Assignment Writing

12 Sep 2022

Writing an assignment can be a little overwhelming at times.  Here are some guides to help you get prepared for writing your assignment.

Assignment Types

Research Essay

The purpose of a research essay is to:

  • answer a question
  • present an argument based on facts.


When you’re writing a research essay, think of your target audience as:

  • your peers
  • the broader academic community.

Writing style

A research essay should:

  • be concise and factual
  • use active voice
  • have a clear structure with a logical flow.

Structure and content

Don’t use headings for sections in a research essay.

Organise your content into:

  • introduction
  • body
  • conclusion.

Example of an Argumentative Essay

Lab or Prac Report
Case Study (Report)

The purpose of a case study is to:

  • examine a situation
  • identify positives and negatives
  • make recommendations.


When you’re writing a case study, think of your target audience as:

  • professionals (not just academics)
  • politicians
  • the general public.

Writing style

Case studies should:

  • be written in a factual and authoritative tone
  • be concise and easy to follow.

Structure and content

Use numbered headings for sections in a case study.

Make sure you include:

  • table of contents
  • executive summary.


Reports usually include tables, graphs and other graphics to present data and supplement the text.

See Guide for Incorporating Tables, Figures, Statistics and Equations

Article Review

The purpose of an article review is to:

  • evaluate or critique the article’s data, research methods and results.


When you’re writing an article review, think of your target audience as:

  • your peers
  • people interested in your profession.

Writing style

Article reviews should:

  • be written in an analytical and evaluative tone
  • use present tense and active voice.

Structure and content

Don’t use headings for sections in article reviews.

Your review should include:

  • a brief summary of the article being reviewed
  • your commentary on the quality of the work.


Reports usually include tables, graphs and other graphics to present data and supplement the text.

See Guide for Incorporating Tables, Figures, Statistics and Equations

Literature Review

The purpose of a literature review is to:

  • identify key areas across literature
  • understand current thinking
  • find a ‘gap’ for research.


When you’re writing a literature review, think of your target audience as:

  • researchers
  • academics
  • fellow professionals.

Writing style

Literature reviews should be:

  • written in a formal style
  • objective, but you can include tentative opinions based on the text.

Structure and content

Use meaningful headings for sections in a literature review (not just ‘introduction’, ‘body’ and ‘conclusion’).

Organise your content into:

  • introduction
  • body
  • conclusion.

Guide on how to write a literature review

Annotated Bibliography

The purpose of an annotated bibliography is to:

  • identify key literature on a topic
  • evaluate the usefulness of the literature in relation to the topic
  • inform others.


When you’re writing an annotated bibliography, think of your target audience as:

  • researchers
  • academics
  • fellow professionals.

Writing style

Use a formal and objective tone in an annotated bibliography.

Structure and content

An annotated bibliography should:

  • list works alphabetically by author
  • include an indented 1-2 paragraph summary and critique for each work.
Reflective Journal

The purpose of a reflective journal is to:

  • identify your understanding
  • reflect on your thinking
  • understand how and what you’ve learned.


When you’re writing a reflective journal, think of your target audience as:

  • yourself.

Writing style

In a reflective journal you can use:

  • more informal style, but make sure it’s still clear
  • conversational tone – write as if you’re thinking aloud
  • the first person (‘I’ or ‘me’).

Structure and content

In a reflective journal you should:

  • refer to texts, lectures and practical situations
  • make links between formal learning and personal meaning.
Project Report

The purpose of a project report is to:

  • report on work that has been done, or
  • plan for work to is to be done.


When you’re writing a project report, think of your target audience as:

  • an outside organisation, such as a government department or non-government organisation (NGO)

Writing style

Use a factual tone in a project report.

Vary your tense depending on what you’re writing about. Use:

  • present tense to outline the current situation
  • past tense to describe work that has been completed
  • future tense to explain work that is proposed.


Include the following sections:

  • Title page
  • Acknowledgements
  • Executive summary or abstract
  • Table of contents
  • Introduction and body (no heading)
  • Conclusion and recommendations
  • References or bibliography
  • Glossary
  • Appendices.


Reports usually include tables, graphs and other graphics to present data and supplement the text.

See Guide for Incorporating Tables, Figures, Statistics and Equations


For advice on writing, designing and delivering a presentation, see the Presentation Skills Guide

Steps for Writing Assignments

Analysing the Topic

Before you start researching or writing, take some time to analyse the assignment topic to make sure you know what you need to do.

Understand what you need to do

Read through the topic a few times to make sure you understand it. Think about the:

  • learning objectives listed in the course profile – understand what you should be able to do after completing the course and its assessment tasks
  • criteria you’ll be marked on – find out what you need to do to achieve the grade you want
  • questions you need to answer – try to explain the topic in your own words.

