Unpacking your assignment

You will encounter a range of assignment types while an IT student. You may need to submit:
technical and business reports, case studies, essays, programs, literature reviews and tutorial presentations. Almost every assignment that you do as an IT student will involve the demonstration of different types of knowledge and skills. These may be either individual or group assignments and may involve a range of skills, including technical, professional and academic as well as a range of crucial basic communication skills.

Sometimes it will be obvious what you need to do to successfully complete an assessment; other tasks are more open-ended, where you need provide a response rather than just answer a question. This guide will help you with the former type of assessment task.

Regardless of the assignment type, an essential skill is the ability to analyse the different components of the task.

How do I analyse the task?

An important first step is to break down the task in order to understand exactly what is required.

Cloud computing is being heralded by company managers for its flexibility and cost effectiveness.

Critically analyse the likely impact and challenges of introducing Cloud Computing into one specific context (e.g. an educational institution, financial institution or other context).
Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the technology for the organisation.
Suggest ways benefits of the technology can be maximised and how any associated problems might be overcome or minimised. Include a discussion of the potential 'hype cycle' for this new technology.
Support your answer with evidence from the current literature.

Word limit: 1500 words

A helpful approach is to identify the following elements:

Context

The first sentence sets the context for the task. The context is the setting or situation and is given in the second sentence. The direction words in sentences two to six tell you what you must do.  List all parts to the question to make sure all parts are covered in your answer.

What are the direction words asking me to do?

Direction words are those which indicate the type of response required, for example discuss, identify, justify, analyse, describe.

In this example, the direction words are:

Critically analyse: examine the strengths and weaknesses of cloud computing for this situation. Explain how ideas from your research are connected and interrelated, and go beyond just describing them. What are the weaknesses and strengths in the authors' arguments, what is your view and why?

Discuss: examine, analyse carefully, and give reasons for and against. Be complete and give details, usually with a view to assessing how satisfactory something is.

Suggest ways: list the alternatives or options. You are not asked to make a judgement.

Support your answer: in this example you are asked to use the literature to support your view.

What are the limiting words? What should I cover in the task?

Limiting words are those which define the scope of the assignment.

In the example, the scope is limited to an analysis of one organisation. You may choose the type of organisation.

What are the content words?

Content words are those which indicate specific concepts which must be addressed.

In the example, the content words are: Cloud computing, and, 'hype cycle'

What are the different elements of this task?

This is a complex task with one major task that is broken up into smaller parts.

Major task

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Critically analyse the likely impact and challenges of introducing Cloud Computing into one specific context

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Minor tasks

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

advantages and how these might be maximised

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

disadvantages and how these might be overcome

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Deciding on your approach

You may find it useful to develop an action plan for your assignment. Brainstorming and mind mapping are useful techniques for linking concepts and planning a structure for your response.

Make sure you have all the relevant information for your assignment, such as the due date, word limit and how many references/sources are expected. Work back from the due date and decide how much time you will need for each stage of the assignment. The assignment process could take up to five or six weeks depending on the task.

Check your Moodle unit for any extra information such as marking criteria or a marking rubric. This will help you plan for the task ahead. Clarify exactly what it is you are being asked to do. If you are not sure, ask your tutor or bring your question along to a Research and Learning drop-in at the Library.

It is a good idea to plan roughly how many words you will write for each component of the task. You will sometimes be given guidance on this by your tutor or the marking guide/rubric.

Once you have all the relevant information and have clarified directions, scope and concepts, the next step is to locate the information you need.

Finding, selecting and evaluating information

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