Step 1: Plan
When you take the time to plan your assignment, you will keep focused and stay on track.
- Determine how much your assignment is worth and what percentage of the final mark it will amount to. This will help you determine how much time to dedicate to it.
- Look at the marking schedule to see what your tutor will be looking for when they grade your work and how the marks will be allocated. This will help you decipher what specific areas to focus on. Assuming no marking schedule check the assignment question to see if the information is there.
- Think about what you need to do to complete your assignment (for example, what research, writing drafts, reference checking, reviewing and editing, etc). Break these up into a list of tasks to do.
- Give each task a deadline, working backwards from your assignment due date.
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Step 2: Analyse the question
Before you go on to answer a question, it is important you know what it means. Read it slowly and carefully, and try to understand what’s expected of you. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s the question about? What’s the topic?
- What does the question mean?
- What am I expected to do?
Inorder to help you understand the question, do well to rewrite it using your own words using the format shown below:
‘This assignment is about ______________________ I have to___________________ ’
When analysing the question do the following:
- Carefully search for words that tell you what to do (instructional words). For example, analyse, compare, contrast, etc.
- Search for the meaning of the words used.
- Search for topic words, which instruct you on exactly what you have to write about.
- Look carefully for limiting words, which restrict the topic and make it more specific.
You can equally look for additional information about the assignment and what’s needed of you in the course materials or on your course page or forums.
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Step 3: Work on an outline
Designing an outline will give you a structure to use when it comes to working on your assignment. The type of assignment you are doing will give you a general sense, but you should equally check the question and marking schedule, as these will help you understand how the lecturer wants the topic to be structured, what should be included, and which sections are worth the highest marks.
Afterwards, go on and create your outline, using headings and gaps for the information you are expected to fill in.
Most of the assignments you will have to do are mostly essays, which generally follow the standard structure shown below:
- Introduction (+ 10% of the assignment) – This is the paragraph you introduce the topic and the main points, and briefly explain the purpose of the assignment and the intended outcome or findings. It is best to start the introduction last, so that you know what to include.
- Discussion (+ 80% of the assignment) – This portion is divided into a number of paragraphs. Determine what points you are expected to discuss and include a new paragraph for each primary point. A paragraph typically starts with a topic sentence stating the main idea, followed by supporting evidence and examples. In your outline try and include draft topic sentences and a few ideas outlining what you want to include in each section.
- Conclusion (+ 10% of the assignment) – Conclusions briefly restate your main argument, evaluate your ideas and summarize your conclusions. They don’t introduce any new information.
Step 4: Search for information
Before you begin writing, you have to research your topic and find relevant and reliable information. You will find some in your course materials and recommended readings, but you can equally also try:
- the Open Polytechnic Library.
- your local public library.
- talking to experts.
- online sources
Once you have researched the information you need, the next step will be to evaluate it to ensure it is right for consumption.
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