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How To Write A Contents Page For An Assignment

Use your concept map or plan

Write your assignment using your map or plan to guide you.  As you write, you may well get new ideas or think about ideas in slightly different ways.  This is fine, but check back to your map or plan to evaluate whether that idea fits well into the plan or the paragraph that you are writing at the time. Consider:  In which paragraph does it best fit?  How does it link to the ideas you have already discussed?

Paragraph planning

For every paragraph, think about the main idea that you want to communicate in that paragraph and write a clear topic sentence which tells the reader what you are going to talk about. A main idea is more than a piece of content that you found while you were researching, it is often a point that you want to make about the information that you are discussing.  Consider how you are going to discuss that idea (what is the paragraph plan). For example, are you: listing a number of ideas, comparing and contrasting the views of different authors, describing problems and solutions, or describing causes and effects?

Use linking words throughout the paragraph. For example:

  • List paragraphs should include words like: similarly, additionally, next, another example, as well, furthermore, another, firstly, secondly, thirdly, finally, and so on.
  • Cause and effect paragraphs should include words like: consequently, as a result, therefore, outcomes included, results indicated, and so on.
  • Compare and contrast paragraphs should include words like: on the other hand, by contrast, similarly, in a similar way, conversely, alternatively, and so on.
  • Problem solution paragraphs should include words like: outcomes included, identified problems included, other concerns were overcome by, and so on.

Some paragraphs can include two plans, for example a list of problems and solutions.  While this is fine, it is often clearer to include one plan per paragraph.  

Linking paragraphs:

Look at your plan or map and decide on the key concepts that link the different sections of your work.  Is there an idea that keeps recurring in different sections?  This could be a theme that you can use to link ideas between paragraphs.  Try using linking words (outlined above) to signal to your reader whether you are talking about similar ideas, whether you are comparing and contrasting, and so on.  The direction that your thinking is taking in the essay should be very clear to your reader.  Linking words will help you to make this direction obvious.

Different parts of the essay:

While different types of essays have different requirements for different parts of the essay, it is probably worth thinking about some general principles for writing introductions, body paragraphs and conclusions.  Always check the type of assignment that you are being asked to produce and consider what would be the most appropriate way to structure that type of writing. 

Remember that in most (not all) writing tasks, especially short tasks (1,000 to 2,000 words), you will not write headings such as introduction and conclusion.  Never use the heading ‘body’.

Writing an introduction:

Introductions need to provide general information about the topic. Typically they include:

  • Background, context or a general orientation to the topic so that the reader has a general understanding of the area you are discussing.
  • An outline of issues that will and will not be discussed in the essay (this does not have to be a detailed list of the ideas that you will discuss).  An outline should be a general overview of the areas that you will explore.
  • A thesis or main idea which is your response to the question.  

Here is an example of an introduction:

It is often a good idea to use some of the words from the question in the introduction to indicate that you are on track with the topic.  Do not simply recount the question word for word. 

Writing the body:

  • Each paragraph should make a point which should be linked to your outline and thesis statement.
  • The most important consideration in the body paragraphs is the argument that you want to develop in response to the topic. This argument is developed by making and linking points in and between paragraphs.

Try structuring paragraphs like this:

  • Topic sentence: open the paragraph by making a point 
  • Supporting sentences: support the point with references and research
  • Conclusive sentence: close the paragraph by linking back to the point you made to open the paragraph and linking this to your thesis statement.

Here is an example of a body paragraph from the essay about education and globalisation:

As you write the body, make sure that you have strong links between the main ideas in each of the paragraphs.

Writing the conclusion:

This is usually structured as follows:

  • Describe in general terms the most important points made or the most important linkage of ideas
  • Do not include new information, therefore it does not usually contain references
  • End with a comment, a resolution, or a suggestion for issues that may be addressed in future research on the topic.

Here is an example conclusion from the essay on education:

Students may design their own cover page (selection of different fonts, addition of graphics etc.) . However, the minimum information that must be on your cover page is shown below. An assignment without the plagiarism statement will not be accepted. (You may copy the required information from the box below by highlighting the text and copy and paste it into your document.)

Tells the reader what the assignment is going to be about.

·         Provides the reader with the necessary background for what is to follow (i.e. a set of signposts).

·         Tells the reader what the paper isabout.
·         Should contain a logical development of the argument.
·         Write to a predetermined plan and structure.
·         Gradually build up your case.
·         Keep your focus on the problem; don’t get sidetracked.
·         Be critical and analytical in your approach.

 Text should be word processed rather than handwritten.
·         Leave an adequate margin (left 3 cm and right 2 cm)
·         Write on only one side of the page.
·         Always keep a hard copy of your paper.
·         Check spelling, grammar and punctuation before submitting.
·         Provide proper referencing using an approved academic style.
·         Use direct quotations sparingly.
·          Use your own words as far as is possible.
·         Write in third person past tense(e.g. ‘It has been said that…).

General requirements

Every assignment must have attached an Assignment Attachment Form and a Cover Sheet including a Plagiarism Statementwiththe student signature as shown above.

Assignments to be handed in as loose paper collection stapled together at the top left corner. The assignment should be presented as a technical report. It must consist of a cover sheet, content page, and should have an introduction, a body, a conclusion or recommendation, and a reference page.

Do not forget to number the pages. Any embellishment, fancy fonts and borders should be avoided. (Your report is a technical document and not a selling brochure that needs to catch the attention of the reader.)

Include photos, diagrams sketches, tables etc., and do not forget to refer to them in your text. Avoid cutting and pasting photocopies, as presentation will be part of the assessment.

Do your research, and then write up a draft. Before you write your final assignment, you may discuss your draft with your class lecturer to clear up any problems you may have encountered. Make sure your final assignment is ready by the due date.

If you have difficulties or are unfamiliar with report writing, contact the Learning Resource Centre where you will find numerous textbooks about report writing.

A catalogue of mistakes guaranteed to lead to a poor report and poor marks

  • Assignment not properly stabled together (pages on backside coming off)
  • Incorrect layout of the assignment or report
  • Silly layout or type style in word processing (e.g. 18 pt fonts in heading and 8 pt text)
  • Length of paragraphs of report not appropriate
  • Report clearly not proofread for typographical errors, spelling errors, repeated words etc.
  • Incorrect punctuation that makes the text ambiguous or incomprehensible
  • Present or future tense instead of past tense
  • Abbreviations like “can’t” or “doesn’t”. This is colloquial, and not professional written English
  • A paragraph starting with a figure and not a text.
  • Diagrams stuck in crooked or sideways
  • Figures and tables not properly labelled
  • Lack of scales on drawings and sketches
  • Units on figures are missing.
  • Sloppy scribbled diagrams done at the very last minute
  • Figures shown in text but no reference made to them
  • Assignment topics not properly addressed and leaving out important information
  • Writing style as in a recipe for cake
  • Inadequate or incorrectly presented references

If you want further information on Assignment writing look at the Internet and search for
“assignment writing”. You’ll be amazed how much on information you’ll find on this topic.

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