Why Attend Lectures?

BMH, Umhlanga lecturer, Julia Sutherland, has provided us with eight excellent reasons why you should be attending lectures.

2509265803_fd5fe56b33Around this time of the semester, lecturers and students alike start noticing that class attendance begins to dwindle. We lecturers know that students have reasons to miss class, such as looming deadlines.

At this point you may be asking yourself: “but why bother?”

Here are eight good reasons:

  1. Someone is paying a lot of money for you to be here, whether you are paying for yourself, or if your parents are paying for you, or even if you are on a bursary; someone is making sacrifices for your education. If you don’t attend class, you are throwing away money. Jonas (2006) advises students to “make the most of [their] investment by attending class.”
  2. If you miss a class, you will always miss something, even if you get notes from a friend.
  3. Lectures are where the assessment answers are, how else are you going to get them? You will also find out what you don’t have to study from the textbook, which will save you time later.
  4. I know a lot of us are commitment-phobes, but as an adult it is important to show commitment to something. If you sign up for a course you are promising to be there for every lecture – this is how resources (such as lecture room size) are allocated.
  5. Did you know that according to a study done at Harvard University (2010) only 6.7% of the world have a college education? So many people would give anything to be in your shoes, so don’t squander the opportunity
  6. Many studies (Aden, Yahye & Dahir, 2013; Narula & Nagar, 2013; Cheung, 2009; LeBlan, 2005) have shown that class attendance and student success rates are positively correlated. In other words, students who attend lectures are more likely to succeed.
  7. Generally if you attend class (and focus while you are there), the time you will need later to study is decreased.
  8. Finally, your lecturers spend so much time and effort on creating class material that is educational, interesting and most importantly contains information that you need to pass (or rather ace) the course. It is the job of a lecturer to help those who want to learn, so make sure you fall into that category and you will get all the help that you need.



LeBlanc, H.P. (2005) The Relationship Between Attendance and Grades in the College Classroom. Proceedings from the 17th annual Meeting of the International Academy of Business Disciplines. Pittsburgh

Cheung, J.C.K. (2009) Class Attendance and Performance, Which Comes First? Proceedings from the 20th Australasian Association for Engineering Education Conference. University of Adelaide

Narula, M., Nagar, P. (2013) Relationship Between Students’ Performance and Class Attendance in a Programming Language Subject in a Computer Course. International Journal of Computer Science and Mobile Computing. Vol. 2, Issue 8. Pg. 206 – 210

Aden, A.A., Yahye, Z.A., Dahir, A.M. (2013) The Effect of Students’ Attendance on Academic Performance: A Case Study at Simad University Mogadishu. Academic Research International. Vol. 4, Issue 6. Pg. 409 – 417

Jonas, C. (2006) 6 Great Reasons to Go to Class. Accessed from <http://collegelifesite.com/6_Great_Reasons_To_Go_To_Class.htm&gt; Access Date [17/08/2015]

Huffington Post (2015) 6.7% of the World Has College Degree. Accessed from <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/19/percent-of-world-with-col_n_581807.html&gt; Access Date [17/08/2015]

Referencing and Plagiarism

Whether you like it or not referencing is an essential academic skill that you not only need to learn but to master. Poor referencing and plagiarism are a sure ways of losing valuable marks.


By now you should be aware of what referencing is, why it is important, how to reference; and that Boston Media House makes use of the Harvard Referencing System.

The purpose of this post is not to teach you how to reference correctly, you have already been taught that in your Academic Literacy class, but rather to highlight where students go wrong when referencing and to provide you with tips on how to make referencing a little easier.

Where Did I Go Wrong?

a) Not referencing in-text 

This refers to when you quote, summarise, paraphrase or re-word another persons idea/s within your assignment.

When citing in-text, you need to provide the:

1) author or editor’s surname/s,

2) year of publication, and

3) page number/s of where you have drawn the information from.

For Example:

Smith (2012, p. 88) states that ".....quotation.....".


When looking at the first generation,"..........quotation........." (Smith, 2012, p. 88).

The only time you need not include the page number/s is when you paraphrase or summarise an entire piece of work.

For Example:

Smith (2012) asserts that change through the generations is continuous and inevitable.

