Course information

Learning and Teaching

University students are expected to take a large share of the responsibility for their own learning. Lectures, practical classes, field courses, tutorials and examinations are all part of your degree course. You should be aware of the following course procedures and programs:


University students are expected to take a large share of the responsibility for their own learning.  You will be expected to:

  • attend all lectures, practical classes, field courses, tutorials and examinations that are a part of your degree course.
  • arrive at all lectures, practical classes and tutorials punctually; late arrival can be disruptive and you might be turned away.
  • accept responsibility for carrying out the appointed learning tasks set in the course.  These may be note taking, reading, model construction, computation, and production of illustrative charts or figures, thesis preparation, laboratory tasks or other activities.
  • hand in all course work on the specified deadline (work handed in late may be penalized).
  • do enough work to meet the requirements of your degree course.
  • seek advice from staff when you are having difficulties with your studies.
  • sign the professional and ethical code for students in Biomedical Science.
  • Engage with the Student – Staff Feedback Partnership

The Provision of Teaching. You can expect us to:

  • provide teaching that is authoritative, up to date, planned and supported by appropriate materials such as illustrations, references or reading lists.
  • give you aims and objectives for modules and degree courses that will clearly indicate what is expected of you.
  • use fair and efficient methods of assessment.
  • provide accommodation and facilities that are fit for the purpose and in accordance with Health and Safety requirements.
  • give you accurate information about courses, assessments and timetables.
  • treat all students equally, regardless of age, gender and ethnic background

Academic (teacher) Responsibilities

The teachers and their colleagues are responsible for setting the time-frame, location and content of courses and classes and for creating the learning tasks and assessments that attach to the courses and classes.  A particularly important part of their role is giving feedback to students in the outcome of learning tasks.  Most teachers are also examiners and assessors, though assessment is quite distinct from feedback.

Attendance monitoring

As a student, it is most important that you attend regularly all the lectures, tutorials, laboratory sessions etc. that are listed in your timetable or that are communicated to you as the semester proceeds.  It is only by attending all of the scheduled sessions you will be able to learn effectively, and it is for this reason that the Student Charter notes that students are expected "to attend throughout each semester, including the full examination period. This means turning up on time to all designated teaching sessions, tutorials, laboratory sessions and all assessment".  To help ensure that you make full use of the learning opportunities that are available, the department will be monitoring the attendance of students throughout the year. 

Within this department, the monitoring will be carried out by the use of attendance registers during tutorial, lecture and practical classes, and by the recording of laboratory notebooks during the research project. Records will be stored by the BMS office for inspection by BMS, Faculty or other authorised University staff and will also be made available to the UK Borders Agency on request.

Attendance of international students

The UK Boarder Agency requires us to monitor your attendance. Unexplained absence from class may result in a report being sent to them with significant implications for your right to remain in the UK.

How much work is enough?

Undergraduate students should expect to spend a minimum of 40 hours each week on your academic studies.  Your average teaching time will depend on your choice of modules but as a rough guide you could expect to have an average of 10 -15 hours of teaching during each week.  This means that you should expect to spend at least an additional twenty five hours each week on upgrading your lecture notes, reading appropriate books, writing up practical reports and preparing work in advance. 

Additionally you may need to spend time on work for tutorials, such as preparing written essays and assessments.  If you assume that a minimum of 40 hours academic work each week is required, you can partition your time effectively.  Try to work consistently throughout the course and not resort to 'cramming' just before exams.

However, remember that 40 hours each week is a minimum; you will need to do more than this in the periods preceding examinations.

But what do I do first!

Read your lecture notes in the evening of the day you take them. Check that they are legible and that you understand them. Use the recommended reading to help with this. If it takes you three hours to read and understand a lecture then you should leave it there for now. If you can do this in an hour then read around in more depth using the recommended reading as a start point.

Masters level students should expect to spend a minimum of 38 hours each week on your academic studies. A large portion of this time will be spent in personal work/studies, either reading and updating notes from lectures/practicals or reading the literature and performing experiments related to your project. The following is the calculation for the estimated time each student should spend studying during the MSc course:

  • 1 credit is equivalent to 10 hours work
  • Therefore, a 15 credit module corresponds to 150 hours of work over the whole year, including; lectures, reading, tutorials, presentations, essays, revision, exams etc.
  • The whole MSc is 180 credits = 1800 hours
  • Over 48 weeks 1800h = 37.5h per week
  • For a 5 day week = 7.5h per day – a full time job!

