Putting it Together
Know the required format, e.g. essay, report, case study, presentation
There are many different types of academic writing tasks, and you are expected to understand and follow the format of the task you are given.
Illustrated examples of different tasks
- Bibliographic Details of the Text
- Brief Overview/Description of the Content
- Critical Analysis of the Text
- Statement of Relevance/Usefulness
Include these details for each text in the annotated bibliography.
- Reference List
The number of paragraphs will depend on the length of the essay.
- Title Page
- Abstract/Executive Summary
- Table of Contents
- Reference List
The sections in the body of the report will vary depending on the report type and specific task requirements. Each section has numbered headings and sub-headings.
- Planning and structuring the assignment
- Writing the assignment
- Editing the assignment
- Report writing
- Literature reviews - getting started
- Writing a case study
- Writing in the third person
- Critical thinking
- Reflective writing
- Developing an argument
- Group projects
Write an outline plan using your research and brainstorming notes to guide you
Assignment writing requires planning, drafting and editing. Planning is important because it helps you to think about what you want to say and when you want to say it. Remember to use your research and brainstorming notes (see Organising Information) to guide you. There are three important steps in planning:
Step 1: Develop an informed response
Decide on your main response to the assignment question and write a short thesis statement (one to two sentences) that clearly shows your single overall response/argument/position/point of view
NB: At times your lecturer will prescribe that you use a particular point of view, such as a theoretical approach. At other times you are required to argue your particular point of view with regard to a chosen theory
Example thesis statement:
Discuss two implications of social media for education
Possible thesis statement:
It is imperative for the educational sector - staff and students- to become informed around the privacy issues involved in the use and application of social media and that higher educational institutions choose their networking tools carefully to fit the learning outcome of the course or program.
Step 2: Identify key points
- Decide on the key points that will support and develop your main response to show that it is an informed response. This means your key points should clearly show that you have engaged with course concepts and objectives, as well as the required readings and your own individual research.
- Pay attention to the word limit at this stage. How many points/issues/themes are you required to cover, or how many points can you effectively cover and stay within the required word limit?
Step 3: Draw up the outline plan
- Write your main response to the question at the top of the page.
- Organise your key points into a logical order, and leave a space to add further information.
- Under each key point (which can be underlined or set up as a heading) list any secondary points and supporting details, including any reference sources and examples.
- Go back and check that each point supports your main response. Have you consulted the marking criteria? Is anything missing?
- Start compiling a reference list for the assignment.
The key points usually become the topic sentence for paragraphs in essays, the headings in reports, or the main points to be argued in debates or discussed in presentations.
Write the first draft using evidence and examples to support your points
Essential items to have at hand
- the assignment question and marking criteria
- your outline plan
- your research notes and your brainstorming notes or mind map
- your reference sources, including course readings and text books
- a comprehensive referencing style guide, e.g. APA, Harvard (Referencing Tool)
- a dictionary (advanced learner English for ESL students) or thesaurus
- an information guide for the type of assignment task at hand
How to approach your first draft
- Focus on content (getting your main ideas down) and stay engaged with your course material, e.g. your course profile, text book, readings and lecture notes.
- Continually refer back to the assignment question, the marking criteria and the course material. This will help you to stay focused on answering the question and concentrate on the course concepts, theories and concerns.
- Aim to develop each of your key points into paragraphs, being mindful of the word count.
- Each paragraph should focus on one idea or topic that supports your main response or argument.
- Include explanations, clarifications, definitions, examples, supporting evidence, discussions and conclusions where appropriate, to ensure each point is clear and convincing.
- Use your research notes and information sources to help you develop your ideas and present a balanced view that shows consideration of other perspectives.
- Whenever you paraphrase or insert a quote or graphic, include the in-text citation and add the bibliographic details to your reference list immediately. This will save a lot of time searching for them later!
- Stay within the framework of the task type and be mindful of the word limit at all times.
Important elements to include in paragraphs
- A topic sentence stating what the paragraph is about, i.e. the key point or idea.
