How to Write an Assignment Properly

This article aims to be a go-to resource for all the learners out there who want to know what exactly a scary word “assignment” means. You may be a high schooler, a newbie into college – a fresher, a sophomore, or a seasoned graduate student. Anyone will be able to get some grain of knowledge from this article. 

We’ll share some practical tips on how to write an assignment, get a clear picture of the most complicated instructions from a tutor, and which steps to take toward attaining the highest grade.

Let’s begin with a definition. Though the types can be many, the actual word “assignment” stands for some task or usually a writing piece allocated as part of a particular study course. It may relate to any topic – from self-driving cars to the issue of global fragility. Yet, some points will remain constant in any rubric. These are, mostly:

  • indicated word limit you’ll have to stick to;
  • a designated topic or suggestions regarding it;
  • a particular set of instruction every prof comes up with on one’s own;
  • required (or suggested) references and sources you are to consult;
  • formatting style indication.

Suppose you find all or some of these characteristics in the rubrics – congratulations! It looks like someone has gotten an assignment due. Read on to find out how to approach this task best!

Understand the Type of the Assignment

If you are a passionate learner who wants to know how to write an assignment, the first step to take will be understanding what kind of task you have at hand.

Obviously, this is not easy. For instance, the learning center of the Canadian University of Waterloo offers 56 categories of assignment types. We won’t go into such great details and will focus on identifying the main types of assignments only.

We are going to provide you with our own classification of assignments you may very well face in the future. These will be complemented with two topic examples. You will also get to know what skills are required for a particular task.

  1. Case studies. This is usually about recording some research into the development of a given scenario, person, situation, etc., over a specific period. Examples of topics can revolve from some cafeteria growth during the summer-autumn period under some specific conditions to a case study of beginner teaching assistants preparing their first rubrics for students. The main skills such tasks check are research, self-management, creativity, decision-making, and problem-solving.
  2. Essays. Being arguably the most common assignment, these tasks can vary. For instance, you can get a narrative essay or a definition one. The topics may range from “How I spent summer holidays” to “How is Covid-19 pandemic changing education worldwide.” The skills to show will remain pretty much the same – communication, critical thinking, eloquence, and others are trained here.
  3. Book review. This task is another common one, especially for those of you with Humanities as a major. You can get a review on “Homo Deus” or “The God of Small Things.” Still, the skills trained will be communication, memory, and analysis.
  4. Technical tasks. You should know that not only tech majors get those. Excel modeling and programming tasks fall into this category and many types of end-user communication, like a manual, etc. Here, specific knowledge is checked and assessed. So you’ll need to show some hard skills to impress a tutor, for sure.
  5. Online courses and exams. These tasks are clear – you come to the class (either traditional or digital one) and show your knowledge in previously covered subjects.
  6. Annotated bibliographies and Abstracts. You might not understand the logic behind such grouping at first, but these are not the actual text assignments, but rather an overview of the sources consulted and a summary of a given work – be it a non-governmental institution report or a scientific article. The skills checked here are attentiveness, analysis, and reflection.
  7. Reports. Let’s conclude our list with this type of assignment. It can be a research or laboratory repost, investigative one of a business-related type. In every case, be it a sophomore-level “Global Peace Report” or “Top US and World Headlines” for a previous week, your analytical, research, and probably even prognostic skills will be checked.

In this article, you will find many ideas, tips, and suggestions on how to approach pretty much every assignment you might be getting!

Get the Instruction Words Right

Let’s define the category first. By the way, define is an instruction word itself, but we’ll get there in time.

So, instruction words are the most important parts of any rubric. They construe the very essence of the assignment by answering a simple question – what exactly you are supposed to do?

To get better writing assignment ideas, let’s introduce a good old “Discuss & Describe” pair first. Students of all majors might know this word combination very well. Furthermore, it’s one of the most common ones aimed at assessing your analytical and descriptive skills.

Let’s dive into the matter of other instruction words first. Below you will find a table with the list of frequently used ones in the first column and how you should understand them in the next. 

Frequently Used Instruction Words

Analyze

If you see this in your rubric, prepare to break down a given notion, concept, construct of situation. Your task will be to discuss as many aspects as you can and cover their interrelation.

