You need a clear understanding of what the instructor wants before starting on any assignment of project. Then you will want to translate assignment terms and requirements into useful clues as to what your instructor expects. When you are not sure, remember to send an email to your instructor with specific questions early on in the process.
The first step is to read the assignment carefully as soon as you receive it.
Interpreting the Assignment
Ask yourself a few basic questions as you read and jot down the answers on the assignment sheet:
- What is the task you need to do in this assignment?
- Why did your instructor ask you to do this particular task?
- Who is your audience?
- What kind of evidence do you need to support your ideas?
- What kind of writing style is acceptable?
- What kind of referencing style must be used?
- What guidelines must you follow?
Terms that might be used to determine the task
- Identification Terms: cite, define, enumerate, give, identify, indicate, list, mention, name, state.
- Description Terms: describe, discuss, review, summarize, diagram, illustrate, sketch, develop, outline, trace.
- Relation Terms: analyze, compare, contrast, differentiate, distinguish, relate.
- Demonstration Terms: demonstrate, explain why, justify, prove, show, support.
- Evaluation Terms: assess, comment, criticize, evaluate, interpret, propose.
Begin with Background Content
Most assignment will be related to the materials you have studied in the course up to the point of the assignment. As you read the assignment or project requirements, start by identifying which theories, formulas, and graphics relate. Consider what research you will need to do to complete the project.
Determine what is Required
As you begin an assignment, you will want to review any rubrics and checklists that your instructor has provided. A rubric typically looks like a grid, and explains the criteria for each level of performance (for example, what quality of work will achieve a 5/5, what will achieve 4/5 and so on). Be sure that you understand what is required before you begin each assignment.
Consider the following questions as you analyze your assignment:
- Describe in one sentence your task on this assignment: What do you need to do?
- What resources will you use to complete this assignment? Review any textbook materials, handouts, or class notes that relate to this assignment.
- How many additional resources do you need to find to complete the assignment task? (consider books, peer reviewed articles, websites, or other resources).
- What content do you need to create for this assignment?
- What guidelines do you need to follow related to the format of the assignment?
- What format do you need to use for citations and references (APA, MLA, and Chicago are the most commonly used).