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Academic writing skills guide: understanding assignments.

  • Key Features of Academic Writing
  • The Writing Process
  • Understanding Assignments
  • Brainstorming Techniques
  • Planning Your Assignments
  • Thesis Statements
  • Writing Drafts
  • Structuring Your Assignment
  • How to Deal With Writer's Block
  • Using Paragraphs
  • Conclusions
  • Introductions
  • Revising & Editing
  • Proofreading
  • Grammar & Punctuation
  • Reporting Verbs
  • Signposting, Transitions & Linking Words/Phrases
  • Using Lecturers' Feedback

Below is a list of interpretations for some of the more common directive/instructional words. These interpretations are intended as a guide only but should help you gain a better understanding of what is required when they are used. 

definition assignment brief

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How to Analyse an Assignment Brief

  • Paragraph Structure
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  • Structuring an Academic Essay
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  • Definitions of Directive Words
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definition assignment brief

To do well in your assignments, you will need to analyse your assignment briefs carefully.

The purpose of this handout is to:

  • Provide you with an effective strategy for analysing assignment briefs
  • Demonstrate the strategy on an example assignment brief
  • Give you the opportunity to practice the strategy on further examples

The example briefs may not be from your subject area. However, as you will see, the strategy we demonstrate will be useful for almost all assignment briefs.

Using a strategy

When your markers write an assignment brief, they choose their words carefully in order to communicate their expectations. Therefore, a structured analysis of your assignment brief gives you the best chance of writing a successful assignment.

In almost every brief, there will be words and phrases that:

  • Direct you towards the kinds of thinking and writing you need to demonstrate;
  • Advise on what the content should be.

There may also be words and phrases that:

  • Inform your approach ;
  • Give you clues about how your writing should be organised and presented .

Therefore, an effective strategy is to highlight words and phrases in these categories so that you are able to take note of them. This handout uses an example assignment brief to walk you through this process.

Step 1. Highlight directive words

Directive words prompt you to engage in the kinds of thinking and writing you need to demonstrate in the assignment.

Directive words may include:

Verbs like evaluate , analyse , explain , recommend and illustrate .

Sometimes these words may be in the present tense:

e.g. “… illustrating your points with examples”

  • The result of actions:

Words like evaluation , analysis , explanation , and illustration tell you the output of the kind of thinking your markers are looking for. These are called nominalised verbs.

These kinds of words are paired with others like write , conduct , include or produce :

For example:

  • ‘write an explanation’
  • ‘conduct an analysis’
  • ‘include an illustration’
  • ‘produce an evaluation’

There is no need to highlight words like write and include .

  • A special case:

You may also see words and phrases like use, utilise, draw on and apply. These words usually precede words and phrases that will inform your approach. Highlight these in a different colour.

In the example brief, there are several directive words:

Using the IKEA case study provided and at least one theory from the module, produce a critical analysis and evaluation of IKEA’s recruitment policies.

Discuss potential approaches that IKEA could implement to improve its recruitment practices.

Step 2. Highlight content words

After highlighting the directive verbs, use a different colour highlighter to identify the content words—i.e. the content you are expected to write about.

In the example, the content words are highlighted in green:

Using the IKEA case study provided and at least one theory from the module, produce a critical analysis and evaluation of IKEA’s recruitment policies .

Discuss potential approaches that IKEA could implement to improve its recruitment practices .

If you are analysing a complex assignment brief, it can often be useful to identify the pairings of directive words and content words.

In the example brief, there are three pairs of directive and content words:

Directive word(s):    critical analysis

Content words:        IKEA’s recruitment policies

                                     

Directive word(s):    evaluation

Directive word(s):    discuss

Content words:        potential approaches that IKEA could implement to improve its recruitment practices

Once you have identified the content words/phrases , these should be the focus of your reading and research. The directive words allow you to identify the kinds of questions you will need to be thinking about as you read.

For instance, in the example brief, the markers have asked you to discuss potential approaches . Therefore, as you read about a potential approach, you will need to be asking questions like:

  • What are the different points of view about this approach?
  • What evidence is there for these points of view?
  • What are the approach’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are the implications of this approach?
  • What is my point of view?

Step 3. Highlight words that inform your approach

Some briefs may include words and phrases that are designed to inform your strategy or approach towards the assignment. These tend to be in two categories:

  • Tools and resources you should use.

These may include:

  • Types of evidence/data
  • Case studies
  • Specific personal experiences (e.g. for a reflective assignment)
  • Limits or boundaries you must stay within
  • The number of theories, models, etc. to include
  • The types/categories of examples, models, theories, etc. to consider

Not all briefs are prescriptive in this way. However, you will still need to consider whether and how you should use these kinds of tools in order to write an effective answer.

In the example below, the words/phrases designed to inform your approach are all highlighted in blue:

Using the IKEA case study provided and at least one theory from the module , produce a critical analysis and evaluation of IKEA’s recruitment policies.

Even though sources are not mentioned in this example brief, all assignments at university will need to make use of high-quality, relevant sources, such as journal articles and academic books.

However, remember that different disciplines (and also assignments) may require you to make use of different types of sources. If in doubt, discuss your choice of sources with your lecturer or your academic liaison librarian.  You can find who this is for your discipline at this link: https://libguides.coventry.ac.uk/all .

If your brief asks you to choose a theory, model, case study, etc., you will first need to identify your options. Start by reviewing the material from your lectures and the reading list to identify appropriate options. It can also often be a good idea to discuss your options with your tutor.

Once you have identified your options, you will need to identify the best one(s) for your assignment. You will want to consider their relevance, usefulness, and whether they are accepted within your field. Depending on the assignment, you may need to justify your choice in your writing.

Step 4. Highlight words related to organisation and presentation

You will already be aware that your assignment will have a word count. However, you may also be given further direction about how to organise and present your assignment.

For example, the brief may be explicit about the genre you are expected to produce. You may be asked to write any of the following genres:

  • Research proposal
  • Project proposal
  • Reflective log
  • Annotated bibliography
  • Literature review
  • Dissertation
  • Presentation
  • Academic poster

This is not an exhaustive list. There is a wide range of academic genres you may be asked to write at university. Each genre is organised and presented in conventional ways, which may vary from discipline to discipline. You will find useful information about genres in many of the books about academic writing in the Study Skills Section of the library.

Your markers may also have provided a structure (i.e. a set of sections) for your assignment. When analysing the brief, remember to highlight whether this structure is mandatory or simply a suggestion:

  • If the structure is mandatory, you must use the structure in the brief. If you fail to do so, you will lose marks.  
  • If the structure is a suggestion, try generating your own ideas first. Develop a structure that makes sense to you, then compare your structure with theirs. You can use your structure, theirs or a hybrid. Just make sure your choice is appropriate for the genre, logical, coherent, and allows you to fully answer the brief.

Exercises on Analysing an Assignment Brief

The best way to learn any new skill is to put it into practice.  The pdf document contains A ppendix One for two example briefs and Appendix Two for the answers.

Cottrell, S. (2019). Macmillan study skills: The study skills handbook (5th ed.). Red Globe Press.

Greetham, B. (2018). How to write better essays (4 th ed.). Bloomsbury Academic.

The University of Adelaide. (2014). Writing essays: Writing centre Learning Guide. Writing Centre. https://www.adelaide.edu.au/writingcentre/sites/default/files/docs/learningguide-writingessays.pdf

University of Birmingham. (2017). A short guide to understanding your assignments. Library Services. https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/as/libraryservices/library/asc/documents/public/Short-Guide-Understanding-assignment.pdf

To cite this resource:

Coventry University. (2022). Analysing an Assignment Brief. Centre for Academic Writing. https://libguides.coventry.ac.uk/CAWhomepage/analysinganassignmentbrief

The Meaning of Directive Words

A ‘ Definitions of Directive Words ’ document can be found downloaded as a pdf document at the bottom of this page.  The document lists directive verbs and their typical meanings. However, be aware that the meanings of these words can vary between disciplines. Additional definitions can be found in Cottrell (2019, p. 285) and Greetham (2018, pp. 48-50).

Further Support

CAW offers writing development workshops across all genres of academic writing in order to build on your learning.  To view available workshops and book online, please visit:  https://libcal.coventry.ac.uk/calendar/caw

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It is important to understand what an essay question or assignment brief is asking of you. Before you start to research or write, it is worth spending time considering the wording of the question and any learning outcomes that may accompany it. Each assignment will generally have at least three learning outcomes which you must cover if you are to achieve a pass.

Breaking down an assignment question

Before you attempt to answer an assignment question, you need to make sure you understand what it is asking. This includes not only the subject matter, but also the way in which you are required to write. Different questions may ask you to discuss, outline, evaluate… and many more. The task words are a key part of the question.

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10 stages to writing an effective assignment brief

Posted by Matt Lingard | May 21, 2015 | Ideas | 0 |

informed2

What is of particular value to the individual academic practitioner is the 10 stage step-by-step process offered by the authors. It suggests a very structured approach to designing assignment briefs that clearly communicate purpose and expectations.

While the resource may not bring anything new to the table it is very useful in that it provides details of every stage of the development of an assignment brief (see, in particular, the underlying principles of the guidelines for a break down). Colleagues who are considering reviewing their assessment strategy on a module or a course would benefit tremendously from looking at this resource and checking the ways in which assignments are communicated against these guidelines. In particular, I would suggest that all academic practitioners look at the section “Assignment Brief Enhancement F: Delivery”. This section deals with the importance of how assessment briefs are communicated to students. It emphasises how students need time to both process and engage with the brief: something we may not always pay enough attention to as practitioners.

Find the guidelines  here.

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Matt Lingard

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Understanding your assignment questions: A short guide

Introduction.

  • Breaking down the question
  • Further reading and references

It is important to understand what an essay question or assignment brief is asking of you.

Before you start to research or write, it is worth spending time considering the wording of the question and any learning outcomes that may accompany it.

Failure to do this could result in an unfocussed response which does not answer the question.

definition assignment brief

Before you start to research, plan or write:

  • Check the word count, deadline and any guidance from your department.
  • Read through any learning outcomes or marking criteria.
  • If there is a choice of questions, make some initial notes on each one (or a few that appeal) and make a careful decision.
  • Unpick your chosen (or given) question and ensure that you understand exactly what it is asking you to do.
  • Next: Breaking down the question >>
  • Last Updated: Nov 13, 2023 4:28 PM
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  • How to Prepare for Law School
  • How to brief a case
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How to write a case brief for law school: Excerpt reproduced from Introduction to the Study of Law: Cases and Materials ,

Third edition (lexisnexis 2009) by michael makdisi & john makdisi.

C. HOW TO BRIEF

The previous section described the parts of a case in order to make it easier to read and identify the pertinent information that you will use to create your briefs. This section will describe the parts of a brief in order to give you an idea about what a brief is, what is helpful to include in a brief, and what purpose it serves. Case briefs are a necessary study aid in law school that helps to encapsulate and analyze the mountainous mass of material that law students must digest. The case brief represents a final product after reading a case, rereading it, taking it apart, and putting it back together again. In addition to its function as a tool for self-instruction and referencing, the case brief also provides a valuable “cheat sheet” for class participation.

Who will read your brief? Most professors will espouse the value of briefing but will never ask to see that you have, in fact, briefed. As a practicing lawyer, your client doesn’t care if you brief, so long as you win the case. The judges certainly don’t care if you brief, so long as you competently practice the law. You are the person that the brief will serve! Keep this in mind when deciding what elements to include as part of your brief and when deciding what information to include under those elements.