 However, remember that 38 hours each week is a minimum; you will need to do more than this in the periods preceding examinations.

What happens if you do not do enough work?

The most obvious consequence of not doing enough work is that you are likely to fail the assessment for one or more modules. 

Read the Assessment section for more information about this.

Before you reach this stage, however, you might find yourself subject to the Progress of Students Regulations of the University.  These Regulations require you a) to attend punctually and regularly lectures and classes; b) to complete all written assignments, practical or other course work; and c) to attend all examinations.

In the Department of Biomedical Science attendance at lectures is not monitored but you are expected to attend all lectures.  Often the work involved in catching up on a missed lecture is more than is involved in attending in the first place.  Furthermore, copying up the notes of others inevitably loses some of the content and points of view offered by the lecturer.  You will also miss much information about modules and courses that is given out at lectures if you do not attend.  Spot checks may be held and absences noted.

It is compulsory for you to attend all practical classes and tutorials and sign a register.  Work done in practical classes is assessed and used to determine the grade you receive for modules.  If you do not attend practical classes you will receive a zero grade assessment.

Failure to attend practical classes and tutorials will be noted and can result in you being reported to the Faculty for unsatisfactory progress.  The University Regulations allow a student to be reported to the Faculty for:

  • failure to attend the programme of study for which the student has registered
  • failure to perform adequately the work of the course
  • failure to present at the times appointed such written work as may have been required
  • failure to pass an examination

You can be reported to the Faculty at any time for unsatisfactory progress and the Faculty has the authority to suspend or expel you from the University, if the situation warrants it.

Teaching methods


The lecture is the most common method of teaching large groups of students.  Lectures are often used to impart information, concepts and theories, provide an introductory overview of a subject, arouse student interest in a subject, draw together the main ideas about it, and review recent research on it.  A lecture is most effectively used by actively concentrating on what is being said, and by making notes.  For more tips on making the most of lectures, see the Study Skills section which follows.

Attend all lectures.  Trying to rely instead on PowerPoint presentations on the Web is a recipe for disaster, not all staff post them and they are not designed as notes.

Lecture capture – your responsibilities

For the majority of undergraduate lectures, BMS will be using lecture capture (Encore) in as many lectures as possible during the academic year.  The recordings will contain (in the main) the Powerpoint and audio.  However, you should note that the availability of ‘lecture capture’ varies depending on the location of the lectures as not all lecture theatres have this facility yet.  The content of some lectures will also prevent publication, e.g. anatomy images, unpublished research findings.  Remember that technology sometimes fails, so don’t rely on a recording being published, take detailed notes during the lecture.  The following specific points should be noted:

  • Level 1 students – no lectures will be published in the first 4 weeks of your studies.  This is to allow you to develop your note taking skills in lectures, an essential skill. The recordings of these lectures will be published at the end of the first 12 weeks of teaching for revision purposes.
  • Due to potential issues with content the following modules will not have automatic lecture recording publication: BMS110, BMS246, BMS352.  Some lectures may be released, but this is at the discretion of academic staff.

The audio system records sound throughout the lecture room. If you do not want to be part of the recording then we recommend you sit towards the back for all sessions.

Please remember that unless you have permission you are not allowed to make a personal recording of a lecture.  Students flagged by DDSS as needing additional support may use a Dictaphone approved by Dr Katherine Linehan.

Remember that you are bound by UK copyright law, which applies to any copyright materials you may use in the course of your studies, including lecture capture videos.  Further details can be found in the copyright hub (, which states that you are permitted to use lecture recordings for personal study use only. You are not permitted to share or upload recordings to the Internet (there will be significant consequences if you do).

If you attend the lectures and take good notes you won’t need to duplicate your effort by listening to the lecture again, you’ll be able to read around more.

Students who are permitted to record lectures should note that unauthorised dictophones may not be used.

