Amelia: 5 easy steps to assignment success


Amelia Dowe
Amelia Dowe is the Learning Advisor for the Engineering, Built Environment and IT disciplines at USQ. She is based in The Learning Centre, which operates across USQ’s three campuses.

I work in Library Services as a Learning Advisor for Engineering, Built Environment and IT. My job here is to support students to develop the academic skills they need to succeed at University.

I did not always have these skills myself though.

When I started my first degree , I had absolutely no idea to how to do an assignment. In fact, if there were a list of things to definitely avoid when writing an assignment, I would have ticked them all during my first two years of study. I even submitted my first ever assignment with no referencing at all. How embarrassing!

I did get the hang of it in the end (phew!), and I am here to share five of my hard-earned tips for assignment success with you.

1. Spend a good amount of time analysing the task

This means looking at the task sheet and the marking rubric to understand what it is that the lecturer would like you to produce.

Two important things to look for in the task sheet are the keywords and the instruction words. The keywords will tell you what type of information you need to focus on or to research, and the instruction words will tell you what to do with that information. Keywords will vary depending on the assignment, but a tip is to focus on the noun phrases. Examples of instruction words include ‘discuss’, ‘examine’ and ‘analyse’.

2. Keep track of your sources while researching and writing

Referencing starts not when you’re compiling your list of references, but right at the beginning when you’re doing your research. It can save you time and stress later on if you keep track of your sources from this stage. For example, take notes while you’re reading and include page numbers as well as the author and date. Try putting these notes into your own words, and you’ll have a head start on paraphrasing these ideas later.

3. Make a solid plan for your assignment

Once you’ve done your research, you can start getting organised and map out a structure for your assignment. I do this to the paragraph level, and include the number of words I’ll be writing in each paragraph, the main idea, and the sources I’ll be using. I find this plan reduces any anxiety I might have about getting started, and means the finished product reads logically. Everyone has a slightly different system, so experiment and find something that works for you.

4. Writing is rewriting

Don’t expect your first draft to be the final version. Allowing yourself enough time to draft, edit and rewrite means you’ll end up with a better assignment when it’s time to press that submit button. It can be helpful to read your draft aloud to see if it flows and makes sense, or to read it to a patient family member or friend to get feedback.

5. No matter how much it hurts, read your feedback

Reading and applying feedback from previous assessment items is a key factor in doing better the next time around. It can be a painful process at first, but with time, you should begin to see feedback as a powerful tool that you can use to improve your results.

For more tips on how to write successful academic assignments, check out this free recording of a one-hour webinar presented by my colleague, Dr Janine Rix. If you are a current USQ student, you can also attend a one-on-one or group consultation with a Learning Advisor. Contact library@USQ.edu.au or visit the Library website for more information.


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