What are the elements of a brief? Different people will tell you to include different things in your brief. Most likely, upon entering law school, this will happen with one or more of your instructors. While opinions may vary, four elements that are essential to any useful brief are the following:

(a) Facts (name of the case and its parties, what happened factually and procedurally, and the judgment)

(b) Issues (what is in dispute)

(c) Holding (the applied rule of law)

(d) Rationale (reasons for the holding)

If you include nothing but these four elements, you should have everything you need in order to recall effectively the information from the case during class or several months later when studying for exams.

Because briefs are made for yourself, you may want to include other elements that expand the four elements listed above. Depending on the case, the inclusion of additional elements may be useful. For example, a case that has a long and important section expounding dicta might call for a separate section in your brief labeled: Dicta. Whatever elements you decide to include, however, remember that the brief is a tool intended for personal use. To the extent that more elements will help with organization and use of the brief, include them. On the other hand, if you find that having more elements makes your brief cumbersome and hard to use, cut back on the number of elements. At a minimum, however, make sure you include the four elements listed above.

Elements that you may want to consider including in addition to the four basic elements are:

(e) Dicta (commentary about the decision that was not the basis for the decision)

(f) Dissent (if a valuable dissenting opinion exits, the dissent’s opinion)

(g) Party’s Arguments (each party’s opposing argument concerning the ultimate issue)

(h) Comments (personal commentary)

Personal comments can be useful if you have a thought that does not fit elsewhere. In the personal experience of one of the authors, this element was used to label cases as specific kinds (e.g., as a case of vicarious liability) or make mental notes about what he found peculiar or puzzling about cases. This element allowed him to release his thoughts (without losing them) so that he could move on to other cases.

In addition to these elements, it may help you to organize your thoughts, as some people do, by dividing Facts into separate elements:

(1) Facts of the case (what actually happened, the controversy)

(2) Procedural History (what events within the court system led to the present case)

(3) Judgment (what the court actually decided)

Procedural History is usually minimal and most of the time irrelevant to the ultimate importance of a case; however, this is not always true. One subject in which Procedure History is virtually always relevant is Civil Procedure.

When describing the Judgment of the case, distinguish it from the Holding. The Judgment is the factual determination by the court, in favor of one party, such as “affirmed,” “reversed,” or “remanded.” In contrast, the Holding is the applied rule of law that serves as the basis for the ultimate judgment.

Remember that the purpose of a brief is to remind you of the important details that make the case significant in terms of the law. It will be a reference tool when you are drilled by a professor and will be a study aid when you prepare for exams. A brief is also like a puzzle piece.

The elements of the brief create the unique shape and colors of the piece, and, when combined with other pieces, the picture of the common law takes form. A well-constructed brief will save you lots of time by removing the need to return to the case to remember the important details and also by making it easier to put together the pieces of the common law puzzle.

D. EXTRACTING THE RELEVANT INFORMATION: ANNOTATING AND HIGHLIGHTING

So now that you know the basic elements of a brief, what information is important to include under each element? The simple answer is: whatever is relevant. But what parts of a case are relevant? When you read your first few cases, you may think that everything that the judge said was relevant to his ultimate conclusion. Even if this were true, what is relevant for the judge to make his decision is not always relevant for you to include in your brief. Remember, the reason to make a brief is not to persuade the world that the ultimate decision in the case is a sound one, but rather to aid in refreshing your memory concerning the most important parts of the case.

What facts are relevant to include in a brief? You should include the facts that are necessary to remind you of the story. If you forget the story, you will not remember how the law in the case was applied. You should also include the facts that are dispositive to the decision in the case. For instance, if the fact that a car is white is a determining factor in the case, the brief should note that the case involves a white car and not simply a car. To the extent that the procedural history either helps you to remember the case or plays an important role in the ultimate outcome, you should include these facts as well.

What issues and conclusions are relevant to include in a brief? There is usually one main issue on which the court rests its decision. This may seem simple, but the court may talk about multiple issues, and may discuss multiple arguments from both sides of the case. Be sure to distinguish the issues from the arguments made by the parties. The relevant issue or issues, and corresponding conclusions, are the ones for which the court made a final decision and which are binding. The court may discuss intermediate conclusions or issues, but stay focused on the main issue and conclusion which binds future courts.

What rationale is important to include in a brief? This is probably the most difficult aspect of the case to determine. Remember that everything that is discussed may have been relevant to the judge, but it is not necessarily relevant to the rationale of the decision. The goal is to remind yourself of the basic reasoning that the court used to come to its decision and the key factors that made the decision favor one side or the other.

A brief should be brief! Overly long or cumbersome briefs are not very helpful because you will not be able to skim them easily when you review your notes or when the professor drills you. On the other hand, a brief that is too short will be equally unhelpful because it lacks sufficient information to refresh your memory. Try to keep your briefs to one page in length. This will make it easy for you to organize and reference them.

Do not get discouraged. Learning to brief and figuring out exactly what to include will take time and practice. The more you brief, the easier it will become to extract the relevant information.

While a brief is an extremely helpful and important study aid, annotating and highlighting are other tools for breaking down the mass of material in your casebook. The remainder of this section will discuss these different techniques and show how they complement and enhance the briefing process.

Annotating Cases

Many of you probably already read with a pencil or pen, but if you do not, now is the time to get in the habit. Cases are so dense and full of information that you will find yourself spending considerable amounts of time rereading cases to find what you need. An effective way to reduce this time is to annotate the margins of the casebook. Your pencil (or pen) will be one of your best friends while reading a case. It will allow you to mark off the different sections (such as facts, procedural history, or conclusions), thus allowing you to clear your mind of thoughts and providing an invaluable resource when briefing and reviewing.

You might be wondering why annotating is important if you make an adequate, well-constructed brief. By their very nature briefs cannot cover everything in a case. Even with a thorough, well-constructed brief you may want to reference the original case in order to reread dicta that might not have seemed important at the time, to review the complete procedural history or set of facts, or to scour the rationale for a better understanding of the case; annotating makes these tasks easier. Whether you return to a case after a few hours or a few months, annotations will swiftly guide you to the pertinent parts of the case by providing a roadmap of the important sections. Your textual markings and margin notes will refresh your memory and restore specific thoughts you might have had about either the case in general or an individual passage.

Annotations will also remind you of forgotten thoughts and random ideas by providing a medium for personal comments.

In addition to making it easier to review an original case, annotating cases during the first review of a case makes the briefing process easier. With adequate annotations, the important details needed for your brief will be much easier to retrieve. Without annotations, you will likely have difficulty locating the information you seek even in the short cases. It might seem strange that it would be hard to reference a short case, but even a short case will likely take you at least fifteen to twenty-five minutes to read, while longer cases may take as much as thirty minutes to an hour to complete. No matter how long it takes, the dense material of all cases makes it difficult to remember all your thoughts, and trying to locate specific sections of the analysis may feel like you are trying to locate a needle in a haystack. An annotation in the margin, however, will not only swiftly guide you to a pertinent section, but will also refresh the thoughts that you had while reading that section.

When you read a case for the first time, read for the story and for a basic understanding of the dispute, the issues, the rationale, and the decision. As you hit these elements (or what you think are these elements) make a mark in the margins. Your markings can be as simple as “facts” (with a bracket that indicates the relevant part of the paragraph). When you spot an issue, you may simply mark “issue” or instead provide a synopsis in your own words. When a case sparks an idea — write that idea in the margin as well — you never know when a seemingly irrelevant idea might turn into something more.

Finally, when you spot a particularly important part of the text, underline it (or highlight it as described below).

With a basic understanding of the case, and with annotations in the margin, the second read-through of the case should be much easier. You can direct your reading to the most important sections and will have an easier time identifying what is and is not important. Continue rereading the case until you have identified all the relevant information that you need to make your brief, including the issue(s), the facts, the holding, and the relevant parts of the analysis.

Pencil or pen — which is better to use when annotating? Our recommendation is a mechanical pencil. Mechanical pencils make finer markings than regular pencils, and also than ballpoint pens. Although you might think a pencil might smear more than a pen, with its sharp point a mechanical pencil uses very little excess lead and will not smear as much as you might imagine. A mechanical pencil will also give you the freedom to make mistakes without consequences. When you first start annotating, you may think that some passages are more important than they really are, and therefore you may resist the urge to make a mark in order to preserve your book and prevent false guideposts. With a pencil, however, the ability to erase and rewrite removes this problem.

Highlighting

Why highlight? Like annotating, highlighting may seem unimportant if you create thorough, well-constructed briefs, but highlighting directly helps you to brief. It makes cases, especially the more complicated ones, easy to digest, review and use to extract information.

Highlighting takes advantage of colors to provide a uniquely effective method for reviewing and referencing a case. If you prefer a visual approach to learning, you may find highlighting to be a very effective tool.

If annotating and highlighting are so effective, why brief? Because the process of summarizing a case and putting it into your own words within a brief provides an understanding of the law and of the case that you cannot gain through the process of highlighting or annotating.

The process of putting the case into your own words forces you to digest the material, while annotating and highlighting can be accomplished in a much more passive manner.

What should you highlight? Similar to annotating, the best parts of the case to highlight are those that represent the needed information for your brief such as the facts, the issue, the holding and the rationale.

Unlike annotating, highlighting provides an effective way to color code, which makes referring to the case even easier. In addition, Highlighters are particularly useful in marking off entire sections by using brackets. These brackets will allow you to color-code the case without highlighting all the text, leaving the most important phrases untouched for a more detailed highlight marking or underlining.

Highlighting is a personal tool, and therefore should be used to the extent that highlighting helps, but should be modified in a way that makes it personally time efficient and beneficial. For instance, you might combine the use of annotations in the margins with the visual benefit of highlighting the relevant text. You may prefer to underline the relevant text with a pencil, but to use a highlighter to bracket off the different sections of a case. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that it works for you, regardless of what others recommend. The techniques in the remainder of this section will describe ways to make full use of your highlighters.

First, buy yourself a set of multi-colored highlighters, with at least four, or perhaps five or six different colors. Yellow, pink, and orange are usually the brightest. Depending on the brand, purple and green can be dark, but still work well. Although blue is a beautiful color, it tends to darken and hide the text.

Therefore we recommend that you save blue for the elements that you rarely highlight.

For each different section of the case, choose a color, and use that color only when highlighting the section of the case designated for that color. Consider using yellow for the text that you tend to highlight most frequently. Because yellow is the brightest, you may be inclined to use yellow for the Conclusions in order to make them stand out the most. If you do this, however, you will exhaust your other colors much faster than yellow and this will require that you purchase an entire set of new highlighters when a single color runs out because colors such as green are not sold separately. If instead you choose to use yellow on a more frequently highlighted section such as the Analysis, when it comes time to replace your yellow marker, you will need only to replace your yellow highlighter individually. In the personal experience on one of the authors, the sections of cases that seemed to demand the most highlighter attention were the

Facts and the Analysis, while the Issues and Holdings demanded the least. Other Considerations and

Procedural History required lots of highlighting in particular cases although not in every case.

Experiment if you must, but try to choose a color scheme early on in the semester and stick with it. That way, when you come back to the first cases of the semester, you will not be confused with multiple color schemes. The basic sections of a case for which you should consider giving a different color are:

• Procedural History

• Issue (and questions presented)

• Holding (and conclusions)

• Analysis (rationale)

• Other Considerations (such as dicta)

Not all of these sections demand a separate color. You may find that combining Facts and Procedural History or Issues and Holdings works best. Furthermore, as mentioned above, some sections may not warrant highlighting in every case (e.g., dicta probably do not need to be highlighted unless they are particularly important). If you decide that a single color is all that you need, then stick to one, but if you find yourself highlighting lots of text from many different sections, reconsider the use of at least a few different colors. Highlighters make text stand out, but only when used appropriately. The use of many colors enables you to highlight more text without reducing the highlighter’s effectiveness. Three to four colors provides decent color variation without the cumbersomeness of handling too many markers.

