Types of assessments
You will be asked to complete a host of assessments while at University, each with their own challenges and requirements. Help is at hand with some advice on how to tackle common assessment types.
You might be asked to complete an essay, report, annotated bibliography, oral presentation or other assessment type. Each of these has their own requirements. The resources you find below will help get you started.
An academic essay is essentially an answer to a question. To answer the question, you need to find appropriate information, consider that information and develop a point of view. In your essay you present your answer using the evidence to support your ideas.
Essays have a three part structure: Introduction, Body and Conclusion.
An introduction leads the reader into your essay or report and provides a map of what they will read. This usually accounts for 5-10% of the total word count.
The Introduction should:
- introduce the topic (eg background, key definitions, “problem” being addressed)
- state the central idea, the “thesis”, and/or the purpose of the paper
- preview the key points.
The Body (discussion) paragraphs
Paragraphs are the building blocks of your essay or report. Each paragraph introduces and develops a key point to back up the overall central idea (or thesis) of your essay. These should be arranged in a logical order.
Usually the key point or idea is expressed in the first few sentences, and the rest of the paragraph supports the point with explanations and evidence. When you use the opinions and findings of others as evidence (which you should), be sure to include a reference (citation).
A link word or phrase connects two consecutive paragraphs and helps to create flow to the work.
A conclusion draws together the ideas you have discussed and provides a sense of finality with a strong finishing statement. This is usually 5-10% of the total word count.
The Conclusion should:
Summarise the main points
Reinforce the theme or central idea
Finish with a final comment.
If you have time, leave your draft for a few days and come back to it with fresh eyes for revising it. Here’s a checklist to guide your review.
In many courses at Lincoln University, you will be asked to write a report. There are two common types of reports:
- Research reports – to report on some experimental or field-based research that has been done (eg scientific paper, field trip report)
- Analytical reports – to provide information and analysis that will (usually) assist in decision making (eg case study report, property report, submission).
Many of your assessments or course work will include reports, such as a valuation report, a field trip report or planning submission. They are widespread and varied.
Examples of Lincoln University assignments requiring reports:
- Develop a marketing plan for a product of your choice.
- Undertake a business planning and financial appraisal for a prospective agribusiness project of your choice.
- Based on the field trip, give an overview of the planning issues in the metropolitan region of Christchurch.
- Describe in detail the breeding objectives and a breeding strategy for an animal species of your choice.
- Develop an integrated “sustainability reporting” and “ems” framework for your place of residence.
Reports and essays have different purposes and different formats. For instance
- essays rarely include recommendations, but reports often do
- essays may have headings but usually not numbered headings and a Table of Contents, but reports almost always have detailed headings and a Table of Contents
- essays do not usually include figures or tables, but these are common in reports.
Once you are at the paragraph level, however, there is very little difference between essays and reports; both require clear points backed up with reliable evidence.
There is a pattern you can follow to help you write a clear report.
Identify the parameters
- Identify the issue or problem.
- Identify the audience. (Why do they want the report? What background knowledge do they have?)
- Identify the purpose of the report. (What will the report be used for?)
- Identify the scope and limitations.
- Identify the expectations regarding format and structure in this context. (Are there models available of reports in the discipline? Is there a Style Guide and/or marking rubric?)
- Make a tentative plan. Use the problem and purpose to develop the plan.
- Gather the information. Use the purpose to select relevant information.
- Analyse and evaluate the information.
- Decide on your main points ensuring you have sufficient evidence to support them.
- Decide which information is essential for all readers. Place additional information in appendices if required.
- Choose an appropriate logical structure to meet your readers’ needs. Divide your information into logically ordered sections to help the reader easily locate and understand the material.
Not all reports have the same structure. You will need to think about the context of the report you are being asked to write and decide which structure is best for that report. Check the course requirements.
