Writing a great assignment
is more formula-driven than you think. As long as you have the basic building blocks in place, and plan your attack with precision, the rest should take care of itself. Here’s what you need to know:
Take inspiration from others:
Read the works of other successful writers on a wide variety of subjects and take notice of how they craft their arguments. You’ll be surprised – the more you read, the better you’ll become at creating or tweaking your own unique writing style.
Clarify your topic:
Did you get to pick your own subject, or have you had one assigned? If it’s the former, make sure your reach isn’t too broad to actually get a handle on. If it’s the latter, ensure you understand the subject matter – then work out the kind of document you want to produce.
Complete your research first:
This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many people write and research simultaneously (especially when they’ve left their work until the last minute). By completing your research first, you’re giving your brain its best opportunity to sort through all the pertinent arguments before deciding where you stand on the issue.
Prepare an outline or diagram:
This is to help you organise your plan of attack and to prevent you from diverging on to different tangents. For the outline, try listing your main arguments in dot points (feel free to add in a few supporting phrases) from the top of the page. In a diagram, start with your topic in a circle at the centre of the page, then add at least five main points in spokes leading out from the circle.
This is your chance to flesh out your key points and to point out their limitations and counter-arguments. The latter is essential to prove you’re thinking for yourself and not just repeating memorised facts.
End with the beginning:
The introduction can be one of the hardest parts to write, so why not leave it until the end when your most important points and ideas are already cemented in prose. When using this simple trick you may find the opening paragraphs basically write themselves – without all the usual angst and posturing associated with kicking off an assignment.
This is the glue that ties your work together. Briefly reiterate your main points and then use them to explain how you reached your final position – preferably while adding another (unique) perspective to the argument.
Leave the agonising until later:
Remember, it’s more important to get all your ideas down on paper in a first draft, than to be caught up with trying to make it immediately word perfect. Only once you already have everything in prose should you look at tightening up wording and clarifying points. And don’t be afraid to change the order to ensure you lead with your strongest points first.
Top tips for writing a great assignment:
- Complete your research first
- Lead with your strongest points
- Write your introduction last
- Make sure you add something new to the discussion