A coursework is a written project usually carried out over the duration of a term. It may take different forms and be of different sizes depending on the discipline, topic and the preferences of your professor, but its general nature remains mostly the same: it aims to teach a student how to perform independent research. Usually you have to choose the topic yourself (albeit within certain limits), which also serves to increase your level of independence – you have to define the direction of your work, not just follow the instructions of your supervisor.
Business studies being a mostly practice-oriented discipline, you will most likely be expected to deal less with theory and more with how to improve a business’ profitability: finding better ways to sell products, predict trends, deal with customers and influence their behavior.
Remember: your coursework will significantly contribute towards your overall grade for the course. In many situations, it is just as important as the grade you get for your exam. Make use of it, especially if you know yourself to break down under the pressure of time-limited exams. A coursework gives you an opportunity to show your full potential in a virtually stress-free environment – at least if you approach the task properly.
You will not be asked to select a topic right away, so put the time you have to good use. Before you settle upon something, study the topic you are considering carefully. Check the following:
If any of these points make you doubtful, better choose another topic or modify what you currently have.
You will spend an entire term writing this coursework. Whatever enthusiasm you have initially will dwindle away, especially if you hit some roadblocks. Therefore, try to choose something you are enthusiastic about in the first place, or this assignment will turn into torture.
Business studies are primarily concerned with practical results. You cannot write about something that is based merely on your ideas or conjectures – you will have to work with measurable metrics and provide facts, statistics and reports as a foundation of your work. So think ahead and decide how you are going to measure your results.
If you have already done some research or investigative work on a subject that is of interest to you, see if you can think about something related to it so that you can leverage your existing knowledge and experience of working with the topic. Can you look at it from a new or unusual angle? Did you previously encounter some point or points that warranted additional research but weren’t directly related to the assignment you were doing at the time? For example, you’ve written an assignment on the effects of rotating employees between different departments and noticed an interesting relation between this practice as used in some companies and employee retention rates. You can write a more detailed coursework dedicated specifically to this relation.
Although you are mostly free to choose whatever you want, there are still limitations. You may have to stick to a particular general theme. Some topics may be specifically excluded (for example, if there is a later exam on them).
He/she is not supposed to define the direction of your research, but it is completely natural to ask him/her for advice. Prepare some rough drafts of a topic or topics and bounce them off your advisor – he/she will help you add some polish to it and make it more writable.
Here are some examples of topics for you to see what you should be looking for:
Even if your coursework is humble in size and is little more than an extended essay, remember its role in your overall grade and treat it accordingly. You cannot just start writing one – this work requires preparation.
Even if you are used to waiting until the last possible moment before starting to work on your essays, this approach will spell disaster if you try it on a coursework. It requires too much research to do it in a hurry.
First, study the assignment requirements and check the deadlines. Usually there are at least two of them: namely, the dates when you should submit your first and final drafts. Try to estimate how much time you will need to do it, and set aside blocks of time to work on the paper regularly (either a little bit every day or for longer periods every few days) so that you can complete it with time to spare. Do not plan expecting to complete the assignment right before the deadline – delays will happen, so strive to complete the job some time before the final submission date. Do not rely on these deadlines too much – divide your work into parts and assign your own deadlines to them.
The main purpose of a coursework is to test and enhance your ability to do research, so treat the work with the sources as a crucial part of the assignment, not a formality. Your professor will evaluate the quality of your research as just as, if not more, important as the smoothness of the paper that results from it.
The guidelines sometimes mention how many sources you need. If there is no such information, try to use at least three plus one for each page of your coursework. Beyond that number, use as many as you see fit, but remember that you actually have to use them and not just add them to the bibliography to bloat its size. Try to make this list diverse and use different types of sources: books, journal articles, newspaper publications, websites, etc.
You can find your first set of sources by singling out keywords related to your research and running some searches using academic databases and search engines. Pay special attention to resources such as EconBiz, EconLit and NBER, as they contain plenty of business-related texts. However, multidisciplinary databases like Google Scholar and JSTOR can also be useful. Run your searches, study the texts that come up, then look through their bibliographies and see if there is more related literature there.
