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Understanding Writing Assignments: Introduction

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Assignment prompts, also called writing prompts or assignment sheets, are documents that explain the goals of an essay. They typically give directions and specific details for writing the essay.

In a university or college setting, assignment prompts are often open-ended. This means that the prompt may suggest an overall task, but may not provide a specific topic. For example, you may be asked to write an argument essay about any public issue, rather than to write an essay defending the place of general education classes in the college. As a result, you will have to do a bit more work to understand the assignment and come up with an appropriate topic.

Assignment prompts vary greatly between classes and individual instructors, which means that there is no single way to read them. A good way to approach each assignment is to consider the rhetorical situation (or audience, purpose, and potential difficulties) that the prompt is asking you to imagine. To learn more about rhetorical situations, click here. By thinking about the rhetorical situation, you can more clearly imagine the audience and the purpose of the assignment. By following a few guidelines and thinking about terms like audience, purpose, and genre, you can work towards writing a successful paper.