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Situation-Problem-Response-Evaluation bcu format

This type of essay is a typical approach to academic questions: it is also known as the Situation-Problem-Solution-Evaluation pattern. In your essay, you are basically identifying the topic as a problem to be solved.
Over the past three years, more than 45,000 students at 80 institutions have been hauled before college authorities and found guilty of "academic misconduct" ranging from bringing crib-sheets or mobile phones into exams to paying private firms to write essays for them.

The actual question won’t explicitly specify this approach: you will need to identify it from the context. Look at these questions:

Why has privatisation of the railways been opposed by those who favour a public service?

Lack of lowland national parks in the UK is regarded as a “striking weakness”.

Discuss to what extent you agree with this statement.
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Outline current scientific opinion on global warming. Is the situation irreversible?

The answer to these question will involve varying amounts of argument, of showing that you are aware of differing viewpoints.

But whereas in a purely argumentative essay the focus is on this argument and counter-argument, in an SPRE essay there is more focus on the situation, with many points of view, perhaps all equally valid.
You may want to protect your work with a plastic sleeve or cover. There are usually no rules on this, but probably the longer the piece of work, the more important it is. Dissertations and theses will need to be bound. Don’t put individual pages into plastic sleeves.

Let’s look at another question in a little more detail:

What were the main labour relations problems facing the Conservative government in the 1980s? How did they attempt to solve them and to what extent were they successful?

the situation is the UK in the 1980s led by a Conservative government
the problem is labour relations
the response/solution is what the Government did about the situation
the evaluation is your view (backed up by evidence) on the level of success

As well as for a complete essay or article, the approach can be used in an individual paragraph or longer section of writing.

Here is another very simple example:

I left school 9 months ago with good exam grades, but been unemployed since.

I am considering moving abroad and hope that this would increase my chances of finding employment.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said politicians had to share the blame for the rising tide of cheating. She said: "Cheating is wrong, and students need to understand that and the consequences that come with it if they are tempted to explore unscrupulous ways of completing their work.

The four components should be clear here.

Read and analyse the following short text about the ozone layer and identify the four stages of the SPRE approach:

Over the past year, scientific evidence has continued to mount
showing that stratospheric ozone depletion is even more serious
than thought only a few years back.
It is important to note, however, that no matter how professionally your assignment is presented, it will not hide mediocre content. A poorly presented assignment with excellent content is always preferable to excellent presentation with poor content, although you should of course always aim for a combination of the two.

This poses a major problem,
because the ozone layer shields life from harmful solar ultraviolet
radiation known as UV-B. Although ozone depletion has been most
pronounced at the poles, its effects will be serious at other latitudes,
since UV-B, like all solar radiation, increases in intensity toward
the equator.
The high rate of cheating has also been blamed in part on the tens of thousands of international students who, Ms Byars said, "come from countries with different practices and cultures". Others said the recent huge increase in undergraduates meant there were many students at "new universities" who were not adequately prepared to complete degrees.

At higher latitudes, people will face a greater risk
of skin cancer; at lower latitudes, more crop damage and health
effects such as cataracts and immune system impairment are
likely to occur, and vital links in food chains on land and sea
might be broken.
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While the ozone problem has been caused principally by
industrialized countries, developing countries will have to join
them in reaching a solution. Their participation is currently
facilitated by the 1987 Montreal Protocol (MP), but if the phaseout
needs to be accelerated, additional financial incentives and a more
flexible way of carrying out the accord would be required.
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Situation: _______________________________________________________________________



Problem: ________________________________________________________________________



Response/solution: _______________________________________________________________



Evaluation: ______________________________________________________________________



Source of text: White, R. & McGovern (1994), D. Writing Harlow : Prentice Hall

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How to create an 'S-P-R-E' outline

Your outline will have four main phases (although in a short essay or examination answer, the 'situation' may form your introduction, and the 'evaluation' your conclusion). We can illustrate this by looking at the following title:

'Lack of lowland national parks in the UK is regarded as a "striking weakness". Discuss to what extent you agree with this statement.

The Liberal Democrat peer Lord Willis, who led an inquiry into the state of Britain's universities three years ago, said ministers must gain control over the essay-writing companies whose products are almost impossible to detect. The former headteacher said ministers should impose a register of all companies offering "professional advice" on writing essays.


