Description and analysis

Many students make the mistake of only describing what happened (the results) in their reports. Tertiary report writing requires that you not only describe the the results of your research (what happened) but you also need to explain or analyse what happened and link these explanations to the theory.

It is important to understand the difference between analysis and description.

What is a description?

- saying what happened (general features and examples)

For example: Our group could not agree on anything.

What is analysis?

- explain and interpret what happened (link to the theory)

For example: Due to our group's difficulty in decision making there was a lack of progress in goal setting. (links group research with the theory - cliques and goal setting)

'Poor' student example - description only

Our group developed great working relationships quite quickly although there were some arguments at first. This was because Ben and Amy helped to get the group to make decisions and start working on the project. We all started to get on really well and we were the first to finish the project.

Why is this an example of 'poor' writing?

  1. Does not explain or interpret what happened.
  2. Does not link the group experience to the theory.

''Good' student example
Example of good writing

Why is this an example of 'good' writing?

  1. Describes what happened.
  2. Analyses what happened.
  3. Integrates the theory and the student experience.
  4. Uses a topic sentence outlining what the paragraph is about (i.e. the 'norming' stage).

Text only description


Activity 3