Written assignments are a common method used to assess your knowledge of a particular subject. The type of assignment will vary according to the subject, theme and title.
Here’s a few tips to help you to get started:
Start Early – It’s always tempting to put your assignment to one side while you get on with other things in life but you should try to make a start as early possible. Even if it’s just a matter of preparing your cover page or writing the brief, making the important first step is often all that is needed to get your mind focused on the task in hand.
Understand what’s being asked – Read the assignment brief carefully, can you explain in your own words what the assignment is asking you to do? If you’re not sure then ask your fellow students what their thoughts are – you’ll be surprised how many people will be as unsure as you are! Check with your tutor, just to be safe, before you career off down the wrong track.
Organise your research – As you read about and research the subject topic, make a habit of highlighting and noting key points. Start to consider how you will put these together in a coherent form.
Write a draft – Focus on putting you ideas to paper. Don’t worry if you are not too sure what to write, the exercise will identify the areas where you need to research. As you start to gather more information and re-write your draft, ask yourself if you are making all of the points you set out to make. Do the ideas flow, does it read naturally?
Provide evidence – Refer to any information or research to support what you are saying. Cite the source of material you have used.
Don’t plagiarise – If you use someone else’s work give them credit for it. If you copy things verbatim then put the text in quotation marks and cite the author. You won’t lose any marks for doing this – though you might not gain any either. A better way to refer to someone else’s work is to put what they have said in your own words and refer to the reference source. This shows that you have researched the subject and that you understand what has been said sufficiently to explain it. Quoting things word for word only shows that you can copy and paste – nothing else.
The Structure of Your Assignment – Each college will have it’s own particular format of how assignments should be completed. Generally, however, they tend to follow a similar format:
- Cover Sheet – The course title, assignment number, hand-in date and so on;
- Index Page – A formal list of contents together with page numbers;
- Brief – The outline of the assignment task;
- Introduction – This is where you establish the context of the topic and state the purpose of the assignment. Identify the key ideas to be considered and the background to the question.
- Methodology – This is the main text to the essay or the presentation of your argument.
- Conclusion – A resolution of the discussion. This is where you should summarise the points made and present your position and identify whether further aspects may need examining.
- Bibliography – A list of books, documents, etc you have used. Include the full title, author, edition and publisher.
- Appendices – This is where you should include any other information such as trade literature, print-outs of web pages and so on.
Relax – If you find that you have a mental block, or you just can’t seem to get going, then don’t worry. Everyone experiences this problem to a certain degree, it’s nothing to worry about. Just relax, talk to your tutor or fellow students – ask them for guidance. Often all you need is a slight prompt to get the ball rolling and you will wonder what you were worrying about?
Writing assignments can be difficult but once you have completed your first one, or two, the process becomes much easier. As you near the end of your course you will find that the method becomes second nature.
Although you may not need to write another assignment after qualifying you will find that the structure and discipline of written assignments forms a basis of many written projects that you may have to complete in your chosen career.