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Library Research Guides

Academic Research and Writing: Understanding Your Assignment

Understanding Your Assignment

The first step to writing a paper is to understand what the assignment requires. This information can usually be found in the assignment prompt, but you may also find it in your course's syllabus. If you are uncertain or confused about some aspect of the assignment, contact your instructor.

Using your assignment prompt, syllabus, and any other resources you need, answer the following questions:

What type of paper is it?

Your assignment prompt should also include an explanation of the type of paper you are writing. There are many different types of papers, but those most commonly written in a college course include:

What types of sources do you need and how many do you need of each?

It is very important to know what types of resources you are required to use in your paper. You may have used Google for all of your high school assignments, but most of your college papers will probably require resources that cannot be found using Google (though you may find some using GoogleScholar). As a student, you can access millions of high-quality academic resources though the Library; for more information, see the "Finding Resources" tab in this guide.

What format and citation style are you using?

Some instructors have their own formatting requirements; however, most use MLA Style, APA Style, or Chicago Style for both formatting and citations. See the "Formatting & Citing" tab in this guide for information on these different styles.  

Why do you need to write a paper?

Papers are not assigned to torture you, nor do they serve no purpose. Although the papers you write in college will probably never be read by anyone but your instructor, they have an important role in learning. First, they help you to grasp the concepts taught in the course and to demonstrate that to the instructor. In addition, you learn writing, critical thinking, and research skills during the process that will help you not only in future academic pursuits, but in your career. 

Resources