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Assignment Survival Kit: Getting started

Assignment Survival Kit

This guide will help you to start, complete and submit your assignment. Use the tabs at the top of the page to see each step.

Understand your assignment

Read your assignment instructions carefully as soon as you receive it. Misinterpreting the question is one of the most common ways to lose marks but it can easily be avoided.

Understand any learning outcomes and assessment criteria you have been given.

Clarify anything you are unsure of with your tutor:

  • What is the word count?
  • Does your assignment need to follow any specific layout or format?
  • Do you know which referencing style to use (eg. Harvard or APA)?
  • What range of resources are you expected to use? For example, books, journals, websites.

Start thinking about your topic

First, think about some of the resources that are available to help you write your assignment.

Study skills for getting started


It can be daunting to begin with a blank word document. Try these techniques to get your ideas onto the page:


Give yourself ten minutes just write down anything and everything that you know about the topic. The idea is to really focus your mind on the topic and your existing knowledge. It will also help in making you aware of gaps that need to be filled.

Mind Mapping

A 'mind map' or 'spider diagram' is a visual way of summarising information.  Start by writing your central topic in the middle of a large blank sheet of paper, then around it write down key points and evidence linked to these.

Who, why, what, how, when, where?

Asking Who? Why? What? How? When? and Where? can help you analyse your topic and develop your problem-solving skills.


Find out more about these techniques in How to Improve your Critical Thinking & Reflective Skills by Kathleen McMillan, available 24/7 as an ebook.


Now that you have thought about your topic you can begin to consider the type of evidence and information that will help you produce your assignment.

Understand the question

If you have a been given a specific question to answer, read it carefully. 

  • What are the instruction words?
  • What are the topic words?
  • What are the limits?