Answered By: Erin Mooney
Last Updated: Feb 20, 2015     Views: 101

Reading your assignment carefully can mean the difference between getting a good grade or a bad one. Here are components to look for in your instructor’s assignment instructions:

  • Check for the due date. This will help you determine when you need to start finding sources, reading them, and actually writing your paper or creating your project. Some assignments have different parts due at different times. Make sure that you check all of the due dates!
  • The length of the assignment, which could be listed in pages, word count, or even minutes (if it is a presentation). The length of the assignment will help you determine the scope of your topic. Some instructors define both minimum and maximum length, though most will only define a minimum;
  • Style and formatting information, such as font size, spacing, and citation style. The research guide, Citing your Sources, can help you;
  • The number of and type(s) of outside sources your instructor wants you to use to support your research.  Think about where you might need to look for the different types of sources defined; some will be available through the Library and some will be freely available on the Web. Look at the page Where should I start searching for resources, for more information;
  • Topic guidance and suggestions. Some instructors will offer specific suggestions. Check for points and questions that the instructor wants you to address in your assignment. The College of Southern Nevada Library has a useful tool that can help you decipher the task words instructors use in their assignments. Other instructors will just provide basic guidelines to help you choose a topic yourself. For help with that, see Choosing a Good Topic.

Highlight or underline the elements that are key to understanding your assignment. If you find that you cannot describe what your assignment is about to someone else, you should re-read the assignment sheet or ask your instructor for clarification.

Thanks go to the Portland State University Library for sharing their Library DIY idea with us!



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