The assignment details may be outlined in your syllabus, on your course website, in a handout covering assignment requirements, or explained during your lecture or tutorial. It is important to note the following:
When is the assignment due?
Is it due in several stages? For example, are you expected to provide an annotated bibliography of possible sources or a first draft before the final due date?
What is the expected length?
Assignment instructions will generally specify minimum and maximum lengths.
Are there specific formatting expectations such as font type/size or margins?
In the absence of clear instructions, using Times New Roman 12 point font, double-spaced, and 2.5 to 3 cm margins is considered a standard.
What citation style are you expected to use?
Academic work requires that you use proper citation practices. Some subject areas use specific citation styles, such as APA or MLA, and you will be expected to familiarize yourself with them. For more information on citing sources, see the Creating Bibliographies module.
How many sources should you consider?
Normally, the longer the paper the more in-depth the treatment of the topic will be. Depth and thoroughness typically require more resources; and the more resources you require, the more time you will need to devote to finding them.
The number of resources suitable for research papers varies among disciplines. In the absence of specific directions, a common guideline is to have 5-8 resources for a shorter paper and 8-10 resources for a longer paper.
Are there any criteria provided about how it will be graded? What percentage of the course grade does this assignment represent?
If grading criteria for the assignment are provided, note what your instructor is emphasizing and concentrate your efforts accordingly. What are the characteristics that your instructor has highlighted:
- a clear argument
- the appropriateness of the sources (e.g., books and journals)
- drawing connections between your research and course concepts
For the purposes of time management, it is also important to consider how much the assignment is worth compared to other assignments. See the Time Management module for more tips on setting priorities.