This is the pattern
This is how the sample outline looks

introduction of general topic (situation/problem)
specific areas to be covered in this essay (responses/evaluation)

Many parks in UK, but no lowland parks
Economic/environmental pressure for change
The Situation

Describe it
What caused it?
The Situation

Parks in Britain = hill areas, in the North and West
High land in N. and W. = unfertile + remote; low land in S. and E. = in demand (for farming/housing)
The Problem

Describe it
Great pressure on lowland countryside...

because access to current parks = difficult
because population and economy in S. and E. growing quickly
because of lifestyle changes (eg. commuting/increased leisure)
The Response or Solution

Describe a response, + evidence
Describe any alternative responses, + evidence
The Response or Solution

Local government response = protection for countryside and jobs at local council level, + details/examples
Economists' response = protection is bad for S.E. economy. All planning restrictions should end, + details/examples
Environmentalists' response = park is best way to protect countryside and protect local economy, + examples
The Evaluation/Conclusion

Which is perhaps the best response?
What might be the end result of applying each response?
Final statement
The Evaluation/Conclusion

Best solution is perhaps the last, because...
a) it allows co-ordination of policy over a wide area
b) it ensures the protection of the countryside
c) it also protects the local economy by promoting tourism

Other responses may result in ...
a) large-scale loss of countryside to houses/roads
b) lack of central plan between councils

Aim must be to defend irreplaceable resource for future generations, so you generally agree with essay title

Adapted from White, R. and Arndt, V. (1991) Process Writing, London: Longman.

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Here is the essay based on the above outline:

‘Lack of lowland National Parks in England and Wales is regarded as a "striking weakness". Discuss to what extent you agree with this statement.

England and Wales possess some of the finest national parks in Europe. In terms of percentage of overall area protected, of natural beauty, and as models of organisation, they have a great deal to offer the visitor.

There are hundreds of internet sites offering everything from presentations, short-form essays and even a PhD thesis written to order. Some are based in the UK while many exist only online.

However, controversy over the distribution of these parks has recently grown. Some in Britain have commented that, though numerous, the parks are not well-distributed (see, for example, Fisher [1999] and Smith [2000]).
Tens of thousands of students in universities across Britain have been caught cheating in exams and coursework - and the trend is on the rise, according to a investigation by The Independent on Sunday.

Marcus and Nabulsi (1999) have singled out the complete absence of any national park in lowland areas for specific criticism. This essay will examine the environmental/economic effects that have resulted from this.
We returned to the company the next day, explaining that we were from The Independent on Sunday. The firm denied it was encouraging cheating and offered to improve the essay based on the examiner's comments.

It will then evaluate some of the responses that have been put forward, and suggest that the argument in favour of lowland parks is a persuasive one.

The first national park, the Peak District, was instituted at the end of the Second World War to protect the highland area between Manchester and Sheffield.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, The IoS obtained answers from more than 80 institutions. The responses revealed a catalogue of offences, including individuals caught taking exams for someone else, using concealed notes or taking mobile phones into examination halls and "colluding" with fellow students to produce identical coursework.

Over the following thirty years, another nine parks were added, but all cover highland areas (such as the Lake District), remote areas (such as the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales). The fact that English and Welsh national parks are found in hilly/inaccessible areas in the North and West of the country can be explained in part by the natural beauty of these areas, but also by their infertility and remoteness.
Increasingly, universities are taking a defensive stance - insisting it is complicated by a growing number of students who enter university unfamiliar with the correct procedures of citation or who do not have a good command of English.

Though parts of the lowland in the South and East are also of exceptional beauty, their value, whether as prime agricultural land or for building houses, has prevented their inclusion within the national park organisation.
Although you will always have to hand in your work with a faculty cover sheet, it is usually a good idea to include a title page at the beginning of your assignment, although this may not be necessary for very short pieces of work. (See Guide 1.25)

This is now becoming a problem. The last fifteen years in particular have seen great pressure on lowland countryside, for several reasons. Firstly, access to the existing parks from the main urban centres is generally difficult; with the exception of the Peak District, most require car journeys of two or three hours (Millmore, 1998).
The presentation of your written work is important: first impressions do count, and poorly presented work might lead your tutor to think that the work has been rushed or that you do not really care about it.

Secondly, the economy (and hence indirectly the population) of S.E. England has expanded rapidly in this period, bringing in its wake increasing demands upon the surrounding rural area both for housing and recreational purposes (Slade, 1996).
But officials last night warned they were fighting a losing battle against hi-tech advances - which means it is becoming increasingly difficult to detect the cheats.

Finally, as Wink (1997) points out, there have been distinct lifestyle changes in recent years. Improved road communications, the birth of ‘teleworking’, and increased general wealth mean that many choose to work in the city but live in the countryside, or even to relocate completely to the countryside.
The IoS has established that at least 45,000 students at more than 80 UK institutions have been hauled before the authorities and found guilty of misconduct in their exams or coursework over the past three years. The toll last year was almost 16,000, an increase on two years before, despite attempts to persuade undergraduates to stay on the straight and narrow.

Alongside relocation, lifestyle changes have also brought increases in recreation time; the number of visitors using the countryside for walking, cycling or (perhaps the greatest threat) merely for a day trip in the car, has grown considerably.
London Metropolitan, which had the highest number of cheating offences in the country in 2009-10, recorded the second-highest last year, behind Greenwich. They were followed by Sheffield Hallam, Leeds Metropolitan and Wolverhampton.

