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How To: Assignment Planning

Writing process

Now it’s time to put it all together!

Using your essay plan and research notes write a first draft as the ideas come to you. Don’t worry too much at this stage about phrasing or spelling; just concentrate on getting your ideas across logically. The main body of your essay should contain a thorough analysis of the topic. 

  • For example , if you have been asked to discuss the development of a multicultural society in Ireland over the last twenty years, you will need to first look at the situation 20 years ago. Ireland was a monoculture, one ethnic group, one dominant religion, etc.
  • Pose questions and then answer them using your research as evidence – e.g. Q. What forces prompted a change in the situation? A. The Celtic Tiger economy, etc.
  • Questions such as who , what , when , where and why are helpful.
  • You should also explore the strengths and weaknesses of what you have been asked to discuss. If you only explore either the positive or negative aspects of a topic solely, you may be accused of bias.
  • Be sure to answer the question posed by the essay title. 
Look over your first draft again and make sure that your argument progresses logically.
  • Change paragraph order where necessary.
  • Add what is missing and delete anything that is irrelevant.
  • Reference quotations or paraphrased quotations in your text.
  • Write your introduction and conclusion.
  • Check structure again.
  • Check spelling & grammar.
  • Use a thesaurus and a dictionary to give the most appropriate words for your meaning.
  • Check that for each in-text citation you have all the relevant referencing information.
  • Write your reference list or bibliography.
  • Be aware of what referencing style you should be using and follow the standard set out in the Library’s referencing guides.
  • Leave your essay aside for a couple of days if possible so that you can come back to it with a fresh eye for proofreading.
  • Try reading the essay aloud
  • Get someone else to proofread your essay for an outside opinion (not someone who is doing the same essay though).

Final points to note

  1. Retain a copy of your essay just in case it goes missing.
  2. Don’t forget to erase your essay off of computer desktops; do not provide other students with the ability to copy it.
  3. Submit the essay in a well presented format, with a coversheet.

Three ways of using your notes

When using someone else's exact words, always place them within "quotation marks" .
Instead of using a direct quote you can re-write someone else's idea or theory in your own words. This is called paraphrasing . However, you must completely re-write the original text - you cannot simply change it around a little!
If you want to give a brief synopsis of the entire content of another work, you can briefly summarise it without going into a lot of detail.

Avoiding plagiarism

When you use the words or ideas from another person’s work, reference it! Be consistent in your referencing. Be aware of which referencing style you should use & follow the format set out in the Library guide.

Business students use Harvard

Arts students use APA

Law students use OSCOLA

Check out the Library’s Guide to Referencing for more details.


When paraphrasing, make sure you completely re-write the original text in your own words. Take notes or keywords from the original.  Put the original text away and re-write in your own words using your notes.  Always reference the original.

Examples of Good and Bad Paraphrasing

Global warming affects most people in the world, especially those living in low-lying areas near the sea. It has been predicted that the melting of polar ice may cause the sea to rise by as much as twelve metres by 2050.


Global warming affects a lot of people across the world, in particular people living near the sea. Experts predict that the melting ice of the poles will result in the sea rising by as much as twelve metres by 2050 (Murphy, 2010).

Not plagiarism

The increasing temperature of the earth’s climate, known as global warming, is causing the polar ice-caps to melt.  The effects of this are felt worldwide but people who live at sea level are at particular risk due to rising sea levels, which have been calculated to rise by at least twelve metres in the next forty years (Murphy, 2010, p. 26).

The 4 'S's of a good assignment

Structure: Organise your information into a cohesive, structured format.
Style: though not as the expense of substance! Make sure you:

  • Do not overuse the first person pronoun ‘I’ , i.e. ‘I think that...’ or ‘I believe...’.
  • Write with a passive voice: e.g. ‘This essay will explore...’ rather than ‘I will explore...’.
  • A stylish opening helps to hook the reader & a stylish conclusion helps to cement an argument.
  • Integrate sources into your essay in the appropriate places to substantiate arguments .
  • Use the accepted terminology of the subject area, e.g. cognitive behavioural therapy, gross national product etc. This adds to the scholarly feel of an essay.
  • Be sure to write with an objective, unbiased approach .

Sources: An inadequate bibliography weakens the scholarly quality of your work. Aim to include in your bibliography, several books, peer reviewed journal articles, a website or two and perhaps a newspaper article or two, if appropriate . Substantiate your arguments with references to other people’s work. Other sources that students can draw upon depending on your subject area include market research reports, annual reports, etc. Use sources that that represent different views or concepts in order to produce an unbiased analysis of the topic.

Substance: Your essay needs to give a substantial answer to the question .  It should not be just descriptive of the topic but rather, an analytical investigation with a concrete argument and conclusion.