Chapter 3: The Writing Process, Composing, and Revising

3.3 Understanding the Writing Assignment

Robin Jeffrey and Emilie Zickel

Before you begin working on an essay or a writing assignment, don’t forget to spend some quality time analyzing the assignment sheet. By closely reading and breaking down the assignment sheet, you are setting yourself up for an easier time of planning and composing the assignment.

Understanding what you need to do

  • First, carefully read the assignment sheet and search for the required page length, due dates, and other submission-based information.
  • Second, determine the genre of the assignment
  • Third, identify the core assignment questions that you need to answer
  • Fourth, locate the evaluation and grading criteria

Identifying Writing Requirements

The assignment sheet should offer indications of what the essay/composition should contain. Check to see if the assignment sheet provides information about

  • The key question or questions your essay needs to address
  • What kind of writing you need to do (explanatory? argumentative? reflective?)
  • Whether you need to use outside sources or not – and how many
  • What format or style the essay needs to use (MLA, APA, Chicago)
  • Resources you can use to help complete the assignment

Identifying Evaluation Criteria

Many assignment sheets contain a grading rubric or some other indication of evaluation criteria for the assignment. You can use these criteria to both begin the writing process and to guide your revision and editing process. If you do not see any rubric or evaluation criteria on the assignment sheet — ask!

 Recognizing Disciplinary Expectations

Depending on the discipline in which you are writing, different features and formats of your writing may be expected. Always look closely at key terms and vocabulary in the writing assignment, and be sure to note what type of evidence and citations style your instructor expects.


Guide for Understanding Your Writing Assignment

Use this “fill in” form to begin the planning process for any essay assignment or project. Planning out your work in this way might help you to see what you need to do, what you don’t quite understand, and what you need to ask your professor about before you start writing.





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3.3 Understanding the Writing Assignment by Robin Jeffrey and Emilie Zickel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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