking sentence. If you’re new to writing paragraphs, try the TEEL structure:

Step 1: Topic sentence: Start by writing a topic sentence at the start of the paragraph that introduces your idea, using key words from the assessment task to make it clear to your facilitator that you’re answering the question and staying on topic. 

Sentence starters: Firstly…Secondly…Thirdly… Finally… Equally…In addition…Recently…In contrast…Alternatively…Although...The major concern….Another aspect of….Essentially….The advantages of…. The disadvantages of….Accordingly…. Another essential point….A clear case for…. In practice….

Step 2: Explanation and Evidence: Then, explain your idea in your own words, defining key terms as necessary and providing evidence (e.g. course content and research) to support your idea.
 
Sentence starters: Accordingly…Consequently…For this reason…Fortunately…Unfortunately…On the other hand…Interestingly…Alternatively…Surprisingly…Unsurprisingly…Despite this…Significantly….For example…For instance…To illustrate…
 

Step 3: Linking Sentence:  In the last sentence, summarise the idea you have presented in this paragraph.

Sentence starters: Clearly…Therefore…Indeed…In summary…It is apparent that…Accordingly…All these factors contribute to…

Here's an example of a paragraph for you:

Firstly, providing employees with opportunities to engage in meaningful social interactions within the world of work fosters a sense of belonging, which is a key psychological need. In 1943, psychologist and philosopher Abraham Maslow developed a hierarchy of needs that influence human motivation, with love and belonging identified as key psychological needs. Having the opportunity to engage in positive social interactions leads to feelings of belonging and personal wellbeing (Mental Health Foundation, 2021). The Mental Health Foundation recommends implementing a ‘buddy system to encourage employees to regularly talk to each other in a safe, informal space (2021). In addition, we can review our onboarding process to ensure that our team facilitates social connections in addition to professional connections. These initiatives will encourage social interactions at work, resulting in improved psychological wellbeing.

*Topic sentence introduces the main idea of the paragraph, with keywords from the assessment task.

*Explanation and evidence convinces the reader that your idea is valid. This writer has used a theoretical model (Maslow) and information from the Mental Health Foundation to support their idea.

*The linking sentence summarises the main idea explored in this paragraph and uses keywords to link it back to the assessment task.



How to use course content and research to support your ideas

You’ll see in the section on paragraphs that you are expected to incorporate course content and research into your writing to support your ideas.

It can be quite daunting when you start your studies to apply models and techniques to your assessment writing. However, knowing the course content well and practising these skills will make your journey easier. Here’s an example that works through the steps to help you integrate course content into your assessment answers.

Step 1: Read the assessment question carefully and check the marking rubric so you know what your facilitator is looking for. Let’s work with a new assessment question this time:

Sample Assessment: Holly Parata just got a job as the team leader of the paint section at her local hardware store. Knowing what she does about team formation, Holly realises that her team is not performing as it should be. Draft an email from Holly to her manager:

  • Outlining the issue
  • Identifying one strategy Holly will use to help her team progress in team formation
  • Explaining why this strategy is likely to help her team move forward

Step 2: Go to your course and find the section of the course that the assessment is referring to. This may be mentioned in the task itself, or you may need to go into the course and find the relevant section. 

In this case, you’re looking for key words such as team formation.

Step 3:  Re-read or skim the course section and find the information you need to answer the question. For this example, let’s pretend you’ve found some information about team formation by an academic called Jane Buckler.

Step 4: You are now ready to incorporate course content to your assessment answer. Be sure that you are familiar with any scenarios that are part of your assessment. Here’s an example of how you may do it:

Holly’s team has not progressed in team formation  (Buckler, 1988), which is the reason the team is not working as it should be.

Visit our APA Referencing page to learn more about how to cite your sources.

*Keyword from the assessment task and course content. 
*Source cited.

Step 5: Review! Review! Review! 

Now it’s time to take out your fine-toothed comb. Be sure to check every sentence that you write against the assessment questions and the marking rubric.

How to write a conclusion

Some assessment tasks will require you to write a conclusion at the end of your written response.  The purpose of the conclusion is to summarise the ideas you have explored in your assessment and link them back to your assessment task. You should check the task carefully to see what you should include. A conclusion may include:

Step 1:  A brief summary of each of the ideas you have explored in your body paragraphs.

Sentence starters: Clearly…It is clear…Furthermore…In addition…Moreover…

Step 2: A one-sentence summary of the main idea you have explored throughout your assessment task, using key words from the essay topic.

Sentence starters: To summarise…For this reason…In conclusion…

Top Tips: You should not introduce new ideas or examples in your conclusion. Use keywords from your assessment task in your conclusion to make it clear to your facilitator that you have stayed on topic throughout your written response

Man holding lightbulb

Top Tip

Even in informal written responses, avoid using:

  • Contractions, such as it’s, can’t, or won’t. Instead, write the words out fully as it is, cannot, or will not.
  • Slang or text speak (e.g. lol).
  • Gendered words such as manpower, mankind, or fireman. Instead, try humanity, humankind, and firefighter.
  • The word ‘he’  to refer to an academic or author, unless you’re sure that it’s the correct pronoun.

Additional Resources

The Smarthinking Writer’s Handbook contains detailed information about academic writing, with topics that include:

  • Writing business reports
  • Writing cover letters
  • Writing memos
  • Presentations
  • Choosing sources wisely
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence structure.