Once you are comfortable with your color scheme, determining exactly what to highlight still may be difficult. Similar to knowing what to annotate, experience will perfect your highlighting skills. Be careful not to highlight everything, thus ruining your highlighters’ effectiveness; at the same time, do not be afraid to make mistakes.

Now that we have covered the basics of reading, annotating, highlighting, and briefing a case, you are ready to start practicing. Keep the tips and techniques mentioned in this chapter in mind when you tackle the four topics in the remainder of this book. If you have difficultly, refer back to this chapter to help guide you as you master the case method of study and the art of using the common law.

Have questions about law school? Check out our Facebook page , follow us on Twitter or start networking with law students and lawyers on LexTalk .

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More Helpful Links

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Assignments usually ask you to demonstrate that you have immersed yourself in the course material and that you've done some thinking on your own; questions not treated at length in class often serve as assignments. Fortunately, if you've put the time into getting to know the material, then you've almost certainly begun thinking independently. In responding to assignments, keep in mind the following advice.

  • Beware of straying.  Especially in the draft stage, "discussion" and "analysis" can lead you from one intrinsically interesting problem to another, then another, and then ... You may wind up following a garden of forking paths and lose your way. To prevent this, stop periodically while drafting your essay and reread the assignment. Its purposes are likely to become clearer.
  • Consider the assignment in relation to previous and upcoming assignments.  Ask yourself what is new about the task you're setting out to do. Instructors often design assignments to build in complexity. Knowing where an assignment falls in this progression can help you concentrate on the specific, fresh challenges at hand.

Understanding some key words commonly used in assignments also may simplify your task. Toward this end, let's take a look at two seemingly impenetrable instructions: "discuss" and "analyze."

1. Discuss the role of gender in bringing about the French Revolution.

  • "Discuss" is easy to misunderstand because the word calls to mind the oral/spoken dimension of communication. "Discuss" suggests conversation, which often is casual and undirected. In the context of an assignment, however, discussion entails fulfilling a defined and organized task: to construct an argument that considers and responds to an ample range of materials. To "discuss," in assignment language, means to make a broad argument about a set of arguments you have studied. In the case above, you can do this by
  • pointing to consistencies and inconsistencies in the evidence of gendered causes of the Revolution;
  • raising the implications of these consistencies and/or inconsistencies (perhaps they suggest a limited role for gender as catalyst);
  • evaluating different claims about the role of gender; and
  • asking what is gained and what is lost by focusing on gendered symbols, icons and events.

A weak discussion essay in response to the question above might simply list a few aspects of the Revolution—the image of Liberty, the executions of the King and Marie Antoinette, the cry "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite!" —and make separate comments about how each, being "gendered," is therefore a powerful political force. Such an essay would offer no original thesis, but instead restate the question asked in the assignment (i.e., "The role of gender was very important in the French Revolution" or "Gender did not play a large role in the French Revolution").

In a strong discussion essay, the thesis would go beyond a basic restatement of the assignment question. You might test the similarities and differences of the revolutionary aspects being discussed. You might draw on fresh or unexpected evidence, perhaps using as a source an intriguing reading that was only briefly touched upon in lecture.

2. Analyze two of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, including one not discussed in class, as literary works and in terms of sources/analogues.

The words "analyze" and "analysis" may seem to denote highly advanced, even arcane skills, possessed in virtual monopoly by mathematicians and scientists. Happily, the terms refer to mental activity we all perform regularly; the terms just need decoding. "Analyze" means two things in this specific assignment prompt.

  • First, you need to divide the two tales into parts, elements, or features. You might start with a basic approach: looking at the beginning, middle, and end. These structural features of literary works—and of historical events and many other subjects of academic study—may seem simple or even simplistic, but they can yield surprising insights when examined closely.
  • Alternatively, you might begin at a more complex level of analysis. For example, you might search for and distinguish between kinds of humor in the two tales and their sources in Boccaccio or the Roman de la Rose: banter, wordplay, bawdy jokes, pranks, burlesque, satire, etc.

Second, you need to consider the two tales critically to arrive at some reward for having observed how the tales are made and where they came from (their sources/analogues). In the course of your essay, you might work your way to investigating Chaucer's broader attitude toward his sources, which alternates between playful variation and strict adherence. Your complex analysis of kinds of humor might reveal differing conceptions of masculine and feminine between Chaucer and his literary sources, or some other important cultural distinction.

Analysis involves both a set of observations about the composition or workings of your subject and a critical approach that keeps you from noticing just anything—from excessive listing or summarizing—and instead leads you to construct an interpretation, using textual evidence to support your ideas.

Some Final Advice

If, having read the assignment carefully, you're still confused by it, don't hesitate to ask for clarification from your instructor. He or she may be able to elucidate the question or to furnish some sample responses to the assignment. Knowing the expectations of an assignment can help when you're feeling puzzled. Conversely, knowing the boundaries can head off trouble if you're contemplating an unorthodox approach. In either case, before you go to your instructor, it's a good idea to list, underline or circle the specific places in the assignment where the language makes you feel uncertain.

William C. Rice, for the Writing Center at Harvard University

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Policy Briefs

What this handout is about.

This handout will offer tips for writing effective policy briefs. Be sure to check with your instructor about their specific expectations for your assignment.

What are policy briefs?

Imagine that you’re an elected official serving on a committee that sets the standards cars must meet to pass a state inspection. You know that this is a complex issue, and you’d like to learn more about existing policies, the effects of emissions on the environment and on public health, the economic consequences of different possible approaches, and more–you want to make an informed decision. But you don’t have time to research all of these issues! You need a policy brief.

A policy brief presents a concise summary of information that can help readers understand, and likely make decisions about, government policies. Policy briefs may give objective summaries of relevant research, suggest possible policy options, or go even further and argue for particular courses of action.

How do policy briefs differ from other kinds of writing assignments?

You may encounter policy brief assignments in many different academic disciplines, from public health and environmental science to education and social work. If you’re reading this handout because you’re having your first encounter with such an assignment, don’t worry–many of your existing skills and strategies, like using evidence , being concise , and organizing your information effectively , will help you succeed at this form of writing. However, policy briefs are distinctive in several ways.

In some of your college writing, you’ve addressed your peers, your professors, or other members of your academic field. Policy briefs are usually created for a more general reader or policy maker who has a stake in the issue that you’re discussing.

Tone and terminology

Many academic disciplines discourage using unnecessary jargon, but clear language is especially important in policy briefs. If you find yourself using jargon, try to replace it with more direct language that a non-specialist reader would be more likely to understand. When specialized terminology is necessary, explain it quickly and clearly to ensure that your reader doesn’t get confused.

Policy briefs are distinctive in their focus on communicating the practical implications of research to a specific audience. Suppose that you and your roommate both write research-based papers about global warming. Your roommate is writing a research paper for an environmental science course, and you are writing a policy brief for a course on public policy. You might both use the exact same sources in writing your papers. So, how might those papers differ?

Your roommate’s research paper is likely to present the findings of previous studies and synthesize them in order to present an argument about what we know. It might also discuss the methods and processes used in the research.

Your policy brief might synthesize the same scientific findings, but it will deploy them for a very specific purpose: to help readers decide what they should do. It will relate the findings to current policy debates, with an emphasis on applying the research outcomes rather than assessing the research procedures. A research paper might also suggest practical actions, but a policy brief is likely to emphasize them more strongly and develop them more fully.

To support these changes in audience, tone, and purpose, policy briefs have a distinctive format. You should consult your assignment prompt and/or your professor for instructions about the specific requirements of your assignment, but most policy briefs have several features in common. They tend to use lots of headings and have relatively short sections. This structure differs from many short papers in the humanities that may have a title but no further headings, and from reports in the sciences that may follow the “IMRAD” structure of introduction, methods, results, and discussion. Your brief might include graphs, charts, or other visual aids that make it easier to digest the most important information within sections.  Policy briefs often include some of these sections:

  • Title: A good title quickly communicates the contents of the brief in a memorable way.
  • Executive Summary: This section is often one to two paragraphs long; it includes an overview of the problem and the proposed policy action.
  • Context or Scope of Problem: This section communicates the importance of the problem and aims to convince the reader of the necessity of policy action.
  • Policy Alternatives: This section discusses the current policy approach and explains proposed options. It should be fair and accurate while convincing the reader why the policy action proposed in the brief is the most desirable.
  • Policy Recommendations: This section contains the most detailed explanation of the concrete steps to be taken to address the policy issue.
  • Appendices: If some readers might need further support in order to accept your argument but doing so in the brief itself might derail the conversation for other readers, you might include the extra information in an appendix.
  • Consulted or Recommended Sources: These should be reliable sources that you have used throughout your brief to guide your policy discussion and recommendations.

Depending on your specific topic and assignment, you might combine sections or break them down into several more specific ones.

How do I identify a problem for my policy brief?

An effective policy brief must propose a solution to a well-defined problem that can be addressed at the level of policy. This may sound easy, but it can take a lot of work to think of a problem in a way that is open to policy action.

For example, “bad spending habits in young adults” might be a problem that you feel strongly about, but you can’t simply implement a policy to “make better financial decisions.” In order to make it the subject of a policy brief, you’ll need to look for research on the topic and narrow it down. Is the problem a lack of financial education, predatory lending practices, dishonest advertising, or something else? Narrowing to one of these (and perhaps further) would allow you to write a brief that can propose concrete policy action.

For another example, let’s say that you wanted to address children’s health. This is a big issue, and too broad to serve as the focus of a policy brief, but it could serve as a starting point for research. As you begin to research studies on children’s health, you might decide to zoom in on the more specific issue of childhood obesity. You’ll need to consult the research further to decide what factors contribute to it in order to propose policy changes. Is it lack of exercise, nutritional deficiencies, a combination of these, or something else? Choosing one or another of these issues, your brief would zoom in even further to specific proposals that might include exercise initiatives, nutritional guidelines, or school lunch programs.

The key is that you define the problem and its contributing factors as specifically as possible so that some sort of concrete policy action (at the local, state, or national level) is feasible.

Framing the issue

Once you’ve identified the problem for yourself, you need to decide how you will present it to your reader. Your own process of identifying the problem likely had some stops, starts, and dead-ends, but your goal in framing the issue for your reader is to provide the most direct path to understanding the problem and the proposed policy change. It can be helpful to think of some of the most pressing questions your audience will have and attempt to preemptively answer those questions. Here are some questions you might want to consider:

What is the problem?

Understanding what the problem is, in the clearest terms possible, will give your reader a reference point. Later, when you’re discussing complex information, your reader can refer back to the initial problem. This will help to ‘anchor’ them throughout the course of your argument. Every piece of information in the brief should be clearly and easily connected to the problem.

What is the scope of the problem?

Knowing the extent of the problem helps to frame the policy issue for your reader. Is the problem statewide, national, or international? How many people does this issue affect? Daily? Annually? This is a great place for any statistical information you may have gathered through your research.

Who are the stakeholders?

Who does this issue affect? Adult women? College-educated men? Children from bilingual homes? The primary group being affected is important, and knowing who this group is allows the reader to assign a face to the policy issue.

