If you want to write an independent assignment, your choice of topic isn’t the only important thing you need to consider. It’s also a good idea to consider the type of assignment you’re working on and your research approach. This applies no matter where you are in your degree programme.
By familiarising yourself with the different types of assignments and approaches, you will be able to make a more conscious choice about how to structure your assignment. You might have more options than you initially thought.
As a rule, no assignment type is better or more distinguished than another. And no assignment type completely stands alone from all others. Different assignment types can often be combined within a single assignment.
Regardless of the type of assignment you choose to write, it’s important to structure and sub-divide it into different sections for methods, theory and analysis.
Objective: Are you mostly interested in immersing yourself in theory and working independently of external factors? Theory-based assignments are usually easy to get started on. However, for some people there can be a risk of getting stuck in the texts and finding it difficult to produce the required amount of material. As in all other assignments, it’s important to ask your supervisor and to prepare a strong problem statement. Avoid getting writer’s block on the topic as a whole ("I am writing about...") and move on to a problem statement ("I will investigate... and I will do so by... ").
Example: Study of the crisis in the welfare state and the risk society – a theoretical analysis of Anthony Gidden’s welfare project.
Objective: Do you want gain experience in collecting data or do you want to conduct an in-depth study of the subject matter? This method of research will give you specific tasks to start with, as well as some concrete theories to support your work. It can be difficult to determine the extent of the data collection and analytical work ahead in the assignment, so speak with your supervisor.
If you want to carry out qualitative or quantitative studies, you will first need to familiarise yourself with how to structure an interview, do fieldwork, design questionnaires or conduct experiments. Remember that you will also need to set aside time to process the material you collect.
Example: Study of the effect of a specific mobile-phone-based learning process.
Collaborating with external partners
Objective: This will give you a unique opportunity to learn about an issue that stems from working life. Having other people interested in the results of your assignment can be a good source of motivation and drive. You might be able to access material that you would not otherwise be able to analyse if you weren’t working with a company or organisation.
You will often be dependent on the commitment and availability of the company/organisation that you are collaborating with. It’s important to draw up a plan for the process that both you and the company/organisation agree on in advance. Make confidentiality agreements with your collaboration partner (NDAs). Remember that the final product will be assessed as an academic assignment and should not be written solely with the company/organisation in mind.Example: Study of the management philosophy of Danske Bank.
Objective: Producing a specific product that has direct utility value can energise the writing process. You can include empirical studies in the assignment and, if necessary, make the use of the product the object of analysis and evaluation. The product itself cannot stand alone, it must be part of a Master's thesis, for example. Ask your supervisor to help you to prioritise the various elements in the assignment.Example: Preparing teaching materials for use in teaching upper secondary school Latin.