There are many different types of assignments in college and university, from essay writing to problem sets to presentations to videos and more.
But what are the differences between these types of assignments? Which ones should you expect? And how do you know which one you’re facing when you sit down to work on an assignment?
This guide will answer all your questions about the different types of assignments you’ll encounter in college and university.
Types of Assignments for College/ University Students
University/College Assignment Type 1: Literature Reviews
The first assignment type is called a literature review. This type requires you to identify an idea or concept and critique it by analyzing previous scholarly work on that idea or concept. If there’s already a lot of work written about your topic, this assignment can be pretty straightforward; if not, you may need to do some preliminary research to find a relevant scholarship.
Generally speaking, though, the main goal for this type of assignment is for you to think critically about other people’s arguments and articulate why they might be problematic or how they might be developed further. A literature review can take two forms.
Summative Literature Review
The summative form asks students to summarize the most important points made in the reviewed scholarship. This type of literature review is usually seen in introductory-level courses where instructors want students to learn about their field of study before moving onto more advanced topics.
It doesn’t require a lot of original thinking but does give you an overview of the field.
Formative Literature Review
The formative literature review is often used for upper-level courses and graduate programs, so it also differs depending on where you’re at in school. In a formative literature review, students focus less on summarizing the existing literature and more on developing new ideas based on what has been studied previously.
For example, rather than just stating there needs to be more research done about X, as would happen in a summative review, a student would say I believe we should conduct further studies about X.
In general, then, formative reviews are better for those who have either exhausted all the available information or who want to go beyond reviewing current scholarships.
Here are some rules to remember when writing a literature review :
- Read the assigned material thoroughly, making sure to highlight any quotes that particularly resonate with you.
- Make sure you understand and agree with the thesis statement in the assigned material (i.e., This paper argues …).
- Take notes as you read (using both positive and negative aspects of each argument) in order to help guide your own thoughts later on.
- Keep in mind the tone and style of the text you’re reading—if it’s formal, stay formal. If it’s informal, try to match that style.
- Be aware that tone varies depending on where you are in the world—academics from Europe generally use a different style than academics from North America.
- Organize your thoughts into coherent paragraphs and make sure you include citations throughout.
- Check your spelling and grammar, including punctuation and capitalization.
- Double-check to see that you cited the right sources!
- Check your assignment instructions to see if you need to submit the review electronically or in hard copy.
University/College Assignment Type 2: Essays
Most colleges require one or more essays in core classes. These essays are intended as a way for instructors to assess your understanding of course concepts and your ability to critically think about issues.
Essays also help ensure you have time since most essay prompts will have due dates ranging from a week or two after they’re assigned to three or four weeks later. This is especially true if you’re taking multiple courses at once.
Most essays will be between 300 and 1000 words but some might be slightly longer. Writing essays in college can be stressful, as you’re expected to apply your knowledge to a given prompt and argue for a specific perspective. Sometimes it can feel like your instructor is trying to trip you up or catch you in an inconsistency.
If this is the case, keep in mind that your instructor’s job is to teach you and provide constructive feedback on how to improve. Your job is to demonstrate your knowledge of the subject matter and show that you are able to think critically about it.
Here are a few guidelines to help you write better college essays :
- Proofread your work for errors and typos. Typos are a common problem for many students, and not everyone has a spell-check program on their computer or access to a dictionary.
- Use transitions to guide the reader through your work and help them follow your train of thought.
- Focus on the topic at hand in as complete detail as you can, without getting distracted by tangential details that aren’t relevant to the discussion at hand.
- Ensure your body paragraphs support the thesis statement and that you are using at least three different types of sentences to do so.
- Start your essays with a sentence that will grab the attention of your readers.
- State your thesis in the first paragraph and restate it at the end of the paper.
- Don’t introduce anything new in the last paragraph.
- Format your paper according to the standards of your school, and make sure you’ve included works cited page with all of the references you used for your research.
Types of Essays
There are a number of college/university essay types including :
1. Comparison/Contrast Essay: This essay type requires you to compare and contrast two people, places, ideas, etc. in order to find the similarities and differences between them. One of the best ways to start a comparison/contrast essay is with a clever question. This will give you a good idea of what your essay should be about and it will intrigue your readers.
2. Cause/Effect Essay: This essay is structured around the relationship between a cause and its effect on the event, issue, or person being discussed. Be sure to choose a clear and concise point for your essay. A good way to organize the material is in chronological order–beginning with the cause followed by any necessary background information before moving on to the effects.
Another option is to divide the essay into sections and break down the points. This will allow you to present your evidence in a logical and organized manner. It’s a good idea to include both the positive and negative aspects of the situation, as well as be open to other perspectives.
