Students in higher academia, typically in universities and colleges, spend more time on writing the main body of an assignment than they do on structuring. The result is that professors are often bogged down by assignments which are rich in details but lack structure and coherence. A well structured essay helps a student to highlight the main points and present the arguments better.
How to structure an assignment?
While there are disciplinary differences regarding the structure to be followed, one can still summarize some important points common to all disciples.
1. All assignments should at least have 3 parts:
And those are an introduction, the main body and a conclusion.
Treat your assignment or your essay like a three-act drama. In the first part you introduce your reader to the subject matter of the assignment. In the next part, you delve into the main research topic of the assignment and finally you state your research findings. However, disciplinary requirements should always be kept in mind. Some subjects might call for specialized structures. For instance, science students while writing about their experiments usually follow a three-structure format of a hypothesis, details of an experiment and an inference. A nursing case study should start with a patient’s medical case history, followed by the pathological symptoms, the diagnosis, the treatment received and a post-discharge medical regimen to be followed by the patient. Similarly, a marketing case study should have a brief history of the company followed by a situational analysis, an environmental scanning and finally recommendations for the future.
2. Introduction is the most important part of an assignment:
It’s important to write a convincing introduction in order to retain the attention of the reader. There are usually two ways to write an introduction — a deductive style and an inductive style.
a) Deductive style:
In a deductive style of writing, a researcher moves from the general to the specific through the process of deduction. It is a ‘top-down’ approach in which a researcher starts with a general introduction and then moves to a specific problem.
“Since there is a lot of traffic congestion in the morning on my way to the office, I must leave my house at least two hours before in order to reach my office at ten o’clock”
b) Inductive style:
On the other hand, in an inductive style of writing, a researcher moves from the specific to the general. It is a ‘bottom up’ approach in which specific point(s) add(s) up to some general conclusion. Here is an example, to drive the point home.
“I must leave my house at least two hours before in order to reach my office at ten o’ clock. There is a lot of traffic congestion in the morning on my way to the office.”
In the first style, we make a general observation (i.e. heavy traffic congestion) and then use it to deduce early exit from home to reach office on time. But in the second style, we start with a specific piece of information (i.e. my early exit from home) and use it as a supporting statement to make a general observation. Inductive and deductive styles can be followed while writing the introduction of any assignment. A mix of the two is also followed sometimes.
3. State all your research findings in the main body of the assignment:
This is important from disciplinary point of view because the purpose of giving an assignment is to observe whether students have understood what has been taught in the class and whether they have the ability to apply it to a specific research problem. Students are required to demonstrate their command over the specific area on which they are writing. While there is no particular formula that will work for all disciplines, still there are three things students should always remember while writing an assignment:
a) You should try to stick to the point
b) It is always important to be analytical rather than descriptive
c) You should not write anything that was not promised in the introduction
These are the things you come across very often whenevere your read any article on tips to write an essay.
4. Finally round up your discussion in your conclusion:
Student should summarize the principal topics touched upon in the assignment. They should remind the reader(s) about the main arguments and finally state their intervention and where it differs from existing literature on the subject.
It is important to remember that all essays or assignments need not follow all these tips in toto. It is always good to be creative and tweak your writings according to the course requirements or the requirements of the teacher.
The above discussion will, nonetheless, help the students to keep in mind some crucial points which should be common to all well-written assignments across disciplinary boundaries.
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