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Five steps to completing assessments

Five steps to completing assessments

Use the following five steps as a guide to completing written assessments. Always check assessment instructions if you have questions and ask your lecturer if you are unclear on anything.

1. Analyse

The key to understanding the writing requirements of any assignment topic is to identify the instruction words and keywords. 

Underline the instruction words: these tell you what you need to do in the assignment. Common instruction words include discuss, explain, and analyse. Instruction words don’t all mean the same thing, so make sure you check the meaning. Understanding instruction words is essential to make sure you don’t misinterpret an assignment. 

Identify keywords: these outline the topic you will write about. Some words may have a special meaning within a subject, so check with your tutor or lecturer. Otherwise, look up the meanings of keywords in a dictionary and think about how you will approach your research for the task.

2. Brainstorm and research

First, spend some time thinking about what you already know about the topic from your lectures, tutorials and essential readings. A mind-map may help you.

Next, research books and journal articles available through library catalogues and databases or Google Scholar. This is where efficient and critical reading skills are needed as you select relevant information. 

To focus your research, ask yourself:  

  • Is this information relevant to the topic? 
  • Is it the most up-to-date and reliable? 
  • Is it a good example? 
  • Do I really need this information, that is, does it answer my central question? 
  • How will I use it? 

Record information as you read, using your preferred note-taking style. Make sure you:  

  • Record where you found the information (for citations and references, include page numbers) 
  • Take notes on themes, theories, data, explanations, examples by paraphrasing, summarising or quoting

3. Organise and plan

Start organising your ideas to gain perspective on the issues or central points from the notes you have taken (the research literature). Begin making connections between these ideas and the assignment topic.

Engage, reflect and evaluate the information from your chart or rough plan.  

  • What have you discovered? Has your viewpoint changed?  
  • Have you clarified your argument or discussion? 
  • Do you have enough evidence and examples?
  • Can you group ideas and name them? These groups become the themes for your assignment.  
  • Are you clear as to why this topic was set? 

Plan a rough outline. Refine the outline in an order that reflects the assignment topic focus or the marking rubric. Each theme for the task has a main point supported by evidence from the readings (your notes). Use a numbering system to section the plan.

4. Write

Write the first draft from the outline plan. Consider academic writing conventions:

  • structure (introduction, body and conclusion)  
  • evidence and examples to support your points 
  • formality (tone, vocabulary, use of discipline-specific terminology) 
  • a reference list using correct formatting.

5. Edit

Always plan time to read over what you have written before you submit your assignment. 

Give yourself enough time to review your essay a day or so after you finish writing. Looking at your work with a fresh eye will help you spot errors and make improvements. 

Some strategies to help: 

  • Check your grammar and punctuation for common mistakes. Use a spell-checker and your own eyes to double-check. 
  • Print your work to proofread your writing in hard copy. Sometimes when you proofread on the screen, your eyes substitute the correct form and you can miss typos. 
  • Read your work aloud! This can help you to hear how the writing sounds - what sounds good and what doesn't. 
  • Check your referencing, even if you’ve used a referencing program like Endnote. Is your referencing consistent? Is it correctly formatted?

Further resources

Pathfinder link

Still have questions? Do you want to talk to an expert? Peer Learning Advisors or Academic Skills and Language Advisors are available.