Academy student life

A beginner’s guide to tackling an assignment

Written by Claudia Cole

With ‘fresher’s week’ long gone and having settled into student life, you may already be familiar with the uneasiness and daunting sensation that fills within after being given your first set of assignments. Therefore, it’s likely that you have made the unsaid promise of getting started early. Even us award-winning procrastinators have done it! But as the deadlines begin to loom and your word document remains blank, it’s evident that there’s nothing more difficult than the painstaking task of beginning an assignment… Queue staring into the laptop screen with extreme confusion.

This isn’t uncommon, especially for first-year students. Getting to grips with the academic requirements at university may appear rather tricky. However, once you understand what is expected of you, getting started on an assignment is not as complex as it may seem.

Fortunately, there are some simple and effective ways on how you can get started – and early!

Plan, Plan, Plan

Although this seems like the most obvious tip, many students make the mistake of not doing it.

First, explore how much the assignment is worth. This should determine how much time you should dedicate to it. However, it’s always best to give yourself more time than necessary by setting yourself an earlier. As you probably already know, not everything goes to plan.

Once you have decided on how much time you’ll dedicate this this assignment, you can begin splitting your tasks into small manageable chunks and scheduling mini deadlines for each one. This will help you remain focused and keep on track.

Analyse the question

Before you start writing your assignment, it’s important that you take the time understand what is you need to do. Again, this may seem like another obvious tip, but failing to do this could result in you giving a poor response in your assignment.

When analysing the question, pay close attention and highlight any instructional words used. This should give you an indication of what type of answer is expected from you.

Draft an outline

Creating an outline for your assignment helps to organise your ideas, as well as giving you a structure to follow. Most commonly, an essay is written following a basic structure that consists of three main parts: introduction, body and conclusion.

Ideally, the introduction should briefly explain what you are going to talk about in response to the assignment question given. It will introduce the aim and purpose of your assignment, highlighting the key points you will be addressing.

The main part of your assignment should consist of a series paragraphs that successfully develops each key point. This should then be followed by supporting evidence and examples, demonstrating your knowledge and understanding of the topic.

The conclusion is not just simply summarizing what you have written. It’s one of the most important part of an essay as it evaluates and unifies your essay’s main points. Remember, it should conclude your argument, not present any brand-new ideas.

However, the whole purpose of creating an outline for yourself is to organise your ideas in a way that suits your assignment.

Do some research

Before you begin writing, it is essential that you do some research to find the relevant material to support your argument. This will also help you gain some valuable insight into the topic you plan to write about.

The type of research and how much you will need will differ with each assignment. It’s best to analyse your assignment question and ensure you know what you’re looking for.

Your research be conducted in the following places:

  • Student/local library
  • Course material
  • Recommended reading
  • Online academic databases

Write, Write, Write

Once you’ve gathered all the information you require, it’s then time to put it to good use and begin your first draft.

Using your outline, start filling in the gaps and tackle one section at a time. It’s not essential to start first with the introduction.  You can begin with whatever section is easiest and then complete the rest later.

The most important thing to get writing. Try not to get distracted and let your inner critic get in the way. When it comes to the draft, just allow your ideas and thoughts to flow.  The longer you spend stressing about perfecting it, the less time you have to actually perfect it.

Write now and leave the fine tuning till later.


Once you have drafted your assignment, you can then begin editing and proofreading. However, before you do, remember to take a break. Not only does this give you the chance to rest, but it also allows you to return to your work with a fresh perspective.

The great thing about having planned out an outline for your assignment, is that you can refer to it to check if you have included all relevant parts. Do you have a title page? Introduction? Conclusion?

Other than ensuring that all the necessary content is there, it’s vital that you check if your assignment reads well. A good way to do this is to read it out loud. It helps highlight any parts that struggle to flow smoothly.

From there, you can check your spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Don’t simply reply on spell check. Even that fails to pick up mistakes at times.

We all know writing assignments can be challenging at times. If you still find yourself struggling with one, never hesitate to ask for clarification from your tutor. You can also gain further guidance and support about academic writing via your university website.

Remember planning is key but planning early will lead to success.