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Planning your assignments

Planning assignments

Understanding the assignment 

Before you start researching or writing any assignment, take the time to understand and interpret your question, assignment brief and marking criteria. 
  • Interpreting your assignment (activity)
    This tutorial will guide you through how to interpret your assignment tasks, from analysing different parts of the title and brief to what questions you need to consider before putting pen to paper.
  • Understanding instructional verbs (PDF) 
    A short glossary to help you interpret what is meant by common words such as analyse, discuss etc. that you will come across in your assignments. 

Staying on track with your assignment 

Planning your schedule before you begin an assignment will help you to ensure you have enough time to complete a high quality piece of work.

Planning your answer

We would strongly recommend that you create a plan before you start writing your assignment. This will make the writing process far easier as it will help you to:

  • Produce a clear, coherent and well-structured assignment
  • Stay focused on answering the question
  • Stick to the main points you want to make.  

Tips for planning:

1. Create a plan to help you gather your initial ideas and response to the question. Think about:

  • What you already know
  • What sources of information you already have (lectures, seminars, labs, reading etc.) and what you still might need to gather. Our Searching topic page will provide you with excellent guidance on how to find high quality information for your assignments
  • What aspects of the topic you might want to cover
  • What different perspectives might there be on this topic. 
2. Use a planning technique that suits you:
  • Mind-maps: A visual planning method that helps you to quickly come up with ideas and make connections between those ideas. Look at this quick guide to mind mapping 
  • Linear/list plans: This can include using headings/subheadings / bullet points to plan your main ideas. This can be useful to plan out your writing paragraph by paragraph
  • You can use a mixture of techniques. Perhaps a visual method when you are gathering initial ideas followed by a more structured plan before you start writing. 
3. Use your plan to create a structure: 
  • From your plan pick out the most relevant points. If you don't have any evidence to back up your points don't include them
  • Think about what your reader needs to know. Whether you are writing a report, essay or other assignment, don't include too much background material. Ask yourself whether what you are writing answers the question or brief you have been set
  • Consider in what order you need to present the information, arguments or points you want to make
  • Plan in paragraphs, under headings  or in sections to help you build a logical structure.