Policy issues can include a complex network of stakeholders. Double check whether you have inadvertently excluded any of them from your analysis. For example, a policy about children’s nutrition obviously involves the children, but it might also include food producers, distributors, parents, and nutritionists (and other experts). Some stakeholders might be reluctant to accept your policy change or even acknowledge the existence of the problem, which is why your brief must be convincing in its use of evidence and clear in its communication.

Effective policy-writing

This handout has emphasized that good policy briefs are clear, concise, and focused on applying credible research to policy problems. Let’s take a look at two versions of the introduction to a policy brief to see how someone might write and revise to achieve these qualities:

A “not-so-good” policy brief

Adolescents’ Dermatologic Health in Outlandia: A Call to Action

The Report on Adolescents’ Dermatologic Health in Outlandia (2010), issued by Secretary of Health Dr. Polly Galver, served as a platform to increase public awareness on the importance of dermatologic health for adolescents. Among the major themes of the report are that dermatologic health is essential to general health and well-being and that profound and consequential dermatologic health disparities exist in the state of Outlandia. Dr. Galver stated that what amounts to a silent epidemic of acne is affecting some population groups–restricting activities as schools, work, and home–and often significantly diminishing the quality of life. Dr. Galver issued the Report on Adolescents’ Dermatologic Health as a wake-up call to policymakers and health professionals on issues regarding the state’s dermatologic health. (“ Not so good policy brief ,” Reproduced with permission of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD.)

This paragraph introduces a relevant and credible source, but it fails to use that source to explain a problem and propose policy action. The reader is likely to be confused because the word “acne” does not appear until the middle of the paragraph, and the brief never states what action should be taken to address it. In addition to this lack of focus, the paragraph also includes unnecessary phrases like “among the major themes” that could be removed to make it more concise.

A better policy brief

Seeing Spots: Addressing the Silent Epidemic of Acne in Outlandia’s Youth

Acne is the most common chronic disease among adolescents in Outlandia (Outlandia Department of Health, 2010). Long considered a benign rite of passage, acne actually has far-reaching effects on the health and well being of adolescents, significantly affecting success in school, social relationships, and general quality of life. Yet large portions of the state’s population are unable to access treatment for acne. The Secretary of Health’s Report on Adolescents’ Dermatologic Health in Outlandia (2010) is a call to action for policymakers and health professionals to improve the health and wellbeing of Outlandia’s youth by increasing access to dermatologic care (“ A Better Policy Brief” , Reproduced with permission of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD.)

This paragraph is far more focused and concise than the first version. The opening sentence is straightforward; instead of focusing on the source, it makes a clear and memorable point that is supported by the source. Additionally, though the first version was titled “a call to action,” it did not actually say what that action might be. In this version, it is clear that the call is for increased access to dermatologic care.

Keep in mind that clarity, conciseness, and consistent focus are rarely easy to achieve in a first draft. Careful editing and revision are key parts of writing policy briefs.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Smith, Catherine F. 2016. Writing Public Policy , 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Young, Eoin, and Lisa Quinn. n.d. “The Policy Brief.” University of Delaware. Accessed June 24, 2019. https://cpb-us-e1.wpmucdn.com/blog.lrei.org/dist/c/104/files/2009/11/PolicyBrief-described.pdf .

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Writing an Appellate Brief

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Introduction

In most appeals, an initial brief , an answer brief , and a reply brief will be filed, in that order.  The appellant , who filed the notice of appeal , will file the initial brief first.  Then the other party , the appellee , will respond with an answer brief.  Finally, the appellant can respond to the answer brief by filing a reply brief.  In the case of extraordinary writs, a petition is filed as the brief.  Extraordinary writ petitions are discussed in Chapter 10 of this Handbook.

Before writing an appellate brief, a party should review the appellate record to understand the history and facts of the case, research the law , and decide what arguments to make and issues to raise. The appellant will want to argue why the lower tribunal ’s decision or judgment should be reversed (why the lower court “erred”).  And the appellee will want to argue why the decision was correct and should be upheld, or “affirmed.”

Again, the initial brief is filed first by the appellant.  The appellee does not file an answer brief until after the initial brief, because the answer brief will respond to the arguments in the initial brief.  The reply brief is then filed by the appellant after, and in response to, the answer brief.  Both the initial brief and the answer brief will contain a section called the statement of the case and facts.  In this section, the briefs discuss the history and facts of the case. There must be no argument in the facts section.  The initial and answer briefs will also contain argument sections.  There will be a summary of the argument section, which is a short preview of the argument, and also a separate and longer argument section where the party will fully discuss all points on appeal .  Initial and answer briefs should also state the standard of review .  The reply brief will only need an argument section, since it just responds to the answer brief (and cannot add any new arguments).  All appellate briefs should contain citations to the appellate record for any facts discussed, whether in the facts section or the argument.  All briefs should also contain citations to legal authority (statutes and case law) in the argument section.

As mentioned above, before a party writes an appellate brief, he or she should consider and study several things.  For example, the party writing the appellate brief reads the record on appeal prepared by the clerk of the lower tribunal that entered the order or judgment appealed.  This record will include the important pleadings filed in the case and should also include transcripts of any important hearings that were held that relate to the issues raised in the appeal.

The party writing the appellate brief also researches what law applies to the party’s case and to the issues raised in the appeal.  This may include statutes, case law, rules, or other sources of law. The party writing the appellate brief goes to a law library or does legal research on the computer to look for cases or statutes, preferably ones from the State of Florida, that support his or her argument.  Then the party writing the appellate brief gathers together any statutes and case law that support the argument he or she is going to make in the appellate brief.  This is because the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure require the appellate party to specifically refer, or “cite,” to those cases or statutes in the appellate brief to support his or her argument.  Citations to legal authorities in the brief should follow the format for citations found in Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.800.

Formatting for All Briefs

Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.210 requires that all briefs have a specific format.  Briefs must generally be printed or typed on opaque, white, unglossed paper. The paper size should be 8.5 by 11 inches.  The paper should have margins of at least one inch on all sides.  The lettering should be black.  If a brief is typed on a computer, it must be double-spaced and use Times New Roman 14-point font, or Courier New 12-point font.  Any headings or footnotes must be the same font and size as the rest of the brief.  Although typed briefs must be double spaced, headings, indented quotations, and footnotes can be single spaced.

The brief should have a cover sheet stating: the name of the appellate court; the case number the appellate court has assigned to the case, or a space to enter that number if it is a new case that does not have a number; the name or “ style ” of the case (i.e., John Smith v. Jane Doe); the name of the lower tribunal that entered the order or opinion on appeal; the name of the brief (i.e., initial brief of appellant John Doe); and the name and address of the person filing the brief.

Briefs filed in paper format should not be stapled or bound (except by paper clip or rubber band).  This is a recent requirement that assists the clerks of court, who now have to scan paper briefs into the computer.

Contents of the Initial Brief and Answer Brief

The initial brief is the first brief.  It is filed by the appellant who filed the appeal. The appellant’s initial brief is due within 70 days after filing the notice of appeal.  An appellant who needs extra time to file the initial brief should file a motion for an extension of time in the appellate court before the deadline for the brief.  Motion practice is discussed in Chapter 4 of this Handbook.  The initial brief should set out the facts and history of the case in the statement of case and facts section.  It should also present legal arguments explaining each reason the appellant believes the decision of the lower tribunal was wrong (i.e., erroneous ) and why it should be reversed.  The initial brief cannot be longer than 50 pages, not counting the pages used for the Table of Contents, Table of Citations, Certificate of Service , Certificate of Font Compliance and the signature block for the brief’s author. A party can ask the court for permission to file brief longer than 50 pages, but such motions are rarely granted.  And briefs are usually much shorter, often 20 to 30 pages or less.

The answer brief is the next brief.  It is filed by the appellee within 20 days after the initial brief, again unless a motion for an extension of time is filed before the deadline. The answer brief responds to the arguments in the initial brief.  It will argue why the lower tribunal’s decision was correct and should be affirmed. Like the initial brief, the answer brief generally cannot be longer than 50 pages.  Unlike the initial brief, the answer brief is not required to have a statement of the case and facts section, but it usually should have one to explain the case from the appellee’s perspective. Although the appellee will argue in the answer brief that the appellant’s arguments in the initial brief are incorrect, both sides must argue their positions respectfully and without name-calling or insults.

The initial brief and the answer brief will each have the following sections:

  • Table of Contents
  • Table of Authorities
  • Statement of the Case and Facts

Summary of the Argument

Standard of review.

  • Certificate of Service
  • Certificate of Font Compliance

The table of contents lists the sections and issue headings in the brief, with the corresponding page numbers of where in the brief those sections and headings are.  For example, a table of contents for an initial brief might look something like this in an appeal of a final judgment entered after a jury trial :

The table of authorities (also called the table of citations) is similar to the table of contents.  It is a list of the legal authorities (cases, statutes, and rules) referred to or “cited” in the brief to support the party’s arguments, along with all of the page numbers where those authorities were cited in the brief. Cases are listed in alphabetical order.  Statutes are listed in numerical order.  Legal authorities are cited in the format required by Rule 9.800 of the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure.

For example, a table of authorities in an appellate brief might look like this:

Statement of the Case and the Facts

Before writing the brief, the party will have reviewed the record on appeal that was prepared by the clerk of the trial court (or other lower tribunal) that entered the order or judgment being appealed. The statement of the case and facts explains to the appellate court, based only on the documents and evidence that are in the record, what the history and facts of the case are, and what occurred in the lower tribunal. This part of the brief is for facts only, not argument.

The appellate party may not discuss in the brief any fact or circumstance that is not in the appellate record, such as events occurring after the order or opinion on appeal was entered, or documents or evidence he or she did not present to or file in the lower tribunal.  In any appellate brief, every sentence containing a fact must be followed by a citation referring to the page number of the record on appeal where that fact can be found or supported.  Usually, the appellate party would refer to a page of the record in parentheses or brackets with an “R.” followed by the volume and page number. Two common formats for citing the record volume and page numbers are, for example:  (R. Vol. 1, pp. 1-8; R. Vol. 4, p.815), or [RI.1-8; RIV.815].  If there is a trial transcript in the record that has separate page numbers, the appellate party may refer to it as “T.” followed by the page number.  Citations in the statement of case and facts section of a brief might look something like this:

This case arises from an automobile accident.  [RI.12-18]. Plaintiff , Mr. Roberts, filed a lawsuit against Defendant , Ms. Wynn, alleging she was negligent in causing the accident and that he was injured as a result. [RI.12-18].  Defendant denied she was negligent or that the accident caused Plaintiff’s alleged injuries.  [RI.34-36; RII.205].

At trial, Plaintiff’s treating physician, Dr. John, testified Plaintiff was injured as a result of the accident.  [T.235-40, 315-19]. Defendant’s expert, Dr. Smith, testified that Plaintiff was not injured. [T.441-44, 448-52].

In the statement of the case and the facts section of an appellate brief, the party writing the brief will discuss:

  • the type of case (civil, criminal, etc.), and nature of the appeal (such as an appeal from a final judgment or non-final order, etc.);
  • the procedural history of the case in the lower tribunal, such as what documents, pleadings, or motions were filed and when; what arguments and positions the parties raised the lower tribunal; and what happened in the pre-trial and trial proceedings ;,
  • the evidence that was presented to the lower tribunal at the trial or hearing , such as written documents and/or the testimony of witnesses; and
  • the outcome of the trial, hearing, or other proceeding.

