5 tips for writing better assignments

Most students struggle with assignments because they haven’t streamlined the process yet. Follow the steps below to start building better habits. 

Analyse the question

Read the question through a couple of times. Circle or highlight keywords. Look for verbs like “analyse”, “critique”,”compare and contrast”, and “evaluate”. If you’re not sure what the verb in the question means, look it up; you can usually find examples online. Alternatively, reach out to your school – most education providers have a glossary for assessment terms.

Ensure you also highlight topic keywords. Example:

Compare and contrast books aimed for preschoolers (3-5), junior fiction (7-12), and teenagers (13+). Write 500 words with clear notes on similarities and differences. State why you think the differences matter.

In this example, we’d highlight:

Compare and contrast
Preschoolers
Junior fiction
Teenagers 

Finally, look for keywords that are about you – in this case, “why you think”. This tells you that it’s important to use your own words and opinions. Don’t just reference other people. 

If you have any questions, this is the time to reach out to your school or other institution and ask.

Use this list throughout your work to ensure you’re definitely answering the question. If you write a beautiful essay on roses but the question is asking about sunflowers, you’re probably going to fail.

Plan, plan, plan

Now that you have an idea of what to do, it’s time to plan your assignment. Use your keywords to create questions, then list information in point form. This will give you a general structure.

Example:

What are some important qualities of books for preschoolers (3-5)?

Pictures/illustration
Short text, maybe 1000 words or less
Sometimes rhyming
Simple stories
Young characters, or characters roughly the age of the “readers”

What are some important qualities of junior fiction books (7-12)?

Fewer pictures, but still some
Around 100 pages
Usually funny, light-hearted. Lots of jokes.
Still mostly simple stories, maybe 1 subplot

What are some things preschool books and junior fiction books have in common?

Pictures
Simpler stories than books for teens

Start Writing Your First Draft

Now you have a general structure, it’s time to start plugging your ideas into sentences and paragraphs. At first, just start writing everything together. Focus on making sure your ideas work. Don’t think too hard about getting everything perfect. Focussing on perfect too early can make it hard to write at all. Keep notes on any sources or references you use.

Clean and Revise

Look over your draft. Look at your sentences. Are any too long? Read them out loud – if you run out of breath, the line is too long! Look at how many ideas are in each sentence. In most cases, more than 2 is too many. (The biggest exception is when you’re making a list.) Start chopping your sentences up.

Now, look at your paragraphs. Right now, they should be written in response to your original questions. Look at the first sentence. Is it a clear statement? Are you using a topic sentence to introduce the main idea? Each of your paragraphs should have an introductory sentence, an explanation of the main idea, any evidence you’re using, and then a linking or conclusion sentence.

Topic sentence
Explanation
Evidence
Linking sentence or conclusion

Once you’ve got your paragraphs mostly right, look at the order. Make sure you have an introduction paragraph and a conclusion. Include a list of sources.

Review

Check your work. Proofread everything, and don’t hesitate to use spell and grammar check. Ensure you’ve included appropriate referencing. If you’re unsure about referencing, there are many websites available to help you with formatting.

Look back over the original question, and check you’ve answered appropriately. This includes looking at your word count. If you’ve been asked to include diagrams, make sure you’ve done so. (Note that you can use diagrams or illustrations, even if you haven’t been asked to.)

Make sure everything is properly formatted, and make any necessary changes. Proofread once more, and then you should be good to go!