By not acknowledging the original source or author of an idea which you have included in your assignment you are committing plagiarism; an offense Boston Media House takes extremely seriously:

Any student who is found to have plagiarised will be penalised and may in addition face disciplinary action, which may include receiving 0% for the assessment, a warning letter and/or a disciplinary hearing, which could result in their expulsion from the Institution. (Boston Media House, 2016, p. 25)

Do not assume that your lecturer will not notice if you fail to reference an idea or quote within your assignment, because chances are someone else in your class has used the exact same idea or quote and you will be caught out and you will be penalised for plagiarising.

b) Not checking that ALL in-text references are linked to a corresponding reference in your reference list (and vice versa)

For EVERY in-text reference you have made within your assignment there MUST be a corresponding reference in your reference list.

For Example:

In-text reference –

Smith (2012, p. 88) states that ".....quotation.....".

Corresponding reference in your reference list –

Smith, W. (2012). The Generation Gap: Are we really so different?, London: Routledge.

When grading you on the technical aspects of your assignment if a lecturer picks up that you have included references in your reference list that are not cited in your assignment OR you’ve cited references in your assignment but have provided no reference in your reference list, you will be penalised.

If you do not know what is being referred to by the “technical aspects” of an assignment, please go read: Understanding an Assessment Brief.

c) Not realising that you have plagiarised


  • directly quote
  • summarise
  • paraphrase
  • re-word
  • refer to
  • copy

another person’s work / ideas / thoughts / creations / writing / inventions / theory / compositions / opinions etc. you MUST acknowledge them as the original source.

When in doubt, ask yourself: “Is this 100% my own, original thought / idea / composition?” If there is any doubt that it is not 100% yours: go back, find the source of your inspiration / idea / thought and reference them.

Unfortunately for you “I didn’t know I was plagiarising” is not an accepted excuse at Boston Media House and you will end up being penalised.


Tips for Referencing 

  • When researching your assignment, highlight any direct quotes or ideas you plan on using in your assignment – this will assist you when the time comes to start drafting your response, as well as your reference list. 
  • Get into the habit of writing down the referencing information and page number/s of the source immediately, whilst you are using it. If you wait to sift through all your readings or sources once you’ve completed your assignment you a) may not be able to remember which source it was you used and, b) you may not be able to go back and check on the details.
  • Don’t rush when creating your reference list. Give yourself enough time to ensure that you are following the correct Harvard Referencing format; and that for every in-text reference you have a corresponding reference in your reference list.


Boston Media House. (2016).  2016 Student Rulebook.  Johannesburg, South Africa.

Palgrave Study Skills. (2015). Referencing and Avoiding Plagiarism. Retrieved from: http://www.palgrave.com/studentstudyskills/page/referencing-and-avoiding-plagiarism/. [Accessed: 21 August 2015].

University of Leicester: Student Learning Development. (2015). Ten Tips for Good Referencing. Retrieved from: http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/ld/resources/writing/harvard/content/2.23-ten-tips-for-good-referencing. [Accessed: 21 August 2015].


Understanding an Assessment Brief

We are officially in the final stretch heading towards year end, which means that Summative Assessment briefs have either already been issued or are about to be issued. 

Assessment Brief

Reading & Unpacking an Assessment Brief

Regardless of the subject, lecturer or assessment style, you cannot go wrong by adopting the following two habits when approaching an assessment brief:

  1. Read the assessment brief carefully as soon as you receive it. The sooner you become familiar with the assessment brief, the more time you will have to analyse and understand what is expected of you. The simplest, most straightforward assessment briefs can turn out to be the most complicated, time consuming of responses to produce.
  2. Ask your lecturer about anything you are not sure of or do not understand. Do not be afraid to ask if you need help with understanding an assessment brief. A lecturer would much rather spend time helping you get to grips with an assessment brief than assessing an assessment that has totally missed the mark (See also: Student-Lecturer Meetings).

Introductory Information:

Boston Media House makes use of a standardised Assessment Brief Template, as such when receiving an assessment brief, regardless of which subject it is for, the brief will follow a standard format and will provide you with the following introductory information:

[Click on the picture to enlarge it]


  From this introductory section alone, you now already know:

  • What subject you’re working on.
  • The type of assessment event i.e. formative or summative, which tells you how much the assessment will count towards your final overall grade.
  • Who to go to for assistance if you are struggling with understanding or unpacking the brief.
  • The due date, time and venue for submitting your assessment – remember late assessments attract harsh penalties (Refer to: Section 5.8.v – Late Submissions of the BMH Student Rulebook)
  • The importance of attending lectures as they provide you with a foundational understanding of the topic that is being assessed. By missing lectures you are not only missing important input and understanding of the subject and assessment topic, but you are adding to the number of hours you will need to put in, in order for you to catch up on missed information needed for the successful completion of the assessment.
  • The approximate number of hours it will take you to complete the assessment. This information is important for time management purposes, particularly when you have several due dates all around the same time.  It also gives you an idea of how far in advance you should start working on the assessment and, more importantly, that 3 hours of panicked effort the day before the submission date will certainly not be enough (See also: Time Management).

