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1.1. Identify and justify a research topic with the area: stress at work .


Assignment Brief, IAS and The Effects of Stress

Course Title:

Access to Higher Education Diploma 

Unit Title:

Independent Academic Study WJG757 combined with The effects of stress WJF731

Unit: Level:


Credit Value:

6 and 3


The learner will:

1. Be able to identify and define an academic study or project related to a chosen profession  

  • 1.1. Identify and justify a research topic with the area: stress at work .  
  • 1.2. Produce a clearly defined project aim related to the chosen topic.  

2. Be able to plan and design a Professional Studies study or project.  

  • 2.1. Plan each stage of the study to include all relevant tasks contextually appropriate to the research task chosen.  These should include the identification and evaluation  of:  

    • (a)  a detailed research proposal, 

    • (b)  a literature review or annotated bibliography,  

    • (c)   a statement of methodology, 

    • (d)  a realistic timetable for completion,  

  • 2.2.  Explain and justify the planned research with reference to, accuracy and reliability and appropriate ethical guidelines.  

  • 2.2.  Link research undertaken to relevant prior theoretical and / or practical work undertaken.  

  • 2.2.  Identify and evaluate any potential barriers or risks to successful execution of the plan within the planning process.  

3. Be able to undertake and refine research into a Professional Studies subject.  

  • 3.1. Research and select relevant information from academic sources appropriate to the study.  

  • 3.2. Make modifications to the plan as appropriate  

  • 3.3. Record findings appropriately for future use.  

  • 3.4. Identify and record errors in sources  

4. Be able to interpret and organise information in response to a piece of research within a Professional Studies subject.  

  • 4.1. Deploy accurate, detailed and relevant knowledge of the subject in support of a coherent analysis of the study.  

5. Be able to consider findings and reach conclusions.  

  • 5.1. Draw relevant conclusions which are supported by academic evidence.  

  • 5.2. Use academic knowledge to explain and clarify the conclusions  

6. Be able to produce a research report using academic conventions appropriately.

  • 6.1   Draw relevant conclusions which are supported by academic evidence.

    • a) Use academic knowledge to explain and clarify the conclusions. Produce a portfolio of research evidence that follows academic conventions including:

    • b) a critical application of skills and knowledge accurate and consistent referencing

    • c) appropriate academic style and ‘voice’

7. Be able to evaluate the study process and research findings.

  • 7.1   Evaluate the study, discussing the main strengths, weaknesses and/or limitations.

  • 7.1   Propose how improvements could be made as appropriate.

  • 7.3   Make recommendations for further study as appropriate.


Please also make sure that you reference the work in line with the course requirements and ensure that you follow the academic conventions noted below:

Please ensure that your report is submitted with:

  • Headers and footers to include: A title, your name, the date, page numbering.
  • Full Harvard referencing and bibliography using a minimum of 10 academic sources
  • 1.5x line spacing
  • Standard margins
  • Arial size 12 font
  • 3500 word limit

All work must be submitted via Turnitin to ensure that you have not copied from the sources of information you used.

Guidance for writing you assignment

COVER OR TITLE PAGE – This is where you write your name, title of unit e.g. How does stress affect individuals in the workplace, Programme Title e.g.  Access to Healthcare Professions, submission date, word count.

TABLE OF CONTENTS – This is done after completing the report, then you organise the content in the order you presented your headings and give page number e.g.  Abstract ……. Page 1, Introduction …… Pages 2 – 5, Methodology ……………. Pages 6 – 8, Findings…………. Pages 9 – 10, Discussion ……….  Pages 11 – 15, Conclusion ……… Page 16, Reference List ………  Page 17, Appendix ……… Page 18.


The abstract is a summary of the report. You write the abstract after you have written your report but you put it here at the top of your report.  To summarise, focus on each section of your report e.g.  aim of research from your introduction, method of research from your methodology section, what the results show from your findings section, explanations for why the results are what they are from your discussion section, recommendations.

Here is an example of an abstract, although you will have to relate your abstract to stress, not breast-feeding as I have done here:

‘The aim of the report was to investigate the relationship between breast-feeding and intelligence quotient (IQ). By undertaking secondary research which involves a review of a number of journal articles written by researchers who administered questionnaire to mothers who breast-fed and bottle-fed their babies, it was discovered that babies who were breast-fed performed better than those who were bottle-fed during their teenage years. Explanation for this performance was due to the nutritional value of breast milk and the bond or close contact between mother and baby made possible by breast-feeding. It was recommended that government should fund a health promotion campaign to raise awareness of the importance of breast-feeding with regard to the benefits for children`s mental health and academic performance’.