By now, you should see who the most important authorities on your chosen subject area – these are the writers with the most publications on it and with the most references in other sources. Start reading up on the subject, paying special attention to them. You do not have to read every word of every book you have gathered, but you should familiarize yourself with at least the most important sources. Make notes – you will have to use quotes in your coursework, so prepare them beforehand.
Although the structure of your coursework may differ according to the guidelines, usually it is an extended essay and contains the same parts: introduction, thesis statement, body paragraphs and conclusion. Note down what you are going to write and where: how to introduce the main topic, how to phrase your thesis statement, in what order to mention the main points and how to connect them to each other, what to pay attention to in the conclusion. You should not be thinking about it as you write – by then, you should simply write up what you have already decided.
By definition, there is no single approved way of writing an introduction – if you find somebody suggesting one and try to follow it, it will make the first lines of your coursework (the most important for general impression) look stilted, artificial and formulaic. Instead, focus not on form but on function.
Do everything relevant to lead up to the main point of your argument and grasp the reader’s attention with the first couple of sentences. For example:
E.g., ‘Henry Ford believed that the business success is based on the best quality goods, lowest possible costs and highest possible wages. However…’
Your introduction should take about 10-15 percent of the entire paper.
It may or may not be a part of introduction. Either way, its nature remains the same – it is a short expression of the main point of your work. Make sure you do not mix it up with your topic. A topic is what your coursework is about, e.g., ‘Effects of Deregulation on Business Development and Growth’. A thesis statement is a statement on this subject that you make and back up in your paper, e.g., ‘Deregulation has both immediate effect on business’ efficiency and long-term positive consequences for its growth’.
A thesis statement should be:
The main part of your coursework, it should constitute about 70-75 percent of its word count. Depending on the guidelines, it may consist of either body paragraphs or a few sections with subheadings. Either way, the principle remains the same: you should introduce one point per paragraph and accompany it with supporting facts. Add transition words or phrases at the end and the beginning of each paragraph, e.g., ‘therefore’, ‘thus’, ‘so’, ‘consequently’, etc.
Conclusion should be about 10-15 percent of the entire coursework, and its main role is to recount everything you have said up to this moment and indicate what results your research brought. Have you proved your original point? What findings have you made? What is its importance for the field? What warrants additional research? What are the limitations of your work?
If you heeded our advice and strictly followed your timeline, you finished writing at least a few days before the deadline and have plenty of time to do further work on your paper. Here is what you have to do before submitting it if you want a good grade.
While you are writing, you only see one fragment of your coursework at a time. Now you should carefully read the entire paper and see if it makes sense. As you write (especially if it takes a long time) you may forget what you said before and start contradicting yourself, making logic leaps and repeating what you have already said. For example, when speaking about overqualification, you may cite it as a cause of both over- and underemployment in different parts of your work. See if anything of this is true for your text. Double-check everything you doubt. Ask somebody else to read the paper and say if its logic is sound.
Guidelines usually limit the length of a coursework, so check again if you exceeded it. Make sure the guidelines directly say if the bibliography is included in the word count – if you misunderstood it earlier, you may have to either cut some parts of your paper or make additions.
You may use an online tool like Scribens to check your text for grammar, syntax and spelling errors, but do not trust the results too much – it is safer to hire a professional proofreader. Also, do not trust your own ability to notice mistakes – you know your paper too well and are likely to miss something.
Check if you followed the instructions of the formatting style assigned to your paper consistently.
See if it complies with the format. If you use sources of different types, check if you have written all of them correctly – for example, books, journal articles and web publications are cited differently in most styles. Also, see if you have included all the sources used in the paper.
A coursework may not be as complex as a thesis or dissertation, but it is likely to be the first piece of independent research you encounter in your life. We hope that this guide answers all your questions.