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No. 48, November 2003

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A Review of Hugh Robertson's Student Projects

by Marilynne Sinclair
Ashbury College, Ottawa, Canada

Hugh Robertson's "Student Projects" may be very useful for TOK students embarking on essays and oral presentations.

Hugh Robertson, teacher, long-standing IB Examiner and the author of The Research Essay, The English Essay and Research and Communication Skills has now published a revised and expanded edition of Student Projects: An Introduction to Research and Communication Skills, his invaluable guide to student assignments. It is a lively, user-friendly manual that covers a wide variety of written and oral assignments, providing clear, up-to-date explanations, tips, and strategies to help students get the work done.

Robertson's genius is to demonstrate how each assignment is really just a series of clearly identifiable steps that, when followed, leads to the successful completion of the assignment. There are numerous illustrations and exemplars. Lively, humorous cartoons help illustrate his points which are explained in clear, direct language.

TOK students will find the following sections of the book particularly useful when embarking on their TOK essays and oral presentations:

  • Selecting the topic
  • Narrowing the focus
  • Preparatory reading
  • Developing outlines
  • The roles of the introduction and the conclusion
  • Drafting the assignment
  • Tips on style and language
  • Revising and editing
  • The three major documentation styles and how to both cite and list sources correctly
  • Using quotations
  • Speaking tips for oral presentations
  • Multi-media ideas for oral presentations

Students can use this book independently, but in many ways the manual is also a useful teaching resource. For example:

  • The various diagrams and checklists are useful teaching tools.
  • Documentation styles are clearly explained and illustrated.
  • The way to document online sources is right up-to-date.
  • There is a glossary which clearly explains assignment prompts such as "explain," "compare," or "evaluate.
  • Plagiarism and the importance of citing sources are clearly explained.

Student Projects can be used effectively in conjunction with Eileen Dombrowski's "Six Steps to Writing a Good TOK Essay: A Student Guide" (Forum 44, November 2000). Both identify and explain a step-by-step method. Where Dombrowski's guide is concerned specifically with the unique challenges of the TOK essay topic list and the overall purpose of TOK, Robertson's tips help in a general way by explaining preparatory reading, the organization of information and ideas, and methods of outlining, drafting and editing an essay.

Student Projects can be purchased from and costs US$9.00.


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Forum is jointly published online at by the International Baccalaureate Organization and Lena Rotenberg Educational Consultant, © 2000-2004. Forum is a peer-reviewed publication aiming to offer original, thoughtful articles promoting Theory of Knowledge (TOK) teaching, in a fashion that is immediately useful to teachers. It is published twice per year in English (November and May) and twice per year in Spanish (February and August). Page last modified 2 August, 2004 .