How to unpack, break down and nail your assignments

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The Learning Skills team have put together the steps you need to take to research, write and nail your assignments, one at a time.


1. Unpack your assignment task: What’s the question asking you to do?

Assignment questions are not always straightforward. The question may be worded to test how well you can interpret what is required. When starting your assignment, take the time to carefully break down the question.

Instruction words are verbs that tell you what approach you need to take in writing your assignment, information words tell you what the topic or subject area is, and constraining words help define the scope of the question and the areas of the topic you should concentrate on.

2. Make the assignment easier by breaking it down into smaller parts

Sometimes your assignment task feels so complicated that you’re not sure where to start. It’s helpful to break your assignment into steps:

* Brainstorm what you know and what you need to find out
* Find information (research)
* Plan how you’ll organise your ideas
* Write a draft (then review and revise)
* Reference your sources
* Proofread!

thumbnail_The Assignment Process

Sometimes, you’ll knock over several steps at once. Sometimes, you‘ll do a step more than once; you might do some writing, then go back to do more research.

By working through one step at a time, you’ll produce a more solid, more thoughtful assignment.

3. Learn how to structure your assignment based on its type 

Different types of written assignments require the presentation of information (even the same information) in different ways, and have different structures and, at times, even different vocabulary.

There are essays, reports, case studies, critical reviews, annotated bibliographies, literature reviews, oral presentations and more.

For more information about these different assignment types and how to tackle them, use the StudyWise ‘Types of Assignment’ module.


Need more help? Ask a Learning Adviser via the online form, or go to the InfoDesk at the library from Monday to Friday, 12-2pm. 

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