What you must do
1.Choose a major corporation (e.g. Microsoft, Rio Tinto, Coles).
2.Find some political criticism of the corporation. Outline and summarise three to five different criticisms, with some evidence.
3.Choose one serious, political criticism of the corporation
4.Do research to find factual evidence to determine whether or not the criticism is justified. This is called proposition-testing, and is the core task here.
5.Evaluate the criticism you have chosen in the light of the evidence you find.
This assignment should take about 15 hours work in total.
What s the point of this assignment?
This assignment aims to develop your research and critical thinking skills.
Imagine you are working for a major bank. One of your largest corporate clients asks the bank to raise funds for a controversial new pulp mill. Your managers want you to make an assessment of the proposal. Your assessment will have to include your judgement on the public criticisms being made of the company. This scenario actually happened, and the bank refused the loan.
Critical thinking and proposition-testing are vital skills in life, business and government. Thinking critically means constantly asking yourself; is this proposition true?
Proposition-testing involves research to find evidence that tells you whether or not a proposition (an argument, a criticism) is true, or how valid it is. This is also one of the core tasks for the third assignment.
Proposition testing means that the opinions you form are based on evidence, and not simply on your existing beliefs or common sense . It s easy to do critical research into arguments we disagree with; the challenge is to think critically about ideas we agree with.
1. Choose a major corporation to investigate
The Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) has a list of the top 100 companies at: http://www.afrsmartinvestor.com.au/tools/tables/IndustrialLeaders.xls .
It doesn t have to be Australian; you can find the 2009 Forbes 500 at http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/global500/2009/index.html
Don t worry too much about this; all majojr corporations get criticised!
Note: You must not choose the corporation you work for, nor a corporation you are involved with in any way, eg one in which you have some financial or other interest, a competitor, or a corporation with which you are in conflict.
2. Find some political criticism of the corporation
Find about three to five different criticisms. Summarise these criticisms very clearly, and a little evidence for them, in 200“300 words.
The best political criticisms are those that:
criticise the general behaviour of the corporation, rather than its specific actions.
For example: BP endangered the environment by putting profits first (general); rather than BP was responsible for the worst environmental disaster in America (specific).
threaten the reputation of the corporation.
have the most impact on society or the political system.
A few examples of criticisms that fit those criteria are:
the corporation s activities are damaging the environment;
the corporation is engaged in abusive treatment of its employees;
the corporation is engaged in predatory behaviour towards customers or suppliers;
the corporation is using its resources to manipulate public opinion or politics.
You should use search engines like Google and Google Scholar. The key is to think of productive search terms. One will be the corporation s name. Combine that with words like unfair, exploit, damage, union, monopoly, pressure, environment. You may also find NGO websites useful. Here are a few:
LaborNet (Australia): www.labor.net.au. This brings together a range of trade union websites, and includes an older, inactive website, BossWatch: bosswatch.labor.net.au .
Mineral Policy Institute (Australia): http://www.mpi.org.au
Multinational Monitor (US) founded by Ralph Nader: multinationalmonitor.org .
Friends of the Earth (FOE) (Australia): www.foe.org.au/corporates .
You should spend no more than about 3 hours out of 15 on this part of the assignment.
3. Choose one political criticism to research
Choose a serious criticism; one that has an impact on the corporation s reputation.
The criticism must focus on the general behaviour of the corporation, not on an event.
The criticism must be something that is in dispute.
There would be no point, for instance, in investigating the criticism that Qantas caused inconvenience to passengers by grounding its fleet in 2011. Who disagrees with this?
You could, however, investigate the criticism that Qantas is anti-union. That is something the company rejects.
The criticism should be carefully and precisely worded.
You can ask for feedback from other students on the criticism you re thinking of researching on StudyDesk. There is a specific forum for discussion of this assignment.
4. Do research to find out if that criticism is valid
Look for concrete evidence (facts and figures) that is the product of research, because that is more convincing than someone s opinion. Summarise this in 300“600 words.
This is the largest task, so spend around half your time on it. There is a guide to researching criticism of corporations on the course CD. Some advice:
You re not looking for background material; eg, on why the criticism matters.
