Eight grade-grabbing ways to getting started on assignments

Young woman, student, sitting in library searching information on laptop for her assignment. She is sitting at table surfing internet for notes for her study and looking at camera.

Easing into the session is all about settling into a routine. You’ve cracked the building addresses on campus and figured out the train/bus timetable. You know the nearest place selling your preferred coffee/chai/snack. And you’ve probably submitted your first assessments; maybe quizzes or short answers.

But as the day-to-day stuff gets sorted, classes start to speed up, and more assessments are due. Complex topics, research, detailed instructions and new assignment types can seem a bit daunting. In this post, the Learning Skills team and WriteWISE leaders (trained student writing leaders) Monique Van Acquoy and Olivia Newsome share their tried and true strategies for getting a move on long assignments.

  1. Read the question
    Then read it again and again, until you understand what it’s asking you to do! Check the meaning of the task instruction words, or use a template to help you break down the question. Looking at the marking rubric will help ensure you’ve addressed every part of the question.
  2. Have a strategy
    Before you jump in and madly start writing, make a plan. Break down your project into smaller and more manageable steps, then plot them into your calendar/diary. You can even set yourself an advance due date (a few days before the real due date) to give yourself a buffer.
  3. Start early with your research
    Don’t start by writing your essay/report/assignment, then try to find sources to fit into your answer. Instead, after you’ve read (and understood) the question, develop your position/angle through reading and research.
    Put off by databases? Check out the Library’s subject specific LibGuides or talk to a librarian about search strategies for your assignment.
  4. Give yourself realistic goals
    To make sure you stay productive and on-task, set yourself goals for each study session (we like SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound). Track your progress as you work. If your sessions aren’t going well, try a different strategy or ask someone for help (see Point 8).
  5. Take breaks and reward yourself
    It’s easy to crash and burn when doing Uni work, but taking breaks can help you stay sharp and focused. The Pomodoro Technique (multiples of 25 minutes of focused study followed by a five-minute break) is a good tool to make your study time productive.
  6. Disengage from technology
    Technology and social media kill productivity, and they can derail your project quickly. The easiest way to avoid wasting time is to disengage completely. You can always check your phone in your breaks as a reward for keeping on task. If all else fails, site blocking software such as Cold Turkey and FocusMe will prevent you from being distracted.
  7. Give yourself some variety
    Working on one project full time can kill your motivation, and prevent you being critical about your work. You’ll often feel fresher if you build variety into your study, for example, using one study session on a task for one class, then the next session on a different class.
  8. Find help
    If you’re still worried or unsure, there are plenty of avenues for help.
  • First port of call is your tutor or lecturer. They like it if you check your unit guide first!
  • Some units offer PAL/PASS sessions (peer tutoring) or booked consultations with a WriteWISE leader- check on iLearn or in your unit guide.
  • Librarians are available at the InfoDesk, online or though virtual chat.
  • Learning Advisers are at the InfoDesk lunchtimes Mon-Fri or send them an email using the form on this page.
  • If stress or personal issues are getting too much, drop in, call or email Campus Wellbeing.





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