Formal Writing Assignments

The more formal the writing, the more closely you’ll want to consider the following guidelines:

  • Pass out assignment handouts (separate from the syllabus), detailing your particular aims and requirements for this assignment. The more explicit you are in these handouts, the more likely the student’s final product will resemble what you originally envisioned.
  • Ask yourself: What is the purpose of the assignment? What pedagogical objectives does the assignment fulfill? What do I want students to show me (a demonstration of mastery of concepts? development of an original idea? synthesis and analysis of materials?)?  Be specific; define relevant terms like discuss, analyze, critique, examine and justify.
  • What form of writing do you want (research article? literature review? lab report? research proposal?)? Include format, length and style of documentation expected. It often helps to provide models and examples of such writing, including an explicit breakdown of the components of the analysis.
  • What mode of writing do you want (narrative? persuasion? analysis? description?)?
  • Who is the intended audience (the professor? the writer’s peers? a bright high school senior? a technically proficient professional group?)
  • What is the writer’s role (professional in training? teacher? persuader?)? This gives indications of expected voice, tone and style.
  • Make due dates clear and describe your policy for late submissions.