Get qualified during lockdown.
Study from home during Coronavirus with Live Online options for all our training courses. Enrol with confidence.

CIPD Assignment Advice: Conducting research, preperation and referencing

CIPD Assignment Advice: Conducting research, preparation and referencing

Acacia Tutor Tristan Callaghan shares his expert advice on conducting research, assignment preparation and referencing.

How to conduct research for your CIPD assignment?

For CIPD level 3, 5 and 7 use CIPD factsheets and core textbooks as a starting point. It is vital you purchase the recommended core text as these have been written to help with the content areas of the assessment itself.

Both the CIPD factsheets and the core textbooks will provide an overview of the key theories and importantly will signpost you to other valid and reliable sources (the CIPD factsheets have links within the text) and importantly will provide a list of references at the end. It is the links (within the factsheets) and the list of references at the end of the factsheets and textbooks which will enable you to provide a further exploration of the available sources.

Learners should also read the details for the CIPD unit/module, on the Acacia Student Hub, to familiarise themselves with the topic beforehand.

For CIPD Level 5 and particularly, Level 7

A number of these sources can then be found within respected search engines. On this point, avoid just typing in details of what you want to research within a general ‘Google’ search. Use respected ‘academic’ search engines. For example, Google does provide a search engine for ‘academic literature’, including journals known as Google Scholar with a useful guide on research tips and using citations

Importantly, the CIPD provides research reports on their Knowledge Hub, usually written by respected academics, professionals, and practitioners For all level 5 and 7 learners, just like Google Scholar, the CIPD’s EBSCO: Business publications and journals site provides an extensive range of academic and professionals journals (more extensive than Google Scholar), for research which critically evaluates the theory in more depth (important at level 5, but vital at level 7). The CIPD provides lots of help on using this site and exploring further.

We discourage you from using Wikipedia as a source, after all this is an open site, where anyone can contribute. The contributions are anonymous so we don’t know the source, so how can we claim that the research is coming from valid and reliable sources if we don’t know these (the same can be said if we just find ‘random’ sites, with unknown named sources via Google). However, Wikipedia is good for background reading (along with other sources) on the subject. Also, of vital importance, Wikipedia does cite references within the text and provides details in their list of references at the end. Consider these citations and references (determining who wrote them) as a way of identifying further research sources.

On a final point, whilst, reports from professional consultancy organisations (i.e. KPMG, PwC, Deloitte, Accenture, Ernst & Young) do provide up to date research and valuable insights on the industry, you need to be aware that the reports may not have been written by independent named academics who have scrutinised the research in terms of the methods used and conclusions provided. Whilst, these reports can be used, make sure you analyse the results taking this into account and the fact that the research has been written by a commercial organisation, who may benefit commercially from the findings.

In terms of the above points, the CIPD Knowledge Hub (see link above) provides excellent guidance on conducting and scrutinising the research evidence. One report that is particularly useful is the CIPD’s excellent In search of the best available evidence (2016), which investigates why evidence-based practice is so important, the principles that underpin it, how it can be followed and how challenges in doing so can be overcome

Outside of the CIPD core text’s and sources the books by Stella Cottrell provide very useful help.

The Study Skills Handbook (Macmillan Study Skills) Paperback – 18 Mar. 2019

Critical Thinking Skills: Effective Analysis, Argument and Reflection (Macmillan Study Skills) Paperback – 17 Mar. 2017

Preparation: How do I prepare? How should I manage my time?

Applies to all CIPD levels. Download all the assessments right from the start and provide an initial scan over these, so you can start scoping, from the very start, what is involved for each unit. Some learners seem surprised at what is involved within the assessment when they attend their first session for the unit. Preparation beforehand will almost certainly take away the element of surprise (or unexpected shocks).

If you know the timetable for the units / modules, start putting the deadline dates in the diary. Remember these are deadline dates, you can submit beforehand. Try to put a completion date in your diary of when you intend to complete the assignment, maybe 3-5 days before the deadline date. This gives you time to read over the assessment and reflect on this. We find there is a strong correlation between people not passing an assessment if they submitted the assessment very close to the deadline date and time (with only minutes, sometimes seconds to spare).

Just before starting the new unit/module, read over the requirements thoroughly and then start identifying key chapters/texts that relate to the assessment criteria.

Once you have read over the assessment activity and criteria, start preparing a list of questions (of where you may be confused and/or want further clarification) in readiness for the sessions.

Start the assignment as soon as possible after the session. This is advisable, as information is fresh in your mind. Dedicate time in your diary to work progressively on the assessment (maybe an hour a day). This means you can go away and reflect on what you have written, and then revisit the assessment with a fresh perspective. Do not wait for the last minute for inspiration, it rarely happens, particularly when we are feeling stress and anxiety.

Structure: What format should I use for my assignment?

Applies to all levels: This will vary depending on the assessment activity. Make sure you read the requirements of the assessment activity/criteria carefully and importantly follow the guidance of the tutor. If in doubt, do not ‘suffer in silence’ or make ‘assumptions’ ask the tutor within the sessions, or email them as soon as possible, at least a week before the deadline date.

Referencing: How do I reference different sources?

Applies to all levels: In two words use Harvard Referencing. As well as help on the learning hub and the handbooks. Many of the universities have guides on Harvard referencing (written by academics). For example, a very useful interactive guide has been written by Anglia University (, along with a PDF summary guide Google Scholar and the CIPD’s EBSCO site provides a ‘citation’ button/link to help with this. Also, there are numerous tools to help with referencing/citations including Microsoft Word and Neil’s ToolBox

Overall: outside of the CIPD core texts the books by Stella Cottrell provide very useful help

The Study Skills Handbook (Macmillan Study Skills)

Critical Thinking Skills: Effective Analysis, Argument and Reflection


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

“As an Acacia student please login with the username and password provided to you in your confirmation pack to access all the information:

Please click below for Acacia Learning CIPD Student Hub (access by invitation only)”