The ABCs of Assignment Writing

Around this time of the academic year you’ll start to get your first set of assignments. Even though you may feel might be a little early on in the term to start working on them, it’s important to realise that planning and preparation is key.

Breaking down your task into five stages can help make it easier for you to get started; collecting and reading material, writing a plan, writing the actual assignment and proof-reading.

Before you start, it’s a good idea to set yourself a time limit and milestones to motivate yourself, but remember to be realistic as you’ll have lectures to attend, might have a part-time job and need to set aside some downtime.




The Prep

Usually your tutor will provide you with an indication of how much you’ll need to read by making recommendations during class or by including relevant sources in your reading list. Writing notes as you’re reading helps save you time going back and forth through different sources. You can also access books and journals electronically through Athens or you can grab physical copies at the library.

Be careful overdo it by trying to get as many different sources in your assignment as possible though. It’s better to show your tutor that you have a thorough understanding of a few solid sources rather than have lots of different sources, but you don’t show much of an understanding of their arguments/ideas.

At university level you’re encouraged to use academic journal articles and books as your primary sources, however, for some courses you might be encouraged to use websites or videos as well – just make sure to avoid Wikipedia!

If you read something that you want to include in your work then it’s best to paraphrase it, or you can quote it directly in your assignment but just remember to use quotation marks and cite/reference the sources properly. Referencing styles vary across departments, so check your course handbook for the referencing style you’re required to use.

If you’re directly copying work from other sources into your work without referencing, paraphrasing or quoting properly, it’s considered as plagiarism, which is absolutely an academic offense. To understand more about plagiarism please complete the plagiarism module on.

The Meaty Bit

The structure of your assignment depends on your course, so you’ll need to familiarise yourself with this so that you’re following the appropriate writing structure/style. When writing an assignment, it might be helpful to break it down into different sections, such as the introduction, the main argument (main body of text) and the conclusion.

Whenever you want to make a point, keep asking yourself how is this relevant to the question/argument at hand. You’ll be awarded marks for answering the assignment question, so going off onto other topics might mean you’ll lose marks.

If you feel a block and don’t know how to go about writing the assignment, it can be helpful to go right into the main argument after you’ve written your plan. You can then go onto your conclusion and come back to the introduction last.

Don’t leave your referencing until the last minute! They take much longer than you think, so try to do them as you’re writing the assignment. Finally, give yourself enough time to proof-read your work before submission that way you can pick up on any mistakes and get them sorted before you submit your work.

Remember, if you need any help with academic issues, you can book an appointment with one of our Student Advisors to get free, confidential advice.