This section requires you to give general background information about your topic, namely, topic on stress which we require you to write about. Give your rationale for choosing stress. For instance, one good rationale may be that stress-related illness is contributing to staff absenteeism thereby making it impossible to provide quality care to patients, or that you have yourself been a victim of a stressful work environment. The introduction is also called the Literature Review section because you will have to refer to research articles on stress - what these articles are saying about stress generally and how the information the articles provide link to your specific area of investigation. You will of course want to define stress, tell us about the positive and negative functions of stress, about any statistics on stress in terms of how many people suffer from stress-related illness for instance, causes of stress – here you could refer to Holmes and Rahe`s (1967) Social Readjustment Rating Scale for some of the causes of stress;  You could also write about the effects of stress which could be physiological - here you could refer to Hans Selye`s General Adaptation Syndrome (google this) where he talks about three stages in terms of how the body reacts to stress, e.g. (1) the Alarm Response stage where you have fight or flight response with all the physiological changes in the body such as sweaty palms, heart beating fast, adrenaline being released into the blood stream, etc., (2) the Resistance stage whereby adrenaline continues to be released into the bloodstream and one continues to be tense and jumpy if the stress was not dealt with during the first stage, (3) the Exhaustion stage whereby adrenaline continues to be released into the blood stream, the immune system becomes weak, and the individual becomes susceptible to diseases. In a study by Brady (1958) – you could google Brady’s Executive Monkeys Study if you want to know more, monkeys subjected to stressful conditions such as being giving electric shocks with no room to escape developed stomach ulcers and even died. Once you have done the physiological effects of stress, you can also do psychological effects of stress, such as depression for instance; and show how both physiological and psychological effects can affect performance in the workplace, including staff absenteeism due to stress and productivity of the company, etc. Your syllabus says you could refer to the Transactional Model of Stress - google this, but it is not compulsory that you must do this? But if it helps you to discuss stress, then why not refer to it? Always end your introduction with your research question, that is, the specific question you want to answer for your research, e.g. How does stress affect individuals in the workplace? How effective is support for employees who are stressed in the workplace? What are the causes of stress in the workplace? etc.

Once you have asked your research question, present two aims of research. Remember, the aim of research is to do with what you want to achieve by doing the research, e.g. Your aim could be (1) To ensure that policies are put in place for dealing with stress in the workplace, (2) As stress is linked to poor retention and recruitment of staff, the aim is to ensure that with effective policies in place, staff retention and recruitment are better as they contribute to increase in productivity, etc.


Here you want to focus on (1) DESIGN METHOD, such as letting your reader know you will be undertaking secondary research, by which is meant using materials written and published, such as journal articles, books, media etc. Let your readers know u won`t do primary research, by which is meant the use of questionnaire, interview etc. Give reasons for not doing primary research, e.g.  the reason may be because of the potential ethical issues involved such as consent and confidentiality; another reason you may not want to do primary research could be the difficulty of finding the right people to complete questionnaire for instance. For this reason, you have decided to do secondary research instead. Let the reader know the benefits of secondary research, e.g.  the materials are already published and have been peer reviewed, which means there is credibility of author. (2) Let your reader know what your INCLUSION AND EXCLUSION CRITERIA would be when doing your secondary research. For instance, you will only include materials (books and journals) that are no more than 10, 20 years (up to you) old, but ideally you will use more recent materials. Let the reader know you will use only materials that are credible but not materials such as Wikipedia which is a non-academic source. Let the reader know u will only select materials that are relevant to the topic of stress. For instance, you will use Holmes and Rahe`s Social Readjustment Rating Scale to identify and discuss causes of stress, or Hans Selye`s General Adaptation Syndrome to discuss the physiological effects of stress, or you will refer to the Transactional Model of Stress, etc. Let your reader know u will focus on the UK particularly, or you will not include countries outside the UK because work-life balance in the UK is different from work-life balance in, say, the Scandinavian countries such as Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland which are among the top ten countries in the World`s Happiness Index that is published by the United Nations Organisation.  Or you could even say you will compare now and again to these countries so that one knows how different systems in different countries contribute to the problem of stress.  Let your reader know that as part of your secondary research you will use (3) SEARCH ENGINES such as Google Scholar, Athens and relevant internet sites to search for the topics related to stress and research methodology. To do this, let your reader know you will enter key words such as `causes of stress`, `meaning of stress`, `statistics on stress`, `effects of stress`, etc.

Let your reader know there are weaknesses in doing secondary research despite its strengths, e.g.  the information is not first-hand information as the information is written by another person rather than you finding out for yourself if you were to undertake primary research where you give out questionnaire to people. Also, another weakness of secondary research could be the difficulty of finding information especially if research topic is an under-researched area, e.g.  stress and ethnicity may be an under-researched area. You can always google the weaknesses of secondary research if you want to know which of the weaknesses you will ideally want to describe.

