First assignment as a Science student? Here’s a quick crashcourse to see you through

Staring at a blank word document on a computer screen, if only you could come up with that first sentence! We’ve all been there, so from start to finish, here’s how you get through…By Charles Hand [Repost]

Step 1

As a fresher approaching my first university assignment I had many new challenges to face: a strict word count, getting to grips with referencing, hours in the library, and a lot more reading.

When you first sit down to start your assignment, a good idea to get things rolling is to read around your subject. Once you’ve done that you’ll find you come up with ideas with a lot more ease. That being said, this means you have to plan ample time to get it all done. It’s easier said than done, but don’t leave it all till the last minute!

Specific to doing a science topic, I also had to figure out how to search for journal papers and access them. No easy task, but the library has a number of services that can help.

Firstly they have a huge catalogue of papers, either electronical or physical copies, that you can search using Library Search. You can also search online databases and access papers by using your institutional login.

If the library doesn’t have access then you can use Article Reach to try getting it from a different institution.

Step 2

Now assuming all of this has gone swimmingly, you now have the task of keeping track of all your books, articles and papers and putting the references in the correct format. On my first assignment I tried doing it all manually, I would strongly recommend NOT doing this! Instead, use a programme like Endnote Online. You can just import your references from an online database such as PubMed straight into Endnote Online and it’ll order them for you, insert them into your document and update it as you go. You can do this on the university computers or use the web version on any computer. Also, make sure to check out the long list of software on the ITS that may be able to help in your subject.

Step 3

One major warning with quoting from your references, make sure you don’t plagiarise! This is always a huge area of concern for students and can lead to serious trouble.

Step 4

OK, so scary stuff aside, you’re nearly finished your project! Now all you have to do is print it and submit. I would suggest aiming to finish your assignment at least a couple days before it’s due. That way if anything goes wrong like there’s a huge queue for the printers, the system goes down or you loose your work, you have some time to sort it out. On that note, make sure you save and back up your work as you go! And there you have it, you’re first assignment is done.


So in summary: make a plan, give yourself plenty of time, read around your topic, be smart with your referencing, careful of plagiarism and submit it early! Get your head down and you’ll be fine. If you have any comments or questions, please write them below.


Image:55/365 ~ Dallas Cowboys Helmet /Ray Bouknight/CC BY 2.0


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