3. Argumentative Essay: This essay is designed to prove or disprove a certain viewpoint. There are several strategies for writing argumentative essays that are guaranteed to score you a high grade. First, be sure to have a strong introduction and conclusion. In the introduction, you need to identify your stance on the issue and briefly explain why it is important.
Use body paragraphs to provide supporting details to back up your thesis statement. Start each paragraph with an introductory sentence that explains how this paragraph relates to the main point. Finally, in the conclusion, summarize the main arguments made in your essay and state whether or not you agree with them. If you disagree, explain why. Also, consider including some additional viewpoints if appropriate.
4. Analytical Essay: This type of essay involves the critical evaluation and examination of a given text. As the writer, you may take either side of the subject and use analytical techniques to develop your position. For example, you might argue against Darwin’s theory of natural selection while making use of textual evidence to refute his claims. When developing your position, try to focus on one aspect at a time. This will enable you to create an effective persuasive argument.
Secondly, the essay needs to flow smoothly from paragraph to paragraph. To do this, you should begin each paragraph with a related sentence that connects it to the previous one. Try to refrain from repeating yourself too often and be mindful of transition words such as firstly and finally. Thirdly, proofread your essay multiple times to catch typos and awkward phrasing. And finally, keep in mind that it is better to sound intelligent than overly emotional when presenting your position.
5. Reflective Essay: These essays are typically written in the form of a diary or journal entry. Reflective essays are generally personal, introspective, and self-reflective. They typically explore the author’s thoughts and feelings on a particular topic or experience. To write a good reflective essay, you need to establish credibility by providing specific details that reveal your level of expertise on the subject matter.
When writing a reflective essay for your assignment, you should be sure to:
- Give a detailed description of the experiences you are reflecting on. This will help your reader understand where your reflections are coming from and why they are meaningful to you.
- Make sure that the beginning and end of your essay reflect who you are as a person and include a story or anecdote that illustrates your personality. This will help engage the reader with your story and make them more invested in reading it.
- Third, avoid telling the reader what you are thinking or feeling. Instead, be more descriptive and let the reader interpret your thoughts. Lastly, remember that in a reflection essay you are talking to someone so be respectful of their opinions and listen to what they have to say.
6. Expository Essay: This type of essay requires you to present your views, knowledge, and understanding of a given topic. This can include analyzing a work of literature or discussing the impact of a current event. Before you start writing, be sure to ask yourself three questions: What am I going to discuss? What am I going to say about it? Why does my audience care? Answering these questions will help ensure that your essay is both cohesive and compelling.
Expository essays are usually used to present your opinion on a social, cultural, or political issue. You could also choose to analyze a work of literature or discuss the effect of a recent event on society. Regardless of your chosen topic, you should think carefully about how you want to approach it before sitting down to write.
7. Literary Analysis Essay: This is a type of analytical essay that examines the form and meaning of a particular text. The most common type of literary analysis essays are those that examine works by certain authors. These essays often look at an author’s major works, styles, or themes.
For example, someone may write about how Steinbeck’s novels reflect his concern for the downtrodden. Another student might analyze Faulkner’s treatment of race in order to understand why it has been so controversial over the years.
The focus here is not just on what a book says, but also on why its content matters to society as a whole. In a literary analysis essay, you should address several important elements including :
- What is the author’s main point (s)
- How does this text compare with other texts on the same topic?
- What do others say about this work?
- Why did the writer choose to explore these ideas?
- What effect does this have on society/individuals?
- What aspects of the text are especially effective in communicating these points?
- Does this text make you want to take any action after reading it?
- What is your personal response to this text?
These are among the important points that a college/university literary analysis essay should address but there are many different ways that writers go about constructing their papers.
Some would rather use a summary-style paper while others would rather employ more formal, academic language throughout their writing. Others find it helpful to begin by stating what they will be exploring before continuing into the paper itself while some prefer waiting until they reach the conclusion before writing out their thoughts.
Regardless of which style you choose, every good literary analysis essay must have an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
The introduction includes the following: title of the work being analyzed; thesis statement; brief summary of the work; background information on the author.
The body paragraphs need to include details from the book that support your argument.
The conclusion needs to summarize all the evidence and restate your thesis again. You can use first person plural when referring to yourself if you want or first person singular if you feel like it sounds better with your argument.
University/College Assignment Type 3: Research Papers
A research paper is a paper that relies on primary research, meaning that the information has not been taken from a published source. There are many different types of research papers, but all of them require you to identify your research question, collect and analyze data, and synthesize your findings in order to draw conclusions. If you would like to get a head start on your research paper, try googling articles or books on the subject you are interested in. Writing a research paper can be challenging because it requires you to do extensive research.
However, if you are confident in your abilities and know the ins and outs of your topic, this type of assignment can be rewarding. Here is a summary of the steps for writing a research paper
1) Identify Your Research Question
This step involves defining the main purpose of your research paper by asking yourself What is my thesis? Think about which side of an argument you agree with and what evidence you will use to support your stance. Doing this exercise may feel daunting at first, but trust us – once you’ve figured out exactly what your argument is, writing a research paper becomes much easier!