Identify keywords

Identify keywords in the topic that will help guide your research, including any:

  • task words – what you have to do (usually verbs)
  • topic words – ideas, concepts or issues you need to discuss (often nouns)
  • limiting words – restrict the focus of the topic (e.g. to a place, population or time period).

If you’re writing your own topic, include task words, topic words and limiting words to help you to focus on exactly what you have to do.

Example keyword identification

Topic: Evaluate the usefulness of a task analysis approach to assignment writing, especially with regard to the writing skill development of second language learners in the early stages of university study in the Australian university context.


Task words: Evaluate
Topic words: task analysis approach, assignment writing, writing skill development
Limiting words: second language learners (population), early stages of university (time period), Australian university (place)

Brainstorm your ideas

Brainstorm information about the topic that you:

  • already know
  • will need to research to write the assignment.

When you brainstorm:

  • use ‘Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?’ questions to get you thinking
  • write down all your ideas – don’t censor yourself or worry about the order
  • try making a concept map to capture your ideas – start with the topic in the centre and record your ideas branching out from it.
Researching and Note-taking

Planning your research will help you find relevant information and keep your notes organised.

Develop research questions

Take the ideas you brainstormed about the topic, and think of questions that will help you to respond to the topic. Come up with questions that will:

  • check the accuracy of your ideas
  • lead you to statistical data or evidence
  • explore relationships between different aspects of the topic.

Try using ‘Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?’ questions to help.

As your ideas develop and you start to research, refine your research questions to make sure they’re focused and effective. Aim for about 5 to 10 questions, depending on the topic and word limit.

Find information

Search for information that will help you answer your research questions. Remember that you nearly always need to cite peer-reviewed academic articles and books in your assignments.

Read, analyse and take notes

Use your research questions to evaluate information and organise your notes as you read.

  • Set out each research question as a heading or separate document.
  • Read each text with your research questions in mind.
  • Apply critical reading and analysis skills to evaluate the information.
  • Record relevant information under each research question.
  • Include citation details (e.g. author name, year, page number) in your notes to ensure your research is referenced correctly.
Planning your Assignment

Before you start writing, use your research questions and notes to plan the structure and main arguments of your assignment.

Planning before you write helps you to:

  • think more clearly about your topic
  • structure your argument
  • develop your own academic voice
  • write effectively.

There are many ways to plan, but here are some suggestions to help:

  • Outline the key points you want to make before choosing quotes or pieces of information to support them. This will help you develop a clear and coherent argument throughout the assignment.
  • Decide on the main arguments you’ll make in the body of the assignment before planning the introduction and conclusion.
  • Create an outline or concept map to represent your plan.
  • Think about how you’ll link ideas. Look at your plan or map to see if there are key concepts or recurring ideas you could use as a theme to link ideas between paragraphs.

Structuring your assignment

Different types of assignments use different structures. Make sure you read through the assignment requirements carefully and choose the most appropriate structure to meet the requirements.

Research essays generally have an introduction, body and conclusion.


Introductions typically include:

  • background, context or a general orientation to the topic, so that the reader has a general understanding of the area you are discussing
  • an outline or overview that briefly describes what will and will not be discussed in the essay (this doesn’t have to be a detailed list)
  • thesis that states the main idea of the argument you will make in response to the topic.
Example introduction

Topic: To what extent has the commoditisation of education as a global product affected the quality of education and educational outcomes?

Globalisation has resulted in a perception that barriers between countries have almost disappeared. It is arguably easier to travel, communicate and trade with people around the world than ever before. Similarly goods and services have become widely available around the world. Goods and services are no longer available only within a country or to meet the needs of a particular cultural group. Education is no exception. In the past, it was less likely that people would travel abroad to be educated; currently it is common for students to be educated away from their home countries. Education has become a global commodity and students are paying high prices for it. This essay will examine how this commoditisation has affected the quality of education and will argue that while the quality and availability of school education has increased, the quality of tertiary education has decreased. For the purposes of this essay, quality will be considered in terms of comparative levels of literacy and in terms of graduate attributes.


Context and background information: The first 7 sentences of the paragraph, up to and including “Education has become a global commodity and students are paying high prices for it.
Outline: “This essay will examine how this commoditisation has affected the quality of education”
Thesis: “argue that while the quality and availability of school education has increased, the quality of tertiary education has decreased”


The body is where you develop the argument that supports your thesis in response to the topic.

Each paragraph should make a point that is:

  • linked to the outline and thesis statement in your introduction
  • supported by referenced evidence and your own critical analysis.

