While you are at college you will be expected to write different types of assignments such as essays, reports and reflective journals. These demonstrate to your teachers that you have understood your topic, and extended your knowledge by further reading and research. You also need to be able to communicate this knowledge via a written argument in an academic format. This page will help you learn how to plan and write assignments, and provide resources to help with spelling, punctuation and grammar.
Five steps to writing essays and assignments
It is important to understand what an essay question or assignment brief is asking. These guides will help you analyse the question and identify the task.
Once you have understood the question, create a list of all the ideas, theories, and examples that you already know about from class or your own reading that relate to the question. Use these as a starting point for further research. You can also go back to the textbooks on your reading list and look for your topics there.
Deciding on a rough structure for your essay before you start writing will help ensure that your ideas are logically ordered and easy for the reader to follow. It will also make the writing process easier.
There are a number of tools to help you once you start writing. It can sometimes be best to start with the main section of the assignment, and complete the introduction and conclusion later. Remember to check that you are answering the question, and that you are providing evidence to support the points you are making.
Once your first draft is complete, you can focus on improving the structure of your assignment. It should be clear which aspect of the question your paragraph is addressing. Make sure that each paragraph flows on from the one before using linking words and sentences. Refer to the resources on structuring paragraphs to help with this.
Check your essay for spelling, punctuation and grammar errors by using spellcheck software but also reading aloud - this will help pick up on repeated words, long sentences, and structure. You will usually be asked to use the third person (‘this essay will show’, rather than, ‘I will show’) and also check you are using formal language. Above all, check you have acknowledged all your sources using the correct referencing style (both in-text citation and reference list), and that you have met all presentation requirements relating to line-spacing, images, wordcount and so on.