I don’t know what the structure for this assignment should be.

In many assignments there is a wide range of possible structures to choose from.

Sometimes the question suggests a starting point for the structure of your answer, for example, in listing the topic areas you are required to cover. Sometimes the instruction words in the question will suggest a structure, for example, ‘Compare and contrast…’. Sometimes the structure of one or more of the texts you have read in researching the topic may have a suitable structure that you could adapt.

Some assignments have a standard format (e.g. lab reports, case studies) and these will normally be explained in your course materials. At other times you will have to come up with your own structure. There are many possibilities – some are based on the subject matter itself which may suggest a structure based on chronology, process, location, etc.; others will be based on your interpretation of the subject matter – for example, problem/solution, argument/counter-argument, sub-topics in order of importance, etc.

Finally, it is unlikely that any single structure will suit all aspects of the assignment – there may be one overall structure for the assignment as a whole which contains a number of other, combined sub-structures. It’s a good idea to brainstorm a few different ways of structuring your assignment once you’ve got a rough idea of what the main issues are. Do this in outline form before you start writing – it’s much easier to re-structure an outline than a half-finished essay.

  • Do the steps in my argument flow in a connected sequence?
  • Does my background information set the scene for my argument?
  • Are my assumptions valid and does my reader share them?
  • Is my reasoning sound and understandable to the reader?

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