All lectures are scheduled to last for 50 minutes, although not all lecturers choose to use the full time.  Lecture times are standardised throughout the University and are:

  • 09:00 - 09:50; 13:00 – 13:50
  • 10:00 -10:50; 14:00 – 14:50
  • 11:00  - 11:50; 15:00 – 15:50
  • 12:00  - 12:50; 16:00 – 16:50
  • 17:00 - 17:50

You should always arrive at a lecture at least a few minutes before it is due to start.  You might need to pick up a hand-out and you will certainly need to organise yourself to take notes.  Late arrival at lectures is disruptive for the lecturer and other students.  You might also find it difficult to understand a lecture if you miss the beginning.

Laptops: Research indicates that using a laptop in a lecture is counter-productive and may also annoy and distract other students. However, if you wish to use a laptop in a lecture please sit together with other users towards the back of the class (unless there is a disability issue).

Practical Classes

Practical classes in Level 1 are held in the Perak Laboratories.  Perak 3 is used for all Semester 1 practicals, Labs 3, 4, and 5 for Semester 2. 

In Level 2 all students will have classes in the Medical Teaching Unit and Perak Labs 4 and 5. Level 3 students will use a new research teaching laboratory in the Dainton Building (Chemistry, along Western Bank).

Practical work is an essential part of all science degree courses and you need to sign a register to show you have attended.  The major aim of practical work is to give you direct experience of scientific investigation.  All knowledge and theory in biomedical science depends on practical observation and experiment.  Science is essentially a practical activity.

During the first and second levels of our degree courses, practical work will be in the form of practical classes.  These classes are designed to give you the opportunity to experience:

  • basic laboratory skills of observation, data handling and measurement
  • technical skills needed to carry out important measurements and to use some standard equipment and materials
  • an appreciation of biological variability
  • an understanding of experimental design
  • the analysis of experimental data
  • the use of computers
  • skills in preparing and presenting written and oral reports
  • a better understanding of your subject

Key points in practical work are thus:

  • observing
  • measuring
  • manipulating
  • formulating hypotheses
  • designing experiments
  • Recording data
  • analysing data
  • reporting

The precise nature of practical classes will vary considerably, but in all cases you will be given clear objectives.

All your practical work will be assessed by means of reports or other presentations.  It is thus essential that you hand in reports, or produce other work, by the deadlines set in advance.  Failure to do this could result in your not being awarded credits for practical work modules, and this could mean that you may have to repeat a year of study. 


It is important to note that the tutorials noted below are far more productive and worthwhile when they are two-way processes within which students feel confident to contribute ideas and suggestions and to take an active role.  Come to tutorials prepared and be ready to take full advantage of them when they are on offer.

The Department of Biomedical Science operates a dual tutorial support system.  This comprises:

Modular tutorial scheme

At the end of each lecture theme there will be a revision session called the Module or Theme Tutorial or Feedback Session where problems raised by the students will be resolved, usually by those involved in teaching the module. 

Problems that occur during the themes can be resolved by submitting questions to the relevant Google+ Community, or by e-mailing the lecturer directly. This excellent feedback system depends for its success on the interest, involvement and enthusiasm of the student as staff can only address the problems that are presented by the students.  This scheme has been devised to help you - please take advantage of it.  Lecturers will often work through sample questions of the type used in the examinations during the theme tutorial.

Departmental tutorial scheme

Modular tutorials are open to all students taking a module, including non-BMS students.  BMS students also have group tutorials and personal tutorials within our department.

The nature of departmental tutorials alters as you move through levels:

Level 1.  Here we will focus on providing feedback on essays in preparation for the Semester 1 examinations.

Level 2.  You will have timetabled tutorials of a similar nature to Level 1.  There will be three group tutorials per semester plus at least two personal tutorials (times to be agreed with your tutor).  Assessed tutorial work will contribute towards your grades for practical modules.

Level 3.  Tutorials at this level are different from Levels 1 & 2.  You will still meet with your personal tutor at least once per semester.  However, group tutorials will be different from

Level 4. Tutorials in Level 4 aim at introducing students to distinct aspects of Biomedical science research.

Should there be an urgent problem and your personal tutor is not available, support will be provided by the Level Tutor or the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Dr Louise Robson.