- Sentence(s) that develop the key point further by explaining, clarifying, defining, giving examples, or providing supporting evidence.
- A concluding sentence that shows the significance of the key point and sums up the paragraph. This sentence might also lead into the next paragraph.
Important elements to include in your introduction
- introducing the topic or subject area
- aim or purpose
- structure or overall plan
- limits or scope of the assignment
- argument or thesis statement
Important elements to include in your conclusion
- list your key points briefly
- relate key points directly back to your question/argument
Essay Question - Discuss two implications of social media for education. (2000 words, APA referencing)
Click the buttons on the left to highlight the relevant example in the text.
- Shows interpretation and understanding of the question
- Author’s interpretation of the issue
- Identifies the purpose and limits of the discussion
- Outlines the structure of forthcoming discussion and suggests the paragraph sequence
- Clarifies argument to be presented
- Topic sentence effectively flags the key idea to be discussed in this paragraph
- Demonstrates synthesis of research and agreement of scholarship on the idea
- Further explanation of the key idea which includes analysis and support from the research literature
- Demonstrates integration of sources to support the line of reasoning. Correct APA 6 in-text referencing has been applied
- Linking words
- Concluding sentence links back to overall argument of essay
- Reiterates question and purpose of the essay
- Summarises key ideas presented
- Presents final summary of argument
Online social media network websites such as facebook, twitter, YouTube, and Blogger.com allow its users to interact with other users creating and sharing content such as photographs and stories. Furthermore a social networking platform such as Facebook is so ubiquitous, it claims 500 million users worldwide (Helms, 2010). This in turn has sparked a ‘shift’ in the educational sector. These social networking websites (SNSs) allow students to create thousands of pieces of content and share it with other users, while educational institutions are using some of these sites and applications to build learning communities with their students. There are several issues related to this increased interaction, namely the ethical use of social media within an educational environment. This essay discusses two implications of social media focussing on the higher education sector. It will first briefly define SNS and consider one application, Facebook, and then examine the issue of student privacy related to individual expression and communication. The second implication discussed is how Facebook presents challenges for instructors as important learning tools such as posting documents, and tracking and evaluating students, is missing in its infrastructure. Overall the essay argues that it is imperative for the educational sector, staff and students, to become informed around the privacy issues involved in the use and application of SNSs. It argues more specifically that higher educational institutions choose their networking tools carefully to fit the learning outcome of the course.
Facebook accounts hold large amounts of personal information of its users and thus it is crucial that students and instructors understand how to secure this data in its settings and applications. However, research indicates that often people misunderstand their privacy online in SNSs (Barnes, 2006; Govani & Pashley 2005; Hodge, 2006; Lenhart & Madden, 2007). At the heart of this dilemma is the fact that private information becomes public once released to a wider social application such as Facebook and secondly, the user and ultimately the Institution loses control over that information. Issues related to this include identity theft, copyright, public domain challenges and inappropriate behaviour such as on-line stalking and bullying (Gross & Acquisti, 2005). In addition to that, some research indicates that students perceive any faculty/student interaction on SNSs to be itself inappropriate (Malesky & Peters, 2012). Researchers Cain and Fink (2010) write that this dilemma can be broken down into five primary categories to identify and understand this consequence or implication. These are: firstly determining who the primary audience for the content is; secondly, identifying the purpose of the social media content; third – determining how the social media is accessed; fourthly identifying the online ‘persona’ of the sender and their general attitude and lastly understanding the nature of the social relationships between the sender and the audience (Cain & Fink, 2010, p 5). Students and staff need to protect and manage their identity on-line as well as understand how to communicate and interact within an on-line learning community (Munoz, 2011). Importantly then, both teaching staff and students need to become digitally literate in using a SNS in a professional setting such as an academic course or program.
In conclusion this essay has looked at two implications related to the use of social media in the higher education sector. One implication is personal information and on-line interaction becomes public once it is published on-line. This implies that staff and students need to become digitally literate in order to interact in an educational setting. Secondly, this essay has raised the challenges of Facebook infrastructure when it comes to implementing social networking into the classroom. Overall it argues that staff and students need to be aware of the ethical implications of using Facebook in the classroom, namely issues of privacy of information. Additionally, it argues that Facebook has certain weaknesses in its infrastructure that may limit its use as an educational tool in the learning community.
