1. Understand the Assignment's Purpose

Every assignment has a purpose—a reason why you are doing this assignment. Look at your assignment instructions, and ask yourself: What is the point of this assignment?

For this assignment, are you trying to...

  • Persuade? Make a point? Convince someone of something?
  • Explain an idea or concept?
  • Present research, facts, or findings?
  • Analyze a story, article, case study, or business practice?
  • Apply theories to an idea?
  • Reflect on what you have learned?
  • Tell a personal story?

Once you have figured out your purpose, use it to guide your writing. For example, after writing each paragraph, ask yourself: Does this paragraph support my assignment’s purpose?

2. Identify Key Terms

Underline or highlight all the key terms in the assignment directions. Key terms are words that you must know and talk about in order to successfully complete an assignment. They are usually words or phrases that are repeated within your assignment instructions.

For Example

Discuss how the SQ3R reading strategy is similar to and/or different from the way you read course material previously. Explain how using SQ3R improved your reading comprehension of the course materials.

Because “SQ3R,” “reading”, and “course materials” are repeated within the directions, you know you must talk about those three concepts in your assignment to get full credit.

3. Identify the Action Words

Next, underline or highlight all the action words in the assignment directions. Action words tell you what you need to do in your assignment. The number of action words will often tell you how many steps or parts you need to complete for that assignment.

For Example

Technology has made it easier than ever for people to reach out to others at any time and in any location. Describe how different methods of technology have changed the way we now connect or disconnect with others. Research several of the pros and cons associated with our overwhelming use of technology. Discuss whether technology has increased or decreased our level of connectedness to others and support your position by using research. Finally, explain why this is an important issue to discuss.

There are four action words in the instructions, so you will need at least four parts to your assignment.

4. Review the Grading Rubric

Most assignments include a Grading Rubric, located near the end of the assignment instructions. These are the assignment requirements on which you will be graded. If you are confused about the assignment, use the rubric as a checklist of what you need to do.