The appellate party drafting the brief includes in this section those facts that specifically relate to the issue he or she is arguing.  For example, an appellant who is only arguing that the trial court erred in excluding certain evidence at trial probably would not need to discuss facts regarding jury selection in the brief.  The statement of the case and the facts is usually presented in chronological order to make it easier for the appellate court to follow and understand.

This section provides an overview of the arguments made in the appellate brief.  It is much like a “road map” that previews the arguments.  The summary of the argument is seldom longer than two pages, and is never longer than five pages.  Since the summary of the argument is just a short preview of the arguments, it generally does not need to have citations to the appellate record or legal authorities.

While the standard of review does not have to be in a separate section, it must be included in the brief.  If it is not in a separate section, it should be included in the argument section, at the beginning of each issue. Whether it is in a separate section or in the argument, the standard of review should be stated for each point on appeal.  The standard of review is very short, usually just a sentence or two and often no longer than a paragraph.  It tells the appellate court whether the issue raised on appeal is a question of fact, law, or both.  This is important because the standard of review determines how much weight or “ deference ” the appellate court will give to, or how strictly it will question, the lower tribunal’s rulings and decision.

Appellate courts give the greatest deference to a lower tribunal’s findings of fact and discretionary decisions.  Findings of fact are generally reviewed for “competent substantial evidence,” meaning they will usually be upheld if supported by any competent evidence in the record.  Discretionary decisions, such as rulings on evidence, are reviewed for an “ abuse of discretion ,” meaning they will usually be upheld unless the decision was extremely unreasonable.

Appellate courts review pure legal issues, such as the interpretation of a statute , with the least amount of deference.  This is called the “ de novo ” standard of review.  Under this standard, appellate courts decide for themselves what the law says and what the decision of law should be, without deferring to the trial court’s decision.

The argument section explains the party’s legal arguments in the appeal and why the decision of the lower tribunal should either be affirmed or reversed. It discusses the relevant statutes and case law, how the law applies to the facts in the case, and the party’s arguments based on the law as applied to the facts.  It explains the legal reasons why the order or judgment of the lower tribunal was either correct or incorrect, and what specific result, or “ relief ,” the party wants in the appeal (i.e., what the party wants the appellate court to do).  For example, an appellant may ask the appellate court to reverse the final judgment and return, or “ remand ,” the case to the lower tribunal for a new trial, whereas an appellee may ask the appellate court in the answer brief to affirm the final judgment.  The argument should be supported by references to legal cases, statutes, and rules that support that appellate party’s argument that the lower tribunal decision was either correct or incorrect.

The argument is divided into specific legal issues.  The argument section in the brief starts with an issue heading for each argument or point on appeal.  In many cases, an appellant might only raise one or two specific issues. In other cases, the appellant might argue more than one or two issues, if he or she believes the lower tribunal made more errors.  Each issue the appellant raises should have a reasonable basis in the facts and in the law. The appellant’s issue or issues should be clearly and concisely stated.  If the appellant is arguing more than one issue, the appellant usually starts with the strongest point first.  Under each issue heading, the appellant discusses the case law, statutes, and rules that deal with the issue for that section.

The appellee’s answer brief arguments respond to the argument issues raised in the initial brief.  It often has the same or similar issue headings as the initial brief, to help the appellate court know which of appellant’s initial brief arguments the appellee’s answer brief is responding to.  Like the initial brief, the appellee’s answer brief should explain how the law applies to the facts and present his or her arguments in support of the outcome he or she wants in the appeal (usually affirmance).  The answer brief arguments should also include citations to the legal authorities, cases, and statutes the appellee believes supports his or her position and arguments in the appeal.

Conclusion.

In the conclusion, the party tells the court what result or relief he or she wants in the appeal (i.e., what the party is asking the appellate court to do in the case).  It is usually only a sentence or two in length, and should not be longer than one page. For example, the conclusion in appellate brief in an appeal from a judgment entered after a trial might look like this:

The brief should contain a certificate of service , in which the party filing the brief with the court affirms that he or she has sent, or “served,” a copy of the brief to the opposing party (or their attorney if they have one) on a specific date and states the method of service , such as by mail, delivery, or service by e-mail (if the procedures for e-service are followed). The certificate of service must be signed by the appellate party and should include a signature block containing the appellate party’s name, address and telephone number.  For example, a certificate of service might look like this:

It is important for pro se litigants to remember that, generally, a party has to both file the brief with the court, and serve a copy on the opposing party.  Pro se parties are generally permitted to serve documents by e-mail if they comply with certain requirements, which are set forth in detail in Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516.  In addition, most courts now allow (but do not require) electronic filing by pro se parties.  See Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.525(c)-(d).

The requirements for electronic filing, even when it is available, often vary in different courts. Accordingly, pro se parties interested in electronic filing should consult the website or clerk’s office of the particular court to find out if electronic filing is allowed, and, if so, the requirements for electronic filing and service by e-mail.  See also Florida Rules of Judicial Administration 2.516 and 2.525(c)-(d). Unless electronic filing and service by e-mail is available, a brief must generally be filed by mail or delivery to the court, and served by mail or delivery to the opposing party.

Certificate of Font Compliance.

According to Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure 9.210(a)(2), the font of the letters in the brief must be either Times New Roman 14-point font or Courier New 12-point font.  In the certificate of compliance, the appellate party states that the font and type size used in the brief complies with this Rule and signs below the statement.  A certificate of compliance might look like this:

The Reply Brief

The Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure do not require that the appellant file a reply brief, but an appellant often should file a reply brief to respond to the arguments in the answer brief.  The appellant’s reply brief, if any, is due 20 days after the answer brief and responds to the answer brief arguments.  The reply brief can be no more than 15 pages long, not counting the pages necessary for the Table of Contents, Table of Citations, Certificate of Service, Certificate of Font Compliance, and the signature block for the brief’s author.

The reply brief typically includes the following sections:

  • Reply Argument

The reply brief does not raise new arguments. Issues that were not raised first in the initial brief are generally waived.  But, if new or different arguments are raised in the answer brief, the reply brief can respond to those argument.  The key is that the reply brief responds to the answer brief arguments. It does not just repeat the initial brief, nor does it raise new arguments that were not in either the initial or answer brief.  Although the appellant argues in the reply brief that the appellee’s answer brief arguments are incorrect, the appellant, like the appellee, must do so respectfully and without name calling or insults.

Download the Chapter 5 PDF here.

  • Term: Certificate of Service
  • Term: Notice of Appeal
  • Term: Extraordinary Writ
  • Term: Standard of Review
  • Term: Abuse of Discretion
  • Term: Initial Brief
  • Term: Answer Brief
  • Term: Findings of Fact
  • Term: Reply Brief
  • Term: Trial Court
  • Term: Proceedings
  • Term: Appellant
  • Term: Appellate
  • Term: Authority
  • Term: Erroneous
  • Term: Transcript
  • Term: Plaintiff
  • Term: Defendant
  • Term: Non-Final
  • Term: Testimony
  • Term: Deference
  • Term: Appellee
  • Term: Petition
  • Term: Tribunal
  • Term: Judgment
  • Term: Opinion
  • Term: Service
  • Term: Evidence
  • Term: Citation
  • Term: Hearing
  • Term: Statute
  • Term: De Novo
  • Term: Attorney
  • Term: Review
  • Term: Record
  • Term: Appeal
  • Term: Clerk
  • Term: Motion
  • Term: Lawsuit
  • Term: Relief
  • Term: Remand
  • Term: Pro se
  • Term: Brief
  • Term: Party
  • Term: Court
  • Term: Legal
  • Term: Style
  • Term: Table
  • Term: Final
  • Term: Trial
  • Term: Serve

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Home » Assignment – Types, Examples and Writing Guide

Assignment – Types, Examples and Writing Guide

Table of Contents

Assignment

Definition:

Assignment is a task given to students by a teacher or professor, usually as a means of assessing their understanding and application of course material. Assignments can take various forms, including essays, research papers, presentations, problem sets, lab reports, and more.

Assignments are typically designed to be completed outside of class time and may require independent research, critical thinking, and analysis. They are often graded and used as a significant component of a student’s overall course grade. The instructions for an assignment usually specify the goals, requirements, and deadlines for completion, and students are expected to meet these criteria to earn a good grade.

History of Assignment

The use of assignments as a tool for teaching and learning has been a part of education for centuries. Following is a brief history of the Assignment.

  • Ancient Times: Assignments such as writing exercises, recitations, and memorization tasks were used to reinforce learning.
  • Medieval Period : Universities began to develop the concept of the assignment, with students completing essays, commentaries, and translations to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the subject matter.
  • 19th Century : With the growth of schools and universities, assignments became more widespread and were used to assess student progress and achievement.
  • 20th Century: The rise of distance education and online learning led to the further development of assignments as an integral part of the educational process.
  • Present Day: Assignments continue to be used in a variety of educational settings and are seen as an effective way to promote student learning and assess student achievement. The nature and format of assignments continue to evolve in response to changing educational needs and technological innovations.

Types of Assignment

Here are some of the most common types of assignments:

An essay is a piece of writing that presents an argument, analysis, or interpretation of a topic or question. It usually consists of an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Essay structure:

  • Introduction : introduces the topic and thesis statement
  • Body paragraphs : each paragraph presents a different argument or idea, with evidence and analysis to support it
  • Conclusion : summarizes the key points and reiterates the thesis statement

Research paper

A research paper involves gathering and analyzing information on a particular topic, and presenting the findings in a well-structured, documented paper. It usually involves conducting original research, collecting data, and presenting it in a clear, organized manner.

Research paper structure:

  • Title page : includes the title of the paper, author’s name, date, and institution
  • Abstract : summarizes the paper’s main points and conclusions
  • Introduction : provides background information on the topic and research question
  • Literature review: summarizes previous research on the topic
  • Methodology : explains how the research was conducted
  • Results : presents the findings of the research
  • Discussion : interprets the results and draws conclusions
  • Conclusion : summarizes the key findings and implications

A case study involves analyzing a real-life situation, problem or issue, and presenting a solution or recommendations based on the analysis. It often involves extensive research, data analysis, and critical thinking.

Case study structure:

  • Introduction : introduces the case study and its purpose
  • Background : provides context and background information on the case
  • Analysis : examines the key issues and problems in the case
  • Solution/recommendations: proposes solutions or recommendations based on the analysis
  • Conclusion: Summarize the key points and implications

A lab report is a scientific document that summarizes the results of a laboratory experiment or research project. It typically includes an introduction, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion.

Lab report structure:

  • Title page : includes the title of the experiment, author’s name, date, and institution
  • Abstract : summarizes the purpose, methodology, and results of the experiment
  • Methods : explains how the experiment was conducted
  • Results : presents the findings of the experiment

Presentation

A presentation involves delivering information, data or findings to an audience, often with the use of visual aids such as slides, charts, or diagrams. It requires clear communication skills, good organization, and effective use of technology.

Presentation structure:

  • Introduction : introduces the topic and purpose of the presentation
  • Body : presents the main points, findings, or data, with the help of visual aids
  • Conclusion : summarizes the key points and provides a closing statement

Creative Project

A creative project is an assignment that requires students to produce something original, such as a painting, sculpture, video, or creative writing piece. It allows students to demonstrate their creativity and artistic skills.

Creative project structure:

  • Introduction : introduces the project and its purpose
  • Body : presents the creative work, with explanations or descriptions as needed
  • Conclusion : summarizes the key elements and reflects on the creative process.

Examples of Assignments

Following are Examples of Assignment templates samples:

Essay template:

I. Introduction

  • Hook: Grab the reader’s attention with a catchy opening sentence.
  • Background: Provide some context or background information on the topic.
  • Thesis statement: State the main argument or point of your essay.

