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Structuring Your Assignment

Getting started with academic writing: the Time model

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  • Writing an assignment takes time, more time than you may expect.  Just because you find yourself spending many weeks on an assignment doesn’t mean that you’re approaching it in the wrong way.
  • It also takes time to develop the skills to write well, so don’t be discouraged if your early marks aren’t what you’d hoped for.  Use the feedback from your previous assignments to improve.
  • Different types of assignments require different styles, so be prepared for the need to continue to develop your skills.

We’ve broken down TIME into 4 key elements of academic writing: Targeted, In-depth, Measured and Evidence-based.

time togos

Target logo

Your assignment needs to be targeted.  It should:

  • Be focused on the questions and criteria
  • Make a decision
  • Follow an argument

 

in-depth logo

Your assignment needs to be in-depth.  You should consider your questions and criteria thoroughly, thinking about all possible aspects, and including the argument both for and against different viewpoints.

You should:

  • Identify topic areas
  • Research
  • Plan your assignment
  • Think about your introduction and conclusion

measured logo

An academic writing style is measured. By this, we mean that it’s:

  • Cautious
  • Emotionally neutral
  • Formal – written in the third person and in full sentences

evidence-based logo

Your assignment needs to be evidence-based. You should:

  • Reference all the ideas in your work
  • Paraphrase your evidence
  • Apply critical thinking to your evidence

Once you’ve found all your evidence, and have decided what to say in each section, you need to write it up as paragraphs.  Each paragraph should be on a single topic, making a single point.  A paragraph is usually around a third of a page. 

We find Godwin’s (2014) WEED model very helpful for constructing paragraphs.

W is for What

You should begin your paragraph with the topic or point that you’re making, so that it’s clear to your lecturer.  Everything in the paragraph should fit in with this opening sentence.

E is for Evidence 

The middle of your paragraph should be full of evidence – this is where all your references should be incorporated.  Make sure that your evidence fits in with your topic.

E is for Examples

Sometimes it’s useful to expand on your evidence.  If you’re talking about a case study, the example might be how your point relates to the particular scenario being discussed.

D is for Do

You should conclude your paragraph with the implications of your discussion.  This gives you the opportunity to add your commentary, which is very important in assignments which require you to use critical analysis. 

So, in effect, each paragraph is like a mini-essay, with an introduction, main body and conclusion.

Allow yourself some TIME to proofread your assignment.  You’ll probably want to proofread it several times. 

You should read it through at least once for sense and structure, to see if your paragraphs flow.  Check that your introduction matches the content of your assignment.  You’ll also want to make sure that you’ve been concise in your writing style. 

You’ll then need to read it again to check for grammatical errors, typos and that your references are correct.

It’s best if you can create some distance from your assignment by coming back to it after a few days. It’s also often easier to pick out mistakes if you read your work aloud.

Information and videos on being targeted, being in-depth and bringing it all together

  • Identifying what the assessment criteria is asking you to do (being targeted/generating ideas)
  • Planning your argument (being in-depth/organising ideas)
  • Structuring paragraphs, conclusions and introductions (bringing it all together)

The resources below are available in different formats to suit your learning style, including: a full visual and printable guide; bite-size printable guides; bite-size videos; and infographics.

Full guide (visual and printable):

Content includes: using the assessment criteria; planning your argument and structuring paragraphs, introductions and conclusions

Visual guide (Sway)

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Printable guide (PowerPoint)

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Bite-size printable PowerPoints:

Assessment criteria                      

Ring bound portfolio                

Planning the structure          

structured plan

Paragraphs, introductions and conclusions

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Bite-size videos (click here for the example WEED paragraph used in the videos):

1: Being Targeted

Archery target

2: Being In-depth

Part 1Deep sea diver's helmet

Part 2 Deep sea diver's helmet

3: Bringing it all together

Part 1Tick

Part 2 Tick

Bite-size guide (visual and printable):

Tips on how to: generate ideas; organise ideas; and structure paragraphs, introductions and conclusions.

Visual resource (Infographic) Printable version (PDF)
iPad with a painting on the screen Printer

Workshops

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This session is aimed at undergraduates but is suitable for any level of study.

You don't have to book, just join us on the date listed. (Please note there is a limit of 250 participants, on a first come first served basis).

  • Click here to view a previous recording of the workshop (Recorded via Teams on 19 November 2020)

If you need further information or any adjustments to fully access this session, please contact libraryhelp@tees.ac.uk in advance. 

Click on the image to see the programme of other webinars currently being offered. 

We are very interested to hear your views about any workshop you attend.

Please complete the feedback form after you have attended.

Further Reading

Click on the image to see additional useful resources

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Next steps

If you thought this information was useful you may want to look at some of the other Learning Hub guides aimed at helping students with their assessments:

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Feedback

If you have any comments about this skills guide, we would love to know them. 

Click on the this feedback image to give thoughts and feedback on the Structuring your assignment page

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