Use evidence from the corporation itself, but keep in mind that a self-interested organisation is going to present information to its own advantage.
We don t want recommendations on what the company should do.
Don t look for material to justify your own opinion. If you find evidence that disagrees with your personal opinion, you must include it.
When you write this up, it is essential that you present the evidence you have found as the result of an investigation, rather than as an argument for (or against) the criticism. Your opinion, based on this research, should come out in your evaluation.
Don t worry if things don t work out easily. All research requires experimentation, and often involves some failure. The key is to try something different.
5. Evaluate the criticism in light of the evidence
You ve found some evidence. What conclusion should we now draw about the criticism of the corporation? Why should we draw that conclusion? 100“200 words.
Just because someone criticises a corporation, that doesn t mean their criticism is true, or reasonable. You need to ask yourself:
Does the evidence confirm the criticism?
Does the evidence contradict the criticism?
Oris there evidence both ways that you have to weigh up?
Your evaluation can be:
Black/white (The criticism is fully justified by all the evidence I found ).
Qualified (There is evidence that some of the corporation s factories have been bad polluters, but there is also evidence that they took steps to reduce the pollution).
Make sure you give reasons for your evaluation. You should include a comment on the nature and quality of the evidence you found, because this affects your evaluation. We ve included an evidence analysis table to help you do this.
Write up your assignment
Here s how to present your assignment. You don t need an introduction or a conclusion.
An informal cover page, with your name, student number, name of the course (POL1000 etc.), the name of the corporation you are investigating, and word count.
Heading: Summary of criticisms of (name of corporation)
Your summary of the criticisms you found of the corporation. This should include the most significant factual details (about 200“300 words).
Heading: Evaluation of the criticism that (name of corporation) (the specific criticism you are investigating). Make sure this is as clearly expressed as possible.
A summary of the evidence regarding that criticism, including the most significant concrete evidence (about 300“600 words).
Your evaluation of that corporate criticism in light of the evidence (100“200 words).
Heading: List of references
A correctly formatted list of the sources you used in your assignment.
Use your own words
Your assignment must be written in your own words. You should not directly copy, or quote, material from your sources unless absolutely essential “ and in no case should this be more than 5% of your assignment. Details in the section, Writing in your own words .
Reference your assignment
Reference every idea or piece of evidence that you use. This allows readers to check your sources for themselves, and see whether your use of them is accurate.
Referencing must be in Harvard AGPS style (i.e. in-text referencing). There is a guide to referencing in the course materials and an extra guide to referencing websites .
All references must include page numbers (except webpages, which are just one page). Do not follow the advice of the Communication Skills Handbook on this issue.
Finish with a proper List of References in Harvard AGPS style. This list should only include publications you have cited in your assignment.
Students who fail to reference may be required to do this before their work is marked.
Submit your assignment
See the chapter/webpage, How to submit your written assignments for details. You do not need to include an official USQ cover sheet; just an informal one.
How your assignment will be assessed
Quality of your summary of criticisms of the corporation
Relevance and clarity of the criticism chosen to be tested
Quality and quantity of the evidence you found on the criticism you investigated
Quality of your evaluation of the criticism in the light of the evidence
Clarity of your writing
The extent to which your assignment was written in your own words
Quality of your referencing
Academic integrity of your assignment
The marking template for the Corporate criticism assignment is in the course materials.
Assessment re-mark/appeal policy
You can appeal against your mark, or request a re-mark. A request must be received by the course leader or the course moderator within 21 days of the release of the mark. Appeals will only be considered if the student explains what they think is wrong with the marking.
What skills does this assignment help you develop?
USQ undertakes to develop ten qualities and skills in everyone who graduates from the university. This assignment aims to develop:
Skill 1: Ethical research and inquiry
Skill 3: Academic and professional literacy, and in particular:
â—¦Research and information literacy
Skill 4: Communication, and in particular
Resources to help with your assignment
The following are in your course materials (course CD/Course Content on StudyDesk):
Marking sheet . This is what we ll use to mark your assignment and give you feedback.
Testing the criticism of a corporation : a short video prepared by Adrian Stagg, USQ library.
A table to help you analyse your evidence.
Resources on how to reference properly .
Examples of how some previous students did this assignment.
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