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How to write an assignment

Different types of writing assignment

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If you've managed to gain a place at university, you've probably completed written assignments before. However, it's likely that during your time at university you'll be asked to tackle written assignments that you're not familiar with: it's not always essays and exams.

Of course, the kinds of written assignment you'll be asked to complete will depend very much on the course you're doing - students of fine art are not often required to do lab reports.

The table below lists a few of the written assignments you might be asked to do at university; some you'll be familiar with, others may be completely new:

Essays
Lab reports
Field study reports
Dissertations
Project reports
Research reviews
Summaries
Annotated bibliographies
Business plans
Timed essays
Article for a non-specialist audience
Creative writing

The opportunities to write at university don't end at written assignments either: if you enjoy writing and would like to improve your skills further, why not try writing for your university's student paper? Many professional journalists start out this way.

Activity: What might they ask me to do? - 5 minutes

1. Take a look through your study guide to see what types of written assignment you'll be asked to write.

2. Are there any types of assignment you've not done before? If so, are the instructions clear about what's expected of you?

3. If you have any concerns about tackling an unfamiliar type of assignment, discuss these concerns with the module leader, or course tutor.

At university, written assignments often take the form of essays or exams. Often, but not always. There's a dazzling array of different types of written assignment that you might be asked to do, and some will be completely new to you.

Your tutors won't ask you to complete different types of written assignments just to make their lives more interesting (although it does!). Different types of assignment can be used to test different skills; for example, a 500 word research summary can be used to test a student's ability to...

Yes, you really can test all these things in just 500 words - and it's quicker to mark.

“But what's in it for me?”, I hear you ask, “How do I benefit from attempting these weird and wonderful assignments?”. Well, if reducing your over-burdened tutors' work load is not sufficient motivation, there are a number of reasons why different types of assignments are worth doing. Consider the following examples:

These are just three examples, and there are many more - even the humble essay is a great revision tool.

Activity: Different questions need different skills - 10 minutes

In this activity, you'll examine the different skills that can be developed by different types of written assignments.

1. Find the instructions for a written assignment you'll need to complete for your course. Try looking in your study guide, or talk to your tutors to find out what kinds of assignment you'll be doing.

2. Try to choose a type of assignment you're not so familiar with. If you are only required to do essays, that's fine - there'll be lots of skills that are developed through essay writing that you might not have thought of before.

3. Think carefully about the assignment you've chosen, and make a list of all the skills you think you'd need to write this assignment. You can use the examples above for inspiration.

Recommended Further Reading

We move on now to consider the stages in the writing process - you'll see that there's a lot more to writing than just writing.

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