WIC Survival Guide Chapter 2: Where to Begin

I Have A Written Assignment Due... Where Should I Start?

  1. Read the assignment. Look for key words that identify the task. Ask for help if you don’t understand what is expected.
  2. Understand what kind of document you are creating:
    • Is it a memo, a research paper, a different assignment type?
    • What are the characteristics and parts of this kind of document?
    • Is active voice or passive voice more appropriate?
    • Should you use bullets and sub-headings?
    • Will you need an appendix with tables?
  3. Be sure that the tone of the assignment reflects your audience. (Your audience isn’t always your instructor - it may be a client, other professionals, etc.)
  4. Understand the scope of the assignment (How should you limit your topic? How many pages? Do you need to do research? - check out the library's discipline research guides)
  5. Different people approach writing in different ways. If you know how you work best, you can save time:

    If you think and plan before you write. By the time you’re writing, you have a pretty clear idea of what you’re going to say.
    TIP: Make sure to schedule plenty of thinking time and then freewrite the ideas you've developed.

    If you start by writing. Your first draft is very rough, but you will re-think and revise.
    TIP: Make sure to schedule plenty of time for revisions.

    You think and write alternately. You start with a plan, but the process of writing stimulates more thought.
    TIP: Make sure to schedule an adequate amount of time for thinking and writing.

  6. If You’re Stuck: Try some pre-writing or brainstorming exercises!
    • Free write – write without stopping for 5 to 10 minutes about what you already know about the assignment topic. Let your ideas flow without worrying about structure or organization.
    • Jot down a list of related terms or ideas
    • Create an outline
    • Do some concept mapping
  7. If your assignment has specified sections, be sure to include each section in your paper. Also double check that all required parts of each section have been addressed.