Understanding the Assignment

MALS programs of study include courses from various disciplines across the university and require students to write many different types of assignments. Each composition has a specific purpose, and it is crucial that you understand how to approach each one.

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good things to ask yourself when reading the prompt

  • Why am I writing this? Is it to demonstrate my understanding of the material? To demonstrate differences and similarities between scholastic perspectives? To develop and present my own original insights into the concept, problem, or issue?
  • What should my paper accomplish? Do I need to develop an argument? Provide an analysis? Give a summary? Make sure you know the overall goal of the assignment.
  • What are the specific requirements of the assignment? It might be helpful to read the assignment with a highlighter in hand. Highlight each specific point that you need to address in your writing, and re-write these as a checklist. Keep this checklist beside you when writing and proofreading your first draft to make sure you have covered all points.
  • What are the action words that the instructor uses (e.g., analyze, evaluate, summarize, compare, relate, etc.)? These are critical, and they almost always appear in the assignment prompt. If you don't notice any of these terms, ask the instructor! This will help you clarify what is expected from your writing.



Next Topic: Choosing a Topic

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