Assess

If you see this word as an instruction one, focus on the value or importance of a certain issue or question. You will need to point out the pros, cons, and disputable sides.

Argue

You will need to stick to a certain point of view, make a case about it and offer appropriate facts, evidence, and expertise in the matter.

Compare

This one is usually followed by the next one on our list. Here the task is to identify certain similarities and differences between given items.

Contrast

Unlike comparison, contrasting is all about the differences that need to be analysed.

Criticise

Though some might find this one the easiest, offering a constructive backed-up judgment regarding something is far from being a piece of cake.

Define

To define something is to offer a clear understanding of the issue in question for your readers. Interpret it and provide explanatory details.

Evaluate

This one is actually pretty similar to assessing, but you will also need to formulate your own view of a given thing’s value.

Examine

Examining something is a thorough investigation of the issue at hand, its beginnings, endings, and its core.

Explain

This one is similar to defining but requires more details and probably some examples for further illustration.

Identify

If you see this one, you become a hunter for a given subject’s key issues, its characteristics, and whatnot. 

Illustrate

This one definitely implies lots of examples. You can offer it via adding diagrams, throwing in some statistical figures, or some visuals.

Interpret

Interpreting (usually the situation) is similar to explaining what’s going on in addition to offering your own views.

Justify

Justification is all about giving reasons for your viewpoints. Moreover, these must be solid well-researched statements to give you a high grade.

Outline

Academic assignments are all about proper structure. In this case, you’ll need to build some sort of mind map about a given issue and offer it in the form of your work.

Prove

Give me the proof is another meaning of this instruction word. Expect to offer lots of facts to make your viewpoint sound strong.

Relate

A relation is a synonym of connection. Therefore, you’ll need to trace every correlation between different aspects you cover in the assignment.

Review

This one means providing an overview of a given issue and assessing its main aspects.

Summarise

This speaks about being concise. Concentrate on the main issues and outline key features.

Trace

This last one of the instruction words on our list is about outlining the changes regarding some issues and their progress or regression over time.

Some of this instructions words can be present in your rubrics for a certain assignment not by one but in groups (analyse, assess, trace, review) Yet, some are more characteristic of particular assignments (like criticize is common for a critical review of something while argue, prove or justify are more common for argumentative essays, for instance)

Choose the Right Words

Here is one more important aspect for everyone who wants to know how to write an assignment – use academic English only. You can definitely impress your peers by adding a word or a catchy phrase from Urban Dictionary here and there. Yet, your professor might not be glad to find such things in a handed-in assignment.

To show you the difference between a colloquial speech and proper word choice for an academic paper, let’s go back to the examples of tactics.

Just compare the following excerpts:

  1. This paper talks about the issue of why there were so few acclaimed women directors.
  2. This paper covers the issue of gender inequality among Hollywood directors and its implications for the industry.

If you compare these two examples you’ll see that more sophisticated language is a better go when it comes to assignments. Also, try to use some established categories and terms wherever you can.

Another example:

According to me, as a researcher, A is a constant…

According to Weber (1934), the main feature of a state is the monopoly over power…

Always try to refer to academicians and abstain from using words like “I” or “me.” Most academic assignments call for writing in the third person.

Lastly, here is yet another sample of bad academic writing followed by a proper one:

  1. They say people use smartphones more these days.
  2. According to the WHO report of 2020, HALE smartphone usage has increased in recent five years.

This example proves that you should abstain from hearsay in academic writing and base your arguments on proven facts from trusted sources.

Some Extra Tips

Now that you already have some writing assignment ideas, we’d like to offer you some more practical tips. These come from our own experience as students and from our readers who offer their insight as well.

  1. Always check how much this or that task is worth. If it constitutes two-thirds of your final grade for a certain subject, do care to allocate some time for it. This will bear fruit in the future and will positively affect your academic performance.
  2. Don’t neglect the marking schedule. You might need to study the rubric or syllabus to the dot to find this info, but it’s worth it. Such a schedule will let you outline the most important tasks to disperse your focus efficiently later.
  3. Think about what is needed to complete a certain assignment and do it well. Prepare your sources, plan your writing sessions, do some reference checking. Always allocate time for some final touches like editing or proofreading.

Finally, the last tip – always set a deadline for each task and complete them one by one.