What you will learn

Lecturers and tutors will tell you that the single biggest mistake students make with their early assignments is to misinterpret what the assignment is asking them to do. Before you begin reading or writing for your assignment, it is important to analyse and understand both the question and the marking rubric. After completing this module, you will have learned how to:

  • Recognise the components included in your assignment question
  • Record and visualise your thoughts on a topic through brainstorming

The assignment journey

Completing assignments at university is a lot like undertaking a road trip. There’s a few destinations you will have to pass through: researching, reading, writing and referencing, but at times you might find yourself doubling back and revisiting some of the same tasks. It’s not necessarily going to be a linear progression.

The assignment question

It makes you more aware of the words and the brief in its entirety.

Keywords are the main concepts, subjects, or topics in your assignment. They will form the basis of your research and are discussed further in the module Finding Information.

Directive verbs give us instructions about what we are required to do.

Re-read the unit outline. What are the unit’s stated learning outcomes? What have you heard in lectures or been told to read that indicates the main aspects of the unit?

The marking guide (often called a marking rubric) is what the marker will use to assess your work. The rubric will tell you what the marker is looking to find in your assignment and the relative value of the different elements in terms of marks.

You will likely be provided instructions that outline the type of academic writing you should do, the types and number of sources you can use, the word limit, the referencing style, even the font size and spacing. If you want to maximise your assignment marks, follow these instructions closely!

The assignment question will include:

  • Keywords, the concepts and topics which form the basis for your research.
  • Directive verb(s), which provide direction for what you need to demonstrate in your assignment.
  • Additional requirements for the type of assignment you will be required to write, and limiting words including the word count, number and type of sources required, and more.

For more information about how to structure and write each assignment type, visit the writing guide.

Analyse the following assignment question and work through the three activities to identify the keywords, directive verbs, and limiting words that you will need to consider.

Directive verbs

Directive verbs are those that give instructions about what you are required to do in an assignment. Below are six commonly used directive verbs.

  • Analyse
  • Compare
  • Contrast
  • Discuss
  • Illustrate
  • Summarise

The directive verbs presented above are only some of those that may appear in your assignment question. Below is a list of common directive verbs. If the verb used in your question is not listed and you’re not sure of its meaning, look it up in a dictionary.

Fast forward

You’ll learn more about the different forms of academic writing including essays, reports, reflective writing, case studies and literature reviews in our Writing module.