Common Types of Assignments in College and University

Last Updated: 27 July 2023

Students encounter many types of assignments in their academic journey through college and university. Understanding which assignments these are and how to navigate them sets you apart from other students.

You must follow specific academic writing guidelines and conventions when writing every assignment. Often, a rubric, guidelines, and prompt will be presented via Blackboard, Canvas, email, or PowerPoint slides.

When you know what to expect, you can plan well for it. Here is a complete list of types of assignments you will encounter in college and university.  

List of the Assignments You will Right in College and University Levels

Higher education primarily assesses students by how they express their ideas, knowledge, and experiences. 95% of the assessments will most likely involve writing. The 5% comprises oral presentations and simulations. Below are some common assignments to expect as you step into college or university:

1. Essays

Essay assignments allow you (the student) to research and express your thoughts, ideas, and arguments in written form as you use evidence to support or make meaning to the assessors or professor.

An essay's lowest number of paragraphs is a single paragraph, considering the short 150-200 word one-paragraph essays offered for in-class assessments or exams. There are also two and three-paragraph essays.

A standard college/university-level essay has a 5-paragraph format, which allows you to expand or expound on the thesis in three body paragraphs. The essays have three main parts, the introduction, the body section, and the conclusion. Every paragraph has a topic sentence, supporting sentences, and a concluding statement.

Essays can be argumentative, analytical, expository/explanatory, persuasive, descriptive, definitive, classification, comparative, or summative. When writing an essay, ensure that you have a good title that reflects what it is about. It should also have a thesis, the central claim, or the controlling idea. Finally, the essays should be polished and well-formatted. There is no specific number of essays you are expected to write. However, ensure you perform exemplarily well on each essay to maintain high grades. 

2. Memos

You can also be assigned to write memos. In such assignments, the expectation is for you to write short correspondences to a real or imagined target audience. Memorandum assignments hone your official communication skills, which are helpful in business communication.

You can be assigned to write a memo communication to employers, employees, CEOs, management teams, politicians, activists, etc.

Ensure that you follow the formal memo format and cite and format the memo in APA, MLA, Chicago, Harvard, or Oxford, as needed.

3. Policy Analysis Papers

Depending on your course, you might be assigned to write a paper that analyzes a specific policy or legislation. You will give your expert opinion on a policy and suggest improvement areas. Such assignments are common with social work, medical, nursing, and business students.

4. Posters and Presentations

In most classes, your professor or teacher will assign you to make a poster presentation for the class, seminar, or for demonstration purposes. Nursing students often prepare posters to share their proposals or when defending their capstone projects.

You will also find assignments that require you to create PowerPoint slides that you can present in class or before your professor. Lately, professors require you to make slides and incorporate your audio as you present the facts. Ensure that such slides are appealing and well-designed. Use presenter notes to avoid crowding your slides with points.

5. Dissertations

Students in their senior years are sometimes required to submit dissertations to fulfill the requirements to obtain a degree certification. Technically, this happens at the end of undergraduate and graduate degree programs. When assigned to write a dissertation, begin by writing a proposal approved by your supervisor/assessor, conducting the study/research, and writing an entire dissertation that meets the requirements.

6. Term Papers

Term papers are papers written at the end of every semester on a specific topic of focus for the specific semester.

The aim is to evaluate if you have grasped the knowledge your teacher or professor shared the entire semester. It should follow the format of a scientific research paper.

Writing a term paper is a draining assignment requiring commitment, time management, and good writing skills. Your instructor expects to see you display exquisite skills and knowledge gathered throughout the semester.

7. Research Papers

Students dread research paper assignments, yet they are expected at college and university levels. When assigned to write a research paper, you are supposed to select the best research topic, plan, research, write, and polish the paper before submitting it. For short papers (6-10 pages), research papers take the essay format and a scientific format that includes the abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology( data collection and analysis), findings, discussion, and conclusion.

You can write a research paper based on a hypothesis, research paper, or research paper. The latter points to writing a thesis-driven paper to explain facts, theories, or information to the readers. An excellent example of a research paper is a political science or theology paper.

8. Theses

A thesis paper is a piece of writing involving the original study of a subject at the university and college level. It is a research paper variant written after conducting formal or original research.

It is often submitted as a final step for a master’s program or as a project report or capstone to a bachelor’s degree. It follows the same steps as an experimental research paper or a dissertation.

Primarily, it requires in-depth research, writing, and a lot of patience because you will be working with your professor and supervisors to perfect it. 

9. Proposals

Before writing a term paper, dissertation, report, capstone, or thesis, you will most likely write a proposal that anticipates the paper.

The proposal is written in future tense and is sometimes submitted to the ethics committee for approval of your research, especially if human subjects/participants are involved.

Ensure that you write the proposal in a formal tone for it to be accepted. Another type of proposal you are most likely to write is the proposal essay and the grant proposal. Ensure that you understand the assignment before settling to write.