Conclude your methodology section with (4) ETHICS. Let your reader know there are no obvious ethical issues in secondary research as the sources you will use are credible and peer reviewed. But do also let the reader know you will not plagiarise or copy from the sources of information as this means you are dishonest. Let the reader know you will at all times try to be accurate in the information you present so that the authors` views are accurately represented.

FINDINGS – 200 – 300 WORDS

Identify two journal articles on your topical area and for each article let your reader know what the researchers found out about stress and your specific topical area. To access journal articles, google ‘journal articles on stress’ or whatever specific aspect of stress your research is about. Then, summarise in one paragraph or two paragraphs (for each journal article) what the research article was about, how the researchers went about their study (e.g.  the researchers selected 20 participants from a city in America and gave them questionnaires or interviewed them), and what their findings show, that is, the findings may show that a high number of employees feel that discrimination, or staff shortage, or bullying, etc. was the reason for stress in the workplace.

Although you are not required to use table, charts and graphs, you could use these if you think they help you to show clearly what the results from these studies show. If you are going to use table, chart or graph make sure you use headings, e.g.  ‘Chart, Graph, or Table of Results Showing How Different Ethnic Groups Respond to Questions on Stress and Discrimination in the Workplace’.


Here you select two key themes from the above findings. For instance, one theme could be that there is a relationship between bullying and stress in the workplace. Then, discuss this issue of bullying - talk about how bullying occurs in the workplace, why it does happen in the work place, and how it is reinforced in the workplace by management doing nothing about it or if they did something about it this is not working.

Another theme you could discuss could be `shortage of staff`, `discrimination`, or `Conditions of service such as pay and holidays – zero-hour contract, workload`, etc. Whatever two striking themes that stand out for you from your Findings above you should select and discuss. The theme could even be on `the effects of stress`, etc.

Make sure you reference as you go along when discussing issues arising from your chosen themes.

Once you have discussed your themes from the findings, consider at least one thing you think the researchers could have done differently to make their research even more valid or one that could be generalised. For instance, perhaps the participants the researchers used for their studies were only young people, or only men, or people from the Western Countries, but if they had used different groups of people the findings could be more representative of the wider population and valid. Or you could say they used only a few people for their research, which means the sample size is not large enough to allow for generalisation. So, you can see here that you are not merely identifying the weaknesses of studies published by researchers, you are also suggesting what the researchers could have done better to improve the outcome of their research.

End your discussion with recommendations. This means revisiting the research problem you were trying to solve, e.g.  Then you outline some recommendations to tackle the problem - recommendations such as government making sure there is a requirement for all employers to have a stress and anti-bullying policy. If this is already a law, then you may want to say government should ensure there is a system for monitoring and reporting anti-bullying policy in the workplace, or you could also say CQC or whatever government agency should have `stress` as one of the categories to be graded during inspection and this should take the form of employers producing evidence of absences in the workplace due to stress. It could be your recommendation is about strategies for recruiting and retaining staff, and looking at whether companies making profits should incentivise their staff through a sort of profit-sharing scheme, etc.


Summarise briefly what you have done, e.g. This research report investigated the effects of stress. Although it does this by undertaking secondary research, it outlined the strengths and weaknesses of secondary research. The report acknowledges there are ethical issues arising from research therefore safeguards were taken into account. The researcher`s concern that stress does affect people physiologically is supported by evidence from academic sources. Some of these effects include a range of diseases caused by a weakened immune system brought on by stress. For this reason, the researcher proposes a set of recommendations, which includes the need for ensuring there are systems in place to ensure that employers take the necessary action to minimise stress in the workplace.

REFERENCE LIST – Refer to our Harvard referencing Guidelines, ensuring the list is organised in alphabetical order

APPENDIX - Here please attach your research plan or proposal, that is, a ‘one-page or two-page plan’ which tells your reader your research topic, the research question you seek to answer, your aim or aims, your research method e.g. secondary research and at least the title of one book or journal you will use, ethics in terms of the fact that you will use credible sources and you will not plagiarise, completion timetable where you set out weekly from start to finish what you will do each week from the day the assignment was given out to you to the day you submit, e.g. Week One - Choosing a topic, Week 2 - Formulating a research question and aims of research, Week 3 - Using google scholar to search for relevant information from secondary sources such as books and journals, Week 4 - Writing Introduction, Week 5 - Writing Methodology section, Week 6 Writing Findings Section, Week 7 - Writing Discussion and recommendations, Week 8 - Submission of assignment. Example below.

Remember, this is just a plan or proposal and does not mean you must stick to it as a plan can always be reviewed.

IAS Due:


Research article

Key points



Abstract (do this last)





literature review/Introduction You must define stress at work- and any other terminology you use.  (Why)





Methodology.  (How)





Findings  (what did you find?)





Discussion (You have to think about you found, what does your research mean?)










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