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Writing Strategies

Analyzing Writing Assignments

Here are some important areas to look at when considering how to successfully complete a writing assignment in any course:

Assignment Vocabulary

1. Title – What type of assignment is it?

  • The title often suggests what kind of writing you’ll be doing (e.g., summary/response, annotated bibliography, etc.).

2. Verbs – What am I supposed to do?

  • Words like describe, explain, summarize, reflect, etc., indicate the purpose of the writing task.

3. Nouns/Adverbs – What am I writing about, and how am I supposed to do it?

  • Words like summary, response, synthesis, reflection, analysis, etc., let you know what content and approach you will need.
  • Words like thoroughly, briefly, objectively, critically, carefully, etc., provide guidelines for the content and approach.

Assignment Specifics

1. Audience – Who am I writing for?

  • The purpose of any paper is for reader understanding of the content. This will affect aspects such as tone, style, and arguments.

2. Components – What do I include with the paper?

  • You might need to include such components as outlines, abstracts, graphics, title pages, drafts, and notes pages.

3. Organization – Does the professor suggest a specific way to set up the paper?

  • Many times, the organizational format of a paper is laid out in the assignment.

4. Formatting – Is there a length requirement? Does the professor prefer certain fonts or margin settings?

  • A paper might have a minimum, maximum, or no length requirement.  Margins and fonts may be specified; if not, use standard formats.

5. Citation Style – What citation style is required in this paper?

  • MLA and APA citations styles are used most often. While both styles have the same purpose, they have some very noticeable differences; therefore, it is important to use the style requested by the professor.

Additional Information

1. Purpose – What am I intended to learn from this assignment, and how will this affect the way I write it?

2. Class Assignments – How does this writing assignment relate to course goals and other class assignments?

3. Resources – Does the professor suggest any resources for help in research, writing, or revising?

4. Tips – Does the professor include any helpful hints that will make the assignment easier?

Important Factors

1. Evaluation Criteria – What qualities will the paper be graded on?

  • Many professors provide rubrics that let you know the qualities of the paper that are being graded.
  • It is important to know which aspects of the paper (content, research, organization, thesis statement, conventions, etc.) are most heavily weighted in the grade, so that you can consider this when writing.
  • While good grammar is important, it is not enough; the content, focus, and organization of the paper carry more weight.

2. Due Date – When is the paper due?

  • Plan your writing and schedule your time; begin when you receive the assignment. 
  • Writing is a process!  Use time wisely to space out research, drafting, revising, editing, etc.

3. Professor

  • Your professor is the best person to talk to if you have any questions.