You should include links between the ideas, sentences and paragraphs in the body to create a cohesive argument.

Example body paragraph

Globalisation has contributed to increased levels of literacy around the world in a number of ways. Firstly, the global community is more aware than before of the need to provide assistance to developing countries in terms of educating people so that they can become independent and self-determining. The United Nations briefing paper on global education (2005) states that literacy has improved worldwide since the mid-1950s to the current time, from an average literacy rate of 20% to an average of 76% worldwide. Clearly, there are still discrepancies in literacy standards between countries and between genders in some countries, but there are no countries where literacy rates have fallen on average in the last four decades. While it could be argued that literacy rates pertain to availability rather than quality, it seems important to note that the first step to increasing quality education is for it to be universally available. Global trends seem to have contributed to this availability.

Topic sentence:“Globalisation has contributed to increased levels of literacy around the world in a number of ways.” This suggests a list will follow. The point made in the topic sentence is that globalisation has improved literacy.
References to support point made in topic sentence: Second and third sentences
Student comment and link to the topic (the topic is quality): Last 3 sentences


Typically, your conclusion should:

  • restate your thesis
  • summarise the most important points of your argument
  • end with a comment, resolution or suggestion for issues that may be addressed in future research
  • not present new information (and therefore it usually doesn’t include references).
Example conclusion

In conclusion, education has become a global commodity. This has had a positive effect on literacy and school attendance rates worldwide. As far as tertiary education is concerned, globalisation has made it possible for students to study overseas and by distance education programs. This has provided more access to tertiary study than before. However, this access is sometimes provided by organisations that do not necessarily maintain the highest academic standards. Thus quality has been affected in the tertiary domain. Future research in this area may need to examine the need for international regulatory bodies to maintain quality outcomes for students.

Writing your Assignment

Write your assignment using your assignment plan to keep you on track.

Follow your plan

Use your outline or concept map to guide you as you write.

It’s common to have new ideas or think about your points from a new perspective while you’re writing. When this happens, check back to your outline or concept map to see how the new ideas fit into your plan and link to ideas you’ve already discussed.

Plan each paragraph

For every paragraph, decide on the main idea that you want to communicate. This should be a point you want to make – not just a piece of information you found in your research.

Each paragraph should include:

  • a topic sentence: start the paragraph by stating the point you want to make (the main idea)
  • supporting sentences: support the point with referenced research and your commentary on it
  • conclusive sentences: end the paragraph by linking back to the point made in the topic sentence and connecting this to your thesis statement.

In your supporting sentences, you should explain the ideas of authors you have read and comment on their usefulness, relevance, strengths and weaknesses.

Think about how you will discuss these ideas. For example, you could:

  • list a number of ideas
  • compare and contrast the views of different authors
  • describe problems and solutions
  • explain causes and effects.

Link your ideas

As you write, remember to include links between ideas (between sentences, paragraphs and sections). This will ensure that your writing flows and your overall argument makes sense.

Use linking words to make the connections between ideas clear. For example:

  • list paragraphs should include words like: similarly, additionally, next, another example, as well, furthermore, another, firstly, secondly, thirdly, finally
  • cause and effect paragraphs should include words like: consequently, as a result, therefore, outcomes included, results indicated
  • compare and contrast paragraphs should include words like: on the other hand, by contrast, similarly, conversely, alternatively
  • problem and solution paragraphs should include words like: outcomes included, identified problems included, other concerns were overcome by.
Editing your Assignment

Make sure you schedule time to edit and proofread your assignment before you submit it. Editing can help you achieve significantly better marks.

You should plan for at least:

  • half a day to take a break from your assignment so you can review it with fresh eyes
  • one hour per 1000–2000 words for editing and proofreading.

Read aloud

Reading your assignment aloud will help you check whether:

  • your writing flows, ideas are linked and the overall argument makes sense
  • there are any grammar, spelling or punctuation errors.

You can also read it aloud to someone else, and get them to ask questions or point out issues as you read.

Check style, formatting and grammar

Make sure your assignment meets the style and formatting requirements of your course, school or faculty (including font size, spacing, headings and referencing).

When editing your assignment, try to:

  • use a spellchecker to check grammar, spelling and punctuation, but check any changes before accepting them, and do your own proofreading
  • vary your sentence length
  • use active voice and strong verbs
  • choose accurate and clear language – don’t use ‘impressive’ words for no reason
  • be concise – look for words you can cut out without losing meaning or flow.

Find a Proof Reader

Lastly, get your assignment proof read.  If you have no one that you know that can proof read your work, most Uni’s have a list of proof readers available that they can help you access.

Add Comment



The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.


There are currently no comments, be the first to leave one