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Lecturer's advice

Loretta Inglis, LecturerIn this section, one of your lecturers - Loretta Inglis - answers Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about researching and writing of reports in first-year Management.

FAQs: Click on those topic areas that are of interest to you, or that you need to know more about.

  1. What do you look for when marking an assignment?
  2. What makes a good first-year Management report?
  3. What are the main difficulties students have?
  4. How much reading and research should I do for my assignment?
  5. What are some of the differences between writing for Management at university and for Business Management at VCE?
  6. What final advice do you have for students?


1. What do you look for when marking an assignment?

Click on the highlighted text to see the comments.

Summary:

  • use of the case study method throughout
  • use of supporting theory and evidence
  • properly completed solutions, recommendations, and implementation

First of all, the assignment should show that you have used the case study method throughout. The main section is the Problem Identification section where we look for the ability to succinctly identify problems, a relevant theory which explains the problem, and case evidence which illustrates the problems.

We also look for a range of possible solutions for each problem, which should be thoroughly evaluated, with at least two to three advantages and disadvantages being given for each one. Finally, we want a clear recommendation (or two or three) which is justified using the theory, and an Implementation section presented in concise, practical steps.

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2. What makes a good 1st Year Management report?

Summary:

  • consistently good quality in all sections

In terms of the qualities of a good assignment, a High Distinction assignment would be consistently very good in every section. Many students do a good job of the Problem Identification section, then fail to allow enough time to put the work into the latter parts of the assignment.

In the case where students fail, this is because they do not seem to have read the information, and have tried to do the assignment in a hurry.

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3. What are the main difficulties students have?

Summary:

  • leaving preparation to the last minute
  • using theory appropriately
  • inadequate recommendations and implementation

Case studies just require time in the preparation. Most students don't actually have all that much trouble producing a satisfactory case in the end. They eventually get the idea in identifying problems and usually they do a reasonable job of generating suggestions.

Writing up the problems, case evidence, and relevant theory is the demanding part because students will have rarely experienced an assignment like this before. In particular, I think all first-year students find it hard to recognise when theory is appropriate and how to use it.

Where students go wrong is that too many appear to leave their preparation to the last minute or just run out of time and ideas. So the Recommendations section and, particularly, the Implementation section, is often poorly done. In some cases, students will do the early sections extremely well and just throw marks away in the later sections.

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4. How much reading and research should I do for my assignment?

Summary:

  • Check course guidelines, lecture material
  • Use a targeted reading strategy
  • Go beyond the textbook to other sources

In general, I would expect students to start by first reading the relevant case, reading the information about how to do it, and looking at what has been covered in the subject . They should then relate the case to the information they have collected. I would then read the appropriate text chapters and find one or two more texts, or articles on individual topics.

Students don't need to do heaps of reading for this case study. Their reading should be targeted in any case because of the problems they identify (i.e. it is fairly easy to find the information). I think it advisable that students learn to use a few more references than the text, such as other management or organisational behaviour texts, or journal articles.

In terms of time, they should anticipate between 12-20 hours for research and reading.

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5. What are some of the differences between writing for Management at university and for Business Management at VCE?

Summary:

  • the need to think independently
  • the more varied reference material available

Most business writing is to the point (i.e. it doesn't waste words). Some students may have trouble focusing on the issue at hand, but I don't see that as a major problem. It's probably because they are used to teachers telling them whether it is right or wrong all the way. This doesn't happen at university and may make some people feel very unsure. What we're interested in is how students think for themselves.

Thinking for yourself can involve seeking out additional references. Another important difference is the variety of reference material available in the Management area. We expect students to make good use of this in their written work. This means working out when to cite, and how - and summarising others' views to support your line of argument.

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6. What final advice do you have for students?

Summary:

  • read all the information the minute you get it, even if you don't start on the case study immediately
  • go to lectures and tutorials and listen
  • ask questions
  • start early!

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MONASH UNIVERSITY

FACULTY OF BUSINESS AND ECONOMICS

DEPARTMENT OF MANAGEMENT

MGX1010 MANAGING PEOPLE AND ORGANISATIONS

Notes on the Case Study Method

The use of case studies is a widely accepted means of bringing theoretical concepts and practical situations together. It is not possible to take a class into an organisation and observe the subject matter of management or organisational behaviour in real life - hence a written case study outlining a real, or realistic, situation is the best available alternative.

When reading and studying a case study it is possible to take two different approaches. The first of these is the 'analytical' approach where a case structure is examined to try to understand what has happened and why. In this approach you do not identify problems or attempt to develop solutions. The second approach is the problem-oriented method. In this approach a case is analysed to identify the major problems that exist, the causes of and possible solutions to the problems and finally a recommendation as to the best solution to implement.

In this course we mainly utilise a 'PROBLEM SOLVING' case study method. As with most things in the management area there is not 'one best way' to analyse or write up a case report. Everyone develops their own methods of sorting and sifting through the information and presenting their findings. However, in this subject we have a set format which we would like you to utilise when presenting your case reports. This format is outlined briefly below.