MSc students are each assigned a personal tutor for the duration of their studies. This is a member of the academic staff in the department who is there to help if you are having difficulties with your studies or if you are having personal difficulties that you are worried about or that are impacting upon your studies. As each MSc student chooses a project that is closely supervised by a member of the academic staff, and this project including modules BMS6051 and BMS6052 runs through the whole duration of the MSc, then this member of academic staff will act also act as your personal tutor.

Normally your Personal Tutor will organise to meet you periodically during your time at University to discuss how you are getting on and if you have any concerns. However, if you are experiencing difficulties, don’t wait for your scheduled meeting but do contact your Personal tutor as they will want to help you identify ways to help resolve the problem. You can email or phone your Personal tutor to ask for an appointment or visit your Personal Tutor during their publicised office hours.

In the event that a problem arises with an aspect of your project or the supervision of your project and you cannot resolve it directly with your supervisor/tutor or do not feel comfortable addressing the problem directly with your supervisor, then you should arrange to speak with MSc Course Coordinator Professor Steve Winder (or his deputy Dr Anne-Gaelle Borycki) and ultimately if the issue is still not resolved with the Head of Department Professor Kathryn Ayscough.

Should there be an urgent problem and your personal tutor or project supervisor is not available, support will be provided by the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Dr. Louise Robson, the MSc Course Co-ordinator Professor Steve Winder or the MSc Deputy Director, Dr. Anne-Gaelle Borycki. Initial contact would best be made via the BMS office.

Tutors play an important role in the development of your academic skills, particularly in relation to effective time management, acquisition and use of information from a variety of sources, the preparation of written and oral presentations and understanding the nature of the scientific process.  Tutorials will be an informal forum for the exchange of views and to gain benefit from them it is important that you participate actively both by contributing to group discussions and preparing set work. They will enable relationships to develop both between students and between the students and the tutor. 

Information on tutorials will be shown on the Web.  Web-based communities e.g. MOLE and email will be used to provide information about all aspects of the course including tutorials.  Remember attendance at tutorials is essential and is compulsory! 

Student-Staff email partnership

What students should expect and do:

  1. As a student, you should be aware that academic staff aim to reply to an e-mail within 2 WORKING days (48 hours), although sometimes other committments might not make this possible.  Working hours are 9 to 5 Monday to Friday.  Remember that Bank Holidays are not working days, and that we are closed from Christmas Eve until the first working day after New Years’ Day.
  2. A student emailing at 4.55pm on a Friday should not expect a response until the following Monday or Tuesday (48 working hours).
  3. As a student if you receive an “out of the department” message from your tutor and your e-mail is urgent please e-mail the LEVEL tutor. If it is not urgent please wait until your tutor / supervisor is back and contact them again.
  4. As a student please do not send the same e-mail to more than one staff member.  Doing this generates additional work for academic staff, as we don’t know who you have contacted and all try to respond.
  5. As a student you are expected to monitor your UNIVERSITY e-mail account on a daily basis, and respond and act on any instructions provided.
  6. If you e-mail a question check the Google+ community for an answer, as staff are encouraged to share questions and answers with all students.

What staff should expect and do:

  1. Staff are expected (when committments allow) to respond within 2 WORKING days (48 hours) to student e-mails, even if this is a holding e-mail while additional information is obtained.
  2. Staff away from the university on annual leave are not expected to respond to student e-mails, BUT they must set up an “away from the department” message, so that students can see that they need to e-mail the LEVEL tutor.
  3. Staff expect students to only use their UNIVERSITY e-mail account.
  4. Staff expect students to send an e-mail to one individual only.
  5. Staff are strongly encouraged to post questions from students and answers on the relevant Google+ community (on an anonymous basis so that the student cannot be identified).

If you started undergraduate study at Sheffield in/after September 2012, the University is giving you a Higher Education Achievement Report or ‘HEAR’, to provide you with a comprehensive report of your university achievements.

For more information about the HEAR, visit

Study Skills

Guidance and suggestions for developing an effective and efficient approach to studying.

If you are struggling

Don’t put off seeking help if you are struggling to keep up with academic work.  The first port of call is to arrange a meeting with your personal tutor who will be able to offer a range of advice and support. 