Continue to redraft with the aim of improving each version
- Your aim now is to find ways to improve and refine your initial draft.
- Take a break before you start redrafting your assignment (a day is ideal)
- Read the assignment question again before you start redrafting
- Focus on strengthening your response or argument and pay attention to style and coherence. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is my response/argument relevant, thorough and convincing?
- Have I engaged with the course materials and the course concepts, ideas and objectives?
- Is the order of points or sections logical and easy to follow?
- Does each paragraph have a clear topic sentence?
- Is each paragraph coherent and complete?
- Are my paragraphs or sections clearly and suitably linked so that they flow on from each other, and is my line of reasoning easy to follow?
- Are any claims that I make supported by sufficient evidence or examples?
- Have I considered different perspectives?
- Is there any relevant information or evidence missing? Is there any irrelevant information that could be deleted?
- Have I used sufficient and appropriate reference sources?
- Do I need to research further or make changes?
Edit the final version paying attention to fluency, structure and grammar
Editing is an important part of the assignment writing process. It helps you to fine tune your work and pick up errors (and possibly improve your mark) before you submit the final version. You should always edit your work with the reader in mind. Can the reader understand your points? Are sentences clear? Do the ideas/arguments flow from one paragraph to another?
The 3 phases of editing
Edit for content: Have you answered the question and addressed the marking criteria with a clear, logical and concise presentation of your ideas/argument?
Edit for style and structure: Have you used language appropriate for the task? Are linking words used effectively? Have you formatted, structured and referenced your assignment correctly?
Edit for spelling, grammar and punctuation: Have you checked for accuracy and fluency?
Effective editing strategies
- Take a break before you edit.
- Set aside sufficient time to edit.
- Read aloud (this is an effective way to check punctuation and fluency).
- Have other people read your work or read your work to them.
- Run your finger or a pencil under each word of the text.
The following guides offer more information:
Be flexible as academic tasks require continual reflection, evaluation and adjustments
It is important to be flexible when you plan and write your assignment. You will continually reflect, evaluate and make adjustments along the way. Your initial draft may highlight gaps in your research that require further investigation or you may find the need to reread, rethink and rewrite some of your ideas. You may even find that your original ideas and opinions have changed completely the more you critically analyse the topic. This is an important and expected part of academic writing and demonstrates your critical thinking skills. Read widely, because the more you read and the more you think about what you read, the more you will be able to write clearly. Refer to Critical Thinking for more information.
The cyclical process of assignment writing
Remember, it is important to start preparing your assignment early, and always allow time for unexpected interruptions.
Putting it Together checklist
Know the required format
- Know the format for the task and understand the required structure eg. essay, report etc.
Write an outline plan
- Decide on your main response and write a short statement
- Identify key points that support and develop your main response
- Draw up an outline plan and organise key points and any secondary points into a logical order
- Start compiling a reference list
- Check that each point is relevant/appropriate and addresses the course concepts and marking criteria
Write the first draft
- Have essential items at hand e.g. assignment question, marking criteria, reference guide etc.
- Develop each key point into paragraphs that focus on one main point or idea
- Include explanations, clarifications, elaborations, examples, supporting detail, discussions and conclusions where appropriate
- Use reference sources to develop your ideas and present a balanced view
- Include in-text citations and add to your reference list as you go
- Stay within the framework of the task type and be mindful of the word limit
Continue to redraft
- Take a break before redrafting
- Read the assignment task again before redrafting
- Aim to strengthen and refine your response and pay attention to style and coherence
Edit the final version
- Edit for content (Is your response/argument clear, logical and concise?)
- Edit for style and structure (Have you used appropriate language, structure, referencing, formatting?)
- Edit for spelling and grammar (Have you checked for accuracy and fluency?)
- Continually reflect, evaluate and make adjustments along the way – be open to change