International Student Services

Assignment Preparation and Academic Writing

Welcome to the Assignment Preparation and Academic Writing Topic
Preparing your first assignments of the semester can be a challenge, you might find yourself asking questions such as:

  • Where do I start?
  • What are the expectations of academic writing?
  • How do I make sure I use the correct referencing format?

 La Trobe has a lot of information available online to assist you with your assignment preparation and academic writing.

 Please read on for more information, links and uploads.
In this topic: 
1. The assignment writing process
2. Analysing the assignment question
3. Planning your assignment
4. Referencing
5. Late submissions

6. Higher Degree Research (HDR) writing

1. The assignment writing process

Assignment writing process

Now let’s look at the diagram above in closer detail:

Analyse the question It’s important to know exactly what your lecturer/tutor is asking you to do.  What question is being asked and in what format do I need to answer? Is it an essay, a report, a case study? If you are not sure what the lecturer/tutor has asked you to do, be sure to clarify. Sometimes your peers have misunderstood the question too – so ask your lecturer/tutor.
Research & reading

This is an essential component of assignment preparation as you will be expected to support any of the ideas you write about with theory, research findings etc. from your readings on the topic. Be sure to properly reference theories, ideas and text that you use from all of your sources.

Note: If you are unsure how much research to do for your assignment, refer to your subject outline or ask your lecturer/tutor for some guidance on what types of sources you should read and how many readings you need to do.

Develop and argument Once you have researched the topic, you should workshop your ideas and formulate your overall answer to the assignment question. In this step, you are creating an loose A > B pathway.
Plan and draft

Make an outline of your key points and sources of information that support each key point; ensure that you place your key points in a logical order that progresses to your main conclusion; planning out your key points is an important step as this will make it easier when you come to actually write your assignment. Be sure to properly reference all sources of information.

Write Turn your key points into a piece of writing (essay, report etc.), making sure to have an introduction, main body and conclusion.
Edit & proofread Before handing your assignment in, make sure you leave some time to proofread and correct any spelling/grammar errors etc. as well as edit if you need to adjust your writing to meet the word limit requirements. Triple-check your referencing!

Note: The Peer Learning Advisors can help you with proofreading and providing some advice on how to improve your assignments before final submission.


2. Analysing the assignment question

In order to analyse the assignment question you need to break it down into the word/s that provide instructions on what you are required to do. The 3 main types of words to identify are:

  • Task words
  • Content words
  • Limiting words

Assignment key words

You can find more information about understanding your assignment questions through Analyse your topic in La Trobe’s [email protected] online support program.

There are also some useful guides and lists of task words and other information uploaded in the Assignment Preparation Tips folder on this LMS page.

3. Planning your assignment

Once you understand the assignment question, have done your research and reading and thought about your answer the next essential step is to outline a plan for how you are going to write the assignment.
Planning before you start writing will help you to focus your ideas and develop a map of how to present each of your main points in a logical way.
You can even show your plan to your lecturer/tutor or a Peer Learning Adviser for feedback before you start writing to check that you are on the right track.

Benefits of planning your assignment

There are many different ways that you can plan your assignment, such as:

  • Linear Plans – bullet point lists, table formats; and
  • Visual Plans – mind maps, flowcharts, diagrams

Some examples of assignment plan templates have been uploaded to the Assignment Preparation Tips folder.

4. Referencing

In order to support the ideas in your writing you will need to demonstrate that you have researched the topic by referencing any relevant sources such as journal articles, newspapers, conference papers, website etc.

Referencing is important in academic writing for a number of reasons:

  • to ensure you avoid plagiarism
  • to acknowledge the other writers that have contributed to your ideas
  • to provide evidence to support your work

For more information on referencing complete the Using Information and Referencing modules of [email protected].

Have you completed the Academic Integrity Module (AIM) yet?
If not, you can find out more about AIM here.
You can also make referencing easier by using a software program like End Note. La Trobe offers a free End Note download to all students and also has online tutorials to teach you how to use End Note.

Go to:
And remember to check your subject guide or ask your lecturer/tutor about the correct referencing format for you to use.

Some examples of common referencing formats can be found in the following links:

APA referencing
Harvard referencing
MLA referencing

5. Late Submissions

Don’t forget to submit your assessment by the due date or you will risk incurring a late penalty!

If you have experienced unforeseen personal circumstances that have impacted on your ability to submit your assignment on time, you may be permitted to submit the assignment late and without penalty. To apply for a late submission, you will need to show evidence of the circumstances (for example, a medical impact statement from your doctor). Visit the links below for further information about late or rescheduled submissions. Make sure you also speak with (in person or by email) with your Subject Coordinator/lecturer/tutor in advance to discuss if there are any alternative options for you.
For serious circumstances affecting an assessment worth 15% and more AND the assessment is either due within the next three (3) working days or was due – at most – three (3) days ago then you may consider applying for a Special Consideration. There are strict time-frames to submit a Special Consideration application and you will require either a medical impact statement (for medical circumstances – both physical or mental health) or another relevant supporting document for any other serious circumstance such as death in the family.
For serious circumstances affecting an assessment worth 15% and more AND the assessment is due in more than three (3) then you may consider applying for a Request for an extension.

For assessments worth less than 15%, speak to your Subject Coordinator/lecturer/tutor.

See the Assessments (Late Submissions of Tasks) Policy  for further details.

6. Higher Degree Research (HDR) Writing
For postgraduate students, there is additional information about writing structure, style, referencing, literature reviews, developing your thesis and more on the Postgraduate Help page.
You might also like to join a Writing Circle to meet with a small group of other postgraduate research students to share your writing drafts, get feedback and find out about more helpful writing resources that your peers might be using.

If you’d like to register your interest to join a writing circle click here.

The Research Education and Development (RED) team, provides practical assistance to postgraduate research students such as:


Writing assignments can be challenging and stressful, especially for new students…..but it can also be rewarding to see all of your learning coming together through the process of researching, planning and writing to submit that final draft! Preparing assignments can be fun, like a puzzle and rewarding when you find solutions and submit them as a completed assignment.

Remember to start early so you have plenty of time, ask questions if you are unsure about what to do, use the resources available online and on campus and check the assessment marking criteria so you know how the assignment will be graded.