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Preparing students for assessment in Politics

15 August 2023

2 minutes to read

Preparing students for assessment in Politics

Dr Owen Thomas, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, has shared his approach to preparing students for assessments on two different modules in Politics.

In the Masters module ‘State Crime’ (POLM231), students write a 4000-word research essay (worth 80% of the module). This summative task is prepared by the submission of a formative research essay proposal, for which students are supported by completing sections of an ‘Essay Planner’ document. This pro-forma helps students to identify the key sections and the planned structure of their essay, whilst also asking them to consider their argument, use of scholarly research and case studies, and the value of their approach to the essay question. In this way, the planner helps scaffold students’ development of essay writing at Masters Level. It also gives them a concrete, structured document on which they can receive formative feedback to help the development of their summative submission, and standardises the essay plans submitted for feedback.



When teaching on a previous module, ‘Violence in World Politics’ (POC1022), Owen provided first year students with comprehensive support ahead of an online written exam. The final lecture of the module revised key content, ending with dedicated time in which Owen talked to students about preparing for the online assessment.

In this session, Owen outlined clear guidance on how to approach an essay question in a timed exam, including information about the following:

  • Basic exam information (date, length of time, word counts)
  • Exam content (topics, format, rules)
  • Assessment criteria

The session also explained how the assessment relates to the University’s generic assessment criteria (provided in the TQA Manual), as outlined under four key areas:

  • Knowledge & Understanding of Subject
  • Cognitive/Intellectual Skills
  • Use of Research-informed Literature
  • Graduate Skills for Life and Employmen

By taking this approach to preparing students for their assessment, Owen helped students to understand what they were being asked to do, how best to approach the task, and how they could develop and demonstrate their skills against each assessment criteria.

Case study written by Dr Eleanor Hodgson, Senior Academic Developer, with infographics designed by Jo Sutherst.


For more information please contact:

Dr. Owen Thomas is a Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations. He joined the University in 2014. Prior to this, Owen held an ESRC PhD studentship at the University of Exeter’s Streatham campus and was an ESRC Visiting Research Fellow at the New School for Social Research in New York.

He is a founding member of the Secrecy, Power and Ignorance research Network ( @research_spin), the Network for Critical Engagement with the Defence Academy (both funded by the GW4) and Justice and Violence Studies@Exeter. Owen sits on the editorial board of Critical Military Studies.


Dr. Owen Thomas
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