ASSIGNMENT PREPARATION -Thoughts for Tertiary Students


I want to offer the following thoughts for your consideration
1. Understand the assignment task

Take time to carefully dissect the assignment requirements. Skimming without dissecting the requirements can lead to misinterpretation of what the assignment is asking. That in turn can lead to the task not being completed as fully as required.

Following the question and dealing with its components as the paper is developed helps to ensure accuracy. Referring back to and re-reading the question and explanation periodically is wise. If unclear on any of the assignment requirements, e-mail and ask the course coordinator for clarification.
2. Setting

Careful introduction of the topic helps when it comes to the paper setting. That not only helps the evaluator but reinforces assignment focus and direction for the writer. Always look to write within a factual and contextual setting. This helps when it comes to the melding of theory with practice.

3. Headings and Layout

Many students are careful in using headings and sub-headings to introduce each section and sub-section of the assignment. That process offers clear guidance to the marker and also assists the writer keep clearly aligned with and focussed on the assignment requirements. It is a methodology I would recommend.
4. Text and Line Spacing

Many papers offered text in 10 point size, with single line spacing. That makes it considerably harder for the marker when it comes to reading, digesting and appraising assignments. The concentration required for actual reading can mean the marker has to go back over text, in some cases innumerate times, to try and gauge the meaning and accuracy of what was presented. My suggestion is would also ask that you consider 12 point rather than ten point text – although that varies because some fonts are easier to read than others.
5. Other Presentation Pointers

The following are thoughts and suggestions you may like to consider.
* Title pages added a stamp of professionality to papers presented.

A table of contents page is useful in pointing the reader to particular aspects of the assignment and enables the writer to show alignment of contents to each section of the assignment.

A synopsis or preface which outlines the purpose or content of the assignment in one or two short paragraphs is a strategy worth considering.

Pagination (page numbering) with student name and number imprinted as a footer on each page can be helpful. I would suggest christian and surname.

Where it is applicable, I would suggest including the work sample assessed and any markings and writing upon the document. Depending on assignment organisation this might be included within the text or added as an appendix. The sample if included allows the person evaluating your work to make reference to the documents from which analysis of student competence is drawn.

Appendices can be added as part of the paper if relevant to the adding of additional but not critical information. They should be referred to within the body of the paper in order to draw them to the attention of readers and evaluators. Don’t be tempted to add appendices as ‘fillers’ and provided to simply pad out the paper.
6. Editing

It is of critical importance that assignments are carefully edited before submission. After competing a paper, writers can be tired to the point of not wanting to do other than submit the assignment for assessment.

My thought would be that on completion and a quick reading of the paper, to leave it for a period would be wise. Then come back and go carefully through the paper section by section, checking for word usage, tenses, punctuation, paragraphing and sentence meaning. The following are further editing suggestions:

Have a critical colleague read through your paper offering editing suggestions. Offering a paper rather than ‘on screen’ copy for editing purposes would be preferable as the paper can be written over and returned.

Those who have partners might ask her or him to undertake editing duties. This is also a way of keeping those who are close, informed about study commitments and assignment undertakings.

Methodologically, two or three students could engage in a draft paper swapping exercise, sharing this important task.

Oral editing, reading the paper out loud to yourself, can help. I use this method when writing papers for publication and point many change needs out to myself.
7. Referencing

When referring to works within assignments, reference should include name and date (Brady & Kennedy, 2012). A direct quote should include the page or pages from which the quote is drawn being added (Brady & Kennedy, 2012, p. 146).

If citing a lecture or oral presentation by course coordinator, lecturer or tutor within assignments refer to them by title and surname. If drawing on them further into the paper, the surname suffices.

* In works cited or bibliography my suggestion would be title, context and date, for example, ‘ Kinston, Edward, ‘The Importance of Handwriting ‘ Lecture , Charles Darwin University
Collaborate, June 3, 2014.
When referring to an oral presentation, avoid christian name usage only. Surname or christian and surname is fine.

If in doubt about referencing, go to the guide offered by CDU on the subject. Correct referencing adds a stamp of professional authority to presentations.
8. General Thoughts and Observations

I am always impressed by the thoroughness and professionally apparent in assignments submitted by a healthy percentage of students. Pride in work is a quality teachers seek to instil in students, so pride in the presentation of one’s own work is an important ethic of practice.

A number of students use a rubric when analysing the work piece being assessed. Others chose a narrative approach. The choice always belongs to the student. However when choosing the narrative approach it is important that assignment elements do not become so embedded within the general text, they are hard to find.

When writing, try to avoid too many repeat words within a short space and even within the one sentence. For example, to use the word ‘assessment’ repeatedly within two or three sentences following one from the other, is overdoing that word. Consider synonyms. To that end, a thesaurus can be handy.

Avoid singular and plural confusion, for example “while the student did well, they did not spellcheck words.” The ‘student’ is singular (one) while in the sentence ‘they’ is plural (more than one).

The issue of word length comes up frequently. My suggestion is to check with the unit coordinator to ask for clarification if necessary. It would be wise to check before commencing assignment writing tasks.

Be proud of your assignments. Rather than throwing papers away after a time, my suggestion would be to preserve papers. Electronics makes this easy. Preservation on a USB stick would be one method of saving data.

Papers I wrote for degree courses as far back as the 1970’s are still in existence. Interestingly, from time to time I have a need to refer back to this data because it is still informing of things I need to undertake or recall.

All the best for continuing success with your studies.


Henry Gray

September 18 2015

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