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Your assignments will often be in the form of an essay or a report, but there are a number of other assignment types that you may have to do during your studies.
Below is an overview of the different assignment types you may encounter.
Note: All of the online sources linked to on this page are for general guidance only. Different education institutions and disciplines have different requirements. Also, different subjects or lecturers/tutors may have different conventions and expectations for written work.
So before you start an assignment make sure you check what is needed in your course material. And if you’re still not sure contact your lecturer/tutor.
Click on the headings below to find out more about each of these assignment types:
An essay is a piece of writing on a specific subject, topic or issue. Essays are made up of the following:
• Introduction - Essays always begin with an introduction, which says what you will be talking about, how you will talk about it, and what you will show in the essay (your thesis).
• Body – Where you discuss your main points. This means introducing your point, explaining it, and giving supporting evidence about your point and how it relates to your thesis.
• Conclusion – This is where you restate your introduction – the subject, the main points, and the thesis.
For more information on essay writing:
The writing process – Study and Learning Centre - RMIT (Opens in new window)
Essay writing with readings – Otago University (Opens in new window)
Essay writing – Edinburgh Napier University (Opens in new window)
Essay writing - Monash University (Opens in new window)
Essay writing - Purdue Online Writing Lab (Opens in new window)
Reports generally involve presenting your investigation and analysis of information or an issue, recommending actions and making proposals. There are many different types, including:
• Business reports, which provide information that someone needs to help them make decisions.
• Scientific and research reports, which provide information on something that was done, such as some research. Their purpose is to describe, analyse and evaluates what was learned
When writing a report, always keep the reader in mind. You want them to agree with your report and/or act upon it. They need to:
• be clear, concise and easy to understand
• be correct (both the contents and the English must be correct)
• have a clear recognisable structure or format, so that they are easy to understand
• be believable.
All reports have a similar structure, but some details may differ. How they differ usually depends on:
• The type of report (for example, whether it's a research report, laboratory report, business report or investigative report).
• How formal the report has to be.
• The length of the report.
Depending on the type of report, the structure can include:
• A title page.
• Executive summary.
• An introduction.
• Terms of reference.
For more information on reports:
The basic structure of a report (PDF, 262KB, opens in new window)
Report writing - Edinburgh Napier University (Opens in new window)
A case study is an in-depth investigation conducted over a given length of time. They are used to collect and present detailed information about a person, group or situation, to try to understand what has happened and why, or to analyse the situation to solve a problem. A case study has a number of different phases:
• Identifying the problem or issue.
• Linking theory to real life.
• Research, including interviews and/or role play.
• Analysis of the information.
• Deciding on a solution or reach a conclusion(s).
• Justifying your conclusion(s).
• Making recommendations.
• Outlining how the recommendations can be implemented.
A written case study is usually made up of some, or all, of the following parts:
• An executive summary / abstract / overview.
• Introduction / background.
• Discussion, including the methods used.
• Appendices (if relevant).
For more information about case studies:
Answering a case study - RMIT University (Opens in new window)
An abstract is a short summary of an academic article, thesis, conference presentation or an in-depth research paper. The aim of an abstract is to provide a brief overview of the purpose of the paper. The terms précis or synopsis are sometimes used instead of abstract.
An abstract usually contains:
• a brief problem statement, i.e. the objective
• an outline of the method(s) or approach followed
• the results or findings of the investigation
• the implications of what was found, and
• a conclusion(s).
For more information on abstracts:
Writing an abstract – Victoria University (PDF, 297KB, opens in new window)
An annotated bibliography is a list of resources, including books, articles and documents. Each entry is followed by a concise summary and evaluation of the resource, i.e. the annotation.
For more information on bibliographies:
Annotated bibliography – Online Information Literacy, Otago University (Opens in new window)
A review is an evaluation of a publication, project or a collection of literature on a specific topic. Reviews focus on the purpose of something, and whether the purpose has been achieved. They summarise and synthesise arguments and ideas, but don't add new ideas. A review is similar to a critical analysis.
For more information about writing reviews:
Writing book reviews – University of Lethbridge library website (Opens in new window)
Writing a critical review – UNSW website (Opens in new window)
Writing literature reviews – Language and learning online, Monash University website (Opens in new window)