Assessment Brief Format:

Most essay or short question type assessment briefs follow a basic format:

  • An Overview
  • Task Words
  • Content Words
  • Limiting Words
  • Technical Information

An Overview

The lecturer may (or may not) set the stage by providing you with a quote or general introductory statement on the topic of the assessment, or a cue which reminds you of something pertinent that was discussed in lectures.

Task Words

Task words tell you what you have to do: the action you need to perform when crafting your response. You can identify task words by looking for the action words / verbs in the assessment question / statement. Words such as: identify, analyse, discuss, or illustrate, these action verbs provide you with instructions on how to approach the topic of the assessment. Also look for words such as: who, when, what, why, and where, these words further specify the task of the assessment.

Content Words

These words tell you what the topic area is and thus what it is you should write about. Content words set and define the assessment scope; they assist in focusing your research and reading on a particular area.

Limiting Words

Limit and focus the topic; they define the focus of the topic even further, highlighting aspects of the topic you need to concentrate on.

Example 1:

“Describe in detail, referring to Ansell, how to prepare for an interview. Outline your answer in steps. Start from when the journalist receives the brief from the news editor and end at the point where the interview is about to take place. Include aspects to consider such as strategies, contexts, what to take, how to record, potential problems and body language.”

[Click on the picture to enlarge it]

Assessment Brief.2

 Example 2:

“Use the following information to write a hard news story (200-300 words). Only use the facts provided. Do not add any other information and do not comment or mention yourself in the article. Your piece must be purely factual and objective – not your opinion. Make sure your story provides answers to the five “W”s and “H” questions of news writing and use the inverted pyramid style.


  • Xenophobic attacks
  • Broke out in Johannesburg and Natal
  • 6 killed, including a teenager
  • Presidents and ambassadors from other African countries have condemned South Africa’s slow reaction to the violence

[Click on the picture to enlarge it]

Assessment Brief.3

Technical Information:

This includes instructions such as –

  • formatting rules – font, font size, spacing
  • structural guidelines – length, referencing system
  • mark allocation and / or marking rubric
  • penalties – late submission, plagiarism
  • submission date 

Assessment Brief.4

 The “Non-negotiables”:

The “non-negotiables” of an assessment brief refers to the technical information i.e. formatting rules, mark allocation, penalties etc. This may not seem relevant to your planning and drafting of an assessment response, but it is where marks are most often lost because students have not read or followed these non-negotiable rules.

The information provided in this section of the brief also provides you with hints as to how to go about responding to the assessment question. For example, if the lecturer gives you a maximum word / page count for the assessment, they are telling you how many pages or words it should take to adequately cover the topic. If an assessment is meant to be a maximum of 3 pages, you know you need to be concise by making your point early and supporting it with clear and definite evidence. Whereas, if an assessment response is meant to be a maximum of 10 pages, you have the “space” to be more complex and detailed in your response. If, however, you are only able to squeeze out 4 pages for a 10 page assessment, you need to either review the assessment question to ensure that you are picking up on all the parts and requirements of the question, or you need to go speak to your lecturer and ask for guidance.

Final Words of Wisdom:


  • Do use “spell-checker” – but make sure that it is set for either UK or South African English.
  • Do get a friend to read through your assessment response for you – a new set of eyes can pick up spelling, grammar and other mistakes, as well as give you feedback on whether or not your response makes sense.
  • Do ensure that you have referenced correctly throughout your assessment – BMH makes use of the Harvard Referencing Method.
  • Do give yourself enough time to research and complete your assessment – having problems with time management? Refer to the BMH Student Wellness Blog for help with: time management, concentration, studying skills etc.