Some General Issues:

In a case study it is crucial that you integrate relevant theory from the course and evidence from the case. Failure to attempt to integrate theory will lead to severe mark reduction or failure.

Referencing of all non-original material is essential. You will lose marks for poor referencing. The Faculty of Business and Economic's Q Manual should be used as a guide. This is available in the library, for sale in the bookshop and on the web (see Subject Outline for address). The Q Manual should also be used as a guide for correct presentation of written material.

Check your completed work for internal consistency, for example make sure that you attempt to solve the key issues you have identified., Don't say 'X' is the major problem and then recommend a solution to 'Y'.

Try not to be overly descriptive. Remember you are trying to identify, analyse and solve the problems of the case using the relevant theories from the course - not just repeating what the text book, or case information, has said.


PRESENTATION OF WRITTEN MATERIAL

The following notes are to be used as a guide to students the case studies for assessment in MGX1010.

GUIDELINES

  • A high standard of presentation is required. Typing, or word processing, of all is expected.
  • Work that is submitted in an illegible or untidy fashion may, at your tutor's discretion, be returned unmarked or with marks deducted for poor presentation.
  • In no circumstances should an assignment be written/typed on both sides of the paper.
  • Work should be double or 1 spaced.
  • A margin of 30mm should be left on both sides of the page. This provides adequate room for examiner's comments as well as creating an uncluttered presentation.
  • All quotations should be enclosed within inverted commas. The exception is quotations of two or more sentences which run to four or more lines. These should be single-spaced and indented from the main body of the text. In these cases inverted commas are unnecessary (see Qmanual).
  • Assignments should be bound firmly into a cover, such as a manilla folder, plastic folder, ring binder, etc. Please do not use envelope folders or submit loose sheets. It should be possible to read every page without undoing any fastenings.
  • Every assignment must be clearly identified. The following details must be on the front of all assignments:
    • Name:
    • Student Number:
    • Assignment Name:
    • Subject Code/Name:
    • Lecturer/Tutor:
    • Due Date:
    • Date Submitted:
  • It is recommended that students KEEP A COPY OF ALL WORK SUBMITTED. While it is extremely rare for student work to be misplaced, it does sometimes occur. The onus is on you to prove that a piece of work was submitted.
  • Grammar, spelling and punctuation are matters which should not be neglected. Failure to take care of these matters causes confusion and ambiguity. Ask someone to read and comment critically on your work prior to submitting it; can they understand what you are trying to say? If not, re-write it!

PROBLEM SOLVING CASE FORMAT FOR PRESENTATION

1. Title Page

2. Table of Contents

3. Executive Summary

This section should comprise a brief overview of the case, giving a brief background and noting any important assumptions made. (You will not have all the information you would like - so you may need to make some assumptions). As well as this, you should give a synopsis of your case report, noting very briefly the major problems identified and the recommended solutions. One page is enough.

4. Problem Identification and Analysis

In this section you should identify all the major problems in the case in behavioural terms, ie. in Management/OB related terms (it is not a marketing or an accounting case). Try to get to underlying causes of problems, not just symptoms. Seek advice from your tutor on the layout of this information.

You should link each problem identified to relevant theory and also to actual evidence from the case. Remember you MUST integrate theory and reference all non-original work.

5. Statement of Major Problems

In most case studies you will identify a number of problems - too many to actually 'solve' in the number of words allowed. Hence it is crucial to make it very clear which are the major two or three problems or key issues, that must be solved first. Therefore this section is just a short concise statement of what problems you are going to solve in the remainder of the case. Half a page is adequate.

Having once identified the key problems, you can continually check back to ensure that you are actually attempting to solve them and not some other minor problems you identified. This section is crucial to a good case report.

6. Generation and Evaluation of Alternative Solutions

While most problems will have a very large number of possible solutions it is your task to identify and evaluate a number of the more appropriate (at least 2-3 for each major problem identified).

Each alternative solution should be briefly outlined and then evaluated in terms of its advantages and disadvantages (strong and weak points). Note: You must evaluate alternatives. It is not necessary to make a statement in this section as to which alternative is considered best - this is the next section. Do not integrate theory in this section and do not recommend theory. Practical solutions to the problems are required.

7. Recommendation

This section should state which of the alternative solutions (either singly or in combination) identified in section six is recommended for implementation. You should briefly justify your choice, explaining how it will solve the major problems identified in section six. Integration of relevant theory is appropriate here.

8. Implementation

In this section you should specifically explain how you will implement the recommended solutions. Theory cannot be implemented; you must translate it into actions.

What should be done, by whom, when, in what sequence, what will it cost (rough estimates only) and other such issues.

Remember if a recommended solution cannot be realistically implemented then it is no solution at all.

9. Appendices (if any)

10. Bibliography/References

This will contain an alphabetical list of all the references you have cited in the body of the report. Do not include details of any sources you have not cited. Ensure the style used is correct and consistent.

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