Once you’ve got an idea for a thesis statement, find a few sources (books, magazines, articles) on the same topic and skim through them. This will give you a better idea of the overall topic, what your research question is, and what other arguments people are making.
2) Collect Data
For your next step, gather any existing information that supports your research question. This can involve conducting interviews, administering surveys, or collecting quantitative data from databases. Data collection for the purposes of a research paper is most often done through qualitative or quantitative research. Qualitative research is when you are able to talk to your subjects, such as in a survey, and will typically be asked open-ended questions.
Quantitative research, on the other hand, is when you rely on objective measurements and will typically be asked closed-ended questions. No matter what type of research you are doing, it is important to validate your results and never take anything at face value. You will want to make sure that the sampling you did was statistically significant and that your research design was well-planned.
Validation is especially important in a quantitative study, where bias can be introduced into the experiment unintentionally.
3) Analyze data
After collecting data, you need to take time to understand what it all means. For example, let’s say you are studying a medical drug and the goal of your research is to find out if it causes heart complications. In order to evaluate your data, you will have to calculate the total number of people who experienced heart complications and divide that number by the total number of patients that took the drug.
From there, you will be able to determine what percentage of patients experienced heart complications. Then, you will use statistical tests to see whether those percentages were significantly higher than the percentage among patients who didn’t take the drug. Data analysis is crucial for a research paper, and you will want to spend a lot of time understanding the numbers. But don’t worry – all of your hard work will pay off soon enough.
4) Synthesize Findings and Conclusions
The final step of writing a research paper is to summarize your analysis and come to a conclusion. This is the part of the process that’s going to take some practice, so don’t worry if you’re struggling now. Just remember to take your time, plan ahead, and ask for help when needed. If you follow these steps carefully, then it should be smooth sailing from here on out!
University/College Assignment Type 4: Case studies
A case study is an in-depth exploration of a particular event, situation or problem. It is often used as a tool for teaching students how to think critically about the complexities involved. Students are expected to analyze and synthesize evidence from their readings, observations and interviews. They then use this information to create a clear and cogent argument.
Case studies are often used in law schools and business schools for application purposes.
For example, when applying for jobs in those fields, employers will usually require applicants to submit a portfolio which includes examples of past work (case studies) that demonstrate these competencies. In other cases, they may be required as part of course requirements and/or assessments.
These assignments can vary in length but typically require anywhere between 2-6 hours per week depending on your level of involvement with the topic at hand. The more time you put into it, the more you stand to learn! Here are some general tips for taking on a case study assignment:
- Review the scope of your task and identify what needs to be done, take note of any due dates and clarify any questions before beginning.
- Write down all ideas as they come up during the reading process so that you don’t forget anything later on.
- Be sure to include detailed citations throughout the paper – being able to properly document where you got all of your information is important!
- Try to use quotes from people who were actually present at the events you’re writing about. If there are no quotes available, try paraphrasing what was said.
- Make sure your sentence structure is varied and interesting. With well-written sentences, readers will get excited to continue reading because they’re not bored by a monotonous storyline!
- Ensure that grammar and spelling are accurate too; nothing turns off readers faster than sloppy formatting errors.
University/College Assignment Type 5: Lab reports
Lab reports are a type of university assignment that involves collecting data and analyzing it. They’re common in biology, chemistry, and engineering courses. A lab report typically consists of four parts: introduction, procedure (method), results and Discussion and Conclusion.
The introduction should provide background on the experiment. It should also include any hypotheses or questions to be answered by the experiment, as well as any assumptions made by the researcher before conducting the study.
The method of a lab report part should include information about how the experiment was conducted, including what materials were used, what procedures were followed and so on. In this part of your report, you will want to cite any sources for methods you did not create yourself or make up entirely from scratch. For example, if you use a recipe created by someone else as the basis for an experiment, you would cite the creator of that recipe. If there is no citation necessary then proceed to the results.
Results should contain tables, graphs and images that represent the data collected. These tables, graphs and images may be presented individually or grouped together into sections depending on how they complement each other.
The discussion should evaluate these findings and address any possible errors in methodology. It should also discuss the possible implications of these findings both inside and outside of the scope of this experiment.
Finally, conclusions are drawn based on all points made within the previous sections.
Make sure to tie up any loose ends that have been left dangling. There can be several conclusions per lab report, and many different types of experiments can come out of one lab report topic.
The conclusion should summarize the findings of the experiment and list specific outcomes with regard to the research objectives established at the beginning. Additionally, if appropriate, authors may suggest future experiments or research topics related to their original project/topic/hypothesis.