  • Do not spend more time on the cover page than the actual assessment – pictures, coloured pages and expensive binders are no replacement for a well thought out and written assessment. This obviously excludes an assessment brief which requires some form of creative presentation.
  • Do not use huge fonts, wide margins, or extra spacing as a way of padding your assessment – these “tricks” an be easily spotted and merely highlight the fact that you are purposefully trying to bulk up your assessment.
  • Do not use text speak, abbreviations or slang in your written assessments e.g. b4, U, wld, cray-cray – unless the inclusion of such serves an actual purpose and forms part of your response to the assessment question.
  • Do not answer an assessment question using bullet points – unless otherwise stated, always write in full sentences; one idea or main point per paragraph; punctuation, spelling and grammar are important.
  • Do not plagiarise – refer to Section 5.8.viii of the BMH Student Rulebook for information regarding plagiarism.

 For more tips on approaching an assessment brief click here.


The following works were consulted and / or adapted from in order to create this guideline. Please click on the links below in order to be directed to the original works.

Martin, C., Uys, G. & Gradidge, C. (2015).  JRN1: Summative Assessment 1 [Assessment Event Brief / Scope]. Boston Media House, Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Learning Centre, The University of New South Wales. (2012). Answering Assignment Questions. Retrieved from: http://www.lc.unsw.edu.au/onlib/pdf/assignquestions.pdf. [Accessed: 19 August 2015].

The Writing Centre, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (2012). Understanding Assignments. Retrieved from: http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/understanding-assignments/. [Accessed: 19 August 2015].






Friday Feature: 5 Reasons to Love Spring

Spring has sprung & it’s time to enjoy a new season & all the benefits it has to offer!hello-spring

1. Here comes the sun!

Spring time sees the sun rising earlier and setting later, meaning warmer weather and more time to spend outdoors. Did you know that sunlight is a natural mood booster? Or that time spent outside strengthens both your mental and physical health? Well, now you do!

2. Fruit & Vegetables

The selection of fruits and vegetables available during spring is something in itself to celebrate! Although we are now able to get a larger variety of fruit and veg all year-round, spring is the perfect time to enjoy local, fresh produce (at lower, local prices).

Think: mangoes, pineapples, watermelon, strawberries, avocados, asparagus and beetroot.

3. Spring Cleaning

There is actually something to the old saying of having a “spring clean”. Once the weather starts to warm up, it’s good to start opening windows and doors to let fresh air and light back in after the cold winter months. Cleaning your home (including the windows) of the dust and grime from winter, you are not only burning a few calories but also helping keep spring and summer colds and allergies at bay.

4. Outdoor Exercise

For many the cold winter mornings and evenings are a perfectly reasonable excuse for not getting up and out for some exercise, but that all flies out the (open) window once spring arrives!

Studies show that a little outdoor exercise is better for you than indoor exercise. So, even if it’s just a walk around the neighbourhood after dinner, get up and get active.

5. The Skin You’re In 

Dry winter skin may be a thing of the past once spring arrives but now it’s time to step up the sun protection with a daily SPF of at least 15.




Hauser, A. (2015). 7 Healthy Reasons to Love Spring. Retrieved from:  http://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-living/0320/healthy-reasons-to-love-spring.aspx  [Accessed on: 12 September 2016].

Spring Health Benefits: 6 Reasons to Love the Season. (2013). Retrieved from:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/20/spring-health-benefits_n_2885423.html  [Accessed on: 12 September 2016].

Image Credits:

Hello Spring. (2013). Retrieved from:  http://theberry.com/2013/03/20/morning-coffee-39-photos-383/  [Accessed on: 12 September 2016].

Spring Fever & Procrastination

The weather is warmer and the end of the year is within sight, making it that bit more difficult to find the motivation to attend lectures and work on assignments…right?


This may be true, but:

  • Attending lectures is still important. Summative assessment briefs have not been issued yet; don’t waste opportunities to pick up useful hints and tips on how to tackle your final assessments because playing pool seemed like a better idea at the time.
  • You’ve paid good money to be here – or your parents / sponsors have. Don’t put pleasure before business, get your money’s worth, attend lectures and seize every opportunity to make what is left of this semester count.

If these two pearls of wisdom are not helping to motivate you, perhaps some ideas on how to deal with procrastination will!


Tips for Beating the Spring Procrastination Bug

Definition: Procrastination - To irrationally put off important tasks.

1. What’s it worth to you?

A major motivator in life, and for students, is how much you value a set goal or task. If you don’t care that much about it, chances are your motivation will be low and risk of procrastination high.

