Writing the Assignment

Writing an assignment requires that you fit your argument and key points to certain academic conventions. Academic writing – whether it is in the form of an essay, a report, a thesis, or a literature review – contains distinct parts, each with distinctive functions:
  • Introduction
  • Body (made up of paragraphs)
  • Conclusion or summary
  • A list of references
Writing the introduction
An introduction acts as a ‘roadmap’ to your reader. It helps them to understand where you are going in your assignment, how you will get there, and what they will see along the way. There are several distinct parts to an introduction, and they are as follows:
Introducing the topic or subject area. The main aim of the first part of any introduction is to introduce the topic or subject area, and the most important concept(s) relevant to answering the question.
Aim or purpose. The introduction also needs to indicate your aim(s) or purpose in the assignment.
Structure or overall plan. You need to signal how you will present information in the assignment. In what order will the key points appear? This gives the reader an indication of what to expect.
Limits or scope of the assignment. You may want to include mention in your introduction of any limits in your assignment. What will you emphasise? Due to space, will you be intentionally leaving anything out?
Argument or thesis statement. The final part of the introduction needs to clearly identify your argument or thesis statement. Some useful ways to signal your argument include: ‘This paper argues that…’; This essay contends that…’; ‘It will be argued that…’.
Writing the body of the assignment
The body of the assignment consists of one or more paragraphs structured to reflect your critical thinking about the question and the chosen order for presenting your argument. The order of your paragraphs can be a logical sequence, a chronological sequence, a clustering of closely related ideas, a juxtaposition of opposing ideas, or in terms of importance.

Paragraphs. Each paragraph will have a similar structure, and functions like a ‘mini-essay’. It should have an introduction (topic sentence), a body, and a concluding sentence. These each have a distinct function:

  • A topic sentence (usually the first sentence of the paragraph) states the key point of the paragraph. It is this point around which the rest of the paragraph is organised.

  • The topic sentence is followed by the ‘body’ of the paragraph. This can contain explanations, evidence and examples to support the key point of the paragraph. Supporting evidence is used to justify, explain or develop your argument.

  • A concluding sentence links the main idea of the paragraph back to your argument, and therefore to the assignment topic/question.

Writing the conclusion
The conclusion is simply a summary of all your main points discussed in the essay. It brings together all of the main points in a final statement that relates directly back to the topic or question. The conclusion is also where recommendations may be made, your argument is evaluated, or future patterns of change are forecast.
Importantly, your conclusion should:

  • Contain no new ideas or information.

  • List your key points, briefly.

  • Relate key points directly back to the question/your argument.

Many drafts may be produced before an assignment is complete. This requires that you leave sufficient time to reflect upon your ideas, and edit your work.