10. Reports

At the university or college, you will be required by some professors or departments to write reports. The reports take many structures and formats, depending on your study. Some of the reports include:

The reports are structured to present information in an organized format. They also target audiences such as clients, executives, shareholders, stakeholders, technical staff, senior leaders, or top management teams.

11. Reflective Writing Assignments

Reflective writing assignments are common assessments in college and university. You must take the professor or teacher through your feelings, experiences, opinions, events, and learning encounters. You should also assess what you have learned and what you feel you need to learn. In most cases, it is more than mere descriptive writing.

You have to display in-depth synthesis and analytical writing skills. You will analyze situations, experiences, or problems and use theories and models to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses regarding your behavior, actions, or what you need to learn more. You can also evaluate how you reacted to a situation before learning and how you would address it.

Alongside these assignments, you will occasionally be required to write weekly logs, take notes, and write weekly journals. There are various models, such as the Johari window and Gibbs reflective model, which you can utilize when writing reflective writing tasks.

12.  Case Studies

Case studies are another common form of assignment/assessment assigned to students in many fields, such as nursing, psychology, tourism, business, leadership, management, medicine and health sciences, sociology, social work, etc.

You must relate the answers to the course content to ace your case study assignment. You must also write critically and use appropriate scholarly sources to defend your arguments and analysis.

Refer to the case as you structure the response to any case study. It should be organized well and, if necessary, have headings and subheadings. If it is a question-based case study, ensure that you format your answers using the case contents and concepts taught in class.

13. Discussion Posts and Responses

In recent times, writing threaded discussion posts and responses is a common assessment method that professors often use.

You are expected to write an original discussion post of around 200-300 words on a given topic or to address a given question. You should then respond to at least two of your peers’ discussion posts in 100-150 words. Your peers will also reciprocate the same.

It is believed that the approach encourages people to comment on the thoughts of others and develop academic discussions. These weekly assignments have strict deadlines and grading guidelines.

Ensure that you submit the original post and responses in time. When writing each, use scholarly sources as your in-text citations and references.

14. Literature Reviews

You can be requested to write a standard literature review or a systematic one. As a pedagogical tool, teachers/professors prefer to use literature reviews to assess the research skills of a student.

A literature review analyzes and synthesizes the past literature on your research topic and potential research methods, models, or theories. You can organize it conceptually, chronologically, or methodologically.

On the other hand, a systematic review, primarily assigned to nursing students, is a complex research project that uses a structured protocol to explore a given topic. It entails searching for relevant studies that meet a given threshold and summarizing their stance on a given topic.

Literature review assignments must explore the sources' strengths and weaknesses to make conclusive judgments. You should use a formal tone and language when writing a literature review. Besides, only include scholarly sources peer-reviewed by experts in a specific field.

15. Annotated Bibliography

Some professors prefer assigning annotated bibliography assignments before requesting you to work on a full essay, research paper, or outline.

Such assignments entail writing an alphabetical list of the full references and giving a critical summary of the source, clearly detailing how it relates to a specific topic. Such assignments contribute to a certain percentage of your grade, and you should never take them for granted.

You should check the guidelines for writing to ensure that you include suitable sources and the correct number of sources. It can be either a stand-alone assessment or part of a larger assessment.

16. Review Assignments

In your academic life as a college or university student, you are likely to write review papers. Some of the most common review assignments include:

The assignments require highlighting your analytical, research, creative, and problem-solving skills. Check the assessment details to be sure about what you should write. You can also check our blog section to get ahold of the specific writing guidelines.

17. Personal Narrative Assignments

Most professors assign personal narrative assignments to assess students' narrative and descriptive writing skills.

You can write a literacy narrative that recounts your reading, writing, and learning experience. You can also be asked to write a descriptive personal narrative to synthesize what you have learned about a reflection, description, or narration. It is primarily a non-fiction writing assignment, the same as a memoir.

You can share a story that stands for a big idea or express yourself by telling people a story about yourself. Sometimes, personal narrative essays are two pages long and give brief answers to the topic.

Check out our complete guide on how to write perfect personal narrative essays.  We also have a guide for narrative essay writing, which should suffice.

18. MCQ assignments

Apart from completing weekly discussion posts and responses, some courses have specific multiple-choice questions (MCQs) based on weekly readings. These weekly quizzes assess if you have memorized the content of a specific chapter from the assigned readings.

You need to read the entire chapter to understand it and skim through it as you answer 10-20 or more questions. You are given answers to select in each MCQ assignment. Unlike other assignments, the computer marks these MCQs, and you get the results as soon as you are done.

Some universities, colleges, and professors allow you to take the quiz twice, which gives you room to improve your scores.

Before you go …

The primary purpose of giving assignments at universities and colleges is to enhance students' understanding and knowledge transfer. As students write the assignments in various formats, they research, read widely, and synthesize information. Not all assignments are identical; grading systems and writing approaches differ. Nevertheless, you will always have a guide and a prompt, sometimes the rubric, to show you what your teacher/professor expects. It is good to get inspired by looking for sample assignments published online. You should also trust the writing guides and advice that you get online.

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