If you still feel you are having difficulties then please contact Dr Katherine Linehan (or C105 Addison Building) whose specialist subject is developing students’ learning strategies.

See also:

Special Educational Needs/Disability

Support for students with a special educational need (SEN) or a disability is available both within the department and centrally through the University’s Disability and Dyslexia Support Centre. Dr Anil Sahal, B2 220 Alfred Denny building) is the SEN/Disability Liaison Officer for the department and you are welcome to contact him if you require advice or support regarding a SEN/Disability. 

Alternatively, you may wish to contact the University’s Disability and Dyslexia Support Centre directly.  They can be found in the Hillsborough Centre on the ground floor of the Alfred Denny Building.  For more information you can access their web pages at

Mature students

Sometimes mature students can find returning to full time education a little daunting for numerous reasons.  If you are a mature student and you would like any help or support with your academic studies please contact the department’s Mature Student Liaison Officer, Dr Katherine Linehan ( or C105 Addison Building).  Alternatively, you can gain support centrally from the Student Support Services or access the Mature Students web pages at

Organising your studies

One of the most effective components of successful study is effective use of time.  As a student you need to find the right balance between relaxation and study.  Part of the time that you should spend on academic work is fixed with regular lectures, practical classes and tutorials.  You will also have deadlines for handing in practical work and other course work.  Examination dates will also be announced well in advance.  These fixed times form a framework for the whole academic year, within which you can organise your time.

Using your study periods effectively

Everyone works and studies in their own way. There is no one way of studying which can be guaranteed to work for all students. To be successful in your studies you must develop your own study skills - try out different techniques, select the ones which work for you and stick with them.

Effective study requires a comfortable place to work, minimal distraction and accessible books and notes. The length of study periods is important but again this is an individual matter. Long sessions are not always advisable and you would certainly benefit from a few short breaks. Make sure you have a short break between each study session. You should set yourself a realistic goal within the time limit of your study session. You may wish to use it to check and expand lecture notes, to prepare a practical class report, to prepare an essay, to read a chapter in a textbook or read a scientific paper. Whatever your goal, do not try to do too much in one session.

Try to concentrate while you are studying. Concentration involves actively processing the material being presented. The length of time for which you can concentrate fully will vary, of course, but unless you can concentrate, your study sessions will not be productive. If you are finding it hard to concentrate, then try switching to another subject. A short break may also restore your concentration. If you find you cannot concentrate any longer, then take it as a signal to stop studying and relax.

Reading effectively

Effective reading varies according to the material you are reading.  In general, however, you can get the 'gist' of a text without having to process every single word.  With practice, you can increase your word span to 5 or 6 words, and some people can easily increase their reading rate to several hundred words per minute.  With course materials it is almost certain that you will need to read them more than once to understand them.

To gain an understanding of what you are reading you might, for example, first scan the text quickly to get a broad overview of what it contains.  Then read it again more slowly, picking out the main facts and ideas and how they are developed.  Finally read it again in detail.

You should aim to read with attention and comprehension, making sure you understand all the important concepts and, at the same time, carefully evaluating the material in the light of what you already know.  This is the stage when you might find it helpful to make notes of the more important ideas and facts in the text and a summary of the key points.

Work on past examination papers.

Past examination essay questions can be viewed via the appropriate section of the University's Virtual Learning Environment (MOLE).

Reading for information

You will already be a competent reader.  This does not mean, however, that you always make the best use of this skill or that you have developed your ability to the full.  Reading systematically and acquiring meaning takes time and patience so it is important that you are good at locating the relevant information.  At Levels 1 and 2 reading will mostly be text-book related but at Level 3 information must be obtained from scientific journals.  Some textbooks may contain some out of date information and incorrect ideas as they depend on the author's interpretation.  Some papers are worth reading thoroughly and with care but not all need to be read exhaustively.

The title should give you the first indication of whether the publication is in your area of interest but, particularly with some education books, the titles are very general.  The flyleaf or jacket may give useful information and the contents and index help you to select appropriate sections or pages.  The preface, abstract or introduction may help you decide whether to read on.  Articles or chapters sometimes have an initial abstract or final paragraph which summarises the information for you.  Bibliographies or reference lists give you an overview of the material used by the author and may suggest other publications for you to follow up.

