Skip to main content

Assignment Essentials: Step 1: Plan

The Steps You Take

Before you start planning, you must study the requirements: how many words, what font, what referencing style, bibliography needed or not, and, most importantly, when is it due.

Next, look at the title and try to understand what it requires, for example, is it an analytical title that requires researching the subject thoroughly and presenting the findings in a manner that reflects both the negatives and the positives and includes your own viewpoint?

For example: The role of the Church in Irish Education in the 20th century.

Or, it could be an argumentative title, where you need to present two opposing views, stating your own view and supporting arguments in favour of your viewpoint.

For example: Banning abortion is not an effective deterrent.

Then identify the “Action words” and “Topic words”.

Action words are abstract terms such as "analyse," "compare," "explore reasons for," etc.

Topic words are “keywords” that can generate synonyms or alternative words.

At this point you might need to use mind mapping, brain storming or clustering to structure your thoughts and ideas.


Whether you are a First Year Undergraduate or a Researcher, there are some basic steps you all have to follow in writing your first assignment or research paper or thesis.

  1. Plan
  2. Identify Resources
  3. Searching
  4. Critical Reading, Critical Thinking
  5. Quote your sources properly

In this section we will talk about how to plan for your assignment.

Mind Mapping

Examples: The topic is “Water” – as envisaged by students in Public Health and in Science, working together.



Like Mind Mapping, Clustering is a form of collecting your ideas at a very early stage of an assignment. However, unlike Mind Mapping, clustering is a little bit more formal, as it's aim is to cluster your ideas in definable groups and then look for relationship. For example:


Start asking Questions:

Once you have identified the keywords or search terms, find synonyms using reference tools like Oxford Reference Online and try to formulate questions with them. Use the words what, why, when, where, who, and how as starting points of your questions. You can also use the words would, should, or could.

Now, you need to look at what sort of information you will require to answer these questions. Do you need to look at articles, websites, databases, blog-posts, social media? Where do you go to find the answers – the library or Google? Library is the best place to start searching as it subscribes to many Scholarly resources – databases and journals – that you can search from one search box. And as all the articles are either scholarly or peer-reviewed or both, it will cut down on your time to evaluate each article.

The next section will deal with how to identify the resources you require for your assignment topic.