Understanding Writing Assignments

To be success in college writing, you should try to shape your text to meet the expectations of your instructor; these expectations are usually provided in a written or verbal writing assignment.

The following process will help you unravel and understand your writing assignments.

1. Study the overview for the assignment, given either in writing or verbally by the instructor.

The overview provides a context, or sets the stage, for assignment. It may also introduce a topic or subject area you will need to address in your response. You may find it useful to repeat words and phrases from this overview in the introductory paragraph of your response, making it clear to the instructor that your response fits the assignment. This can also help you appropriately focus your response.

2. Identify key verbs in the assignment, such as summarize, explain, compare, analyze, suggest, interpret.

3. Create a list of tasks based on the verbs identified in step 2. Use this list of tasks as a guide as you work on the assignment, and as a checklist before you submit the assignment.

4. Add style tips and technical requirements to your checklist (fonts, margins, length requirements).

5. Analyze the assignment by answering these questions:

  • Why do you think your instructor asked you to this particular assignment?
  • What information do you think the instructor wants?

6. Make the assignment work for you. While you want to meet your instructor's expectations, your writing will also be more successful if you care about it. Try to answer these questions to make the assignment work for you:

  • What can you gain from completing the assignment?
  • How can you fit your instructor's expectations into your own goals and interests?

This material was influenced by the following website, which you may find useful in learning about the topic: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/readassign.html


Last Updated: 10/3/13