Once you have located material which is potentially useful, there are various techniques which can help you to make decisions quickly.  The first is skimming the text in order to get a general impression.  This involves looking for the main ideas given in headings, keywords, tables and illustrations.  Some sections may then be skipped and others read carefully.

You may then use intensive reading to help you gain a deeper understanding of a passage and its implications by reading and perhaps re-reading.  One suggested technique which can be a valuable way of getting into effective reading habits is outlined below.


  • What is my purpose?
  • What is the text about?
  • Is it sufficiently up-to-date?
  • Is it likely to contain what I need?


  • Should I read it?
  • Which parts should I read?
  • What reading approach should I use?

Read critically

  • Skim selected parts.
  • Read them again.
  • Make notes.


  • What have I found out?
  • How does it link with my previous ideas?
  • Have I made appropriate/sufficient notes?
  • Do I now need to refer to any sources in original form?


  • Can I recall the main ideas/arguments?
  • Can I list them from memory?
  • Have I grasped the concepts?
  • Lectures and effective listening
Lectures and effective listening

Although you should experience a range of teaching styles in higher education, the lecture remains a popular and efficient way of delivering information to large groups of students.  Concentration is known to be sporadic and after listening intently for even a short period of time your attention may wander.  It is possible, however, as with reading strategies, for the conscientious learner to develop effective listening strategies.

The following advice and techniques may be of value:

It is easier to concentrate if you sit near the front where the interaction and acoustics are better

If possible, be prepared by making yourself familiar with the subject before the lecture

Become aware of your own prejudices.  Are they and your expectations influencing what you hear?

Question in your own mind what the speaker is saying.  For example:

  • Do I agree/disagree with what is being said?
  • What evidence/experience do I have concerning this issue?
  • Is this fact or opinion?
  • Where might the speaker be leading me.
  • How does it relate to material from other lecture courses or practical modules?

It is important to handle note-taking well.  If you try to take down almost everything that is said, the writing becomes the focus of your attention rather than listening and thinking.  Be selective and record the main points.  Listen for important ideas.  Make use of points or stars as in this list.  If a projection contains a great deal of information, take down the headings or key words leaving spaces to fill in if required rather than trying to copy it at high speed.

After the lecture ask for clarification of any points not understood or questioned at the time.  If you wish to take issue with something that has been said or contribute your own view, do so.  When you know your lecturers well you will have a better idea of how they interact.  Visiting speakers generally have a question time at the end so jot down any questions as they occur to you.

Students are invited to post questions either by email or via the appropriate Google+ Community. Lecturers will endeavour to answer these.

Discussion and presentation

Discussion continues to be an extremely valuable medium for clarifying, reinforcing and extending learning.  As well as in other, more informal contexts, it may be engaged in through:

  1. Individual or small groups with a tutor.
  2. Student-led group discussion.
  3. Student presentations.

Group discussions

A discussion might follow, or be a part of, a workshop session (in which the focus has been on practical activities) or might follow the viewing of a film or video.  It will probably come about as a result of the 'class' being broken down into smaller groups, in order to focus in on specific issues.

In these contexts it may well be tempting for an individual to sit back and allow the more confident or outspoken members of the group to take over.  This means, however, that the broad experience and insights of such 'quieter' members are overlooked.  Try to develop confidence in making a contribution to these collaborative efforts.  Your tutor will try to involve everyone in the discussion.

The purpose of such discussions is not to arrive at a set of answers or solutions, but rather to engage in a process of exploration, sharing ideas and identifying questions and problems.  The outcome may well be that members of a group agree to disagree.

Frequently, when group discussions of this kind are initiated, a request is made for a volunteer who will 'report back' on the discussion to the larger 'class'.  Though this may seem intimidating to some students, the role of such a 'reporter' is a privileged, if responsible one.  For it is in the reformulation, reorganisation and exposition of a mass of loosely related discussion points that much learning can take place.  Don't hesitate to volunteer for this opportunity!

