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Assignment Planning: Quick Guide

This sections outlines the steps involved in planning and writing your assignment

Assignment Planning: Quick Guide

If you're not used to writing coursework (another name for assignments) it can be a bit daunting. The best way to approach an assignment is to break it down into different sections.

Before You Start

  • Think about feedback from previous assignments - if there anything you need to differently
  • Read the question and make sure you understand what you're supposed  to be doing. If you're unsure, check with your teacher
  • Make sure you know the due date of the assignment and how you're supposed to submit it


  • Make sure you thoroughly understand the assignment. Read it carefully and look up any words you don't understand
  • Look for "instruction words" - in the assignment question, that tell you what you have to do
  • If you have to choose from a list of questions, pick the topic that interests you the most.


  • Break down the assignment into task and think about how much time to need to give to each task.  The tasks will be
  • Usually there's a 40:60 split between the research/reading and writing/editing
  • Include some time between finishing writing and starting editing. Give yourself plenty of time to make changes if they are required.
  • If you're using a laptop or PC, create a folder for your assignment to keep your electronic notes together. If you're using paper, keep yur notes in ring binder or folder

Get Started

  • Read the question again and think about how you're going to approach it
  • You can use brainstorming to generate ideas
    • Freewriting: writing down, or typing out, the thoughts that come into your mind when you think about your topic
    • Mindmapping: a technique for visually organising informatin (see the Getting Started page for more info)


Read and Take Notes

  • Read with your topic in mind
  • If it's hard going reading something, break it up into smaller chunks
  • Try to read critically; don't take everything as gospel - does what you read seem convincing?
  • Always look up words you don't know the meaning of
  • Take notes
  • Highlight or underline everything you think is important
  • Think abut colour-coding your highlighting/underlining - using different colours for different concepts (ideas, meanings, people etc)
  • Think about recording yourself reading
  • Maybe you can get someone to quiz you on what you've been studying


  • Go and look at the Academic Writing and the Academic Writing handbook
  • You need to structure your assignment so that it has
    • Introduction - provide some background and context ("this is what I'm going to say and why")
    • Main body - where you answer the assignment question (say it")
    • Conclusions - sum things up ("this is what I said")
    • Reference List - the isources of information you;ve used to help answer the question
  • If you're using a laptop or PC, save often! Backup the file to a USB key, or send it by email to yourself