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Five Tips for Writing Awesome Assignments

Male student writing in notebook

We have come to the time of semester where most students are planning on getting their assignments under control before the downhill run to the end of semester and exam prep. I’ve always preferred a good research paper or other written assignment to exams, and was usually able to lay the foundations for some good marks with a well-considered and written essay.

Here are my five top tips for writing an awesome law school assignment…

1. Read the Question. Then read it again.

Many students only read the assignment question once before they start writing that essay or problem solving answer. While the answer is not necessarily contained in the question, they key to good marks certainly is. Break down the question into its components and separate the facts, people, dates etc. Every bit of information that is in the question is there for a good reason. Even if something seems irrelevant, it may well be the litmus test used to sort the distinctions from the high distinctions.

2. Make a Plan

Essay plans may take you back to high school but they help to make sure that your paper flows and are a good tool to ensure you’re answering every component of the question. I’ve also found that seeing my assignment broken down into paragraphs and topics on a plan made it easier to focus on writing it and removed the anxiety of a daunting word count.

3. Familiarise yourself with the AGLC

The AGLC contains a lot more than just instructions on how to cite journal articles, cases, books, websites, etc. It also provides advice on the correct formatting of headings, capitalisation of words, etc. These points may seem insignificant when you are trying to write 5,000 words on snails in bottles and smoke balls, but a properly formatted paper can pick you up some easy marks.

4. Use Plain English

Legalese is out and plain English is in. Just because you’re a law student and you’re writing on a complex topic doesn’t mean that you need to use language that you really wouldn’t use anywhere else. The key is to be able to concisely and coherently convey your point to the reader. Using big words won’t make you look smarter; all it will do is distract you from making your point accurately as you reach for the thesaurus every five minutes. Your vocabulary and style will develop the more you read texts and cases. I always found a formal yet conversational tone using language that came to me naturally worked well.

5. Get a Second Opinion

Get someone else to proof read your paper. Don’t rely on yourself to do this. After you’ve spent weeks (or possibly just one very late night) writing your paper you tend develop document blindness. You know what you are meaning to say so you miss the small typos and grammatical errors. I would usually submit my mother to the punishment of reading my papers. She often wouldn’t totally understand what I was writing about but she was able to give good feedback on spelling, grammar and the wordiness of my papers.

Some of these tips may seem basic, but it is in the basics where you can pick up easy marks and it also these basics that will be of good use if you move into practice and begin drafting letters and documents.

Share your assignment tips in the comments section below.

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