CCDMD Collegial Centre for Educational Materials Development


As with any other activity, good results will be achieved more easily with adequate planning and preparation. Before beginning to write, you should:

Understand the Assignment Requirements

There are many types of writing assignments and they vary from one teacher, course, and department to the next. You will have more success in writing when you know the specific requirements of your assignment.

Role - Audience - Format - Topic

Remember that sometimes your grade can be affected by neglecting the simplest requirements, such as the page/word minimum or maximum. Make note of the following items and any additional elements required by your teacher before you begin writing:

  • Your name
  • Your teacher's name
  • Course name and number
  • Title of the assignment and/or the essay if it is different than the assignment title
  • Submission date
  • Assignment keywords
  • Page numbers
  • Sources.
Task Analysis Strategy

Task Analysis Strategy helps you clarify the purpose of your writing task and is a good first step in any writing assignment.

Task Analysis Strategy helps you identify:

  • Key words or phrases in the assignment that describe the writing task
  • The course or discipline goals addressed by the assignment
  • What you need to know to accomplish the writing task
  • Resources required to complete the assignment.

This strategy is especially helpful if:

  • You have an incomplete understanding of an assignment
  • Previous feedback from teachers mentioned missing the point or leaving out some elements of an assignment.
Task Analysis Tips

For more information on understanding and planning your assignment, have a look at these pages from the University of Victoria.

Research the Topic
Define - Decide - Drop by the Library

If the topic is not already assigned, you will need to find one that is neither too broad nor too narrow, and that, most importantly, interests you.

Choosing a Topic

For a general sense of how to pick a topic, check out this page from the University of Victoria's Writer's Guide.

Collect References

Keep a log of all sources you use even if you do not intend to cite every one. Accurately recording all references will help you avoid wasting time when you have completed your writing task. Record sources in the style you have been directed to use in the assignment.


Access many helpful tools for understanding and implementing MLA and APA styles from the Dawson College Academic Skills Centre.

Create an Outline

An outline is a plan of your entire writing task. It will:

  • Help you stay on course
  • Decide if you have enough material to support your argument/thesis statement
  • Establish the order of headings and subheadings.

A typical outline begins by listing all the main ideas of an essay (headings). Each main idea is then followed by a list of related points (subheadings). Although you may never hand in your outline, it acts as the skeleton for your writing, holding all your ideas together and allowing you to build on them.

How to Create an Outline

To find out more about outlines, check out these tips from Dawson College's Academic Skills Centre.

When you have all this material at hand, you can create a rough draft that will require less revision and correction.

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