Assignments are a necessary and critical component of most, if not all, courses of study. You will be able to minimise stress, order and complete your tasks, and produce your best work by taking a step-by-step approach toward assignments. In this section you will learn about some of the types of assignments that you may need to complete during your studies. You will also find a step-by-step guide, and an assignment checklist that will assist you to fine-tune your assignments.
Types of assignment
During your course, you are likely to be required to complete multiple assignments throughout the academic year. These assignments generally require you to record and present your thoughts, opinions, research findings or practical experiences, and require differing levels of formalness according to the task and instructions. The following types of assignment are most common:
When you are planning your assignment, ask yourself the following questions to enable you to write a clear, concise and comprehensive piece of work.
Why am I being asked to write this assignment? What is the aim?
Who will read this? How much information is required for my message to be understood?
What register should I use? How will I pitch my writing so that it is accepted by the reader? Is it to be written in a formal tone or an informal tone, objectively or subjectively?
What style of writing is required? Am I asked to analyse, argue, convey information and explain ideas (expository,) be factual or creative?
What can I present in support of what I think and believe in? How many different sources of information will I consult? Will I choose sources such as magazine/ research/ journal articles, original documents, speeches, survey research, video recordings?
What have I been told in the assignment instructions which I have to cover?
Are there other people who are able to help me?
Follow this step-by-step guide to make completing an assignment more manageable. This guide is focused on an essay task but can be applied to all types of assignments. See the sections on essays and reports for more specific information on those assignment types.
Step-by-step guide to completing an assignment
In order to make sure that you answer your assignment question appropriately, you need to analyse the question by breaking down the assignment instructions into three elements. Whether an assignment question is long and complex, or short and simple, it consists of:
The topic, which tells you what the general focus of the assignment is
The instructional words, which tell you what to do
The other significant words, which tell you which part of the topic you must limit yourself to and focus on
Outline factors related to learning that apply in the classroom. Discuss possible reasons for student success in exams and evaluate the role of the tutor in preparing students for exams.
Analysing the question into these three elements is important for two reasons:
- It will enable you to focus accurately on the topic and present a relevant answer.
- It will help you to structure your assignment.
When planning any assessment or assignment task, you need to know the criteria against which it will be assessed. The marking guide describes in detail what is required and you will find this document attached to the assignment task.
You may use the marking guide to work out how many words to write for each section and to check and confirm that your plan or mind map covers all the parts of the assignment question.
- The assignment instructions and marking guide tell you the type of information needed e.g. New Zealand or international information, or historical, recent or current information.
- Decide what sources of information are suitable. Most assignments require academic information from textbooks and journal articles.
- Check how many sources are required, if stated.
- Use your topic(s) and sub-topics to form search questions such as what, who, why, when, where and how.
- Your class materials and recommended readings often provide an overview and explanation of your main topics.
- Use the index and contents pages of your textbook(s) to find the pages with the topic(s) or key terms.
- Use the library search engine to find resources available at the library.
- The library catalogue has books with general information to help you understand the topics you are researching, as well as online resources such as peer-reviewed journal articles with more specific and current information that you may require.
- How relevant is the information to key topics and concepts in your assignment? To find out, use your search questions to survey your reading materials and to scan for relevant information.
- To gain an overview, the parts you should read first are the introduction and conclusion, and any summary or abstract.
- Is the information reliable, objective, accurate and recent?
Go to Reading Skills’ section for more information.
Use in-depth reading and critical reading skills to identify useful information.
As you read develop your assignment plan or mind map by adding points to the key concepts.
- As you read, take notes of relevant and important information which will help to develop and support the ideas for your assignment.
- Group your notes under the topic and sub-topic headings of your plan or mind map.
- Record the details of all sources of information you are using, because you will have to reference them.
- Use your assignment plan to write the information you have found into paragraphs, using your own words (that is, paraphrasing).
- For each paragraph, write a topic sentence which states the main idea of the paragraph.
- Develop this idea with supporting sentences that provide explanation and examples.
- Check your drafts by referring closely to your assignment plan and marking guide.
- Ask questions such as: Have I missed out anything important? Have I included irrelevant information? Have I paraphrased well? Do I have only one main idea for each paragraph? Do my ideas 'flow'? Use the academic writing section to help with sentence and paragraph structure.
- Edit and rewrite as required.
It is important to follow the required referencing style to provide:
- In-text citation (acknowledging the authors of the ideas you used within your assignment)
- A reference list (giving full details of the sources of your information at the end of your assignment).
- Leave some time to rest and reflect before you proof read.
- Check to ensure correct content, structure, spelling, grammar, punctuation, referencing, and formatting. See the assignment checklist below to ensure you have checked everything.
- Marker feedback is very important because it helps you to understand where and why you did well, and where and why you need to improve.
- Apply what you have learnt from your assignment to future assignments, to constantly improve your thinking and writing skills.
Formatting your assignment
These are the basic requirements for good presentation of an assignment.
Headers and footers
Using the Thesaurus
Footnotes and Endnotes
To learn more about how to format with Microsoft Word choose your software’s version and then follow the suggested links and videos in the IT Support section.
Editing and proof reading are a necessary part of any writing process. You will need to either:
do this yourself, preferably leaving time, e.g. overnight, then look at your work with ‘new eyes’, or
find someone to do it – a friend, family member, neighbour etc.
Use this checklist to help you and tick as you check each point.
- Does your written work answer all parts of the question?
- Do you make your ideas clear for the person reading?
- Is your writing well organised with a clear beginning, middle and ending?
- Does each paragraph have ONE main idea that is stated clearly?
- Is there a logical structure to your writing?
- Do your sentences and paragraphs link together well?
- Read your writing again, this time thinking about grammar and spelling – use your computer ‘spellcheck’
- Are there any words you might have spelt incorrectly?
- If so, check them in a dictionary or using the Word spellchecker.
- Is your writing clear and easy to understand?
- If so, change to simpler sentences; mark parts you are still concerned about.
- Is there a subject and a verb in every sentence?
- Do the subject and verb agree?
- Have you checked the tenses, especially the past tense?
- Have you used citations in the text, showing where you got ideas and/or information from other writers?
- Have you put a list at the end (References) giving all your sources?
- Have you paid attention to your tutor’s specific instructions concerning the references?
Have you checked the word count against the assignment instructions?
This work includes material from the following sources:
CPIT. (2011). Assessment tasks. Retrieved from http://library.cpit.ac.nz/learning_services/learning_and_study_resources/assessment_tasks Permission granted to use content.
CPIT. (2010). How to analyse assignment instructions. Retrieved from http://library.cpit.ac.nz/learning_services/learning_and_study_resources/assessment_tasks Permission granted to use content.
NMIT. (2013). How to get started on an assignment or essay. Retrieved from http://ecampus.nmit.ac.nz/moodle/course/view.php?id=1353#section-4 Permission granted to use content.
NMIT. (2013). Proofreading checklist. Retrieved from http://ecampus.nmit.ac.nz/moodle/course/view.php?id=1353#section-4 Permission granted to use content.
The Saylor Foundation. (2013). Writing for success. Retrieved from http://www.saylor.org/site/textbooks/Writing%20for%20Success.pdf Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Hero image: Fireworks 4. Thomas Hawk. Image retrieved from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fireworks_4.jpg Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.