Though almost all recognise that a problem exists, agreement on the best response has not been easy to reach. Three main schools of thought can perhaps be identified: that of local government, that favoured by some economists, and the course of action preferred by environmentalists.
Bold is probably best used just for headings and titles and italics just for names or specialist words (instead of using inverted commas). Don’t use italics for quotes incorporated into your text, although they can be used for longer quotes which are indented and separate from the rest of the text (See Guide 1.14). However, even in this case normal text is preferable.

Responsibility for areas of natural beauty (other than those within park boundaries) is currently held at local government level. These local administrative bodies are generally happy with the existing situation, which they argue is the best way to balance the need to protect the countryside with the importance of ensuring employment and affordable housing for local inhabitants.
Particular faculties or courses may have their own guidelines for different aspects of presentation, so always check your own course documentation or with course tutors. What follows is general advice on the presentation of courses assignments which is usually, but not always, appropriate.

Adopting this viewpoint, Marchmont (1999:45) argues that
the current situation has evolved over time, and clearly balances a variety of needs. Any change is likely to be to upset this equilibrium, and should therefore be regarded with considerable scepticism.
See Guides 1.13 and 1.14 and also check your course documentation. There are different ways of doing this, and variations within each system; make sure that you are consistent.

Certain economists, however, maintain that this situation presents an overly-fragmented and excessively restrictive response, one unlikely to sustain recent economic growth in Britain. Thomson (1999), and Linegan (2000) argue that attempts by local government to protect the countryside have had the effect of slowing prosperity.
Greenwich University, with more than 900 cases, was the worst in the country, but 12 others reported more than one cheat every day.

As the South and East of the country are considered to be the ‘engine of growth’, these economists argue that issues of conservation (regarding, for example, agricultural practices or planning permission) should not be allowed to outweigh decisions, whether agricultural, industrial or commercial, likely to lead to increased wealth.
These will have stricter guidelines on how they should be presented. Check with your tutor/supervisor and if possible consult a model piece of work.

They cite the computer-based industries of the M4 corridor, leading Westward from London, as an example of what might be achieved on a wider scale, if planning restrictions are relaxed.

A final viewpoint is represented by the environmentalists. They argue that park status will not only protect the countryside, but also guarantee local employment. Firstly, there will be few new restrictions regarding agricultural practices.
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Secondly, the service industries required to cater for visitors will become a growth sector, providing a net increase in jobs. Wilkins and Nabulsi (1999: 55) note the overall gains in employment in the regions of the Stelvio and PreAlpi Carniche, Italy, since the foundation of national parks there, despite similar local worries.

Although these three schools of thought have been greatly simplified, the complexity of the issue is clear.
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Nonetheless, it seems to me that the approaches favoured by both local government and some economists present certain unacceptable drawbacks. The tendency at local government level to favour short-term employment over environmental considerations is one problem, but a more serious one is that of administrative fragmentation; an area of outstanding natural beauty may be divided between many councils, each with conflicting priorities on, for example, road-building or conservation.
Always use standard fonts, the type you would see in a book or journal; for example, Times/ Times New Roman, Ariel, Palatino etc. Don’t use Comic Sans!

The response of the economists appears even less acceptable, as a course of action decided on purely financial grounds would ultimately result in large-scale loss of the countryside to roads and houses.
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For these reasons, the lack of lowland parks in England and Wales is a striking weakness. A national park allows the co-ordination of policy over a wide area, which is likely to benefit both conservation and employment; the government should act quickly in order to safeguard an irreplaceable resource for future generations.
Always have left and right margins of around 2.5 cm (1”). This again allows for comments to be made, and also ensures that when the pages are stapled or bound, no text is lost.

Fisher, P.W. (1999) The way forward: the future for Britain’s parks, London, Barr
Linegan, J. P. (2000) "The engine of growth - the case for lifting planning restriction in London’s green belt" Planning and Leisure 14/3, Oxford, Hall
Marchmont, E. (1999) "Responses to increased pressure on the Lake District National Park", Unpublished M.Phil thesis (Centre for Higher Education), University of Maryport.
You will almost always now be expected to word process your work. If you need help or practice with this, ask in your learning/resource centre, or in the library.

Marcus, S. and Nabulsi, D. (1999) "Leisure capitalisation: a theoretical outline", Economic Review, University of Hexham
Millmore, V. (1998) Park access, Bristol, Clint free press
Slade, T. (1996) Housing in the UK, London, Carnaby Press
Smith, J. (2000) ‘The need for co-ordinated leisure’, Park Policy 13/2:104-120
Thomson, M. (1999) Economic growth, Manchester, Mainline publishing
Wilkins, A. and Nabulsi, D. National parks in Italy, Milan, Einozzi
Wink, F. (1997) ‘Has increased wealth brought a higher quality of life?’, Market Bulletin 21/3:43-53

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