University Assignments

While there is a relationship between the work you have done in high school and the type of assignments you will be asked to complete in university, the assignments in university will definitely be “next level”. Besides giving you factual knowledge, the goal of a university program is to teach you to think in a certain structured way (i.e. critically and rationally), and all of your assignments should be moving you, in varying degrees, toward this goal.
In a general sense, you will have already seen many of the types of assignments you will receive in university. These will include readings, various types of essays, case studies, factual reports, lab reports, reflective journals, literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, handouts, and individual or collaborative projects. You should assume the expectations will be higher, and the scrutiny of your work will be more thorough than you will likely have experienced previously. The key to being successful in these types of assignments is not a secret. It lies in understanding the expectations of your instructor and what you are being asked to do.

Every assignment you receive can be broken down in the same way. This structured approach will help you plan and complete the work.

Understand what you are being asked to do: This sounds obvious, but it is where many students go awry. Failing to fully understand the task, limits the final outcome of your assignment. No matter how much effort you put into it. So, read the directions. What is the task? do you understand it? Are all aspects of the task clear? While you may feel hesitant in asking questions, you need to get over it. If you don’t understand, ask. Any embarrassment you feel in asking while be preferred over what you will feel if you turn in the wrong thing through not understanding expectations.

Organizing your time: Plan, Do, Review

Plan: Know your deadline: Find when the work is due and how you are supposed to submit it. Mark the submission in your calendar right away and also a draft completion date a few days before. Set a reminder which gives you enough time to do something about it. If the assignment is more complex, chunk it into smaller size pieces and insert some intermediate deadlines to keep you on track. Allow some time at the end for editing and reviewing your work. If you rush your work, and try to do too much in too little time it will be obvious to your professor.

Plan & Do: Getting started: The more complex a task, the more you need to develop an overview of the work. Will this work require sub-tasks? How much time will you need for research? What do you need to begin?

Do: Doing the work: You have made a schedule, then an outline, and are now ready to start. Begin with research (use the CRAAP model- see below), organize your thoughts, and begin writing. One of the higher-level aspects of your assignment will likely be making some form of argument or taking a position. Make sure that the points you make are supported by evidence and the structure of your argument is coherent and logical.


Currency: The timeliness of information

  • When was the information published or posted? Revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?

Relevance: The importane of the information for your needs.

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience? / an appropriate level?

Authority: The source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author’s credential or organizational affliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic? / contact information?

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.

    • Where does the information come from? / supported by evidence?
    • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
    • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?

Purpose: The reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach,sell, entertain or pursuade?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, religious, institutional or personal biases?

Review: At the end. allow enough time to step away, so that you can come back and edit with “fresh eyes”. When you feel you are done, go back to the beginning and look at the directions. Did you answer the questions? Did you follow the required format? Is this what the professor is expecting?

If high school is preparation for university, then university is preparation for life. As the next step in your growth into adulthood, academically you will do familiar things in unfamiliar ways. As an example, in high school, having an opinion on a topic and presenting it in a clear way may have been sufficient. In university, your opinion alone matters little. It will need to be supported by evidence, which was found by doing research, and will need to be presented in a rational structure, formatted in the way that your instructor requires. So too with all of your assignments, you should expect greater complexity, and a higher degree of accountability for the work you submit. In order to be successful, you will need to understand the tasks before you, and what is expected and approach your work in a systematic way.

Copyright Ⓒ Juvenis Maxime 2023

Author: Kenneth Knox