II. Body paragraphs

  • Topic sentence: Introduce the main idea or argument of the paragraph.
  • Evidence: Provide evidence or examples to support your point.
  • Analysis: Explain how the evidence supports your argument.
  • Transition: Use a transition sentence to lead into the next paragraph.

III. Conclusion

  • Restate thesis: Summarize your main argument or point.
  • Review key points: Summarize the main points you made in your essay.
  • Concluding thoughts: End with a final thought or call to action.

Research paper template:

I. Title page

  • Title: Give your paper a descriptive title.
  • Author: Include your name and institutional affiliation.
  • Date: Provide the date the paper was submitted.

II. Abstract

  • Background: Summarize the background and purpose of your research.
  • Methodology: Describe the methods you used to conduct your research.
  • Results: Summarize the main findings of your research.
  • Conclusion: Provide a brief summary of the implications and conclusions of your research.

III. Introduction

  • Background: Provide some background information on the topic.
  • Research question: State your research question or hypothesis.
  • Purpose: Explain the purpose of your research.

IV. Literature review

  • Background: Summarize previous research on the topic.
  • Gaps in research: Identify gaps or areas that need further research.

V. Methodology

  • Participants: Describe the participants in your study.
  • Procedure: Explain the procedure you used to conduct your research.
  • Measures: Describe the measures you used to collect data.

VI. Results

  • Quantitative results: Summarize the quantitative data you collected.
  • Qualitative results: Summarize the qualitative data you collected.

VII. Discussion

  • Interpretation: Interpret the results and explain what they mean.
  • Implications: Discuss the implications of your research.
  • Limitations: Identify any limitations or weaknesses of your research.

VIII. Conclusion

  • Review key points: Summarize the main points you made in your paper.

Case study template:

  • Background: Provide background information on the case.
  • Research question: State the research question or problem you are examining.
  • Purpose: Explain the purpose of the case study.

II. Analysis

  • Problem: Identify the main problem or issue in the case.
  • Factors: Describe the factors that contributed to the problem.
  • Alternative solutions: Describe potential solutions to the problem.

III. Solution/recommendations

  • Proposed solution: Describe the solution you are proposing.
  • Rationale: Explain why this solution is the best one.
  • Implementation: Describe how the solution can be implemented.

IV. Conclusion

  • Summary: Summarize the main points of your case study.

Lab report template:

  • Title: Give your report a descriptive title.
  • Date: Provide the date the report was submitted.
  • Background: Summarize the background and purpose of the experiment.
  • Methodology: Describe the methods you used to conduct the experiment.
  • Results: Summarize the main findings of the experiment.
  • Conclusion: Provide a brief summary of the implications and conclusions
  • Background: Provide some background information on the experiment.
  • Hypothesis: State your hypothesis or research question.
  • Purpose: Explain the purpose of the experiment.

IV. Materials and methods

  • Materials: List the materials and equipment used in the experiment.
  • Procedure: Describe the procedure you followed to conduct the experiment.
  • Data: Present the data you collected in tables or graphs.
  • Analysis: Analyze the data and describe the patterns or trends you observed.

VI. Discussion

  • Implications: Discuss the implications of your findings.
  • Limitations: Identify any limitations or weaknesses of the experiment.

VII. Conclusion

  • Restate hypothesis: Summarize your hypothesis or research question.
  • Review key points: Summarize the main points you made in your report.

Presentation template:

  • Attention grabber: Grab the audience’s attention with a catchy opening.
  • Purpose: Explain the purpose of your presentation.
  • Overview: Provide an overview of what you will cover in your presentation.

II. Main points

  • Main point 1: Present the first main point of your presentation.
  • Supporting details: Provide supporting details or evidence to support your point.
  • Main point 2: Present the second main point of your presentation.
  • Main point 3: Present the third main point of your presentation.
  • Summary: Summarize the main points of your presentation.
  • Call to action: End with a final thought or call to action.

Creative writing template:

  • Setting: Describe the setting of your story.
  • Characters: Introduce the main characters of your story.
  • Rising action: Introduce the conflict or problem in your story.
  • Climax: Present the most intense moment of the story.
  • Falling action: Resolve the conflict or problem in your story.
  • Resolution: Describe how the conflict or problem was resolved.
  • Final thoughts: End with a final thought or reflection on the story.

How to Write Assignment

Here is a general guide on how to write an assignment:

  • Understand the assignment prompt: Before you begin writing, make sure you understand what the assignment requires. Read the prompt carefully and make note of any specific requirements or guidelines.
  • Research and gather information: Depending on the type of assignment, you may need to do research to gather information to support your argument or points. Use credible sources such as academic journals, books, and reputable websites.
  • Organize your ideas : Once you have gathered all the necessary information, organize your ideas into a clear and logical structure. Consider creating an outline or diagram to help you visualize your ideas.
  • Write a draft: Begin writing your assignment using your organized ideas and research. Don’t worry too much about grammar or sentence structure at this point; the goal is to get your thoughts down on paper.
  • Revise and edit: After you have written a draft, revise and edit your work. Make sure your ideas are presented in a clear and concise manner, and that your sentences and paragraphs flow smoothly.
  • Proofread: Finally, proofread your work for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. It’s a good idea to have someone else read over your assignment as well to catch any mistakes you may have missed.
  • Submit your assignment : Once you are satisfied with your work, submit your assignment according to the instructions provided by your instructor or professor.

Applications of Assignment

Assignments have many applications across different fields and industries. Here are a few examples:

  • Education : Assignments are a common tool used in education to help students learn and demonstrate their knowledge. They can be used to assess a student’s understanding of a particular topic, to develop critical thinking skills, and to improve writing and research abilities.
  • Business : Assignments can be used in the business world to assess employee skills, to evaluate job performance, and to provide training opportunities. They can also be used to develop business plans, marketing strategies, and financial projections.
  • Journalism : Assignments are often used in journalism to produce news articles, features, and investigative reports. Journalists may be assigned to cover a particular event or topic, or to research and write a story on a specific subject.
  • Research : Assignments can be used in research to collect and analyze data, to conduct experiments, and to present findings in written or oral form. Researchers may be assigned to conduct research on a specific topic, to write a research paper, or to present their findings at a conference or seminar.
  • Government : Assignments can be used in government to develop policy proposals, to conduct research, and to analyze data. Government officials may be assigned to work on a specific project or to conduct research on a particular topic.
  • Non-profit organizations: Assignments can be used in non-profit organizations to develop fundraising strategies, to plan events, and to conduct research. Volunteers may be assigned to work on a specific project or to help with a particular task.

Purpose of Assignment

The purpose of an assignment varies depending on the context in which it is given. However, some common purposes of assignments include:

  • Assessing learning: Assignments are often used to assess a student’s understanding of a particular topic or concept. This allows educators to determine if a student has mastered the material or if they need additional support.
  • Developing skills: Assignments can be used to develop a wide range of skills, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, research, and communication. Assignments that require students to analyze and synthesize information can help to build these skills.
  • Encouraging creativity: Assignments can be designed to encourage students to be creative and think outside the box. This can help to foster innovation and original thinking.
  • Providing feedback : Assignments provide an opportunity for teachers to provide feedback to students on their progress and performance. Feedback can help students to understand where they need to improve and to develop a growth mindset.
  • Meeting learning objectives : Assignments can be designed to help students meet specific learning objectives or outcomes. For example, a writing assignment may be designed to help students improve their writing skills, while a research assignment may be designed to help students develop their research skills.

When to write Assignment

Assignments are typically given by instructors or professors as part of a course or academic program. The timing of when to write an assignment will depend on the specific requirements of the course or program, but in general, assignments should be completed within the timeframe specified by the instructor or program guidelines.

It is important to begin working on assignments as soon as possible to ensure enough time for research, writing, and revisions. Waiting until the last minute can result in rushed work and lower quality output.

It is also important to prioritize assignments based on their due dates and the amount of work required. This will help to manage time effectively and ensure that all assignments are completed on time.

In addition to assignments given by instructors or professors, there may be other situations where writing an assignment is necessary. For example, in the workplace, assignments may be given to complete a specific project or task. In these situations, it is important to establish clear deadlines and expectations to ensure that the assignment is completed on time and to a high standard.

Characteristics of Assignment

Here are some common characteristics of assignments:

  • Purpose : Assignments have a specific purpose, such as assessing knowledge or developing skills. They are designed to help students learn and achieve specific learning objectives.
  • Requirements: Assignments have specific requirements that must be met, such as a word count, format, or specific content. These requirements are usually provided by the instructor or professor.
  • Deadline: Assignments have a specific deadline for completion, which is usually set by the instructor or professor. It is important to meet the deadline to avoid penalties or lower grades.
  • Individual or group work: Assignments can be completed individually or as part of a group. Group assignments may require collaboration and communication with other group members.
  • Feedback : Assignments provide an opportunity for feedback from the instructor or professor. This feedback can help students to identify areas of improvement and to develop their skills.
  • Academic integrity: Assignments require academic integrity, which means that students must submit original work and avoid plagiarism. This includes citing sources properly and following ethical guidelines.
  • Learning outcomes : Assignments are designed to help students achieve specific learning outcomes. These outcomes are usually related to the course objectives and may include developing critical thinking skills, writing abilities, or subject-specific knowledge.

Advantages of Assignment

There are several advantages of assignment, including:

  • Helps in learning: Assignments help students to reinforce their learning and understanding of a particular topic. By completing assignments, students get to apply the concepts learned in class, which helps them to better understand and retain the information.
  • Develops critical thinking skills: Assignments often require students to think critically and analyze information in order to come up with a solution or answer. This helps to develop their critical thinking skills, which are important for success in many areas of life.
  • Encourages creativity: Assignments that require students to create something, such as a piece of writing or a project, can encourage creativity and innovation. This can help students to develop new ideas and perspectives, which can be beneficial in many areas of life.
  • Builds time-management skills: Assignments often come with deadlines, which can help students to develop time-management skills. Learning how to manage time effectively is an important skill that can help students to succeed in many areas of life.
  • Provides feedback: Assignments provide an opportunity for students to receive feedback on their work. This feedback can help students to identify areas where they need to improve and can help them to grow and develop.

Limitations of Assignment

There are also some limitations of assignments that should be considered, including:

  • Limited scope: Assignments are often limited in scope, and may not provide a comprehensive understanding of a particular topic. They may only cover a specific aspect of a topic, and may not provide a full picture of the subject matter.
  • Lack of engagement: Some assignments may not engage students in the learning process, particularly if they are repetitive or not challenging enough. This can lead to a lack of motivation and interest in the subject matter.
  • Time-consuming: Assignments can be time-consuming, particularly if they require a lot of research or writing. This can be a disadvantage for students who have other commitments, such as work or extracurricular activities.
  • Unreliable assessment: The assessment of assignments can be subjective and may not always accurately reflect a student’s understanding or abilities. The grading may be influenced by factors such as the instructor’s personal biases or the student’s writing style.
  • Lack of feedback : Although assignments can provide feedback, this feedback may not always be detailed or useful. Instructors may not have the time or resources to provide detailed feedback on every assignment, which can limit the value of the feedback that students receive.

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  • assignments basic law

Assignments: The Basic Law

The assignment of a right or obligation is a common contractual event under the law and the right to assign (or prohibition against assignments) is found in the majority of agreements, leases and business structural documents created in the United States.