Student presentations

A tutor will provide either a topic or issue related to work currently being undertaken, or else students will be asked to select such a theme for themselves.  An individual or small group of students is then invited to research that topic and present their findings and interpretations to the rest of the group at some future, pre-specified date.  The aim of a presentation is to amplify and clarify issues challenging the rest of the group, to consider them and engage in critical discussion.

Think about communicating your ideas in a lively way.

Consider distributing a handout to members of the group before the presentation so that what it outlines can be considered in advance.

Use notes as a basis for delivery, do not simply read all of your material out from a script.

Keep your audience alert by:

  • looking at them rather than down at your notes
  • keeping concise and to the point
  • speaking clearly and varying your voice
  • Use visual aids, overhead projectors, charts, board etc. to illustrate points.

The learning value of a presentation can be limited if only those students who present it are actively engaged in it.  The rest of the group should be encouraged to read generally around the issues so that they have an informed perspective from which to comment and contribute. 

The key to effective learning through discussion, as through other media, is active learning:

A - actively participate
C - contribute
T - talk
I - initiate
V - volunteer
E - engage

Writing  assignments

Most frequently you will be writing essays or reports in order to communicate to your lecturers that you understand the assignment and have achieved learning outcomes from the module.  Your learning therefore is frequently assessed through your ability to communicate through writing.

It is expected that you will develop critical and analytical skills as you progress through your degree.  Whatever the title of your assignment, it will be necessary for you to use these skills.  Generally your lecturers will not be looking for ready-made solutions but rather your own search for insights.  You will need to be selective and support your analysis with evidence from the findings of empirical work and the knowledge you have from your own experience.  There needs to be evidence of reflection and reasoning rather than lengthy description.

Read the essay title very carefully and make sure you address the issue.  If you do not understand, seek clarification from a tutor.  Discuss the topic with colleagues, but be cautious when listening to advice from other students as this can sometimes cause confusion.  If the title includes a quotation, it is advisable to consult the original source and consider the context.  If you have been given assessment criteria, read them very carefully before and after you write in order to include appropriate material and to check that you have covered everything relevant.

Read around the topic and consult as wide a variety of perspectives within the literature as you consider appropriate.  Take advice on this from reading lists, course handouts and tutorial suggestions.  Begin to identify the line you intend to argue and start planning.  There are many ways to plan but the first steps need to be flexible so flow diagrams and lists of key words and ideas may help.  However, remember to keep to the deadline for submission.  Manage your time so that the effort you put in reflects the 'weighting' of the mark to be awarded.

Now read more selectively and intensively.  Remember to note the references carefully using a reliable system and as you take notes keep the assignment title firmly in mind.  At this stage you will need to modify your original plan to take account of new material.  After consulting the literature, you will need to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the various perspectives.  As you write, remember to support your claims by giving evidence and reasons rather than unsupported personal opinion or prejudice.

All your writing should have a structure.  Essays need a beginning, middle and an end with clear links between them.  Your essay should have the following:

  1. Introduction which sets out your understanding and interpretation of the title.  The introduction can also identify the key issues and the rationale for selecting them.
  2. Main body of text which should include some exposition of the existing evidence relating to the issues focused on in the introduction, an examination or review of the relevant literature and some discussion of current thinking and practice.  A line of argument should be developed which takes account of differing viewpoints, interpreting and evaluating them.
  3. Conclusion which does not necessarily offer any definite conclusions but rounds up the arguments and presents tentative resolutions.  New material is not introduced here.
  4. Bibliographic references which should follow the conventions outlined later.
  5. Appendix or Appendices may be included and could contain illustrative samples, transcripts, tables etc.  Such data should only appear in the appendices if they are referred to in the text.  Additional pages will not gain merit unless they are clearly relevant.  Appendices should be individually titled and lettered.

It is very important that you proof-read your work.

Check that you have addressed the issues you were asked to address and fulfilled the assessment criteria.

Check spellings by the spell-checker if you have used a word-processor but also by re-reading as the spell checker does not find them all – as the following poem proves!

  • Eye have a spelling chequer, it came with my Pea Sea.

It plainly marques for my revue, mistakes Aye can knot sea.

  • I’ve run this poem threw it, eye am shore your pleas too no.

It’s letter perfect inn its weigh, my chequer tolled me sew.

