My Big Fat Research Report (9239/GP&R)

If you are taking Global Perspectives and Research (9239) and made it to Grade 12 – congratulations! Not only because you are now at the final stage of the course, but also because you have only one thing to do this year. AS was a pretty hectic year: apart from the written paper you had to prepare your essay and the Team Project for submission. Now you have one single goal: write your Research Report and submit it to Cambridge. How bad can that be?

Well, not that it’s bad but there is a reason why the components are arranged in the way they are. While in terms of the component distribution you might suggest going ‘two and two’, the reality is that the report gives you 50% of the total subject grade. Which means that the expectations are pretty high. Between us, they are as high as a first or second-year university student would face.

Report in a glance

In brief, you need to write a 5000-word written argument in the form of an essay that presents different perspectives and reaches an answer to the question asked in the title. The bibliography is compulsory; references and citations should be there as well.

You have absolute freedom in the choice of the topic. As long as it has academic relevance and there are contrasting perspectives: choose whatever you find interesting. Important: choose what you find interesting; otherwise you are stuck with a very boring topic you will research for months and it will be slowly killing you and your motivation.

Notes from the Examiner Reports

Examiner Reports are the best sources to understand what exactly is expected from you and how it is going to be assessed. Find them. Read them. Take notes.

Never underestimate a chance to have a glimpse into insider information. The examiner reports do exactly that: you won’t find this information in the syllabus or mark schemes. I know that not everyone is dedicated to going through the files and reading them. It’s fine, I got you. The notes below are directly taken from the examiner reports from the last few years. You can find the original reports online and get a better understanding if you wish, for example using this link.

This post is arranged as bullet points in the categories so nobody is lost. All the bold, underlined parts are my additions to make sure that the reader does not miss important bits. [and when you see this, it means that I added my comments to give better context or further highlight the point]

Questions and Perspectives

  • title questions need to be formulated following initial research and through dialogue with the teacher
  • consider whether there is a clear debate between contrasting perspectives
  • the question can be viewed through the lens of different themes or can be located in different contexts so candidates can examine the implications of the question in various ways
  • The skill of synthesising research material into coherent perspectives is assessed via this component
  • It is important that candidates go further than just presenting two contrasting perspectives, they need to offer a considered comparison of their perspectives. It is the comparisons of perspectives that will help inform the final judgement.
  • Some Reports persisted in seeing ‘perspectives’ as aspects or elements of the topic. There were considerations of, for example, the legal ‘perspective’ or the ‘economic perspective’ but this often led to explanation of viewpoints, not evaluation.
  • Some candidates explained in their reflection that they had been unable to find much evidence for a contrasting view. This raises a question why this topic was chosen by the candidate.
    [don’t put yourself in a weak position from the beginning. First, check if you have enough material to write about, then finalise the topic]
  • Candidates should avoid asking ‘Why…? or ‘How…?’ or using titles which are not in the form of a question at all.
  • If the evidence for one perspective is more convincing and substantial, the report will be more of a demonstration of a viewpoint than an evaluation of different views.
    [make sure that you have equally strong perspectives. If you and everyone else know the answer to your question before you start the work, it’s a bad sign]
  • Simply setting out competing perspectives has value but the higher-level thinking skill involves testing those perspectives in order to reach an informed judgement.

Sources

  • Candidates should use sources not only to support perspectives but challenge them too.
  • identify sources that challenge one another
    [yes, not only nice support, perspectives challenge each other; sources challenge each other – that’s what you need for a higher grade]
  • The most successful candidates were able to critically evaluate their source material with criteria that were explicitly relevant to the issue under debate.
    [just having some evaluation is not good enough: it is not the activity of ticking the boxes. Put careful thought into what you evaluate, how and why you chose those criteria in each case]
  • Evidence should be referenced and should be evaluated using a range of appropriate critical criteria. However, there is no point in choosing evidence which is obviously inadequate simply for the sake of demonstrating that.
  • To take an example, a source from an organisation funded by energy companies make an argument against a windfall tax on profits. Certainly, knowing the origin of the source might lead to the need to look carefully at the arguments, but it would not necessarily make them invalid. If a key argument was that companies needed money to invest, then this would need to be investigated by finding out how much they had actually invested. An instant judgement based on the origin of evidence is often formulaic and unconvincing.
  • In an academic debate it is likely that protagonists will be equally well qualified ‘experts’ so judgment depends on the arguments they offer, the strength of evidence, the degree of corroboration from other evidence and any underlying assumptions that may affect their thinking. Without this type of analysis, ‘evaluation’ may be as superficial and misleading as simply accepting opinion at face value.

Concepts, Research Methods and Judgements

  • Many candidates decided to undertake primary research. It should be noted that this is not a requirement. It should also be noted that candidates should not be engaging with primary research that may break ethical guidelines or compromise their safety.
  • Quite often candidates simply canvassed opinions of fellow students in a generalised way and were then unable to use the findings to explicitly support perspectives
  • Ideally a candidate will make two or three intermediary judgements before their final judgement.
  • Candidates can usefully set out their methodology in or just after their introduction.
  • Explain why the methods they have chosen are the most appropriate ones for their report.
  • Candidates should also explain how they carried out the research.
  • critical evaluation of evidence and the overall viewpoints it supports is an essential element. This is the real point of the qualification but is still relatively neglected.

Reflection

  • Candidates should reflect upon how the perspectives presented have influenced the report. It can be stated in the introduction as it is here candidates may set out the scope of their report.
  • Candidates can reflect on how perspectives are shaped by specific themes and contexts.
  • Candidates are assessed on their ability to reflect upon the strengths and limitations of their conclusion.
  • Most reports, if not all, had a separate section on Reflection, which was helpful.
  • Personal reflections in themselves are of limited value.

Communication

  • Candidates should use headings and discourse markers to effectively guide the reader through the report
    [in case you forgot: discourse markers are the connecting phrases that help to see the logic of the argument, for example: therefore, however, additionally etc.]
  • the candidates need to offer a clear introduction that sets out the report’s perspectives, themes, contexts and methodology.
  • An effectively structured report will contain both final and intermediary conclusions.
  • It must be remembered however, that the assessors reading the reports will not necessarily have the subject knowledge in the specific area of focus. Candidates should ensure that the terminology used is made accessible to a reader that may not have subject specific knowledge. Offering lengthy dictionary definitions of key terms is not an effective way to do this as it breaks the flow of the perspectives being presented.
  • To be considered consistent, each citation made should have a full reference and this should be easily found.

That’s it for the Report itself.

There is also a Research Log, but we will talk about it later.