By “value” we are not only talking about the importance of the goal or task, but also the enjoyment value. Goals or tasks that are daunting, unpleasant or boring easily demotivate us and increase the possibility of procrastination setting in.

How can you overcome this particular obstacle?:

  • Determine why the goal / task is important. This will require you to be very honest with yourself; is this the assessment that could transform a failing grade into a passing grade, even though you hate the subject? By increasing the value of a goal / task in your mind, you may be able to increase your motivation.
  • Determine the cost of the goal / task. What will it cost you in additional time and money if you don’t get a particular task done or don’t achieve your goal – think in terms of the financial cost of having to pay to supp or repeat a subject, or the additional months or years it will add to your time at college.
  • Rewards and Punishment. Or you could keep it really simple and reward yourself for doing the right thing and punish yourself for procrastinating.

2. It’s my personality

For some people procrastination is a personality trait they’re born with and have little control over – these people are easily distracted, impulsive and have low self-control…sound familiar?

You may not be able to change your personality but you can make it work for you by adjusting your surroundings – by creating an environment that supports work and discourages avoidance.

Things you can do to create a work-friendly environment include:

  • Eliminate distractions – Switch off your cell phone; remove your X-box, Playstation, or whatever gaming device you use, from the room; switch off the tv; disconnect the WiFi / internet.
  • Don’t stop to think – Procrastination has a sneaky way of disguising itself as a thought process. Don’t be that guy who stops to think about the best way to illustrate a marketing idea and ends up planning the sandwich you want to make for lunch.
  • Be prepared – Make sure you have everything you need to hand when you sit down to work, that way you cannot be distracted when searching for your favourite pen or stopping to think about where you saw that quote that perfectly summed up your argument.


3. How do you eat an elephant?

According to the proverb…one bite at a time.

What does this even mean?! When faced with a really big task or assignment, the big picture can be overwhelming and can reinforce procrastination. Rather than focusing on the huge end result, break the task / assignment up into smaller, manageable, achievable parts.

Another way of dealing with a daunting task is by alternating it with something you enjoy doing. If you work steadily throughout the day, focusing a good 20 – 30 minutes on the task you don’t enjoy and alternating it with 20 – 30 minutes of something you do enjoy, you will not only make steady progress but you’ll also have a positive motivator (the task you do enjoy) to help keep you on track.


4. In search of perfection

Procrastination’s sometimes best friend is another personality trait that goes by the name of “perfectionist“. For some people every task / assignment has to be perfect – this is not only unrealistic, it is unnecessary and merely feeds the procrastination monster.

When struggling with feelings of procrastination linked to perfectionism, remind yourself that it is more important to complete a task / assignment, than it is for it to be perfect.


Chambers, A. (2015). Seven Steps to Help Conquer Procrastination: A Different Kind of Spring Cleaning (Part 1). Retrieved from: http://www.mobar.org/media-center/news-blog/seven-steps-to-help-conquer-procrastination-part-1/  [Accessed on: 12 September 2016].

Dean, J. (2014). 10 Foolproof Tips for Overcoming Procrastination. Retrieved from:  http://www.spring.org.uk/2014/03/10-foolproof-tips-for-overcoming-procrastination.php  [Accessed on: 12 September 2016].

Dean, J. (2011). How to Fight the Four Pillars of Procrastination. Retrieved from:  http://www.spring.org.uk/2011/09/how-to-fight-the-four-pillars-of-procrastination.php  [Accessed on: 12 September 2016].

Todd, D. (2012). Overcoming Procrastination: Tips for Overcoming the Bane of all College Students. Retrieved from:  http://www.collegeview.com/articles/article/overcoming-procrastination [Accessed on: 12 September 2016].

Image credits:

Gauld, T. (2014). Procrastination for Creative Writers, A 10 Week Course. Retrieved from:  https://twitter.com/tomgauld/status/448041118899265536 [Accessed on: 12 September 2016].

One Bite at a Time. (2012). Retrieved from: http://www.tretomo.com/cat/images/50-how-to-eat-an-elephant.html  [Accessed on: 05 August, 2015].

Weapons of Mass Distraction. (2012). Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/rewired-the-psychology-technology/201212/weapons-mass-distraction [Accessed on: 05 August, 2015].

Assessment First Aid – Quick Links

Assessment First Aid

Below are a list of quick links to posts that will help you during assessment season:

(*Click on the title and it will take you to the post)