(usually page numbering is i, ii, iii etc)
· Includes the title of report, author/s’ name/s, date
· May include client’s name
optional; acknowledges those who have given assistance
Executive summary (Abstract, Synopsis)
· Provides a summary of whole report; usually includes background, purpose, key findings and recommendations
Table of Contents
· Includes a list of the main sections and subsections, with page numbers
· Begins with Introduction as section 1
· Can be generated automatically with MSWord
List of Illustrations
List of Appendices
optional; may be included in Table of Contents
Main report sections
(page numbering 1, 2, 3 etc)
· Includes background and problem or issue, purpose or objective, scope and limitations, (sometimes, the method or criteria for analysis), overview of the structure of the report
· Presents and discusses evidence
· Is divided into logically ordered sections, each with a heading
· Has sections/subsections with numbered headings that reflect the organisation/ hierarchical structure of the body
· Includes labelled and numbered tables and figures
· Relate to purpose or objectives
· Follow logically from findings / evidence
· Follow logically from conclusion/s
· Are feasible
· May be combined with Conclusion section
(page numbering 1, 2, 3 etc)
· Includes information that is useful, but not essential to the discussion in the main sections eg questionnaire, detailed tables, copies of official documents
· Each appendix is referred to in the main sections of the report
· Each appendix is labelled and numbered
· Uses the style acceptable in the discipline
If you have time, leave your draft for a few days to let the information digest before revising it. Then work through this checklist.
Most scientific reports will follow a similar structure.
- Make it clear, concise and factual
- Include key words.
Summarise your research in fewer than 200 words, preferably fewer than 100, and include:
- Why you did the research
- How you did the research
- The main findings
- The main conclusions.
Explain to your reader ‘Why’ you did the research. Include:
- What the problem is and why it is worth studying
- How the problem fits into the context of previous research
- What is your purpose, objectives or hypotheses.
This is the ‘How’; describe your procedure in sufficient detail that would allow someone else to replicate the research.
- Include how the study was designed, eg experimental design
- Include how it was carried out:
- The equipment (consider photographs/drawings)
- The materials, subjects, specimens, samples (take particular care with the names of chemicals, breeds, etc)
- The method or procedure
- Include how the data was analysed.
Tell your reader ‘What’ you found:
- Organise the results to highlight the key findings
- Present data in diagrammatic form (graphs, tables etc) whenever possible
- Use text to draw the reader’s attention to key results in the graphs etc
- Order the results so that they link to the objectives or hypotheses
- Present the results, but do not discuss them
- Be meticulous with graphs, labels, units etc
- Use the past tense.
Tell your reader ‘Why’ that matters
- Point out the significance of the results
- Highlight the important findings
- Interpret the findings in relation to the objectives or hypotheses
- Discuss the implications of your findings, why it matters.
- Use the appropriate style for your discipline.
- Include essential data too detailed for the body of the text.
Did I cover everything?
Download our report checklist to assess your work.
An annotated bibliography is a list of sources with publication details and a short summary and (usually) an evaluation of the source. Sometimes it appears at the end of an essay or report, but usually it is a separate, stand alone document. Its purpose is to help readers determine the usefulness of a source and to provide researchers with information about the literature related to a topic.
An annotated bibliography helps you to become familiar with the variety of sources on a topic. As you identify the purpose of each source, and its key findings and arguments, you will also be able to identify commonalities and differences amongst sources and critically evaluate sources. This will help you develop your own point of view about a topic. An annotated bibliography is a very useful first step in writing an essay or research-based report and lays the foundation for future research.
Please note that this is not the same as a bibliography which is an alphabetical list of sources that a writer has used during the research process. A bibliography appears at the end of an essay, report, etc., and includes the full publication details of each source. The main purpose of a bibliography is to help readers find the sources the author has used or referred to.
Bibliographical details. Begin with a full citation of the text using the appropriate referencing style.
Summary of the contents of the source. Think about its purpose, scope and audience, the concepts and methods used and the arguments and conclusions of the author.
Evaluation of the source. Consider things such as the underlying concepts/theory/methodology used, the strength of the author’s argument and the source’s overall reliability, usefulness and significance to its field.
Reflection. How the source has helped your point of view or project and how/why you will use it.
Below is an example of how to annotate a bibliographical source.
There are several styles commonly used for annotated bibliographies. Check your assessment instructions to find out:
- how long each entry should be
- whether you should write in phrases or whole sentences
- what referencing style should be used
- what layout is expected.
Oral presentations are a common type of assessment at university. We know they can be nerve wracking but being able to present your ideas to a group of people is an important skill at university and in your career. To help build your confidence, we have some tips for you.
If you are nervous about speaking in public, you are not alone! The following three videos will give you excellent tips on managing your nerves, engaging your audience and being expressive with your face and voice.
