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By: Dr. Marian Hurley | Posted on: 14 Dec 2020

Writing your assignments: three things to remember

Writing your assignments: three things to remember

Acdemic Learning Centre, AnSEO - The Student Engagment Office, Cork Institute of Technology


As the end of semester 1 nears, you may be thinking about assignments or about brushing up your research and writing skills. At the Academic Learning Centre, we offer writing skills support to all CIT students throughout the year, and we’re here to help if you have questions about writing assignments! 

If you’ve been wondering about academic writing recently, here are a few things you might like to bear in mind. 

1. It’s not all new! 

It’s very likely that you have already done plenty of writing, and you can transfer knowledge, skills and experience you already have to your assignments! Whether in school, in past education experiences or at work, you will already have written to demonstrate your knowledge of something or to explain what you think about a topic. It’s very likely that you have also had some practice structuring your writing into logical stages and that you’ve tried out writing introductions and conclusions. So, you have building blocks!  

2. Build on what you know! 

Even though it has some special features, academic writing is still writing! Like any skill, your writing can benefit from practice, so it can be helpful to notice and recognise how often and what you write, and to make a habit of it. When it comes to writing well for assignments, adding research and critical skills is important. Lots of resources are available to you to help you to get used to the requirements and conventions of writing at college. If you need some inspiration to get started, check out these essay-writing guidelines from the CIT library, for example!  

3. The ‘academic’ in ‘academic writing’ 

Some of the key research and critical skills that will help your academic writing to stand out are set out in the four points below. 

Analysis, evaluation and argument:  

At third level, it’s not usually considered sufficient to state and describe your own thoughts or opinion on a topic. Usually, you also need to explain the reasons why you think what you think. If you are a Science or an Engineering student, this could involve integrating, explaining and discussing results observed in the lab. If you are a Business or Humanities student, it can mean assessing what has been written about the topic already and making a reasoned argument for one viewpoint or another. Either way, it’s important to show that there is evidence to support your position to help persuade your reader. 


Finding and referring to credible evidence is the key to a strong written argument! For Science and Engineering students, lab data can be contextualised by reference to books and/or articles about the theory that underpins each experiment. For Business and Humanities students, it’s always important to visit the library to consult journal articles and books. Showing that you are aware of what the main experts in your field have to say about your topic and arguing for or against their stance is a great way to show that you are thinking critically about the topic or theme at hand. 

Length, depth and structure: 

At college, you may find that you need to write a little more than you have done before. While higher word counts might look a little daunting at first, you will probably find that you will end up trimming some words off as there will be plenty to write about. As well as describing and explaining, you will need word count for analysis, evaluation or discussion. When writing assignments, give yourself lots of time and plan to write in stages. Start with the main body, then move to the conclusion and, finally, the introduction. Check that you are following any guidelines your lecturer has given you regarding structure, and allow yourself a little extra time for proofreading and editing to make sure you submit your best possible work! If you’d like to chat about assignment drafts, the ALC writing tutors are available to meet with you over Zoom or Teams! 


When you refer to a piece of information from a journal article, book, website, report or any other source of information, make sure to tell your reader where you found it. You can do this by using a referencing system. When researching, a great first step is to form a habit of noting the details of your sources when you make notes to make sure you know where all of your information has come from. Then, always remember to make sure that you include both an in-text citation and an end-of-text reference each time you refer in your own writing to an idea from a text you have read. Once you have learned about the referencing system your department uses, you might like to check out some reference management software like EndNote

If you’d like to know more, arrange a meeting with either Dr Sheila Walsh or Dr Marian Hurley! It’s easy to book a meeting with Sheila or Marian: just use their booking calendars here. If you’d like to meet with a writing tutor but you can’t find a suitable time in the calendars, please feel free to email academiclearning@cit.ie, and we’ll find a time that works! 

Everyone at the ALC wishes you all the very best of luck with your assignments and exams! 


This post was writen by Dr. Marian Hurley, writing tutor in the Academic Learning Centre (ALC) in Cork Institute of Technology.



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