However, depending on the topic of the assignment and the field of study, there may be some variation in the assignment structure. This page provides information about the typical parts of an academic assignment. The page may serve as inspiration on how to put your assignment together, but keep in mind that the structure should be adapted to fit your project, and not the other way around.
The structure of your assignment depends, among other things, on whether it is a theoretical, empirical or product-oriented assignment. Read more on the page Types of assignments. Moreover, the structure should reflect that your assignment presents one overall argument supported by academic evidence. Read more about assignments as a single argument on the page Argumentation.
The content elements described below are typical parts of an academic assignment, but note that special requirements or recommendations may apply for the structure and content of the assignment you are writing. Therefore, you should always check your academic regulations, and possibly contact your supervisor or teacher at an early stage of the assignment process, so you can incorporate any specific requirements from the start. Be aware that the content elements described below may be called something else in your field of study. Use the terminology traditionally used on your degree programme.
There is often a requirement for major university assignments to include an abstract or a brief summary, either at the beginning or at the end of the assignment. An abstract summarises the assignment’s:
problem and objective
An abstract gives the reader a quick insight into the assignment, so that they can assess whether it is relevant to read.
Note: Not all assignments have to include an abstract. Check your academic regulations or ask your supervisor if you are in doubt. Be aware that the abstract may have to be written in another language than the rest of the assignment.
The introduction is where you present the framework of your assignment to your reader and provide an overview of what you want to achieve, and why. This includes a presentation of your topic and the problem you will be looking into, including the relevance of investigating it and how you will go about it.
THE INTRODUCTION CAN TOUCH ON:
Edit the introduction continuously in the writing process and write it until the end to make sure that you do not promise more than the assignment provides. Ask yourself whether the conclusion responds to your problem statement, and whether the assignment contains all the aspects you promise in the introduction.
Regardless of whether you formulate it as a problem statement or a hypothesis, the problem addressed in your assignment should stand out clearly. For example, you can write it in italics, highlight it in bold or place it in a separate section with a heading. Read more about how to develop and work with a problem statement on the page Problem statement and hypothesis.
The overall purpose of the assignment must be stated clearly in the introduction. Stating the purpose means explaining why your assignment is interesting to others and how it contributes to addressing the problem you are investigating. For example, your purpose could be:
PURPOSE of the INVESTIGATION
|The aim of your investigation is to explain a phenomenon. Your approach can be inductive, i.e. based on the phenomenon or empirical data, or deductive, i.e. based on theory.|
|The aim of your investigation is to identify best practice or to assess whether a phenomenon is good or bad.|
|The aim of your investigation is to find one or more solutions to the problem.|
|The aim of your investigation is to identify possible interventions or to study the effects of interventions.|
|The aim of your investigation is to discover something new about a phenomenon.|
At university, you are expected to actively consider pre-existing knowledge about your topic and how it has previously been approached within your field of study. There are several ways to do this depending on the type of assignment and the subject you are studying.
Sometimes you have to present existing research in a separate chapter or section where you discuss the latest research within the field and provide relevant literature reviews. And sometimes, a brief presentation of the most important research will be enough in either the introduction, theory section or elsewhere in the assignment.
Check your academic regulations, or ask your supervisor or teacher about the requirements for including a research overview and pre-existing knowledge in your assignment.
Note: Not all written assignments have to include an actual research overview. Check your academic regulations or ask your supervisor if you are in doubt.
Philosophy of science is a presentation of your approach to what knowledge is and how knowledge is produced. There are different scientific-theoretical schools of thought, with different views on what science is and ought to be.
The schools of thought draw on different ontological understandings (i.e. understandings of how something exists) and different epistemological foundations (i.e. theories of knowledge and assumptions about the world). Examples of scientific-theoretical schools of thought are social constructivism, positivism, phenomenology and hermeneutics.
Your scientific-theoretical approach must be based on philosophy of science literature and must be closely linked to your choices of methods and theories, which you may also elaborate on in this section.
The chapter on methodology and study design is a prerequisite for the validity of your investigation and analysis. Read more about this on the page about argumentation.
The methodology section can vary depending on whether your assignment is theoretical, empirical or product-oriented. However, no matter what, it must include a description of how you conduct your study. This is also known as the study design.
The study design refers to the overall framework for data collection and analysis. It should be based on the academic methods you have learned during class, and must be backed by theory of methods.
