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Academic Writing - Education & CCSC students: Assignment Genre

Resources to support Morling College Counselling, Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care, and Education students to understand and employ the conventions of academic writing appropriate to graduate and post-graduate levels of study.

Definitions of genre

Assignment Genre

There are different types of assignments. ​Correctly identifying the genre, or type, of an assignment is a key step in successful completion of the assignment.

Definitions of genre

  1. A kind or style, especially of art or literature (e.g. novel, drama, satire). (Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1997)
  2. A style, especially in the arts, that involves a particular set of characteristics. (Cambridge Dictionary) 

There are significant differences between the characteristics of, say, an essay and an annotated bibliography. The characteristics of the assignment genre (e.g. structure, level of formality) are an important component of the assessment. Below is a broad (but not exhaustive) list of assignment genres. Each genre is linked to an explanation below.

Abstract and executive summary Annotated bibliography Book review/report
Brochure/booklet Case Study Commentary
Critical review Essay Groupwork
Lesson plan/unit plan/teaching resources Literature review + example plan  Plan or essay schemata
Poster Reflection Report
Research proposal Tutorial presentation Wiki, blog or forum posts


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.).

American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). 

Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary. (1997). Oxford University Press.

Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved 2019, from

McMahon-Coleman, K., & Draisma, K. (2016). Teaching university students with autism spectrum disorder: A guide to developing academic capacity and proficiency. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. (Quotations and adapted material from pp. 105-110.)



"An essay is a structured argument about a particular topic. It will contain a thesis/argument throughout that addresses a set question and will require critical material and/or primary materials to support the points made" (McMahon-Coleman & Draisma, 2016, p. 105).


A typical essay structure includes an introduction with a statement of the assignment question and an outline of the content and structure of the essay. The body of the essay contains paragraphs, each with a topic expressed in the opening sentence (the topic sentence) followed by description, explanation and supporting evidence (i.e. references to the relevant academic literature). In the conclusion, the assignment question is restated, and the argument and evidence that have been presented are summarised. 


In education essays, it is acceptable to use headings to indicate the structure of the essay, although this is optional unless specified.  


As a guide, paragraphs should be three to eight sentences long. The first sentence is the topic sentence. The remaining sentences are used to present explanation, description and supporting evidence.


The supporting evidence for an essay topic is drawn from the academic literature, which consists of authorative works by authors whose work has been peer-reviewed. Peer-reviewed research papers, both qualitative and quantitative, provide the highest form of evidence. Researchers and academics with recognised expertise may proceed to publish books based on their research or areas of expertise, including responses to, and critiques of, work by other experts in their field. Such books also form part of the academic literature for a topic. The publication dates of works are significant as more recent research in a field may contain further developments not covered in earlier works.

The textbooks and readings within units of study have been selected as authorative and reliable sources. The biblical framework and worldview for your essay writing should draw upon authorative literature from authors with recognised expertise and experience in biblical theology and Christian education.

Essay Type

The APA Publication Manual (2020) identified several types of essays (p. 10). Expository and persuasive essays are the types most commonly associated with academic essay writing in education:

  • Cause-and-effect essays
  • Comparative essays
  • Expository essays
  • Narrative essays
  • Persuasive essays


American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). 

McMahon-Coleman, K., & Draisma, K. (2016). Teaching university students with autism spectrum disorder: A guide to developing academic capacity and proficiency. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 

Essay Plan

Plan or essay schemata

"Sometimes lecturers will set a plan or schemata as a scaffolded learning activity prior to submission of a major essay. The advantage of this is that students receive some feedback on their arguments and how they intend to present them before putting them together ... This will be anathema, however, to those students who like to 'write their way into a topic' and find pre-planning to be an extremely difficult task ... plans are adaptable and can--and should--be changed if marker feedback suggests that the intended path is not optimal" (McMahon-Coleman & Draisma, 2016, p. 106).

Wiki posts

Wiki, blog and forum posts

Wiki posts

"Wiki posts are posts made in an online forum and are designed to be informative .... Theoretically, they should be able to be edited by others, but few online teaching platforms seem to have this capability" (McMahon-Coleman & Draisma, 2016, p. 108).

Blog posts

"Blog posts are similar to Wiki posts, but typically are less factual and more in the realm of opinion writing. Many subjects with online discussion spaces now ask students to blog or contribute to online discussion as part of their participation and assessment within courses" (McMahon-Coleman & Draisma, 2016, p. 108).

Forum posts

In online learning environments, forums are used as a discussion and participation space. Usually, the topic or question will be posed by the lecturer as part of the course content and students may be required to post a response or series of responses, and perhaps post a response to other students' posts. Whether the student posts should be informative or opinion depends on the question or assignment posted by the lecturer. If the intention of the forum is unclear, ask your lecturer for clarification.

