Analyze Your Assignment

Before you write your paper–before you write your research question (RQ)–you need a plan. The first step should always be to read your assignment. Understanding the guidelines / requirements will help you to write a better RQ; save time finding sources; and will help you to organize and format your paper.Figure out what you know about your paper before moving on to what you don’t know.

  • Identify words telling you what to do:

    Describe, Summarize

    Explain, Compare, Contrast

    Argue, Persuade, Evaluate

  • Identify limiters:

    “two cultural / policy changes”

    “scientific aspects”

    “strengths and weaknesses of each”

  • Identify the key theme:

    “a known environmental problem from our class discussions”

“Analyze Your Assignment” in Action.

Explore the image below — mouseover the targets to learn more about the process of analyzing your assignment.

Identify limiters:
"one known environmental problem from our class discussions"This requirement limits the number of possible topics--you must write about a known environmental problem discussed in class.

Identify the key theme:
"a known environmental problem from our class discussions"The key theme of your assignment is perhaps the most important element of the prompt / description. Identifying the key theme gives you the parameters for selecting a topic.

Identify limiters:
"scientific aspects" You have to know and succinctly explain the scientific aspects of the known environmental problem that you choose as your topic.

Identify limiters:
"scientific aspects" You have to know and succinctly explain the scientific aspects of the known environmental problem that you choose as your topic.

What to do:
"explain"You will need to make it clear to your audience how your proposals will help alleviate your known environmental problem. You may need to make clear the how and/or why your proposed changes will help. Or, you may need to give reasons for why the proposal was selected.

What to do:
"discuss"You will need to write about the strengths and weaknesses of each proposal. "Discuss" may mean that you need to address more than one aspect of each strength and weakness. environmental problem / topic. You will need to determine the depth of the summary--does your instructor expect you to write a brief overview?

What to do:
"evaluate"When asked to evaluate, you are often being prompted to assess the value of a claim.In this assignment, you must propose two cultural changes, and then assess the pros and cons (strengths and weaknesses) of each proposal.

What to do:
"explain"You will need to make it clear to your audience how your proposals will help alleviate your known environmental problem. You may need to make clear the how and/or why your proposed changes will help. Or, you may need to give reasons for why the proposal was selected.

Identify limiters:
"strengths and weaknesses"Knowing that you will have to address strengths and weaknesses gives you the freedom to propose cultural changes that may not be perfect.Also, you know that you will have to present both sides of any change that you propose. If you are unable to identify any weaknesses (or strengths), you should consider modifying your topic.

What to do:
"explain"You will need to make it clear to your audience how your proposals will help alleviate your known environmental problem. You may need to make clear the how and/or why your proposed changes will help. Or, you may need to give reasons for why the proposal was selected.

Know Your Limits

Before you select a topic, or begin researching, you want to know what you’re getting yourself into. The subject of a 4-6 page paper must be much more focused and refined than a 14-16 page paper. Knowing the requirements before you being will save you time and help you choose an appropriately focused topic.

  • When is your assignment due?
  • How many pages are required?
  • Are sources required?
  • How many sources will you need?

    What types of sources should be used?

  • Who are you writing for?
  • How much can you assume your audience will know?

    Do you need to use specialized vocabulary (jargon)?

    Will you need to explain basic concepts?

“Know Your Limits” in Action.

Explore the image below — mouseover the targets to learn how to focus your topic to match the guidelines in your assignment.

How many pages are required?

"8-10 pages"

Keeping in mind the required page length, you can determine ahead of time how in-depth each section needs to be, and how much research will be required to support your writing.


*Learn about the different types of sources in Section 2 of this tutorial.' type="text">What types of sources are required?

"8 sources, 5 of which are scholarly"

You will need to reference 8 sources in your paper, and 5 of those sources must be scholarly*. Keep in mind that you may need to use the library's resources to get scholarly sources.

*Learn about the different types of sources in Section 2 of this tutorial.

When is your assignment due?

"due in class on the day of our midterm"

The closer it is to your deadline, the less time you have to complete the requirements.

Keep in mind that you:
-need time to get the best sources
-need time to read
-need time to modify your topic and re-research

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