How to A Levels: Preliminary Idea (Project Work) 2017

One of the most elusive subjects: Project Work. With drafts and internal deadlines approaching for the Preliminary Idea (PI), the confused student might be scrambling for an idea. This year’s Project Tasks are surrounding ‘Integrity’ and ‘Investment.’ This article is not meant to give you a topic, but to show you how to format and approach the PI and your workflow. Know that you will constantly have to realign your topic to fit the task requirements, and to not despair at constant modifications!

Understanding How You Are Graded

Evaluation marks are given for all parts that explain ‘why’ – be it explaining importance, impacts, etc. ‘Generation of Ideas’ marks will be given for the different area or group in the community that can adapt such measures or investments, and exploring that adaptation. Note that for ‘Generation of Ideas’, ideas that are ‘largely rehashed’ will fall in the last band, so innovative modification is expected and not wholesale copying of the investment or measure. 

Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 12.49.51 pm.pngThe rubric for Preliminary Idea

Structuring Your PI

Next, you must know how to structure your PI. Although both have somewhat different workflows and foci, both tasks will be graded based on ‘Generation of Ideas’ and ‘Analysis and Evaluation of Ideas.’

What is important to note is that both are given equal weightage, so it is important to ensure that both are explored thoroughly and equally.

If you look at the workflow of the two topics below, you will see where exactly you will get your varying marks. From the workflow alone, it might appear that ‘suggest another area/community…’ portion of the Preliminary Idea only constitutes 25% of the content. However, if you look at where mark allocation goes, all of your Generation of Idea marks are from that single area. Hence, be sure to structure your PI accordingly, allocating enough emphasis on that other area or community that will benefit.

Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 1.00.40 pm

Brainstorming for a Topic

When approaching the PI, there are three things I recommend.

Choose a topic that is close to heart!

I’m sure there are plenty of investments (or lack thereof) in sports education; what I am trying to say is that you don’t need to venture too far into politics or aerospace engineering if you don’t know anything about it! Don’t think about making it ‘cheem’, best to find a topic that you are comfortable learning about.

Always remember the big picture!

The big picture of PI is this: we are essentially finding something that works pretty well and applying it to something that doesn’t but could potentially benefit from a similar measure. When brainstorming topics, it is good to start with areas that have high and low integrity, and communities with a lot of investment and lack thereof. Hence, it will be easier to piece together two areas or communities while doing your PI.

Adapt Measures Appropriately

At the end of analysing integrity or investments, you yourself have to come up with similar measures. So make sure that these measures or investments are transferable! So ‘preventing gerrymandering’ to ensure electoral integrity isn’t quite transferable to other areas. When thinking about your topic, make sure that the respective measure or investments are easily transferable: Are the measures and investments you mentioned open to modifications and adaptations to another area or community?

Breakdown of PI

Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 2.10.05 pm

Below is how I’ve broken the PI based on workflow. I’ve grouped the similar parts together: identifying your area or community is essentially identifying your topic. You have to address all these parts as stated from your instruction sheet. While the workflow is of a different sequence, the same questions are applicable to obtain a thorough analysis or insightful idea. 

Area with High Degree of Integrity / Community Benefitted from Investment

For this part, ensure that you clearly define what area requires a high degree of integrity or what community has benefitted.

What does clearly defining your community or area mean? The instruction sheet recommends ‘in business and finance, governance, the media…sport, education.’ However, simply stating integrity is needed in ‘business’ is definitely not clear enough!

Doing this will put you in a bind – the scope is incredibly large, thousands of measures are used to ensure integrity in business, and explaining why it is necessary has just as many reasons. If you narrow it down to ‘integrity in meat production in fast food businesses’, it is easier to find specific measures and explain its necessity more thoroughly, providing an insightful analysis that engages thoroughly with the topic at hand (who wants pink slime in their food?!)

In short: make your area specific, knowing the parameters of what your topic is on. If your community that has benefitted from investments is the disabled, think about what kind of disability has benefitted, what age group and where?

