When beginning an assignment, it can be hard to know where and how to begin. Follow the steps below to start confidently and get your work done. These tips were published in Helen Carroll's book called A Guide to Writing Assignments (Carroll, 2017).
Step 1: Research
Access and download the brief and class notes that are available on the subject on Moodle (see Moodle in the menu for guidelines on how to access and download notes).
Gather notes that you have taken in class/handouts that are related to that brief.
Use a highlighter pen to pick out the keywords/terms that are specific to that topic on the brief and in your notes.
Look at the marking criteria on the brief, and see the sections were the most marks are available, then you'll see what sections require the most detailing and discussion.
Read through these notes and try to make sense of the subject matter before you being typing anything! Once you're confident that you have a good knowledge of the topic, then you're ready to begin.
Never use "I" in your work. If you need to refer to yourself, you use "the author". We only use "I" in personal essays and unless told otherwise, you are writing academic reports and essays, not personal essays.
If there are any terms in the essay that you don’t understand, look them up immediately in a dictionary.
As soon as you start reading, write down any quotes that you think might be useful, word for word.
Every time you write down a quote, make sure to write down the author/editor, essay/book/journal name, year and place of publication in its entirety. This will make referencing and writing your bibliography easier.
A note on plagiarism
Plagiarism is using someone else’s research or writing, and presenting it as your own.
In an academic assignment, you are not writing your own opinions – you are presenting research done by others. You will be given marks for presenting this research. So simply present the information you have found, and include the proper reference to the author.
Step 2: Prepping your document
As part of your DBC Email & 365 account, you have access to Microsoft Word and One Drive. Use Microsoft Word to type up your assignments and One Drive to save them online. Avoid using USBs. See the Microsoft Office 365 page for more information on how to set up and use Word 365 and Microsoft Word.
Step 3: Structuring & Starting
This example shows how a typical 1,200 word assignment would break down into blocks.
First: Define your topic
Use a definition from one of your sources – books, journal article, reports etc.
State your main idea (called a thesis statement) and state the key concepts. (40 words)
Present an alternative perspective, this gives a balanced viewpoint. (20 words)
Give background information – this may be work already published in this area. (40 words)
State the question that you are answering in this assignment. (40 words)
State the objective/aim of the assignment. (40 words)
Explain why the topic is important. (20 words)
TOTAL WORDS = 200
Below are some examples of key expressions that you could include in your introduction.
“The objective of this essay is to….” (This is for clarity)
“This assignment will attempt to answer the question….” (Insert the question here – it will get you marks!)
“This assignment will attempt to examine the literature on…. In order to provide a ….” (This is a declaration of academic responsibility)
"The author will attempt to examine…. With a view to….”
"The author will focus on…." (subtle suggestion that you are engaging with the topic)
Building an argument
You have already defined your topic in the Introduction. Now you can move on to the main body of the assignment. This is the largest section – like the walls of a building, It is here that you start to make claims which back each other up to build an argument.
Present one point per paragraph, this will help you in ordering your points. Follow the below structure for each paragraph:
CLAIM: Students with poor attendance fail more exams
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: …….as can be seen in university statistics.
ARGUMENT INDICATOR: As a result, it can be concluded that…..
CONCLUSION: ….attendance is a factor in achieving good results.
Support each claim you make with evidence from your reading (i.e. a quote, an image, a table of figures) and use argument indicators or ‘signposts’ to build your case.
Draw a conclusion.
Do not include anything new here. This is where you summarise the main argument of your assignment.
Use these examples:
This assignment examined…
This assignment discovered…
It can be concluded that…
It would appear that…
It would be worth investigating…
If your assignment uses a lot of quantitative data (numbers, statistics, scientific analysis and results etc.) it might be possible for you to make a prediction based on the research you have done.
Step 4: Proofreading
Now that you've drafted the first version of your assignment, this is where you need to proofread.
Proofreading is a process where you read your work again from start to finish and you ask yourself the following questions:
Coherency/Clarity (is it easy or difficult to read and make sense of?)
Does it make sense for a reader that does not understand the subject/area?
Does it follow a clear line of thought/thinking?
Does it follow the structure (as seen above)?
Edit or Elaborate (have I written too much or not enough?)
Where have I repeated a point/ or elaborated too much on one point?
Are there some points that could be developed more with research?
Research (referring to published research in this area)
Have I shown evidence of research?
Have I relied too much on one source? (book/website/journal etc.)
Spelling/Grammar (am I paying attention to my use of language/literacy?)
Are there spelling mistakes? Have I corrected these with MS Word Spellchecker?
Does the grammar and tense make sense? (past, present, future tense)
Step 5: Submitting Your Assignment
Depending on how your Tutor has asked for this submission, you may have to print it out or submit it to Moodle in the submission space. (See Moodle page in this site for more information on how to submit to Moodle).
If asked to submit a hard-copy (printed) assignment, follow these final steps
Complete the brief (fill in your name, course group/course and date of submission) and sign and date the Plagiarism Declaration (on the last page)
Staple your assignment to the brief (top-left hand corner)
Fill in the receipt section in your Student Diary and your tutor will ask you to sign their own receipt record.
Always save a copy of your assignment work on One Drive, in case something happens to the original copy.
If you'd like to learn more about academic writing, read this excellent resource on academic writing for students in the further education and training sector, published by FESS and ETBI.
Carroll, H., 2017. A Guide to Writing Assignments. 1st ed. Dublin: Association for Higher Education Access & Disability.