How to Complete Any Assignment in 5 Steps
You’ve been given an assignment in class and you sit down at your computer to pound it out when suddenly it hits you: you have no idea how to get started. The blank page taunts you. But there’s no need to panic. Whether you’re suffering from writer’s block or you just don’t know enough about the assignment, a systematic approach can help you move forward. Try these five steps to start completing any class assignment.
Start with Your Main Point
The first step is to settle on your thesis. A thesis statement expresses the main point you are trying to prove in your paper. More than just the subject of the paper, the thesis statement should convey your point of view about the subject matter. Don’t be afraid to take a decisive stance. Be sure to make your thesis succinct– ideally you want to be able to state your thesis clearly in one straight-forward, no-frills sentence. If you can’t sum up your thesis in one brief sentence, then you’re likely overcomplicating the situation. If you feel stuck, check out Ashford’s Thesis Generator to help you develop the perfect thesis.
Sketch It Out
Next, you’ll want to draft up an outline for the entire paper. The good news is you’ve already written the first item in your outline: your thesis. After the thesis, the majority of the outline should contain the specific arguments you plan to make in support of your thesis. If possible, include the sources you plan to cite to substantiate your arguments. Wrap up the outline with the conclusion you hope to reach. The conclusion should restate the thesis, and it must be supported by the evidence you’ve presented in the rest of the outline.
Many writers loathe the outlining process because it’s boring and it goes against a natural instinct to roll up their sleeves and jump right into the writing. But outlining is an important step that will save you some headaches down the road. The point of a good outline is to organize your thoughts. If done correctly, it should produce a stronger paper with a logical argument that builds to a convincing conclusion.
Find Your Facts
Depending on your style and your familiarity with the subject matter, you may want to incorporate the research step earlier on in your process. If you don’t know too much about the topic you’re addressing, then you’ll probably have to do your research before you form a thesis or settle on an outline. No matter when you do it, you will have to research your topic. An academic paper cannot be based solely on your opinions—you must back it up with research.
You have many resources available for research, like the Ashford University Library. Since it’s an online library, it’s open all day every day offering 24/7 assistance, and the library is accessible from all your mobile devices. The library includes journals, articles, newspapers, videos, and research guides to help you find what you need.
The internet is full of possible sources as well. Type your topic into any search engine and you’re bound to be inundated with information. Be careful with sources pulled from the internet though. You only want to cite from sources that are trustworthy and reputable. Look for scholarly journals, university publications, and well-known news sites.
Put Pen to Paper
You are finally ready to start writing. Now you will reap the benefits of all the legwork you did to prepare. Basically, you’re adding meat to the bones of the outline you wrote. The more detailed your outline is, the easier it will be to flesh out your paper. Focus on transitioning from one point to the next, ensuring that you are building a compelling case. Keep your thesis handy and refer back to it if you get stuck. Everything you write should support your thesis and the conclusion you are working toward.
If you’re intimidated by the prospect of writing a paper, Ashford offers help for that, too. Check out the Ashford Writing Center. The writing tutors are available 24/7 and they can provide advice on improving your writing skills, formatting papers in the APA style, and more.
Take a Second Look
So you finished writing your paper. You’re not done yet. No matter how great a writer you are, you should never turn in a first draft. Reread your draft carefully, looking for typos, factual errors, and the overall strength of your argument. If possible, try to look at the paper with fresh eyes after a good night’s sleep. You might notice problems in the morning that eluded you the previous day.
The Ashford Writing Center can also help you with this step. It offers a paper review feature that will provide valuable feedback on your assignment before you turn it in. Another good tool to know about is Grammarly. This site will scan your paper for spelling and grammatical errors.
If you follow the five steps above, you should be able to plot your way out of any bout of writer’s block. More importantly, you should also end up with a strong paper that you can submit with confidence.
Written by Erik Siwak, Communications Manager for Bridgepoint Education