Measures and Impacts of Investment

For explaining necessity and impacts, the most important this is that your answer should be context specific. If you choose Singapore, explaining the importance of integrity is more than just ‘preventing corruption’ but should delve deeper into larger significant impacts and/or trends in society.

More than simply ‘ensuring customer health and safety’, the prevalence of meat consumption in fast food joints in Singapore makes integrity of meat production a national health issue. This makes the issue far more pressing and justifies such high levels of integrity necessary. From here, you must add in examples, statistics or any type of evidence that reveals such prevalence, and its correlation with health.

Similarly , the impacts that you list down must show specific impacts to the community you have listed at hand. Always question further: think about ramifications of not having integrity, why the investment had such a positive impact, how such measures are implemented, who implements them, etc!

Explaining Measures and What the Investment Is

For measures or investments, it is important that such are grounded in a policy, framework, programme, campaign or initiative to keep your PI factual.

What you must ensure is that the measures you have found have evidence that correlates to maintaining integrity. You should have at least two measures or investments so you can use them to adapt for your Generation of Ideas in the last part. Below is how to structure this:

  • Measure/Investment:
  • How it maintains integrity/Impact of Investment:

For further evaluation, things you can consider are: what makes this measure effective? Is there evidence that proves that these measures have directly benefitted your cause? You can compare different countries/places/organizations that do not have such measures.

Other Area or Community

Remember that your Generation of Ideas come from here! So think carefully and properly!

  • To think of another area that might benefit from adapting similar measures, you must first establish why that particular area is in need of such measures.
  • Second, establish how the measure can be adapted to suit the needs of this area.
  • Lastly, evaluate! What would the impacts be? How can you be sure that such adapted measures will work? How are they modified specifically to your community or area in need? (i.e. is there research showing this in other parts of the world?), etc.

If you can’t think of another area or community that might benefit, perhaps you should narrow down your initial area or community. For example, using sports education, if you think that investment into sports education for students can’t quite be transferred to another community, why not narrow down your initial community to secondary school, and the other community polytechnic students/tertiary level education? This way you can modify similarly but still target a different area or community. Not all investments are given to all students, and this can be applied to many other sub-communities as well: the disabled, the working class, mothers (working or stay-at-home), etc. Similarly, there might be lots of measures to ensure the integrity of dog owners, but what about that of rabbits or birds?

Others: What does ‘Innovative’ and ‘Insightful’ Mean

Don’t think too hard! A lot of students are going to fret over whether their idea is good enough. Innovation and insightful comes when you give details that are specific to the needs of your community or area. If the community you are targeting is secondary school students, then simply writing ‘build a phone application’ for them is not enough. You should explain more as to why a phone application fits their needs and abilities as part of our technologically inclined generation. Similarly, if the area you are targeting is integrity of pet owners in Singapore, having a campaign is not detailed enough. Where will it be held? Why in that specific location? What events will take place there? How will you educate or incentivise?

Innovative and insightful ideas come when they are detailed, and have context-specific details that are suited to your target group or area. Ensure that your idea is detailed, include all the specifics about that campaign; where will it be held? What kind of events will you be there? etc, etc.

Others: Word Limit and Design

Since the word limit is 500 words, it might seem impossible to fit everything in. This almost forces all students to make tables to let them use bullet points, and I highly recommend you start creating such tables, images and summaries in your PI to fit everything in.

If you aren’t familiar as to how to create basic tables, there are many template tables available on Powerpoint or Word for you to use. You can download free fonts online and if you need to find logos or designs you can search

Eliminate words like ‘also’ and ‘and’, perhaps replacing them with commas. Other words you can eliminate are ‘the’, ‘thus’, etc if you are really in a bind.

Happy Working!

While the PI journey might be long, remember this: if you do a good PI, it might turn out to be your final project, and you won’t have to do double the work for a new topic. Make good use of your consult with your Project Work teacher!

If you can’t find the motivation to do your work, I’ve written an entire article on how to get yourself motivated.


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