Áine Kenny gives up some tips and tricks for acing your assignments and making every mark count.
Whether it be short weekly ones or longer mid-term essays, assignments are part and parcel of college life. While they can be a chore, it’s important to maximise your marks on your continuous assessment, as exams may not always go your way. Here are have five simple tips to make sure you get as good a grade as possible in those assignments.
 
1. Get your referencing right:
 
I cannot state how important it is to make sure you are using the correct referencing system for your subject. There are numerous ways of referencing, but your student handbook (that pdf file on Blackboard that you’ve never opened) should lay out what style to use. Make sure you use in-text citations and include a bibliography on the last page. Other systems make use of footnotes. Some assignments carry 40% of the marks for correct referencing so it is well worth your while to focus on it. It will also make a good impression on your lecturer, as they know you’ve paid attention to detail. If you are unsure of what referencing system to use, ask a friend or the lecturer.
 
2. Layout is paramount:
 
The layout of your assignments should be clear and easy to read. On the left-hand corner, include your name, year and course, lecturer, module code and name and date. Write this like you would an address on a letter. Centre the essay title below all this information. Make sure to include a coversheet if your assignment needs one. Usually one is provided by each discipline. In some referencing systems, different line spacing is required. Highlight the text, right click, click paragraph, and choose the line spacing option for double, one and a half or whatever one is required. Use sub-headings above all your paragraphs as this will keep you focused. A clear layout will make your essay far easier to read and will stand to you in the grading process. Always check your referencing style guide online to make sure you’ve got the correct layout.
 
3. Writing the essay:
 
It can be very easy to fall into the trap of leaving the essay until the night before. If you stop procrastinating, your life will be made so much easier and your stress levels won’t hit the roof! Start the essay in plenty of time before the due date; this will then give you time to perfect it and reflect upon what you have written. A good way of starting is to do your layout and include your coversheet so you’re no longer looking at a blank page. Plan your essay before you start to write, take out your notes, your books, gather articles that are relevant, and sift through the information. Decide upon three to four paragraph headings, all of which will discuss a relevant point. Include a short introduction and conclusion. If you do two paragraphs a night you will have your assignment done in three days. The key is perseverance- just get to the end of a paragraph and you can take a break!
 
4. Using secondary sources and plagiarising:
 
If you want a good grade, you must use secondary sources and reference them properly. Gather books and articles which are relevant to your assignment. Search for key words in the text which back up a point you are trying to make. Reference them properly. Most people understand that a direct quote should be cited. However, if you summarise a paragraph from a book, or rephrase an idea that is contained within an article, you must also reference the original author. As for intentionally plagiarising- don’t be dishonest. You will be caught and heavy penalties usually apply. If you are really struggling with the essay, talk to your lecturer, and get help. Be wary of using too many secondary sources, as most lecturers want to see some independent thinking. Don’t be afraid to criticise your sources, this shows critical thinking which is encouraged!
 
5. Proofreading:
 
This is perhaps the most vital part of completing any assignment. Never submit an assignment without reading it over first. Usually I read it over the next morning to discover I have written absolute gibberish! Better yet, get a friend to read it over as they’ll notice things you won’t. Most colleges have assignment help centres in the library if your college has one avail of the support available from them.
 
All there is left to do now is submit the assignment to turnitin and hand up a print copy, and you’re finally free!