Monday, 3 June 2019

Ten Rules to Write a Retrospective

At the end of most of our undergraduate modules at Escape Studios our students are expected to write a retrospective, totaling approximately 2,400 words.

Students must explain how they approached the practical work in the module, what they learned, and how they might perform a similar task better the next time around.

The idea is to reflect on their performance, analyse what went wrong, celebrate what went right, and draw conclusions from the process.  Below are our top ten tips for writing a great retrospective.

1. Use our standard template - but be aware you don't have to
You don't have to use our standard template, but it's there to be used, and is designed to be a useful guide. Some of our students don't like the standard template, and they don't use it. There is nothing wrong with this approach - the template is entirely optional.  It's there for you if you need it.

2. Check your syntax, spelling and grammar
This should be an easy one, but you would be surprised how many students don't bother.  Always, always run a spell check. Nowadays, if you're running MS Word, you don't actually need to run a spell check - Word will do it for you automatically.  Anything highlighted and underlined in red is a likely a spelling mistake - so don't ignore it. Nothing will bring your marks down faster than poor spelling and grammar, and because many of our students don't fix basic errors, their grades suffer unnecessarily. For example, many students stumble over basic grammar like the correct use of the apostrophe. Remember that "It's" means "it is" - and nothing else.
 
3. Avoid slang
Try not to use slang or colloquial English. Academic writing requires a certain formality. Sentences like "I really wanted to nail the timing" sound like slang. Consider instead: "I wanted to make sure I got the timing right". 

4. Avoid long sentences and long paragraphs
Long sentences tend to ramble, and confuse the reader, who may struggle to understand your point - if indeed you have one.  If you are unsure whether or not to start a new sentence, you probably should.  Keep your sentences short and simple. Long paragraphs should also be avoided; they will confuse the reader.  Once you have finished a thought, and start writing about a new subject, or a new theme, start a new paragraph.

5. Use capital letters correctly
Use capital letters at the start of a sentence. Proper nouns, like movie titles (eg The Iron Giant), have capital letters. But don't use capital letters to EMPHASISE your point - it's the written form of shouting.

6. Avoid contractions
Don’t use contractions. Do not use contractions. Write it out in full.  It is generally better to avoid saying it's. 

7. Avoid personal attacks
This should be an obvious one. The retrospective is not an opportunity to get revenge on your colleagues, especially on a group project. Remember that criticism should be constructive. For example, if someone on your team let you down, explain what you did to manage the process, and how you found a solution. On every team project, someone will let you down; one of the main reasons that we run team projects at Escape Studios is so that our students learn how to navigate such problems successfully. The retrospective is also not the right platform to complain about the course - save that for the SSLC (Staff-Student Liason Committee).

8. Avoid trumpet-blowing
Try to avoid sentences like "I think I performed really well on this project". Instead of blowing your own trumpet, try instead explaining what went right with your work. For example: "I was able to develop my animation skills further and get better at blocking and refining my work".

9. Reach a Conclusion
The conclusion is where you remind the reader of what your main points are.  Summarise your key conclusions clearly. Explain why your conclusions are important and significant. What did you learn? What would you do better next time?

10. Proof read the final document
Finally, proof read what you've done.  The traditional (and still the best) way to do this is to print out your work and give it to someone else to read through.  Give them a pen (ideally a red pen) and ask them to mark up your work, highlighting the mistakes. Then, fix the mistakes, and submit your final piece. 

The Escape Studios Animation Blog offers a personal view on the art of animation and visual effects. To find out more about our new BA/MArt, now recruiting for September 2019, follow this link.   To apply, visit the official page here

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