The importance of assignment writing in colleges and universities can hardly be overstated. A well written assignment can shoot up your C.G.P.A. while poorly written one can earn the professor’s disdain. We wanted to demystify the process of writing an assignment and explain each point separately in order to help students grasp the art of assignment writing. Although it might seem like madness, we insist that there is a method to it.
This guide is meant for all the miserable souls trying to impress their fastidious teachers. You may be an engineering student, a science student or a management student. No matter which stream you belong to or which level of undergraduate or graduate study you are pursuing, you will find our guide to be the most comprehensive one.
Each Section relates to one specific aspect of assignment writing. They can be read in isolation. However, in order to gain full-fledged knowledge of the subject you need to read all the way through. Having finished reading, you will find yourself to be better equipped in handling an assignment on any giving topic. All academicians follow certain standard norms and rules while writing assignments, essays or theses. We summarize some of the cardinal principles of academic writing.
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“Great ability develops and reveals itself increasingly with every new assignment.” — Baltasar Gracian
Essays, assignments, statement of purpose, admission essays, dissertations, thesis, class presentations, term papers, end of semester papers.
Do you think all these terms refer to the same thing? Well, you are delusional! College and universities in Australia, UK and USA use various terms for different kinds of academic writing. Each term refers to one particular genre of academic writing; written for a specific purpose with specific end results in mind. Knowing what you are writing will not only help you to write effectively but write better. Universities in US for instance ask for something they call SOP or statement of purpose where you narrate your reason to study in a specific university.
This writing is different from the assignments you will be writing for your college teachers and university professors while pursuing a particular academic course. An assignment is, therefore, a generic term that may be used to mean anything that is ‘assigned’ to you during the course of study. The word may be synonymously used for ‘term papers’, ‘end of semester papers’ or ‘essays’ that you write to earn credit points in a course. Some universities may ask to submit assignments even when you are auditing a course (i.e. a course which carries no credit points for your final C.G.P.A.).
Finally, it should be remembered that an assignment is not a thesis or a dissertation which is a much larger piece of work done on the basis of original research by the student in consultation with the teacher. It is usually submitted at the end of the course unlike an assignment.
Since an assignment is a task that is usually “assigned” by the teacher, the idea behind it is to test a student’s ability to grasp what the teacher has taught. A teacher might ask to write a general summary of what has been taught in class or a book review on any one of the books referred to in the list of reading materials. Additionally, it is common for university professors to assign a topic on which the student has to do original research and link his arguments to the discussions in the class.
If the assignment is on a given topic then the student needs to stick to the topic as closely as possible. However, if some leverage is given then the students might choose his or her own topic. Interesting and unusual topics may impress the teacher but make sure your topic relates to what has been taught in class. So you might choose to write on gravitational singularity if your professor taught you about either Gravitational Theory or Astro-physics, but don’t write on the general theories of thermodynamics since it has nothing to do with your course. If you are still confused, taking help of your seniors or graduate assistants (many universities provide them) may be a good idea. There are also some good online assignment help providers that provide either email-based or live assignment help to students.
Now that you know what an assignment is, let us ponder upon how to handle the given or chosen topic. In either case, a thorough research is needed. Rummage through your class notes and make a mental note of the main points touched upon by the teacher (you may use sticky notes or the digital ones that are available on your computer). Then compare the notes with the topic at hand and try to figure out whether they match or not. Once you know the main points, you have already half-won the battle. You can then simply elaborate upon each of the points and do your research accordingly. Here is an example:
Suppose your topic reads, “marketing mix of Apple products”, then break up your assignment into the following sub-topics:
Your teacher probably has already covered these sub-topics in the class. You need to research on these sub-themes and compare your findings with that of the teacher. You then simply elaborate upon each of them in your written assignment.
Various subjects have various writing methodologies. However, some points run in common in all the subjects. A five-paragraph essay is the classic format, although there is no hard and fast rule as such. A well written essay must contain an exposition or an introduction where you state your research question and your methodology. This should be followed by the body of the essay and finally the conclusion. So, if you are writing on the educational and employment conditions of aboriginals of Australia for your anthropology class then you might start by stating — “ A sample survey done on the aboriginals of Australia and Torres Strait population reveals a grim state of employment and education”. Now that you have already painted a grim picture of the aboriginals of Australia, you should move on to elaborate on how the educational policies of the Australian government are designed to keep the aboriginals in a poor state of education and employment. This should be followed by your conclusions about the main reasons for such discrimination.
While an exposition, a main body and a conclusion may work for all subjects, specific subjects do
require additional points. For instance, science courses based on laboratory experiments should
start with a hypothesis followed by details of the experiment and finally the inference.
Stick to the following structure while writing a marketing case study: Start with an overview of your arguments or at least state very clearly what you are trying to do. Follow it up by your research methodology or how you are going to conduct the research. This should be followed by a context description and then the main narrative of your case study. Finally, summarize your findings and state your recommendations.
While we gave you a sneak peek at how to structure your assignment, it is still a complex subject matter that requires a detailed discussion.
While our entire article is about this, in this Section we concentrate on the content strategy and style. Follow a simple style of writing, free from jargons and complicated sentences. Although professional researchers do use a fair amount of jargons, that should not overwhelm your subject matter. Try to keep in mind an imagined audience who is not familiar with your subject matter. Try to explain each and every term that you use, instead of simply assuming that your audience is already familiar with the terms. However, your linguistic style should not be too casual as you are writing for an academic audience. It is also important to be politically correct and not to use any sexist or racist terms.