As with many terms commonly used, people are familiar with the term but often are not aware or fully aware of what the terms entail. The concept of assignment of rights and obligations is one of those simple concepts with wide ranging ramifications in the contractual and business context and the law imposes severe restrictions on the validity and effect of assignment in many instances. Clear contractual provisions concerning assignments and rights should be in every document and structure created and this article will outline why such drafting is essential for the creation of appropriate and effective contracts and structures.

The reader should first read the article on Limited Liability Entities in the United States and Contracts since the information in those articles will be assumed in this article.

Basic Definitions and Concepts:

An assignment is the transfer of rights held by one party called the “assignor” to another party called the “assignee.” The legal nature of the assignment and the contractual terms of the agreement between the parties determines some additional rights and liabilities that accompany the assignment. The assignment of rights under a contract usually completely transfers the rights to the assignee to receive the benefits accruing under the contract. Ordinarily, the term assignment is limited to the transfer of rights that are intangible, like contractual rights and rights connected with property. Merchants Service Co. v. Small Claims Court , 35 Cal. 2d 109, 113-114 (Cal. 1950).

An assignment will generally be permitted under the law unless there is an express prohibition against assignment in the underlying contract or lease. Where assignments are permitted, the assignor need not consult the other party to the contract but may merely assign the rights at that time. However, an assignment cannot have any adverse effect on the duties of the other party to the contract, nor can it diminish the chance of the other party receiving complete performance. The assignor normally remains liable unless there is an agreement to the contrary by the other party to the contract.

The effect of a valid assignment is to remove privity between the assignor and the obligor and create privity between the obligor and the assignee. Privity is usually defined as a direct and immediate contractual relationship. See Merchants case above.

Further, for the assignment to be effective in most jurisdictions, it must occur in the present. One does not normally assign a future right; the assignment vests immediate rights and obligations.

No specific language is required to create an assignment so long as the assignor makes clear his/her intent to assign identified contractual rights to the assignee. Since expensive litigation can erupt from ambiguous or vague language, obtaining the correct verbiage is vital. An agreement must manifest the intent to transfer rights and can either be oral or in writing and the rights assigned must be certain.

Note that an assignment of an interest is the transfer of some identifiable property, claim, or right from the assignor to the assignee. The assignment operates to transfer to the assignee all of the rights, title, or interest of the assignor in the thing assigned. A transfer of all rights, title, and interests conveys everything that the assignor owned in the thing assigned and the assignee stands in the shoes of the assignor. Knott v. McDonald’s Corp ., 985 F. Supp. 1222 (N.D. Cal. 1997)

The parties must intend to effectuate an assignment at the time of the transfer, although no particular language or procedure is necessary. As long ago as the case of National Reserve Co. v. Metropolitan Trust Co ., 17 Cal. 2d 827 (Cal. 1941), the court held that in determining what rights or interests pass under an assignment, the intention of the parties as manifested in the instrument is controlling.

The intent of the parties to an assignment is a question of fact to be derived not only from the instrument executed by the parties but also from the surrounding circumstances. When there is no writing to evidence the intention to transfer some identifiable property, claim, or right, it is necessary to scrutinize the surrounding circumstances and parties’ acts to ascertain their intentions. Strosberg v. Brauvin Realty Servs., 295 Ill. App. 3d 17 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1998)

The general rule applicable to assignments of choses in action is that an assignment, unless there is a contract to the contrary, carries with it all securities held by the assignor as collateral to the claim and all rights incidental thereto and vests in the assignee the equitable title to such collateral securities and incidental rights. An unqualified assignment of a contract or chose in action, however, with no indication of the intent of the parties, vests in the assignee the assigned contract or chose and all rights and remedies incidental thereto.

More examples: In Strosberg v. Brauvin Realty Servs ., 295 Ill. App. 3d 17 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1998), the court held that the assignee of a party to a subordination agreement is entitled to the benefits and is subject to the burdens of the agreement. In Florida E. C. R. Co. v. Eno , 99 Fla. 887 (Fla. 1930), the court held that the mere assignment of all sums due in and of itself creates no different or other liability of the owner to the assignee than that which existed from the owner to the assignor.

And note that even though an assignment vests in the assignee all rights, remedies, and contingent benefits which are incidental to the thing assigned, those which are personal to the assignor and for his sole benefit are not assigned. Rasp v. Hidden Valley Lake, Inc ., 519 N.E.2d 153, 158 (Ind. Ct. App. 1988). Thus, if the underlying agreement provides that a service can only be provided to X, X cannot assign that right to Y.

Novation Compared to Assignment:

Although the difference between a novation and an assignment may appear narrow, it is an essential one. “Novation is a act whereby one party transfers all its obligations and benefits under a contract to a third party.” In a novation, a third party successfully substitutes the original party as a party to the contract. “When a contract is novated, the other contracting party must be left in the same position he was in prior to the novation being made.”

A sublease is the transfer when a tenant retains some right of reentry onto the leased premises. However, if the tenant transfers the entire leasehold estate, retaining no right of reentry or other reversionary interest, then the transfer is an assignment. The assignor is normally also removed from liability to the landlord only if the landlord consents or allowed that right in the lease. In a sublease, the original tenant is not released from the obligations of the original lease.

Equitable Assignments:

An equitable assignment is one in which one has a future interest and is not valid at law but valid in a court of equity. In National Bank of Republic v. United Sec. Life Ins. & Trust Co. , 17 App. D.C. 112 (D.C. Cir. 1900), the court held that to constitute an equitable assignment of a chose in action, the following has to occur generally: anything said written or done, in pursuance of an agreement and for valuable consideration, or in consideration of an antecedent debt, to place a chose in action or fund out of the control of the owner, and appropriate it to or in favor of another person, amounts to an equitable assignment. Thus, an agreement, between a debtor and a creditor, that the debt shall be paid out of a specific fund going to the debtor may operate as an equitable assignment.

In Egyptian Navigation Co. v. Baker Invs. Corp. , 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30804 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 14, 2008), the court stated that an equitable assignment occurs under English law when an assignor, with an intent to transfer his/her right to a chose in action, informs the assignee about the right so transferred.

An executory agreement or a declaration of trust are also equitable assignments if unenforceable as assignments by a court of law but enforceable by a court of equity exercising sound discretion according to the circumstances of the case. Since California combines courts of equity and courts of law, the same court would hear arguments as to whether an equitable assignment had occurred. Quite often, such relief is granted to avoid fraud or unjust enrichment.

Note that obtaining an assignment through fraudulent means invalidates the assignment. Fraud destroys the validity of everything into which it enters. It vitiates the most solemn contracts, documents, and even judgments. Walker v. Rich , 79 Cal. App. 139 (Cal. App. 1926). If an assignment is made with the fraudulent intent to delay, hinder, and defraud creditors, then it is void as fraudulent in fact. See our article on Transfers to Defraud Creditors .

But note that the motives that prompted an assignor to make the transfer will be considered as immaterial and will constitute no defense to an action by the assignee, if an assignment is considered as valid in all other respects.

Enforceability of Assignments:

Whether a right under a contract is capable of being transferred is determined by the law of the place where the contract was entered into. The validity and effect of an assignment is determined by the law of the place of assignment. The validity of an assignment of a contractual right is governed by the law of the state with the most significant relationship to the assignment and the parties.

In some jurisdictions, the traditional conflict of laws rules governing assignments has been rejected and the law of the place having the most significant contacts with the assignment applies. In Downs v. American Mut. Liability Ins. Co ., 14 N.Y.2d 266 (N.Y. 1964), a wife and her husband separated and the wife obtained a judgment of separation from the husband in New York. The judgment required the husband to pay a certain yearly sum to the wife. The husband assigned 50 percent of his future salary, wages, and earnings to the wife. The agreement authorized the employer to make such payments to the wife.

After the husband moved from New York, the wife learned that he was employed by an employer in Massachusetts. She sent the proper notice and demanded payment under the agreement. The employer refused and the wife brought an action for enforcement. The court observed that Massachusetts did not prohibit assignment of the husband’s wages. Moreover, Massachusetts law was not controlling because New York had the most significant relationship with the assignment. Therefore, the court ruled in favor of the wife.

Therefore, the validity of an assignment is determined by looking to the law of the forum with the most significant relationship to the assignment itself. To determine the applicable law of assignments, the court must look to the law of the state which is most significantly related to the principal issue before it.

Assignment of Contractual Rights:

Generally, the law allows the assignment of a contractual right unless the substitution of rights would materially change the duty of the obligor, materially increase the burden or risk imposed on the obligor by the contract, materially impair the chance of obtaining return performance, or materially reduce the value of the performance to the obligor. Restat 2d of Contracts, § 317(2)(a). This presumes that the underlying agreement is silent on the right to assign.

If the contract specifically precludes assignment, the contractual right is not assignable. Whether a contract is assignable is a matter of contractual intent and one must look to the language used by the parties to discern that intent.

In the absence of an express provision to the contrary, the rights and duties under a bilateral executory contract that does not involve personal skill, trust, or confidence may be assigned without the consent of the other party. But note that an assignment is invalid if it would materially alter the other party’s duties and responsibilities. Once an assignment is effective, the assignee stands in the shoes of the assignor and assumes all of assignor’s rights. Hence, after a valid assignment, the assignor’s right to performance is extinguished, transferred to assignee, and the assignee possesses the same rights, benefits, and remedies assignor once possessed. Robert Lamb Hart Planners & Architects v. Evergreen, Ltd. , 787 F. Supp. 753 (S.D. Ohio 1992).

On the other hand, an assignee’s right against the obligor is subject to “all of the limitations of the assignor’s right, all defenses thereto, and all set-offs and counterclaims which would have been available against the assignor had there been no assignment, provided that these defenses and set-offs are based on facts existing at the time of the assignment.” See Robert Lamb , case, above.

The power of the contract to restrict assignment is broad. Usually, contractual provisions that restrict assignment of the contract without the consent of the obligor are valid and enforceable, even when there is statutory authorization for the assignment. The restriction of the power to assign is often ineffective unless the restriction is expressly and precisely stated. Anti-assignment clauses are effective only if they contain clear, unambiguous language of prohibition. Anti-assignment clauses protect only the obligor and do not affect the transaction between the assignee and assignor.

Usually, a prohibition against the assignment of a contract does not prevent an assignment of the right to receive payments due, unless circumstances indicate the contrary. Moreover, the contracting parties cannot, by a mere non-assignment provision, prevent the effectual alienation of the right to money which becomes due under the contract.

A contract provision prohibiting or restricting an assignment may be waived, or a party may so act as to be estopped from objecting to the assignment, such as by effectively ratifying the assignment. The power to void an assignment made in violation of an anti-assignment clause may be waived either before or after the assignment. See our article on Contracts.

Noncompete Clauses and Assignments:

Of critical import to most buyers of businesses is the ability to ensure that key employees of the business being purchased cannot start a competing company. Some states strictly limit such clauses, some do allow them. California does restrict noncompete clauses, only allowing them under certain circumstances. A common question in those states that do allow them is whether such rights can be assigned to a new party, such as the buyer of the buyer.

A covenant not to compete, also called a non-competitive clause, is a formal agreement prohibiting one party from performing similar work or business within a designated area for a specified amount of time. This type of clause is generally included in contracts between employer and employee and contracts between buyer and seller of a business.

Many workers sign a covenant not to compete as part of the paperwork required for employment. It may be a separate document similar to a non-disclosure agreement, or buried within a number of other clauses in a contract. A covenant not to compete is generally legal and enforceable, although there are some exceptions and restrictions.

