Starting an assignment can be stressful. Not sure where to begin? Here are 5 steps to help you get on track: 

Step 1: Read the task instructions 

There are many different types of assignments, so knowing the type of assignment and the assignment requirements will help. Reading the task instructions will allow you to plan the word count for an essay or report, or allocate the time required for an individual or group oral presentation. Find out how to structure essaysliterature reviewsreports and reflective writing on the Assignment Writing webpage. 

The task instructions also guide the written formatfont stylespacing and referencing style. If the assignment is a presentation, they will tell you whether to use PowerPoint, Prezi, Sway or video and present face to face online (live or pre-recorded).  

So be sure to read the task instructions carefully! 

Step 2: Unpack the question 

Unpack the assignment question by identifying helpful words. There are three types of words that can guide your understanding: 

  • Directive words explain how to approach the assignment. 
  • Topic words identify the major concepts in your task. These are the keywords you will use to start searching for resources. 
  • Limiting words narrow the scope of your assignment and include dates, locations and populations. 

Step 3: Research the assignment topic 

Use the topic words and limiting words to plan your research strategy. Record the searches you have undertaken, so you can refine the search and locate the best information. Get more online search tips for your assignments on the Assignment Preparation webpage. 

Step 4: Organise your notes 

You need to read and note the information you have identified as potentially useful for your assignment. So, make sure you develop a process to organise your information in a way that makes your life easier. Record the reference material—if saving electronically, use file names that make it easy to locate the information and store the files under topics rather than course codes so you can locate them again for future assignments. 

Step 5: Write or present the assignment 

Most assignments expect you to organise the information logically, using an introduction, body and conclusion. The information needs to have an academic argument to communicate the overall point you are making on your assignment topic.  

For more help on getting started with assignments check out the Assignment Preparation and Assignment Writing  webpages on the Library’s website 

If you also need help with referencing, take a look at our handy Referencing Guides.