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Structuring assignments


Structuring assignments

In western universities, the usual focus is on introducing the main point at the beginning of an assignment task. Many other cultures prefer a logical structure that requires in-depth elaboration and context before arriving at the main point.

Assignments in western universities (for example, essays, reports or oral presentations) require a more linear structure. This means the main ideas are introduced at the beginning, and are followed by a point-by-point elaboration of the key points leading to a conclusion at the end.

Linear style

Explicit Deductive Direct


Introduce the main idea
Key point 1 (develop & elaborate)

Key point 2 (develop & elaborate)

Key point 3 (develop & elaborate)

Key point 4 (develop & elaborate)

No irrelevant information
Limited contextual information

Different structures for organising information in an assignment

There are two common structures for organising ideas. These are based on different logical structures and vary according to cultural and linguistic backgrounds. These two different ways of structuring writing and presentations can be represented by two approaches to a walk in the garden.

Model 1: Direct linear approach Model 2: Explanation before getting to the main point

Model 1 is a simple representation of the approach to organising material in the Australian educational context. In Model 1, the student is expected to present the main point first, followed by explanation and analysis.

Image of a flower Here's the flower. These are the main points.

Model 2 is another representation of what is common in many other cultures. In this model the student builds a case through background information, explanation and analysis and finally presents the main point.

Image of a path winding through a garden Here's the garden. Let me take you for a walk and I'll show you something...

Conclusion – How to get good marks!

Many students don’t realise how important the linear structure is for achieving good marks in western universities. Remember it is important to:

  • plan and structure your essay
  • use the linear structure.

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Assessment tasks