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Academic Skills Essentials: Starting assignments

Where to start

Do you have an assignments to complete but don’t know where to start? 

There are many different types of assignments at university, so it is vital to read the instructions in the unit plan. Look for additional information in the Assessments folder on the Unit Blackboard site and make sure you find the rubric/marking guide.

The next step is to make sure that you understand what the assignment question means and what you are being asked to do.

 

What are the steps to answering assignment questions?

No matter how complex an assignment question is, breaking it down systematically will greatly simplify this task. Here are the steps:

  1. Read the assignment question/instructions several times and then look closely at the rubric. The rubric should provide more detail about the requirements of the task and the mark allocation. For more information about rubrics see the Marking Rubric TipSheet. 
  2. Highlight the task/ instruction words (verbs that tell you what you need to do in your assignment). See the Starting Assignments TipSheet that has a table of commonly used instruction words.
  3. Highlight the content/ topic words (i.e. the general subject area you are required to research and write about). These will guide you in your choice of search terms for your research.
  4. Look for the limiting words (i.e. words and phrases that narrow the topic and make it more specific) e.g. “in the last five years”, “in Australia”, “do not exceed 1200 words”. These will set the parameters and scope of your assignment.
  5. Rewrite the question in your own words and repeat it to yourself.
  6. If you are still unclear, check the Discussion Board on the Unit Blackboard site and seek clarification from the lecturer or tutor if necessary.

Activity

Identify the instruction words, topic words and restricting words in the assignment below:

In the last 20 years, rates of divorce have risen significantly in Western countries. Critically analyse some of the different explanations given for this phenomenon. Discuss implications these explanations might have for social policy.

1. What are the instruction words?

a) In the last 20 years, in Western Countries
b) rates of divorce have risen significantly, explanations, Implications, for social policy
c) Critically analyse, discuss

2. What are the content words?

a) In the last 20 years, in Western Countries
b) rates of divorce have risen significantly, explanations, Implications, for social policy
c) Critically analyse, discuss

3. What are the restricting (limiting) words?

a) In the last 20 years, in Western Countries
b) rates of divorce have risen significantly, explanations, Implications, for social policy
c) Critically analyse, discuss

1. c, 2. b, 3. a