Once all four of these major parts are completed, the reader should get a clear understanding of what happened during the course of the experiment. Remember to always cite when referring to somebody else’s work!
University/College Assignment Type 6: Annotated bibliographies
This is a type of assignment that requires you to source and summarize the content, emphasizing the author’s main points.
A good annotated bibliography also includes a summary at the end with your interpretation of the information or your thoughts on it. For example, “This book will help me better understand how I can work with other people to solve problems,” summarizes the purpose of this resource for the reader.
An annotated bibliography is one of the most common types of assignments you’ll find at the college and university levels. These assignments are typically short (2-5 pages), but they’re very important because they teach you how to do research and use it effectively.
They are usually assigned by professors who want students to learn about new ideas from an outside perspective, but some students may even choose them as their own topic of study. Whatever the reason, when preparing an annotated bibliography make sure to keep these key tips in mind:
- Ideally, each reference should be cited twice: once at the top of the page after giving a brief description of what it is and then again at the bottom under Works Cited. P.S: You can use Google scholar or Worldcat to generate citations and reference lists.
- Whenever possible, provide both online sources and print sources.
- Consider creating an alphabetical list so readers know where to look first if they’re looking for a specific citation.
- Be aware of any word limits imposed by your professor.
- And lastly, always include more than just books–including articles and journal articles too!
University/College Assignment Type 7 : Book reviews
A book review is a college/ university assignment that asks you to read and evaluate a work. It should provide an opinion on the merits, value, and usefulness of the book. There are two types of reviews: formal and informal. Formal reviews include all the elements of a research paper including the abstract, introduction, body, conclusion and references. Informal reviews usually just contain one or two paragraphs about what readers think about the content. They may also mention if the reader would recommend it to others.
Book reviews can be hard for some people to do as they need to have a good understanding of how books are written and the criteria for evaluating them. Some students find that reading other people’s reviews can help them understand how they’re done before they try their hand at writing their own.
These reviews can be helpful when doing research as they provide information about whether someone found the book useful or not which might not be included in a short description such as compelling. In addition, they offer insight into why the reviewer thought the way they did with quotes and examples from the text.
University/College Assignment Type 8: Oral Presentations
This type of assignment will likely be one of your first assignments as a student. It is a simple, but an important skill that every college or university student should know how to do well. It doesn’t matter if it’s a presentation for your psychology class on the different personality types or for a speech class where you are presenting on the impact of Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have A Dream speech, an oral presentation is an important skill that you will use throughout your academic career.
Even though this may seem like a straightforward task, there are still many tips and tricks that will make your life much easier.
Oral presentations can sometimes seem daunting to students because they have never done one before. But don’t worry!
The following five steps will walk you through how to prepare for and give a great oral presentation!
- First, choose what you want to talk about.
- Then make sure your topic has enough detail so that people listening to you will understand.
- Third, go over what you’re going to say by practising it aloud at least three times so that it flows smoothly and does not have any dead time.
- Fourth, write out what you want to say in order so that when someone asks questions about the content of your presentation, you can refer back quickly and with ease.
- Fifth, stand up tall and look straight ahead rather than down at your notes.
- Finally, take a deep breath before you start talking and remember to breathe regularly during the presentation. That way, you won’t sound like you’re rushing or running out of air.
If all else fails, just relax and smile- chances are the audience won’t even notice if you mess up a few words here or there. Remember that giving an oral presentation takes practice- so keep trying!
University/College Assignment Type 9: Poster presentations
A poster presentation is a type of assignment that asks you to present your research or findings in visual form. It often includes drawings, graphs, pictures, and/or words. With this type of assignment, you have the opportunity to show off your creativity and design skills.
Some professors will provide specific instructions on how the poster should be presented; others may allow students more freedom in designing their own posters. If a professor provides instructions on what they want, it’s always good to follow them as closely as possible so that you’re giving them what they want.
But if there are no instructions for the poster presentation, here are some general guidelines for creating one. Keep it simple!
- Choose a font size and colour scheme that isn’t difficult to read from far away (usually white text with black lettering)
- Create three different versions of your poster by varying the content slightly – make one with just an image, one with just text, and one with both images and text.
- Add any graphics you might want to use such as photos or charts.
- Avoid using too many colours and keep the text readable from afar.
There are many tools for creating posters, like Powerpoint, Keynote, Prezi, Google Docs, and Canva. Before you create your final version of the poster, print out a few copies in colour and put them up somewhere where people can view it from afar to see if it would be easy enough for others to read. Another tip is to avoid info-glutting–meaning putting way too much information on the poster at once. Break up your information into sections, paragraphs, and bullet points.
Make sure each point has its own line of thought before moving on to another point.
One last thing about posters – it doesn’t have to be perfect! Your goal is simply to convey all relevant information in a clear and concise manner, not to make everything perfect from word choice to graphic placement.