Putting it Together
Know the required format, e.g. essay, report, case study, presentation
There are many different types of academic writing tasks, and you are expected to understand and follow the format of the task you are given. Some of these different tasks are listed below and these links will take you to detailed information guides to help you understand the structure of each. You can use this information to create a framework for your assignment task. Visit the Quick Guides page for more guides.
Write an outline plan using your research and brainstorming notes to guide you
Assignment writing requires planning, drafting and editing. Planning is important because it helps you to think about what you want to say and when you want to say it. Remember to use your research and brainstorming notes (see Organising Information) to guide you. There are three important steps in planning:
Step 1: Develop an informed response
Decide on your main response to the assignment question and write a short thesis statement (one to two sentences) that clearly shows your single overall response/argument/position/point of viewNote: At times your lecturer will prescribe that you use a particular point of view, such as a theoretical approach. At other times you are required to argue your particular point of view with regard to a chosen theory
Example thesis statement:
Avoidance of obesity is an important factor in maintaining health and retarding the progression of chronic disease. Discuss.
Whilst many other factors contribute to the loss of general well-being and to the onset of disease, the avoidance of obesity is an important factor in maintaining health and retarding the progression of chronic disease.
Step 2: Identify key points
- Decide on the key points that will support and develop your main response to show that it is an informed response. This means your key points should clearly show that you have engaged with unit concepts and objectives, as well as the required readings and your own individual research.
- Pay attention to the word limit at this stage. How many points/issues/themes are you required to cover, or how many points can you effectively cover and stay within the required word limit?
Step 3: Draw up the outline plan
- Write your main response to the question at the top of the page.
- Organise your key points into a logical order, and leave a space to add further information.
- Under each key point (which can be underlined or set up as a heading) list any secondary points and supporting details, including any reference sources and examples.
- Go back and check that each point supports your main response. Have you consulted the marking criteria? Is anything missing?
- Start compiling a reference list for the assignment.
The key points usually become the topic sentence for paragraphs in essays, the headings in reports, or the main points to be argued in debates or discussed in presentations.
Write the first draft using evidence and examples to support your points
Essential items to have at hand
- the assignment question and marking criteria
- your outline plan
- your research notes and your brainstorming notes or mind map
- your reference sources, including unit readings and text books
- a comprehensive referencing style guide, e.g. APA, Harvard, Footnotes
- a dictionary (advanced learner English for ESL students) or thesaurus
- an information guide for the type of assignment task at hand
How to approach your first draft
- Focus on content (getting your main ideas down) and stay engaged with your unit material, e.g. your study guide, text book, readings and lecture notes.
- Continually refer back to the assignment question, the marking criteria and the unit material. This will help you to stay focused on answering the question and concentrate on the unit concepts, theories and concerns.
- Aim to develop each of your key points into paragraphs, being mindful of the word count.
- Each paragraph should focus on one idea or topic that supports your main response or argument.
- Include explanations, clarifications, definitions, examples, supporting evidence, discussions and conclusions where appropriate, to ensure each point is clear and convincing.
- Use your research notes and information sources to help you develop your ideas and present a balanced view that shows consideration of other perspectives.
- Whenever you paraphrase or insert a quote or graphic, include the in-text citation and add the bibliographic details to your reference list immediately. This will save a lot of time searching for them later!
- Stay within the framework of the task type and be mindful of the word limit at all times.
Important elements to include in paragraphs
- A topic sentence stating what the paragraph is about, i.e. the key point or idea.
- Sentence(s) that develop the key point further by explaining, clarifying, defining, giving examples, or providing supporting evidence.
- A concluding sentence that shows the significance of the key point and sums up the paragraph. This sentence might also lead into the next paragraph.
Read the following paragraph and identify the following elements:
- the topic sentence
- sentence(s) that develop the key point by explaining, clarifying and providing evidence
- examples and supporting details to strengthen claims
- a concluding sentence that shows the significance of the key point
Assignment Task: Critically discuss the concepts of 'event tourism' and examine its implications for a host community.