Literature review

Literature review

See also Conducting a Literature Search

Literature reviews are important for a number of reasons:

  • they are utilised to report results of similar studies 
  • they relate the current study to the wider literature of the field
  • they show how the current study will fill a gap in the research and/or extend previous research
  • they help to establish the significance of the current study
  • they tell the reader that the researcher is aware of the existing literature and the most recently published research on the topic
  • they provide a benchmark for comparing the results of the current study with other related work (Creswell & Creswell, 2018).

In qualitative research, a review of the literature is also a means of providing definitions and conceptual understanding, and the literature may be employed to develop an interpretive framework for inductive studies.

The literature review usually follows the introduction in a research paper, proposal or thesis. However, it is necessary, in order to avoid plagiarism, to cite or reference the work of other people to acknowledge their ideas and quotations throughout other sections of the paper. 

Literature reviews can take a number of different forms:

"(a) integrate what others have done and said
(b) criticise previous scholarly works
(c) build bridges between related topics

(d) identify the central issues in a field" (Creswell & Creswell, 2018, p. 26).

Literature reviews usually organise the literature of interest into a series of related topics or themes and highlight the common issues.

Creswell, J. D., & Creswell, J. W. (2018). Research design: qualitative, quantitative & mixed methods approaches (5th ed.). Sage.

Further Resources

More information about literature reviews:

What is a literature Review?

How to write a Literature Review (3 mins)

4 tips for writing a Literature Review (4 mins)

Writing the Literature Review (University of Melbourne) (10 mins)

Example plan for a 3,000 word literature review

A suggested plan is below. The words lengths are for guidance only. As long as the whole literature review is 3,000 words (plus or minus 10%, i.e. 2,700-3,300 words), that is fine.

Note that this plan is for example purposes only. It does not replace the need for students to read and understand the Morling College Education Assessment Guidelines before submitting assignments.


Example Literature Review Plan

1. Introduction (150-300 words)

  • State the assignment topic/question
  • Briefly introduce the main topic for discussion and the sub-topics you will discuss
  • State what your aim(s) for the assignment is (e.g. "In this assignment, I will review some of the literature on...")

2. Topic 1 (500-700 words)

  • Briefly describe the topic and how it relates to the main topic under review
  • Write about the research that you have read on the topic, citing each article and book, and listing each reference in your reference list.

3. Topic 2 (700 words)

  • Briefly describe the topic and how it relates to the main topic under review
  • Write about the research that you have read on the topic, citing each article and book, and listing each reference in your reference list.

4. Topic 3 (700 words)

  • Briefly describe the topic and how it relates to the main topic under review
  • Write about the research that you have read on the topic, citing each article and book, and listing each reference in your reference list.

5. Biblical Worldview (500 words)

  • Explain how a biblical worldview relates to the main topic under discussion. The biblical worldview can be included with each of the topics if appropriate and in that case this section would not be required.

6. Conclusion (100-200 words)

  • Provide a summary of the main points you have identified throughout the literature review.



"A report is similar to an essay in content and tone, but is typically organised under designated headings and sub-headings. These may vary according to the discipline--for example, a scientific report will look quite different from a company report in a Business subject" (McMahon-Coleman & Draisma, 2016, p. 106).

Further Information

For more information about report writing, see Monash University: Writing a report. While this page does not specifically address report-writing in Education, it provides excellent general advice. However, always check the assignment-task wording. If you have any questions, email your lecturer.

Monash University: Writing a report

What is a report?

Four things you need to know about report writing

  • Identify your target audience and purpose of your report

  • Apply the structure of a report

  • Check for discipline specific requirements

  • Use tables and figures to present numerical data

Differences between a report and an essay 

Book Review/Report

Book review/Report

"A university-level book report will typically not only summarise the plot, but will move beyond that to discuss key themes or issues, as well as any 'silences' (for example, are women's voices heard in the text? Or Indigenous voices?). It may also include some preliminary critical commentary, since reading the critical responses of others often offers insight. In Social Science faculties, a book report or a similar report on a journal article will often require the student to focus on the research topic that is the subject of the book or article, making comments about the rationale for the research, the methodology and methods of research, and the validity and perhaps transferability of the results" (McMahon-Coleman & Draisma, 2016, pp. 106-107).



"Students may be well aware of decorative posters, but within the university context, posters are more like the primary school assignments completed on cardboard! They are a visual representation of the most important points. Selection of visual images is therefore as important as the content and references. While there are specialist software programs available, merely arranging the information on a single PowerPoint slide and printing it to A3 size is likely the easiest solution" (McMahon-Coleman & Draisma, 2016, p. 108).



