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Research Basics
Understanding Your Assignment

Helpful Tips

Reading your assignment carefully can make a huge difference. Here are things to look for in the assignment instructions:

  • Purpose of the assignment. What should your research project accomplish? What is the role of research and of information sources in the assignment? This will help you determine your research process and timeline. (If you still have questions after closely reading the assignment, ask your instructor.)
  • Topic guidance and suggestions. Some instructors offer specific suggestions, while others provide guidelines to help you choose a topic yourself. Check for points and questions the instructor wants you to address in your assignment. For help, visit  Choosing a Good Topic.
  • Type(s) of recommended sources for supporting your research.  Think about where you might need to look for the recommended sources. Some will be available through the Benedictine Library collection, and some may be freely available on the Web. For more information see Deciding Where to Search.
  • Due date. This will help you determine when you need to start finding sources, reading and analyzing them, and developing your paper or project. Some assignments have different parts due at different times, so check all the due dates.  To help you manage your time, you may wish to use the Benedictine Library Research Project Calculator
  • Length of the assignment. This will help you determine the scope of your  topic. 
  • Style and formatting information, such as font size, spacing, and citation style. This Cite Sources guide can help with this.

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

Tutorial: Understanding Assignments

Understanding Assignments

The first step in any successful college writing venture is reading the assignment. While this sounds like a simple task, it can be a tough one. The link below will help you unravel your assignment and begin to craft an effective response. Much of the advice provided will involve translating typical assignment terms and practices into meaningful clues to the type of writing your instructor expects. See the short demo for more tips.


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