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Lecturer's advice

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

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

  1. What should I be aiming at in a first-year Marketing report?
  2. How are Marketing assignments evaluated?
  3. What are the main difficulties first-year students have with writing Marketing assignments?
  4. How much reading should I do?
  5. Is the approach to writing different from VCE?
  6. How can I be "original" in Marketing assignments?
  7. What is "critical thinking" in first-year Marketing?
  8. What can I use as "evidence" in Marketing?
  9. How should I be using the theory in my assignment?
  10. What's a good overall approach to researching and writing marketing assignments?


1. What should I be aiming at in a first-year Marketing report?

Summary:

  • Using theory to understand practice
  • Researching carefully
  • Presenting clearly

Students should aim to start thinking about the marketing theory they have been learning and to begin using that marketing perspective to better understand specific industries/organisations that are operating in the marketplace. These can be profit-oriented organisations, nonprofit, large, small, local, or international.

Students should gain a recognition of the role marketing can and does fulfil, and also see that there is a wide range of information available from a range of sources that can be used by organisations for analysis. In writing the report students should understand the need for a concise, clear, well-argued, and well-presented document that identifies the main issues which, in the real world, can be used by management to make decisions.

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2. How are Marketing assignments evaluated?

Summary: Markers look at the quality of your

  • understanding
  • research
  • analysis
  • presentation

A good assignment should demonstrate an understanding of the terminology and how the various forces/influences impact an industry and an organisation.

In a good assignment, the student identifies and analyses the main issues asked for in the question. These issues are well-presented and concise; they are appropriately referenced, and the information is supported by the referenced sources of information used. Finally, the analysis is supported by the data and material is presented as a business report not an essay.

The unit outline provides a detailed list of expectations and information that is expected at each grade level and what differentiates each grade.

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3. What are the main difficulties first-year students have with writing Marketing assignments?

Summary: Students may not realise what they themselves need to do to find out what's required

  • Not knowing where to start: starting the assignment too late and therefore rushing to finish it on time
  • Not reading the instructions in the unit outline detailing what is required in the assignment
  • Not asking questions of their tutor/lecturer about the assignment
  • Not realising that a business report is quite different from much of what they've previously done, especially in secondary school
  • Not understanding how to reference information used or the importance of that referencing from an academic perspective
  • Presenting a view they may have of something, rather than a logical, well-developed argument based on analysis of the information
  • Not understanding the function of the executive summary section: i.e. it is not an introduction but a summary of the main points and findings/recommendations of the report

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4. How much reading should I do?

Summary: Relevant parts of the text book, plus relevant items in reports, magazines, and media

The basic reading required is the text which provides the initial perspective for this assignment. The next sources of information are current reports (both print-based and electronic) available through the library that provide much of the information about different industries and the macroenvironment (IBIS reports, statistical information, economic analysis, and forecasts). Additional information is often found in business magazines and the business press. The amount of reading does not have to be excessive. Relevance is important, as not all macroenvironmental factors are equally important or relevant to all industries/organisations. Students should be guided in their selection of reference material by 1) recommendations on the unit web site, 2) suggestions found in the unit guide, and 3) specific recommendations from the lecturer/tutor and librarians. Though they'll actually read more than this, students who do well commonly have 8+ sources in their reference lists.

If students can't find much material on their second product or the marketing mix of the companies, they can seek advice from their tutor and/or lecturer. In most cases information is available or it can be sourced for most industries/organisations.

At this introductory stage we are not expecting students to be finding "weaknesses" as such in theories/readings. It's good if they can check out the relevance of the theory to a particular industry/organisation and see how using that theory might have an impact on its operations.

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5. Is the approach to writing different from VCE?

Summary: A business report has a specific structure, its content is research-based, and it uses specialised language

The business report is less likely to have been used in VCE so students are unlikely to be familiar with its format. A business report is concise but with sufficient detail to allow those reading it (management) to use it to make decisions. It should also have data and information that support the conclusions/recommendations of the report. This is not so much a report based on opinions but on the evidence and information collected by students during their research. Students need to develop analysis skills and become familiar with the sort of analysis seen in the business press and business publications.

A good starting point is to read the business section of newspaper such as The Age, The Australian, or their equivalent in other countries ( The South China Morning Post, The Straits Times, etc.). Also read business magazines such as the Business Review Weekly (local Australia) or its equivalent in other countries ( Far Eastern Economic Review, Asian Retailer, etc).

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6. How can I be "original" in Marketing assignments?

Summary: Students can be original in their perspective, their choice and use of sources, their insight into circumstances

This is a difficult one as originality may be many things, such as:

  • the perspective that the student provides through their analysis of the information they collect
  • their use of references that may add to their understanding
  • the insight and interpretation of the circumstances facing an industry or organisation they provide

Originality must always be supported by the data and information and not just thrown in because it sounds good. Creative examples include such things as:

  • presenting the information in graphs and/or diagrams that clearly show the main point of that data, and using a clear explanation of the graph/diagram
  • identifying an emerging - less obvious - issue that may/will impact the industry/organisation
  • providing insight/understanding about the forces and influences that impact organisations and industries

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7. What is "critical thinking" in first-year Marketing?

Summary: Thinking about who is putting forward the information, identifying what's important, thinking of future implications

Not accepting anything at face value. Asking questions. Challenging information, its reliability and relevance. For example when analysing the information researched, being able to identify the more appropriate and important influences that relate to their industry/organisation. Making judgements based on the data that can lead to a particular strategy or direction for an organisation.

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8. What can I use as "evidence" in Marketing?

Summary: Statistics, company data, information about economic and demographic trends

There is a variety of things students can use for evidence. Reference information from reliable sources such as the ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) data about economic or demographic trends. IBIS database (available through the library) trends and information. Whilst newspapers and magazines are less reliable, they can provide information about industries, economic and demographic trends, and influences, etc. that can support generalisations.

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9. How should I be using the theory in my assignment?

Summary: The theory provides the framework and the definitions

The theory provides the framework from which to look at and understand the assignment question and to provide a perspective for examining the research data. The text provides the basic theory about marketing and the terms used such as an explanation of the marketing environment and specifically the macroenvironment.

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10. What's a good overall approach to researching and writing Marketing assignments?

  • Begin your research EARLY; don't leave it until the last minute.
  • Ask questions of your lecturer/tutor.
  • Try to relate some of the marketing theory to yourself (this helps provide some insight, understanding and relevance).

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