FOR EXAMPLE, THE METHODOLOGY SECTION CAN INCLUDE
Reflecting on and being conscious of the choices that you make is an important part of working academically. Therefore, in the methodology section, you should reflect on your conscious choices and the trade-offs you have had to make (for example due to external circumstances) and how this has affected your study design or your analysis. You can also explain why you have chosen a particular method if there were other obvious alternatives.
The theory section is where you present and account for the theory used in the assignment. Make sure you take an application-oriented approach, i.e. account only for the theory that you actually use to answer your research questions further down in the analysis. Note that the purpose of the theory section is not to report everything you know about a particular field, but to support your study and your analysis as part of your argumentation.
You can integrate the theory section in different ways. In some assignments, it makes most sense to have one separate theoretical chapter in which you explain all the theoretical concepts used in your assignment. In other assignments, it may make more sense to briefly present the theory in a separate section and then explain relevant theoretical concepts as they are applied in your analysis. Talk with your supervisor or your teacher about what would be most appropriate in your assignment.
The analysis section of your assignment can take many different forms depending on whether your assignment is theoretical, empirical or product-oriented. The analysis is usually the most comprehensive part of the assignment because this is where you answer your research questions by presenting all your evidence for the overall claim of the assignment.
Because the analysis is so comprehensive, it is a good idea to use meta-communication to guide the reader through the logic and progress of your assignment. For example, write sub-conclusions to sum up along the way.
In the analysis, the first thing you need to do is present the object, e.g. empirical data or artefacts, that you want to analyse and the tools you want to use for the analysis, e.g. your method, theory or concepts. Then you move on to the actual analysis, where you use the tools to examine the selected object of analysis.
Note that it is difficult to write your analysis section before you have actually performed your analysis because you cannot see patterns, categories, etc. until you have the analysis material in front of you.
In the video below, Master of Arts Rikke Gottfredsen explains what an analysis is (in Danish).
You can structure the analysis using the DAA structure:
Description: Describe the sub-object you are about to analyse (e.g. a quotation or a table).
Analysis: Analyse the sub-object using theories and concepts.
Assessment: Assess what the analysis of the sub-object says about the overall object of analysis.
The DAA structure can be repeated over and over again until all your sub-objects have been analysed.
The discussion part of your assignment is where you criticise and defend your own study, both academically and methodologically. In other words, you have to consider the weaknesses of the assignment while demonstrating that, in spite of these, the assignment is still reliable. This will strengthen the overall argumentation of your assignment.
IN THE DISCUSSION, YOU CAN CRITICISE
Encountering challenges during the writing process is quite common, and in some cases, they may serve as input for your discussion section. Note down challenges as they occur, including an explanation of why they occurred. In this way, you will have material for the discussion you are going to write later on.
The conclusion summarises the results of your analysis and reiterates why the assignment is important. It must include clear and well-written answers to the research questions posed in your problem statement, or a confirmation or rejection of the hypothesis tested in your assignment.
Depending on the purpose of your study, which was presented in the introduction, the conclusions may take different forms:
PURPOSE OF THE INVESTIGATION
THE CONCLUSION SHOULD
|Explain how or why the studied phenomenon exists|
|Assess what is best practice, or whether the studied phenomenon is good/bad|
|Propose one or more possible solutions to the studied problem|
|Propose one or more possible interventions, or explain the effects of studied interventions|
|Expand our understanding of the studied phenomenon or explain something that has so far not been explained|
In addition to answering your research questions, or confirming or rejecting your hypothesis, the conclusion should also summarise the main points and results of the assignment. Moreover, it should include an assessment of your methodology and approach.
The conclusion should never include new material, but should briefly summarise the main points of your study. It can be a good idea to write notes during your writing process that you can use for the conclusion.
Once you have finished writing your assignment, try to read the introduction and the conclusion in one go. Then assess whether the promises made in the introduction are being fulfilled in the conclusion, and whether the conclusion answers your research questions/hypothesis.
In some university assignments, you are expected to end the assignment by discussing additional perspectives. The perspectives can be a separate section after the conclusion, they can form part of the conclusion, or they can be integrated into your discussion. Any perspectives should be based on what you have already written in the assignment. In other words, you should not integrate new theory or claims that require new evidence in your perspectives section.
THE PERSPECTIVES MAY ADDRESS:
Check your academic regulations or talk to your supervisor or teacher if you are uncertain about whether your assignment should contain a perspectives section, and how it should be integrated into the assignment.
Get a list of thesis titles from your field of study, and draw inspiration from other students’ assignments.
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