8 Important Assignment Writing Steps Every Student Should Know
Writing a college assignment or essay is not always an easy feat, especially if it’s your first time. The good news is that you don’t have to procrastinate or waste your time staring at a blank page!
We’ve prepared this straightforward guide to help you write high-quality assignments and score good grades in no time.
1. Check Assignment Deadline and Create a Plan
Some students rush to complete assignments a few hours before the deadline. In most cases, rushed work results in low-quality assignments and low grades. You can avoid the last-minute hassle by checking your assignment deadlines and creating a schedule for completing the work early.
Once you know the deadlines, evaluate the steps you’ll need to take to complete the assignment, for instance:
- Analysing the assignment
- Researching the topic
- Outlining your main ideas
- Writing the first draft
- Editing and proofreading your work
You can then add deadlines to each step of the assignment. Breaking the writing process into manageable chunks makes it easier to complete the workload, even if you don’t have a lot of time in a day to devote to essay or assignment writing.
2. Analyse the Assignment or Essay
Before you research or write anything, make sure you fully understand what is required for the assignment. It will help you avoid the pain and struggle of rewriting later if you discover that you didn’t understand the requirements.
Read the assignment instructions and identify the following:
- Assignment type—Determine the type of assignment you have, e.g., an essay, presentation, thesis, case study, literature review, or a report (because it will determine how to best approach it)
- Instructions—Check any instruction words, like evaluate, describe, summarise, discuss, argue, and analyse. Go out of your way to explore what the instruction word means or requires you to do
- The topic—Look for topic words to identify what your assignment is all about. What do you need to evaluate, discuss, or analyse? It’s as simple as taking the instruction word and adding “what” to it. For instance, discuss what?
- Limiting words—Identify the words that narrow down what you need to focus on. It could be anything from a place to a particular time
If you are unsure about anything, you can reach out to your lecturer or get assignment help from expert tutors. Doing a good analysis of your assignment topic will guide your research and help you answer the assignment question thoroughly.
From your analysis, you can then create a checklist that you can use to ensure you complete your assignment successfully.
If you are provided with an assessment checklist, go through it to understand what your professor will be looking for when awarding you marks for the essay or assignment. It will help you create a checklist to focus on to get the maximum possible scores.
3. Perform Research
Once you know what the assignment requires of you, it’s time to do research. It’s an important step to collect relevant and reliable information for writing an excellent assignment.
Start by identifying your sources. The type of information—definitions, statistics, examples, research studies, and visuals—you are looking for will hugely determine where you look. It’s a good idea to use all the available sources of information, which includes:
- Course materials and recommended reading lists. These sources can have crucial information and can also direct you to other reliable sources like books, websites, or articles
- Your school’s library resources like e-books, print books, etc.
- Online sources like journals, research papers, and credible websites
- Sample assignments from your school’s website or learning management system (LMS)
- Lecture recordings
- Local public library resources
When conducting your search online, you can use Google Scholar to find peer-reviewed papers. Use the keyword from your task and try searching using related terms that describe your topic. Keep searching until you have found credible sources for all your major points, exhausted all new ideas for your case, or run out of time allotted to research.
Ensure that you keep a list of every reliable and relevant information source or research paper you come across. The list will come in handy when it’s time to cite your sources or to double-check some details during the writing process.
4. Plan Your Assignment Structure
Ever spent time staring at a blank page, wondering what to write next? You can make the process of writing an assignment easier by carefully planning and outlining the structure of your assignment. A basic assignment structure will help you answer the assignment task correctly and concentrate on the sections with the most marks. Generally, most long-form assignments or essays contain:
- An introduction
- Thesis statement
- Body or key arguments
The main body is usually the section that requires the most work. The easiest way to organise your key arguments in the body section is to check the logical flow and connections between the ideas. You can use sticky notes or programs like OneNote and Outline to arrange and reorganise your ideas as you find connections between them.
5. Write the First Draft in Your Own Words
Before you start writing, make sure you are in a conducive environment for studying. Minimise distractions and do anything that will help you concentrate, like playing background study music.
The first draft doesn’t need to be perfect. Just put down all the valuable information in your own words while following your assignment structure. Don’t worry about the wording, grammar, or anything at this point. Here are a few things to keep in mind when writing the different sections:
- Introduction—Write a paragraph introducing your key points and briefly explaining how you answer the question. Include the thesis statement at the end of your introduction. It’s the one sentence that states the key argument of your essay
- Body—Organise your key arguments or ideas using headings, subheadings, and paragraphs. The goal is to answer the assignment question. Use the statistics, examples, facts, quotations, and data you collected during your research to support each idea you present in the body paragraphs
- Conclusion—Summarise your argument and recap all the major points in your assignment in a way that leaves a lasting impression. Do not introduce any new ideas here
Don’t feel the pressure to write all the sections in one sitting. Take breaks when you need to. You can work in cycles using the Pomodoro technique. For instance, set a timer to write for 25 minutes and take a 5-15 minutes break.
6. Cite Your Sources
Most writing assignments require you to cite and reference your sources. Start by checking the citation guidelines in your course materials to ensure you use the correct referencing style and include all the necessary information. You could be required to use different referencing styles such as APA, MLA, Harvard, Vancouver, Chicago, etc.
You can also use referencing management software, such as Zotero or Mendeley. Such software allows you to save time that you would otherwise use to search and format your references. However, it’s still good to work with the various citation styles.
7. Revise and Edit Your Work
It’s not easy to do all the assignment writing in one sitting—planning, researching, drafting, editing, and proofreading. If you have followed your schedule, you should have some time left before the deadline. Step back from the first draft for a day or two. When you return to read the assignment draft, you’ll do it objectively, identify gaps, and spot mistakes or issues quickly.
As you read through your assignment, look at your checklist to ensure that you:
- Have answered the assignment question or task clearly and exhaustively
- Remove any text that doesn’t add to the overall argument. It can be painful to remove some text if you have struggled to reach a word count, but fluffy text won’t help you get better marks
- Have a logically arranged and well flowing argument
- Fine-tune your wording. The language you need to use in academic assignments is formal and technical. You can use SkELL or the Writefull app to identify the words that are most relevant to your topic
- Have included all the parts listed in your assignment structure, i.e., the title page, contents page, introduction, body, conclusion, and reference list
- Have acknowledged all your sources
8. Proofread and Check for Accuracy
Proofreading is a must for any academic paper that you write. It’s the step to check all the mistakes you may have overlooked before submitting your work. Verify links, reference list, quotations, spelling, target word count, punctuation, page numbers, the date on pages, your name, and citations. Minor mistakes like typos, punctuation, and grammar issues can give you a bad impression.
You can use the Microsoft Word spell checker tool or run a proofreading tool like Grammarly to spot mistakes in grammar and punctuation. Grammarly can also help you find out if you have any plagiarism issues. Remember that no tool is 100% right, so use your judgment when implementing suggestions!
Building assignment writing skills takes time and practice. Implement the helpful assignment tips you have learned in this guide to build key skills—like analysing and structuring your assignment—to enhance your ability to write an excellent assignment consistently. Following these steps early on can help set you up for the long run, build-essential assignment writing habits, and help you develop solid study skills.
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