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Assignment Survival Guide

Review your plan

Reviewing your plan

female student facing forward and looking down while typing on a laptopNow that you have finished looking for the material for your assignment it is worth taking a second look at your plan of approach, as you may want to change it.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have I got enough information to support my assignment's arguments?
  • Is the context and scope of the question still the same, or has the research I have found made me want to change these?
  • Do I want to change the angle or the pitch of my assignment?

Research can often change the way you look at things and it is worth addressing these issues at this stage rather than midway through your assignment. When you have done this you may want to write a more formalised plan or structure for your assignment, which details the main areas that you are going to cover. Look at the assignment marking plan and learning outcomes to help you finalise your plan, These will indicate what type of content your tutor is looking for in this assignment and what will help you get a higher grade

Review your notes

Review your notes

When you have reviewed your plan and decided the approach you are going to take with your assignment you should review the notes you took while doing your research to make sure that you have enough information to answer the question. 

You may want to go back to some of the material and read it in more depth - this is where having made a careful note of the source will be very useful! You may need to expand your notes or even discard some of your research if you realise it is not as useful as you originally thought.

See the section on Effective reading and note taking for further information on this

Referencing and citing

Referencing and Citing

It has already been mentioned how important it is to take accurate details of your information sources. This includes all the information sources you may have used - for example books, journal articles, newspapers, TV programmes, videos, the internet, government papers, statistics, etc. 

Every time you use quotations, or draw upon facts and arguments you must acknowledge your sources. This protects you from accusations of plagiarism. Always take the details of the source as you first use/or locate it, as  you  may  find it difficult to go back and find these alter when finalising your assignment.

Citing your references also enables the reader to identify and trace the works that you used, and shows the authority on which you base your statements. It also demonstrates how well acquainted you are with the subject, 

The Library has a comprehensive website called RefZone to help you understand the complexities of referencing and you should look at that for more information. Some of the key points you need to be aware of are listed below.


Before you begin to think about the type of information you need to record for referencing, it may help if you understand some of the terminology used in referencing.

  • Citation: A reference to a document. It should include all the bibliographic details needed to trace the document.
  • References: A list of citations (material cited) in a written work. It shows the authority on which you base your statements, demonstrates how well acquainted you are with the subject, and is a starting point for anyone else wanting to find out about the subject.
  • Bibliography: A bibliography is a list of documents (books, articles, papers) read for a specific essay of assignment. It can also mean a list of works on a specific subject, eg. "The Bibliography of Football". Prepare a bibliography for your own use, even though in the final version you may only cite some of the material. Listing the resources you use as you gather information will save you a lot of time later on.

For more information on referencing terminology, including an explanation of abbreviations you will come across see the Refzone page on Referencing Terms

Information for Referencing

The following is a guide to the information you will require for referencing different types of publications. For all the sources you use make sure you note all of this information at the time you access it. This will save you having to go back to try and find the information later - which may be difficult, especially if you no longer have the books you used.

For books you will require:

  • name of author or editor (if given in the work)
  • title (in italics)
  • edition (if not the first)
  • volume number (if a multi-volume work)
  • publisher
  • place of publication
  • year of publication.

You can usually find all the information you need from the book's title page, inside the cover.

Note : Authors may be people (eg George Orwell), or institutions (eg Staffordshire University).

For journal articles:

  • name of author of article (if given in the article)
  • title of article
  • title of journal in full (in italics)
  • volume number
  • issue number
  • year of publication
  • inclusive page numbers.

For electronic publications:

In addition to author, title, date of publication must also mention the medium you used to obtain the reference. This is represented in square brackets, eg [online]

Where the document is taken from the Internet this statement may be presented as a URL (Uniform Resource Locator).

You must also state the date on which the information was accessed.

Referencing Styles

There are different methods of referencing used at Staffs and it depends on the course you are studying which you will need to use.  Check in your module handbook or with your tutor which is the correct style for you to use.

The following are the most widely used referencing methods:

  • Harvard - used by most students at Staffordshire University
  • APA (America Psychological Association Style) - used by students studying Psychology and Sport and Exercise.
  • OSCOLA (Oxford Standard for Citation Of Legal Authorities) used for referencing in Law

For more information see: RefZone

Avoiding plagiarism

How to avoid plagiarism

You need to be aware of plagiarism as you can lose marks or even be disciplined for plagiarising.

Firstly, what is plagiarism? Essentially, plagiarism is taking someone else's ideas or words and presenting them as your own, whether this was intentionally or not. Adopting good working practices can help you to avoid plagiarism, whilst still allowing you to draw upon material covered in lectures and published work. However, you can accidentally plagiarise because you have not made accurate details of references when note taking and hence cannot provide an accurate references within your assignment. Or you might not quote other people's work correctly within your assignment.

To avoid plagiarism, you must give credit whenever you

  • make use of another person's idea, opinion, or theory;
  • include any facts, statistics, graphs - any pieces of information that are not common knowledge;
  • include quotes from another person's written or spoken words;
  • paraphrase another person's written or spoken words.

The RefZone website has further information to help you understand plagiarism and how to avoid it.



You can use this checklist to help you ensure you have completed the steps needed to understand how to use your research to complete your assignment.

Item to check Yes No
Have I got enough information to answer the question? Do I need to do any more research?    
Do I still want to answer the question in the way I originally intended? Do I need to amend my original plan?    
Have I read my material effectively, considering the author's point of view, its intended audience, how I can apply it to my current knowledge and how it addresses the arguments in my assignment?    
Have I made accurate and organised notes using appropriate headings that refer to my assignment’s arguments?    
Have I made detailed notes of references and sources I want to use?(this will ensure accuracy within your assignment, avoid plagiarism and help with the bibliography)    
Do I know the preferred referencing method for my course?   Check handbook
Do I know how to use this preferred referencing style?