Written Assignment Guidelines
Module: Audio 501
Submission Format: hard copy, Turnitin
Weighting: 23% (of module Audio 501)
Submission Code: WA
This document is designed to give Audio Engineering students in their first year advice on
writing and submitting the Written Assignment and is based on guidelines set down by
Middlesex University. Please read this document carefully in conjunction with the ‘SAE
Institute UK Formatting & Referencing Guidelines’. Further, please familiarise yourself with
the SAE Academic Honesty Policy available from saeuk.com.
The Written Assignment, along with Theory Exam 1 and 2 of module Audio 501, is the
culmination of the theoretical aspect of the first year of the Audio Engineering programme.
The assignment allows students to show their ability in formulating, researching and
presenting an academic paper. Considering that all Higher Education programmes require
students to research information on their own, the Written Assignment should be seen as
an opportunity to gain experience with academic writing in a relevant subject area. Please
note that the content of this assignment should be extra-curricular, i.e. it must be related to
the field of Audio Engineering, but should not be based on material that has been gathered
The Written Assignment is therefore largely up to you, the student. Lecturers may provide
advice on certain aspects of the assignment (particularly regarding sources of information
and topics that will be covered in the programme), but you should conduct the majority of
the work on your own, outside of normal college hours. Questions regarding the structure
and nature of the assignment should all be covered in this document and the referencing
guidelines. Please ensure that you read both carefully. If further advice is required during
your assignment, please feel free to contact your lecturer / Head Lecturer.
Your topic must be related to the field of Audio Engineering or the Recording industry.
Students can choose from the following list of topics:
1. Techniques for the Recording / Mixing of a Chosen Instrument
2. Case Study of an Engineer / Producer / Label
3. Historical Overview of a Musical Movement
4. Analysis of the Acoustics of a Given Studio / Venue
5. Hardware vs. Software Instruments
6. The Internet as a Delivery Medium for Audio
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7. A Current Legal Issue Affecting the Music Industry
8. A Current Application of Multi-Channel Audio
9. Alternative Uses of Sound
10. Analysis of the techniques used on a particular recording /
album / genre
Students wishing to propose their own topic should refer to the proposal section at the end
of this document.
The word count for this assignment is 3,500 words ±10% (i.e. no less than 3150, no more
than 3850). Footnotes, Appendixes, Abstracts, Bibliography, Acknowledgement and
Preface as well as direct quotes do not count towards the total word count. The word count
must be presented on the title page of your submission.
The final essay will be marked out of three categories with the following weighting scheme:
• Refers to the actual factual, or otherwise, research information contained in your
• Evidence of a thorough understanding of the topic reflecting a critical and/or,
where appropriate, creative argumentation.
• Refers to how the essay has been presented including its conformity to the above
guidelines, e.g. adherence to the 3500- word limit.
• Refers to how this information has been used to support your argumentation, i.e.
the ability to organize, structure and analyse your sources culminating in relevant
and stimulating conclusions.
• Evidence of appropriate sources, e.g. music and/or illustrative material.
• Use of grammar and expressions, accurate and consistent use of bibliographic
and discographic references
• Refers to the quality of your writing style.
• Refers to how the essay has been presented including its layout.
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• A correctly formatted and bound essay in compliance with the stated formatting
• In addition, an electronic version of your essay must be uploaded to turnitin.com.
Students are advised to take the following stages into consideration whilst working on their
• Preliminary research;
• Scope definition;
• Structure planning;
During this stage students should find sources of information about their chosen topic
and assess their potential quality. Empirical projects might involve confirmation of
interviews or hiring out equipment.
Students are required to decide what will be included/excluded in their essay and on
what specific sub-topics to base their discussion on. Remember that a detailed essay
on a smaller topic is usually better than an overview of a larger topic and that you
need to stay focused throughout the essay.
“Recording, Mixing and Production techniques applied in Pink Floyd’s Albums” is a
topic too vast for this assignment.
“Recording techniques applied in the album Dark Side of the Moon” would be more
Your main body should be logically divided into macro sections (normally 3-5
chapters). You should draw rough outlines of your text at this stage.
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Types of research:
In which you conduct your own experiments in order to contribute new knowledge to
the topic (i.e. “Microphone Techniques for the Recording of a Cello”). Such works
should be accompanied with original samples/interviews/case studies.
In which you collect information from many sources and compile the acquired
information into a focused essay.
It may be necessary to develop an overview of the subject area in order to determine what
issues are relevant. The following techniques may be helpful:
• Continually check the reading material against your original outline for the assignment
so you do not include material that is irrelevant;
• Ensure that all sources you use (whether they are books, web sites, audio CD’s etc.)
are carefully noted – you may need to go back to them at some later stage and will
need them for referencing. All sources used in your essay must be correctly
• Ensure that all sources you quote are reliable. The Internet and associated
technologies are a valuable source of data, but some information may be
unsubstantiated and should be used with care;
• You are advised to keep a ‘Research Notebook’ in which you write down any ideas and
reference all sources that you look at.
The following should not be included in your work:
• Any material that has already been gathered during lectures (e.g. the structure of a
• Unnecessary rudimentary information – assume that the reader understands the basics
of your research e.g. do not include any music theory text if your essay is an analysis
of a musical piece. However, if you feel the information is important you may include it
in the main text or better, in footnotes;
• Any personal opinions that are not supported by research-based material (e.g. “Nirvana
– the best band ever” or “Marshall amplifiers sound better than Fender ones”). Try to
remain as factual as possible with the exception of the conclusion where you can
present your opinions in an academic way.
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Make sure you fully understand what information is available to you. Relevant books are a
good starting point, but information may be limited, out of date and/or not in tune with
current thinking. Use the bibliographies in books to uncover other sources of information.