  • The motto of this storey, is very plane two sea.

Don’t forget too ewes you’re brain as well as your’re Pea See.

Make sure you have listed all your references and they are accurate and consistent.

Check for punctuation, paragraphing, grammar and typographical errors.

Is your work coherent, comprehensible and consistent?

Is your work the correct length?  It is a required part of the discipline of advanced study to keep within the specified limits.  In some assessments penalties are applied for going outside the limit.

Cut and Paste

Do not cut and paste text from original sources, not even into draft or working versions of your assignments.  It is very bad academic practice and leads down the route to plagiarism (intentional or unintentional, which is also penalised).

Presentation of written work

Most assignments are given marks for presentation.  Where hard copies are asked for, the work should be legible and, unless otherwise stated, presented in an easily opened plastic folder.  These are relatively cheap, safe and convenient.

Your work should be word-processed, single-sided, on A4 paper of reasonable quality, with spacing set at double.  Pages should be numbered sequentially including appendices.  Leave a reasonable margin especially if the work is bound in a folder.

Present your work on time to avoid being penalised for late submission.  Submission dates should be strictly adhered to, only in exceptional circumstances and after consultation with tutors will deadlines be extended.

Keep a copy of your final draft and retain all work handed back in case it is required by the Examination Board or External Examiner.

Bibliographic references and the use of quotations

Making reference to the published work of others is a vital part of academic writing.  Your referencing is an indication of your ability to handle other people's ideas and relate them to your own considerations.  However, you should always give credit to the individual whose ideas you are using and you do this by citing the reference.  Your writing style is very important and succinctly incorporating a quotation or a paraphrase into an essay or a report is a necessary skill.


You use a quotation when you wish to reference a specific point and the author's own words will be the most appropriate way to inform your reader.  A quotation is signified thus: “to be or not to be” - the speech marks are important.  Remember, however that in normal scientific writing (research papers, reviews); the use of a quotation is very rare and should be avoided whenever possible. 

If you have to use one, a short quotation with speech marks can be incorporated into your text but a longer quotation (more than 20 words, but use your judgement) needs to stand out as if it is a separate paragraph.  You do this by indenting at either side and, if type written, by using single spacing.  Make a careful note of potential quotations as you read them as it is difficult to find them later.  If you want to shorten the quotation by missing out some words, indicate this by putting three dots in the space.  It is important to incorporate the quotation as you write, using the author's words to build your argument.  Do not add them later!


You paraphrase when you express the meaning of a passage from a book or journal article in your own words.  It may help to note the main message given by an author.  You can paraphrase a small section of prose or the findings of research or an entire book!  Be as precise as possible when expressing the meaning of the passage but always use your own words.

You must identify and fully attribute any source you use whether it is a direct quotation or your own version of what someone else has said.  If you do not do this, you will be guilty of plagiarism.  Plagiarism is a form of cheating which is dealt with very seriously by the University.  The references provide the reader with the information to follow up the ideas you have given them.  You may also find your own references useful if they are relevant for another assignment.

There are various reasons why you might make reference to a published document.  It may support your argument or provide an alternative point of view.  We are looking for your ability to analyse the subject under discussion and evidence that you have read widely enough to be able to consider the relevant details.  We are also looking for criticality which you can demonstrate by handling opposing views and integrating them into your own personal synthesis of ideas.  In order to do all these things well, the referencing needs to be accurate, complete and consistent.


It is essential that you proofread your written assessment to correct spelling mistakes, incorrect grammar or unclear statements. While it is acceptable to ask a friend or colleague to proofread your text, you must avoid the use of 3rd party proof reading website.

How do you cite references?

You must accept that referencing is time consuming but if you develop good habits you can cut down the time and the possibility of irritation!  All sources must be referenced so collect the relevant information from the start.  Only those referred to in your writing appear in the list of references.  All those mentioned in your writing should appear in the list of references at the back.

What goes in the text?

Unless otherwise stated in module literature, we prefer you to use the Harvard method of referencing and you can see how this is done by looking at the Information Skills Tutorials on the Library Webpages:

Select the drop-down list for Referencing Tutorials and pick the one for Biomedical Science.