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Writing Assignments continued

Subject Matter:
If you have a choice, pick the one about which you know the most, or a topic that you feel you can research without difficulty. Should the project require you to argue a particular side or position, put the case for the opposition first followed by your own opinion, which is the one you want them to remember. Open with a short outline of what you are about to present, and conclude with a brief summary of the key points.

Basic Structure
In your opening statement, unless specified that you must, never repeat the question verbatim. Use your own words to outline what you are about to present in the body of the text, plus state (or hint at) the conclusion that you will be steering towards. Try to finish a paragraph with information or a phrase that leads into the next paragraph. This will make the work fluid and easier to read. Keep in mind how you intend to conclude and build your argument/essay/opinion bit by bit, each addition moving inevitably towards the closing statement.

Length and Content:
Quite often the length will be set. Writing 1,000 words on a subject of which you know little can be challenging; conversely, when the issue in question is a passion, the limitation of a mere 1,000 words may prove disappointing. What you cannot afford to do is produce tedious lists of similar examples just to pad the text; nor should you be too opinionated by waging a personal crusade. Keep it concise and very much to the point. Before wading in, formulate a simple plan. Unless otherwise specified, use the 3-act-play structure. Decide on 3 key points that explain and support your position, then research references and quotations if they are required. Use these to build your position - keypoint one stating the issue, the argument for and against, and the possible consequences. Number two should present pertinent information on the subject, how the matter has developed over time and should include evidence to support your position versus the opposition. This middle act will be the longest, taking up perhaps half or more of the word count. The last keypoint will be the main one that wraps up your position and proves it beyond any doubt.

Checking Your Work:
Always give yourself sufficient time to read, re-read and edit your work before submission. Use a program spell check, but never trust it to be perfect; and be aware of the default dictionary - English (US), English (UK), etc. If possible, make a draft printout (hardcopy) and read it away from your normal work area. Quite often you will pick up mistakes that you missed on screen.

Stick to the guidelines, but always try to make the work look appealing so that whoever is going to read it will want to do so simply because it is a refreshing change from all the other submissions of students who can't be bothered. Beware of going over the top - flashy cover pages won't impress a lecturer who is only interested in the content.

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