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Starting my first assignment


Planning an assignment

Planning and organising your first assignment may seem daunting to students who are new to academic study. This short video walks you through in easy to follow steps, how to analyse the assessment task, read and take notes and plan your assignment.

Planning an assignment.

When you get an assignment, it is not effective just to sit down and write. You need to plan, and here are three important steps for planning an assignment.

You need to analyse the task, so that you know exactly what you are being asked to do. You need to read and take notes in an organised way. And, you need to plan the structure of your writing.

First, read the task really carefully to work out what the topic is and how they want you to write the assignment. Here is an example. First, find the topic through the content words. Then, look for instructional words that tell you how to write the assignment.

Now, think carefully about what this means. Having two instructional words in the question probably means two parts to the essay. It’s helpful to rewrite the question in your own words to really understand it. Getting it right at this point can save a lot of pain later on. Then, you need to find all the information you need. You need to read a lot and take notes. This takes lots of time. This is why you cannot leave things to the last minute.

Read the general stuff first, and then the more specific. Reading generally is really important if you are not familiar with the topic. Start with books. Academic journal articles tend to be quite specific – these need some general understanding before you read them. Writing notes is important, too, because it helps you remember. But you need to keep your notes organised so you can easily find information and the sources they come from.

Here is a system. The left-hand margin is for scanning the page, and if you organise it like this, you can keep a record of your references. Once you have all the information you need, plan by using a mind map. Mind maps have three steps: (1) brainstorm everything you know about the topic, (2) group, prioritise, and maybe even delete some of the ideas, (3) organise all of this and show the connections between the ideas.

But the last step in planning is turning this mind map into a linear plan. Work out the structure of the body first before any other section. This can take a lot of thought. Work from big structures like sections, to finer structures like paragraphs, finding the most logical order for everything can be quite tricky, too. After all of this is done, then write your assignment.


Assignment slammer
This short tutorial walks you through the process of preparing, planning and writing an assignment with quick links to the resources you can use at each stage.