A simple style of writing should be supplemented with a forceful argument. However, you should consider both sides of an argument and come to a possible solution. Think of the Hegel’s formula of reaching the ultimate truth in universe. A thesis confronts an anti-thesis leading to a synthesis. A good essay is also like that. You should first state an argument, present a counter-argument and then reach a possible solution. Try to give equal value to both sides of the argument before reaching a conclusion. Remember the conclusion should be your own intervention and not a rehash of clichéd statements. Originality is always appreciated. Further, it is likely that your teachers will already know what experts have said on the given topic. They will be more interested in knowing what you are thinking. Always divide your essay into several paragraphs. Doing this will make your essay look nice and organized. Each paragraph should convey one particular argument or a thought. Cramming of too much information in one paragraph, writing a paragraph that goes on forever and haphazardly stating information will ruin your chances of scoring high.
Be careful about spelling and grammar. Students often commit silly mistakes which create a bad impression
on the person who is checking your assignment. If you are using MS word then chances are that
your software will have spell check and suggestions on possible grammatical and syntactical errors.
Alternatively, you can use online tools like Grammarly.com, Reverso.net, Gingersoftware.com,
Spellcheck.com etc. Most of these sites are free where you can check for possible errors.
However, a word of advice may be worthwhile here. Do not depend on these tools completely. As
a student of higher academia, you are required to write a language correctly. Most of the universities
in Australia, UK and USA are monolingual. Students are expected to write good English and all
classes are conducted in it. If you are a foreign student hoping to study in any one of these
countries, our advice is that you master the language properly. Universities may conduct special
language classes for foreign students. Take help from such language classes or summer courses
to improve on your linguistic skills.
All these tips might appear to be too much to digest, especially if you are a rank fresher in your undergraduate course. Whether you are writing for your major subjects or your electives there is a subtle art to assignment writing.
An important part of writing an assignment is to do a thorough research. Once you have selected the topic and isolated the sub-themes you are going to highlight, prepare a list of books, journal articles and online resources you are going to need.
Earlier students used to run from one library to another in order to get help. In this fast changing world, physical libraries are being replaced by virtual ones. Research papers are now being published online instead of being stored in the dusty shelves of university or public libraries. You can simply log on to the concerned website and get the research paper you want. This will help you to nail the college assignment and come up with a good grade. Several online sites store research articles and papers which can be accessed by students in lieu of a small sum of money. Some sites even provide these articles free of cost. JSTOR is one such site which stores thousands of research articles, books and other primary sources. Access to such articles will only be through institutional subscription programs. You will still require the help of a physical library to get access to such articles.
Almost all the big publication houses such as Taylor and Francis, AIP Publishers, Wiley Publications, Routledge and Sage and Blackwell have online resources which can be used by individual students. However, all these sites are pay sites which can only be used after paying a subscription fee. Remember these sites often charge high fees which are often difficult for individual students to pay. Check whether your university has a paid subscription membership of these sites. Most good universities do. If your university does subscribe to these journals then you can access them free of cost from your university or college library computers.
Finally, despite the online revolution, there is still no match for actual physical libraries. So do take time out and visit it. You might find something useful not just on your topic but on related topics as well.
The cornerstone of a good academic writing is citation. Students are usually at their wit’s end when confronted with referencing, footnoting and citing. All those names, places and dates of publication, page numbers etc. seem to drive students crazy. But when done correctly, citations can fetch extra brownie points from your college professor.
There are various citation styles. Ask your college professors about their preference and try to follow it. If not, then follow either the Harvard or Chicago citation formats. Science students can use the APA (American Psychological Association) citation format, while humanities students can go for the MLA (Modern Languages Association) format. Here is a brief introduction to each of the following styles:
For more information of each referencing styles consult the online manuals provided by the universities
of Harvard and Chicago and American Psychological Association.
You can go through "How to cite sources in an assignment" to get a panoptical view of all the styles
A bibliography is another important part of assignment writing. Basically it is a list of all the
books, monographs, journal articles and online resources you have used while writing your assignment.
It comes at the very end of the assignment. This gives the teacher an overview of your sources.
A bibliography is different from citation in the sense that while citations usually come as footnotes or end notes in the assignment paper; a bibliography is a list of the sources that you place at the very end of the assignment article. Place all the names of the authors you have consulted and their works, in a serial and an alphabetical fashion. Further, surnames of the authors should come in the beginning followed by the proper name, the title of his work, the name of publisher, the place of publication and the date of publication. If the author’s name is, say, Michael Porter and the name of the book “The Competitive Advantage of Nations”, then write:
Porter, Michael, “The Competitive Advantage of Nations”, Free Press, New York, 1990.
Now that you have finished writing your paper, there are a couple of things you should remember before you finally submit. No matter how good you are in your work, careless mistakes can still happen. They can ruin your impression and lower your grades. Do keep in mind the following points:
If you have lost track of what we discussed, here is a quick recap:
These points will surely help you to score better and improve your chances of getting noticed by the teacher. Assignment writing can sometimes be tricky but when done correctly; it can be a source of great joy and satisfaction. So remember these tips and get down to work.