[As for the creation of posters] "... there are specialist software programs, but using the 'Booklet' template within Word may prove to be the easiest option. As with posters, the inclusion and clear layout of information is important" (McMahon-Coleman & Draisma, 2016, p. 109).

Lesson plan/unit plan/teaching resources

Lesson plan

Lesson plan/unit plan/teaching resources

"...typically used in Education, there are subtle differences between these. Lesson plans are used to programme a particular class or activity; unit plans are the broader plan for a number of weeks, into which the lesson plan fits. Teaching resources are worksheets, games, activities, apps and so on that are used within those lessons. Unit and lesson plan proformas are readily available online. Typically, student-teachers would need to think about: what they want to teach, how they will teach it, how they will know if the students have learned what they have been taught, and how that lesson fits in to the sequence of other lessons within the unit" (McMahon-Coleman & Draisma, 2016, p. 110).

Tutorial Presentation

Tutorial Presentation 

Tutorial presentation (with or without PowerPoint or similar) and/or tutorial paper

"Tutorial presentations involve summarising a particular text or topic, including some critical commentary, and pointing out the strengths or limitations of approaches to that topic. Very often, there is a written component as well, and these are usually due the week after the presentation. The idea behind this is that any ideas or debate that arose in class after the presentation can be included in the write-up. Despite this, it is surprising how many students hand in the exact transcript from their presentation, with no editing or amendments. Some disciplines expect that a tutorial paper will be in the form of an essay; others, that it will be in the form of a report or summary" (McMahon-Coleman & Draisma, 2016, p. 107).



"Reflective pieces can be confronting... The idea of reflective practice popularised by Donald Schon (Schon,1983) focused on reflecting in practice (while doing it) and on practice (after doing it). Some assessment tasks require students to write a 'Reflective Diary' [or journal] throughout the semester, commenting on theory that has been read or discussed in class and on the relationship between theory and any practical experience gained in the subject (such as in Education, Nursing, Medicine, Law, Sport Science, Psychology). When students are asked to do reflection, markers are typically expecting to see not only a summary of what they did, but some insight into how they felt about it or how their thinking has been changed or modified as a result" (McMahon-Coleman & Draisma, 2016, p. 107).



"Similar to a book report, students may be asked to complete a reading and critique it for its strengths and limitations" (McMahon-Coleman & Draisma, 2016, p. 108).

Annotated bibliography

Annotated bibliography

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation (usually about 150 words). The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited. 

Creating an annotated bibliography calls for the application of a variety of critical skills: concise exposition; critical analysis on the choice of references; and, informed library research.

Cornell University Library, How to prepare an annotated bibliography: The annotated bibliography. Retrieved from

Reproduced and adapted with with permission

Olin Library Reference
Research & Learning Services
Cornell University Library
Ithaca, NY, USA

Research proposal

Research proposal

There are variations in the format of research proposals between institutions, publication styles and across disciplines. You will generally be given a template or an example to follow. Some overall guidance about research proposals --

Critical review

Critical review

"Critically reviewing something involves or requires making judgments as to the truth, merit, relevance, effectiveness, breadth, or contribution to a particular field, as well as its informational structure" (University of Technology). Refer to the resources on the UTS website for more information. 

University of Technology Sydney. (n.d.). Critical Thinking Skills.

Abstract and executive summary

Abstract and executive summary

Abstract and executive summaries have distinct purposes. An abstract is included at the beginning of academic journal articles and is a concise summary of the entire article, including the research findings. The purpose of an abstract is to provide material for indexing in library collections, and to allow the reader to make an informed decision about the relevance and nature of the research before investing the time to digest the research that the article reports. An executive summary is a section at the beginning of business and government papers that provides an overview of the paper with information on where to find more detail. An executive summary is normally longer than an abstract. Both abstracts and executive summaries are written after the main paper is completed.

More information --



"Groupwork may be structured (with assigned roles) or unstructured (where it is up to the members to decide who will do which tasks). Most times, they are marked as a group activity so that everyone gets the same mark, but increasingly this is being modified to a hybrid model where a portion of the marks are awarded to the individual student (often based on a reflective piece of writing on how the activity went). This is designed to promote fairness and assuage students who worry about being 'marked down' because of a 'lazy' group member, or who end up doing more than their fair share in order to not be penalised" (McMahon-Coleman & Draisma, 2016, p. 109).

Case Study

Case Study

Case studies are "reports of case materials obtained while working with an individual, a group, a community, or an organization" (APA, 2010, p. 11). "Case studies illustrate a problem in depth; indicate a means for solving a problem; and/or shed light on needed research, clinical applications, or theoretical matters" (APA, 2020, p. 5).

For general advice (not tailored to education) on writing a case study for a university assignment see the following resources. 


UTS:HELPS Higher Education Language and Presentation Support. (2017). Case study writing. Retrieved 13 September, 2018, from

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