Note that books should represent the majority of sources consulted during your research,
since they are commonly verified by universities, libraries and publishers. Research at this
level of study is expected to involve a minimum of five books.
Reference letters can be obtained from reception to help for membership at libraries, e.g.
The Barbican Library or The British Library. In addition, your local library might also hold
valuable resources of your topic as well as the SAE library dedicated to audio, film and
Using the Internet as the sole source for research is not advisable since many sites are
created by enthusiastic, but not necessarily educated authors. Be cautious of websites
where anyone can edit information (“Wikipedia”) and other public servers, suffixes
including Yahoo or AOL. Try to use sites with academic institutional background only, i.e.
web suffixes such as .ac (‘academic’) and .edu (‘education’). Sources with full credentials
of the author should be utilised only. Of course, online articles from magazine archives
(e.g. www.soundonsound.com) are also considered valid but should be reference with
volume/issue numbers etc. and not with their internet address.
Web Search Engines
The differences between search engines arise from the algorithm used for indexing,
their coverage (number and geography of sites indexed), frequency of indexing the
world (‘up-to-date’) and ease of use. The following shows a list of independent
SAE Institute UK students also have access to the ACM Digital Library whilst on
What is a metasearch engine?
A meta-searcher is a program that calls on several search engines. Instead of calling
Lycos, AltaVista, Infoseek and Excite in turn, and feeding each with the keyword you
can call a meta-searcher and give your keyword once. The meta-searcher sends out
the keyword to all these well-known search engines. The disadvantage is that it only
gets the first ten URLs from each search engine. Thus the maximum number of
(different) URLs you can expect is typically four times ten, i.e. forty URLs.
One example of a metasearch is MetaCrawler.
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Build the essay gradually, starting with rough drafts before producing the finished piece.
Ensure continuity and text flow – there should be a logical link between all sections,
paragraphs, sentences and words. Promote correct paragraph length – a single sentence
paragraph is usually to short; a whole-page paragraph is usually too long. When writing
the academic paper, you must make appropriate use of the English language and avoid
informal words or phrases of casual conversational language (‘colloquialism’). The
following provides some advice on common errors made by students:
• Avoid the overuse of the first person singular or plural (“I” or “we”);
• Make the correct use of possessive pronouns, for example:
• it’s = abbreviation of it is (not to be used);
• its = ‘something belonging to it’ e.g. its destiny
• they’re = abbreviation of they are (not to be used)
• their = ‘something belonging to them’;
• Never contract the verbs “to be” and “to have”:
• ‘you are’ must be used and not ‘you’re’;
• ‘you have’ must be used and not ‘you’ve’;
• Never abbreviate negative verbs (don’t, won’t, wouldn’t, isn’t, etc.) i.e. always write
down the full form, e.g. do not, will not, would not;
• The following common abbreviations in texts may be utilised:
• e.g. = ‘for example’ or ‘for instance’;
• i.e. = ‘that is to say’ or ‘in other words’;
• Never use ‘e.g.’ or ‘i.e.’ at the beginning of a sentence;
• NB Some new British style guides suggest “eg,” and “ie,” – this format is acceptable
for this assignment.
• More information on correct use of language can be found in the ‘SAE Institute UK
Formatting & Referencing Guidelines’.
All essays should be checked thoroughly for spelling, grammatical and punctuation
mistakes. Proofreaders may also assist to enhance the style and flow of your text.
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An important aspect of writing is the structure utilised to help in organizing your ideas and
understanding your argumentation. Essays are usually divided into the following sections.
1. Title Page
• Name of the Institution (e.g. SAE Institute London);
• Full title of the work;
• Student details, such as:
• Student no.;
• Course code;
• Qualification for which the work is being submitted;
• Date of submission;
• Word count (references, bibliography and appendices).
2. Declaration Page
The declaration page contains a statement of authorship. Students must refer to the
document ‘SAE Institute UK Formatting & Referencing Guidelines’ for further
4. Table of Contents
State the topic of the dissertation and outline its relevance to the field of audio
engineering. Explain how you are going to structure the assignment and offer a
possible conclusion / objective.
6. Main body
a) Introduce and develop the main ideas of your essay using sections/chapters.
b) Support each idea with examples and illustrations drawn from books, articles and
other sources you have used. Practical or real life examples may be vital within
c) Ensure continuity – as you develop your essay make it clear how your arguments
in one place relate to others you have made or will make.
d) Try to include your own ideas by reflecting, supporting and critically analysing
secondary text used in your argumentation.
e) Do not include a header labelled ‘Main Body’
a) Summarise the arguments you have put forward
b) Reach a conclusion based on the research you have presented and formulate an
opinion about your findings and results
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Appendices are sections found at the back of your essay, containing information that
is additional, but not essential, to the main argument. For example, you could include
background information, diagrams sheets, a CD containing audio examples or
interviews that you have conducted.
List all sources consulted for your research and sort them in alphabetical order.
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Written Assignment Proposal
Students are expected to submit a written proposal regarding their subject should they
choose to write about a topic different than the ones suggested. A two-page proposal
should be submitted to the written assignment administrator and should cover the following
Name, student number, course code, email address and lecturer’s name.
Suggested title for your essay.
Topic, Aims and Objectives
Subject area to be researched and the aims and objectives of the proposed research.
State what will be included and what will be excluded from discussion.
Rationale and Relevance
Why did you choose the particular topic and how is it relevant to the recoding/music
How do you intend to go about researching the subject? State your methodology and
some of your proposed research sources (this means that a certain amount of
preliminary research must be done before submitting the proposal but does not need
to be conclusive at this point).
Describe the structure of your work in the form of main headings (within the main
3-5 sources of bibliography (please use correct bibliography formatting).
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Written Assignment Guidelines