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. The first step in successful assignments is to analyse and understand the assignment brief. After completing this module, you should feel confident to:

  • Understand the assignment journey
  • Recognise the components included in your assignment question
  • Organise your thoughts on a topic through brainstorming
  • Write an initial thesis statement, which is a one sentence draft overview of the main idea of the assignment.

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 map below gives you a sense of what this journey might look like and also gives you some ideas of what you will discover in future modules.

image showing the cyclic and repeating nature of the assignment journey

The assignment question (aka ‘the brief’)

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 moduleFinding 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 which form the basis for your research
  • Directive verb(s) - providing direction for what you need to demonstrate in your assignment
  • Additional information - from the type of assignment, word limit, number and type of sources and more

Analyse the following assignment brief and work through the three activities to identify the keywords, directive verbs, and additional information 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 five commonly used directive verbs.

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

The five directive verbs presented above are only some of those that may appear in your assignment question. Attached 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.

Academic writing

Academic writing can take many forms, each presented in its own way. Navigate through the activity below to find out more about essays, reports, reflective journals, and literature reviews.

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.