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Analyse the brief

Lecturers will tell you that the single biggest mistake students make with their early assignments is to misinterpret what the assignment is asking them to do. The first step in successful assignments is to analyse and understand the assignment brief. After completing this guide, you should feel confident to:

  • Recognise the components included in your assignment question
  • Organise your thoughts on a topic through brainstorming
The assignment question (aka ‘the brief’)

To analyse the brief work through the following steps:

It makes you more aware of the words and the brief in its entirety.

Keywords are the main concepts, subjects, or topics in your assignment. They will form the basis of your research and are discussed further in the guide Finding Information.

If there is any new terminology you don’t understand consult the reference collection. We have physical and digital copies of dictionaries, encyclopaedias, thesauruses etc. available to help you understand a new concept.

Directive verbs give us instructions about what we are required to do.

Re-read the unit outline. What are the unit’s stated learning outcomes? What have you heard in lectures or been told to read that indicates the main aspects of the unit?

The marking guide (often called a marking rubric) is what the marker will use to assess your work. The rubric will tell you what the marker is looking to find in your assignment and the relative value of the different elements in terms of marks.

You will likely be provided instructions that outline the type of academic writing you should do, the types and number of sources you can use, the word limit, the referencing style, even the font size and spacing. If you want to maximise your assignment marks, follow these instructions closely!

The Assignment Guidelines and Style Guide on Moodle (under Assessment Resources) will provide many of these instructions.

If you are unsure about what the assignment brief is after working through the other step please talk to your lecturer to clarify.

The assignment question will include:

  • Keywords – the concepts which form the basis for your research
  • Directive verb(s) – providing direction for what you need to demonstrate in your assignment
  • Additional information – from the type of assignment, word limit, number and type of sources and more

Analyse the following assignment brief and work through the three activities to identify the keywords, directive verbs, and additional information that you will need to consider.

Directive verbs

Directive verbs are those that give instructions about what you are required to do in an assignment. Below are some commonly used directive verbs.

  • Analyse
  • Compare
  • Contrast
  • Discuss
  • Evaluate
  • Outline
  • Summarise

The directive verbs presented above are only some of those that may appear in your assignment question. If the verb used in your question is not listed and you’re not sure of its meaning, look it up in a dictionary.

Copyright statement: The content on this page is based on the Curtin University Library UniSkills Analyse the brief module which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence. Examples have been customised for Trinity but otherwise the text is mostly the same.

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