Events can impact positively on the host community in a number of ways. According to Jago and Shaw (cited in McCabe & Derrett 1999, pp. 23-24), events can lead to increased visitation to a region and act as a boost to employment and the economy in the region. They can also act as a catalyst for development which can improve a destination's image. For example, when Brisbane hosted Expo 88, existing infrastructure such as the railway stations were used and a monorail constructed. While many demountables were used and later demolished, there was development of an unsightly part of the city. Subsequently, the area has become one of the most popular areas of Brisbane to visit. Allen et al. (2002, p. 26) argue that special events can also reduce the fluctuations experienced by operators as a result of the seasonal aspects of tourism and fill in the 'soft spots' which assists tourism suppliers such as hotels, tour operators and airlines. Benefits also include an increase in a sense of community pride, such as when Sydney hosted the 2000 Olympics, and a raised awareness of community and multicultural events that celebrate cultural diversity, such as the Lygon Street Festival in Melbourne (Allen et al. 2002, p. 26). All of these positive impacts contribute to a likelihood of the host community embracing future tourism events.
Please note that the Harvard referencing system has been used for the in-text references in this paragraph.
The following guides offer more information. Further guides are available on the Quick Guides page.
Continue to redraft with the aim of improving each version
- Your aim now is to find ways to improve and refine your initial draft.
- Take a break before you start redrafting your assignment (a day is ideal)
- Read the assignment question again before you start redrafting
- Focus on strengthening your response or argument and pay attention to style and coherence. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is my response/argument relevant, thorough and convincing?
- Have I engaged with the unit materials and the unit concepts, ideas and objectives?
- Is the order of points or sections logical and easy to follow?
- Does each paragraph have a clear topic sentence?
- Is each paragraph coherent and complete?
- Are my paragraphs or sections clearly and suitably linked so that they flow on from each other, and is my line of reasoning easy to follow?
- Are any claims that I make supported by sufficient evidence or examples?
- Have I considered different perspectives?
- Is there any relevant information or evidence missing? Is there any irrelevant information that could be deleted?
- Have I used sufficient and appropriate reference sources?
- Do I need to research further or make changes?
Edit the final version paying attention to fluency, structure and grammar
Editing is an important part of the assignment writing process. It helps you to fine tune your work and pick up errors (and possibly improve your mark) before you submit the final version. You should always edit your work with the reader in mind. Can the reader understand your points? Are sentences clear? Do the ideas/arguments flow from one paragraph to another?
The 3 phases of editing
Edit for content: Have you answered the question and addressed the marking criteria with a clear, logical and concise presentation of your ideas/argument?
Edit for style and structure: Have you used language appropriate for the task? Are linking words used effectively? Have you formatted, structured and referenced your assignment correctly?
Edit for spelling, grammar and punctuation: Have you checked for accuracy and fluency?
Effective editing strategies
- Take a break before you edit.
- Set aside sufficient time to edit.
- Read aloud (this is an effective way to check punctuation and fluency).
- Have other people read your work or read your work to them.
- Run your finger or a pencil under each word of the text.
See Editing your assignments for more information
Be flexible as academic tasks require continual reflection, evaluation and adjustments
It is important to be flexible when you plan and write your assignment. You will continually reflect, evaluate and make adjustments along the way. Your initial draft may highlight gaps in your research that require further investigation or you may find the need to reread, rethink and rewrite some of your ideas. You may even find that your original ideas and opinions have changed completely the more you critically analyse the topic. This is an important and expected part of academic writing and demonstrates your critical thinking skills. Read widely, because the more you read and the more you think about what you read, the more you will be able to write clearly. Refer to this Critical judgment guide for more information.
The cyclical process of assignment writing
Remember, it is important to start preparing your assignment early, and always allow time for unexpected interruptions.
Know the required format
- Know the format for the task and understand the required structure eg. essay, report etc.
Write an outline plan
- Decide on your main response and write a short statement
- Identify key points that support and develop your main response
- Draw up an outline plan and organise key points and any secondary points into a logical order
- Start compiling a reference list
- Check that each point is relevant/appropriate and addresses the unit concepts and marking criteria
Write the first draft
- Have essential items at hand e.g. assignment question, marking criteria, reference guide etc.
- Develop each key point into paragraphs that focus on one main point or idea
- Include explanations, clarifications, elaborations, examples, supporting detail, discussions and conclusions where appropriate
- Use reference sources to develop your ideas and present a balanced view
- Include in-text citations and add to your reference list as you go
- Stay within the framework of the task type and be mindful of the word limit
Continue to redraft
- Take a break before redrafting
- Read the assignment task again before redrafting
- Aim to strengthen and refine your response and pay attention to style and coherence
Edit the final version
- Edit for content (Is your response/argument clear, logical and concise?)
- Edit for style and structure (Have you used appropriate language, structure, referencing, formatting?)
- Edit for spelling and grammar (Have you checked for accuracy and fluency?)
- Continually reflect, evaluate and make adjustments along the way - be open to change
Updated: 06 March 2013