Managing your nerves:
Engaging your audience:
PowerPoint is a fantastic tool for presentations, but often poorly used. To avoid "death by PowerPoint", watch the following video:
- Use PowerPoint slides to support what you are saying, rather than repeat it word for word - this is the 1 + 1 redundancy effect discussed in the video above (at 7.30sec).
- Don’t have too many slides, one a minute is enough.
- Make slides simple, uncrowded and consistent.
- Use a simple font such as Arial, Calibri or Verdana as these are clean and easy to read.
- Use a large font size – for headers 20 pt or bigger, for the body content a minimum of 18 pt.
- Use bullet points for text, no more than six per slide and try to keep them to one line.
- Use graphs or tables to summarise your data and diagrams to illustrate complex relationships.
- Avoid too many numbers on graphs - emphasise key numbers or trends.
- Talk about slides that have graphs, diagrams or images - don’t just read the information on them.
- Use only high quality images and graphics
- Take care with the colour and colour contrast - dark text on a light background is easiest to read.
- Be careful if putting text over images - this can be difficult to read.
- Go easy on the special effects - they can be very distracting.
- Consider the image below of Steve Jobs using just one slide to reinforce a message he spoke to for several minutes before changing slides.
- Further information on how to use visual aids is found here.
Noer, M. (2022). BestPresentation.net: Practical tips for creating a killer presentation. bestpresentation.net/presentation-secrets-steve-jobs/Noer, 2022)
Below are a series of recorded presentations from recent Thr3sis finalists. Watch the recordings to see how each presenter uses different techniques to engage their audience.
Presentation by Thr3sis finalist Tilak Raj
Notice how Tilak uses pause to give the audience a moment to process parts of his message. He also uses intonation on key words in the sentence rather than monotone, and employs hand gestures to great effect.
Presentation by Thr3sis finalist Andrei Costan
Andrei employs a problem-solution structure. After explaining the problem, he goes on to discuss how it can be solved by his study. Questions are not given a single-word response; instead, Andrei provides an informed answer to each question.
Presentation by Thr3sis finalist Leonnie Mollet
Notice how Leonnie places strong intonation on key words in each sentence, rather than an equal emphasis on every word. She also uses hand gestures to impress key ideas upon the audience.
Presentation by Thr3sis finalist Wardah Ali
Notice how Wardah grabs the audience's attention by injecting personal experiences from her own life. She also uses humour to engage the audience.
Use these tips when you are planning your presentation, and take some time to think carefully about the structure.
- Consider your purpose and the objectives achievable in the given presentation time.
- Analyse the setting - think about the cultural context, the level of formality, the physical space (size, technological facilities, layout) and the amount of time you have.
- Know your speech rate - speech rates vary, but as a rough guide plan for 125-150 words per minute.
- Consider the audience demographics, size, knowledge and interest level.
- Choose a logical sequence for your ideas - create an overall plan and then draft each section of the presentation, considering transitions from one section to the next.
- Read pages 3-4 of this pdf for great advice on how to structure your presentation by developing a series of key points with evidence to back up each point.
- Create a strong opening which grabs the audience’s attention - provide a clear overview and define any terms early.
- Finish strongly - one or two sentences to summarise the important points and any implications/evaluations/conclusions as appropriate and a strong final sentence or message.
Practise a lot, preferably to a live audience - you can book an appointment and do this with a learning advisor, and also record practice presentations on your phone to play back. It’s weird to hear and see yourself speak, but helpful to know the areas you need to work on. This will help you feel comfortable with the content and organisation of the presentation and make you more confident. Practice using the slides in conjunction with your speech and feel comfortable navigating them back and forward. Don’t read out the entire speech from A4 sheets. Have the key points of your presentation on cue cards.
During the actual presentation remember it’s ok to be nervous. Dress appropriately - some lecturers expect you to dress in smart casual or business attire. Breathe deeply to help remain calm and focused, be enthusiastic, vary your tone, speak clearly at a volume the whole room can hear, and at a pace that all can follow. Pause frequently. Make eye contact, keep your head up and smile. Remember you’ve practised this, and you’ve got it.
Undergraduates are not often asked to produce posters, but if you are here is some information about what you need for a successful poster.
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