Whenever a company recruits skilled employees, it invests a significant amount of time and training. For example, it often takes years before a research chemist or a design engineer develops a workable knowledge of a company’s product line, including trade secrets and highly sensitive information. Once an employee gains this knowledge and experience, however, all sorts of things can happen. The employee could work for the company until retirement, accept a better offer from a competing company or start up his or her own business.

A covenant not to compete may cover a number of potential issues between employers and former employees. Many companies spend years developing a local base of customers or clients. It is important that this customer base not fall into the hands of local competitors. When an employee signs a covenant not to compete, he or she usually agrees not to use insider knowledge of the company’s customer base to disadvantage the company. The covenant not to compete often defines a broad geographical area considered off-limits to former employees, possibly tens or hundreds of miles.

Another area of concern covered by a covenant not to compete is a potential ‘brain drain’. Some high-level former employees may seek to recruit others from the same company to create new competition. Retention of employees, especially those with unique skills or proprietary knowledge, is vital for most companies, so a covenant not to compete may spell out definite restrictions on the hiring or recruiting of employees.

A covenant not to compete may also define a specific amount of time before a former employee can seek employment in a similar field. Many companies offer a substantial severance package to make sure former employees are financially solvent until the terms of the covenant not to compete have been met.

Because the use of a covenant not to compete can be controversial, a handful of states, including California, have largely banned this type of contractual language. The legal enforcement of these agreements falls on individual states, and many have sided with the employee during arbitration or litigation. A covenant not to compete must be reasonable and specific, with defined time periods and coverage areas. If the agreement gives the company too much power over former employees or is ambiguous, state courts may declare it to be overbroad and therefore unenforceable. In such case, the employee would be free to pursue any employment opportunity, including working for a direct competitor or starting up a new company of his or her own.

It has been held that an employee’s covenant not to compete is assignable where one business is transferred to another, that a merger does not constitute an assignment of a covenant not to compete, and that a covenant not to compete is enforceable by a successor to the employer where the assignment does not create an added burden of employment or other disadvantage to the employee. However, in some states such as Hawaii, it has also been held that a covenant not to compete is not assignable and under various statutes for various reasons that such covenants are not enforceable against an employee by a successor to the employer. Hawaii v. Gannett Pac. Corp. , 99 F. Supp. 2d 1241 (D. Haw. 1999)

It is vital to obtain the relevant law of the applicable state before drafting or attempting to enforce assignment rights in this particular area.

Conclusion:

In the current business world of fast changing structures, agreements, employees and projects, the ability to assign rights and obligations is essential to allow flexibility and adjustment to new situations. Conversely, the ability to hold a contracting party into the deal may be essential for the future of a party. Thus, the law of assignments and the restriction on same is a critical aspect of every agreement and every structure. This basic provision is often glanced at by the contracting parties, or scribbled into the deal at the last minute but can easily become the most vital part of the transaction.

As an example, one client of ours came into the office outraged that his co venturer on a sizable exporting agreement, who had excellent connections in Brazil, had elected to pursue another venture instead and assigned the agreement to a party unknown to our client and without the business contacts our client considered vital. When we examined the handwritten agreement our client had drafted in a restaurant in Sao Paolo, we discovered there was no restriction on assignment whatsoever…our client had not even considered that right when drafting the agreement after a full day of work.

One choses who one does business with carefully…to ensure that one’s choice remains the party on the other side of the contract, one must master the ability to negotiate proper assignment provisions.

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Resources for Writing Briefs

Four types of briefing documents - information, issue, policy, policy impact

Policy is an important tool for improving population health. Decision makers often look to public health professionals for surveillance data, research findings, and evidence-based interventions and guidelines to help inform policy decisions. CDC has identified four types of briefing documents that can be used to clearly communicate public health evidence. Public health professionals can use the resources below to develop briefs that succinctly inform decision makers and stakeholders of the best available evidence on a public health problem, policy, method, or approach.

Accelerating Science Impact: Four Types of Briefing Documents

The four types of briefing documents can be used to share evidence and inform decisions at every stage of the CDC Policy Process. Selecting the appropriate brief depends on the level of the evidence available and the stage in the policy process. As research evidence grows and more information becomes available, public health professionals can move from an Issue Brief on the public health problem up to a Policy Impact Brief on the potential health, economic, or budgetary impact of a policy. All four brief types are described below.

  • An Information Brief provides a summary of the research on a policy method, approach, or other related topic like behavioral economics or the Health in All Policies approach.
  • An Issue Brief provides a summary of the best available evidence on a public health problem with policy implications. An issue brief is most appropriate when no policy solutions are known to exist and the issue is still in the problem identification domain of the policy process.
  • A Policy Brief builds on an issue brief by providing a summary of evidence-based best practices or policy options for a public health problem. A policy brief is appropriate for issues in domains two, three, four and five of the policy process: policy analysis, strategy and policy development, policy enactment, and policy implementation respectively.
  • A Policy Impact Brief is the most in-depth briefing document and provides a summary of the best available evidence on health, economic, or budgetary impact of one or more policies for a public health problem. A policy impact brief is appropriate when evaluations and evidence exist on the health or economic impact of the policy.

Steps for Writing Briefs

steps for writing briefs infographic-see following paragraph for text

Steps for Writing Briefs Infographic Text

When you’re ready to start developing your brief, consider the following steps.

  • Identify your key audience. Potential audiences may be those who inform policy at the federal, state, or local level; federal, state, local, or nongovernmental decision makers; or other stakeholders.
  • Conduct audience research. In order to translate the evidence in a way that is easy to understand, get to know your audience. Don’t guess or assume. Review data or, when possible, gather new data through formative research.
  • Determine your purpose and make sure your material contains one obvious main message.
  • Define and explain terms that may be unfamiliar to your audience. Avoid using jargon or technical terms unless absolutely necessary.
  • A “chunk” is the amount of words or numbers people can hold in their short-term memory and group with other words or numbers. A chunk should be only one idea that people can connect to other, related ideas.
  • Use headings to organize and label chunks.
  • Use bulleted or numbered lists to break up text in the body of the material and make information easier to scan and read. Lists with more than seven items should be broken into sub-lists.
  • Review the  CDC Clear Communication Index for other tips on communicating clearly with your intended audiences.
  • Include at least one visual aid that conveys or supports the main message. Photographs, graphs, and infographics are visual aids. Simple, well-designed visual aids help people easily and quickly grasp information. Make sure words and visual aids convey the same message and reinforce each other.
  • Include considerations for the key audience. Be clear about what the evidence might mean (as it relates to the issue at hand) but also what it might not mean (if relevant), and frame the evidence in a way that is accurate and easy for the audience to understand.
  • Format your brief.  Finally, your brief should be concise, compelling, and visually appealing to your audience.

PDF Version – Steps for Writing Briefs Infographic pdf icon [PDF – 479 KB]

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Writing Explained

Brief vs. Debrief – What’s the Difference?

Home » Brief vs. Debrief – What’s the Difference?

Brief and debrief are verbs with a confusing relationship. Based on the structure of debrief , they would appear to be opposites. But if brief means short , does debrief really mean long?

Actually, it does not. The sense in which these words are related does not involve the length of something. Continue reading to learn more about these confusing words.

What is the Difference Between Brief and Debrief?

In this post, I will compare brief vs. debrief . I will use each word in several example sentences that shows you how it should appear in context.

Plus, I will share a memory tool that makes choosing either brief or debrief much easier next time you need one of these words.

When to Use Brief

brief versus debrief

As an adjective , brief means short , like in the sentence below,

  • Write a brief reflection on a session you found insightful at the conference.

As a noun , brief means a summary or short statement .

  • “Did everyone read the brief I sent out via email?” asked the manager.

As a verb , brief means to prepare someone by informing him or her of necessary information .

  • As his aide, it will be your job to brief the director on all meetings he does not personally attend.

When to Use Debrief

definition of debrief definition of brief

Here are some more examples,

  • Protocol states that all operatives must debrief with dispatchers immediately upon returning from an engagement.
  • Debrief with me after the plane touches down.

Debrief can also function as a noun where it simply means a series of questions about a completed mission of assignment. This relates to the verb definition.

Debrief is a relatively young word in the history of English and was first recorded in 1944. Its origins are unknown. This period in world history was fraught with tensions, and World War II saw heavy use of spies. It is easy to speculate that this word sprang from the geopolitical tensions of the time.

Trick to Remember the Difference: Debrief vs. Brief

define debrief define brief

With verbs, the situation is a little trickier.

  • To brief someone is to give that person information.
  • To debrief the same person would be to interrogate him, in other words, to obtain information from him.

Debrief and interrogate both have two E’s, so you can use this fact to pair the two in your mind.

Is it debrief or brief? Brief can be an adjective, a noun, or a verb. As a verb, it means to give someone a summary . Debrief is a verb that means to interrogate someone . Though they are related, they are not interchangeable, and you must use each carefully.

To summarize,

  • Brief means to inform someone with necessary information
  • Debrief means to interrogate someone for information about a recently completed assignment.
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Definition of assignment

task , duty , job , chore , stint , assignment mean a piece of work to be done.

task implies work imposed by a person in authority or an employer or by circumstance.

duty implies an obligation to perform or responsibility for performance.

job applies to a piece of work voluntarily performed; it may sometimes suggest difficulty or importance.

chore implies a minor routine activity necessary for maintaining a household or farm.

stint implies a carefully allotted or measured quantity of assigned work or service.

assignment implies a definite limited task assigned by one in authority.

Examples of assignment in a Sentence

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'assignment.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

see assign entry 1

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Phrases Containing assignment

  • self - assignment

Dictionary Entries Near assignment

Cite this entry.

“Assignment.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/assignment. Accessed 19 Apr. 2024.

Legal Definition

Legal definition of assignment, more from merriam-webster on assignment.

Nglish: Translation of assignment for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of assignment for Arabic Speakers

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  • Implementing Receivables Credit to Cash

Revenue Contingency Assignment Rules

Use the Revenue Contingency Assignment Rules pages to define rules for automatically assigning revenue contingencies to transactions.

A revenue contingency assignment rule consists of:

Rule name and optional description.

Revenue contingency to assign to transactions.

One or more parameters that contain the conditions under which the contingency is assigned.

The rule parameters available for rule definition include:

Revenue Scheduling Rule

Transaction Source

Bill-to Customer

Bill-to Site

Customer Profile Class

Business Unit

Ship-to Customer

Ship-to Site

Transaction Type

You can define multiple rules with different matching criteria that return the same contingency, and you can also define multiple rules with the same matching criteria that return multiple contingencies.

After you create an assignment rule, you can test the rule to ensure that all expressions are accurate and the rule functions as expected.

Revenue contingency assignment rules let you automate the assignment of contingencies to transactions in a way that reflects the practical needs of your enterprise. You typically use these rules to support the contingency assignment requirements that aren't supported by your revenue policy setup.

For example, you may want to require Customer ABC to manually accept an item before recognizing revenue on the related transactions. To make this a mandatory process:

Create a new revenue contingency assignment rule.

Select the revenue contingency Explicit Acceptance for this rule.

Select Bill-to Customer as the rule parameter.

Enter the related customer condition.

With this defaulting rule in place, Receivables assigns the Explicit Acceptance contingency to all transaction lines for Customer ABC, and defers revenue until the customer acknowledges acceptance of each line item.

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    Ordinarily, the term assignment is limited to the transfer of rights that are intangible, like contractual rights and rights connected with property. Merchants Service Co. v. Small Claims Court, 35 Cal. 2d 109, 113-114 (Cal. 1950). An assignment will generally be permitted under the law unless there is an express prohibition against assignment ...

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    Brief can be an adjective, a noun, or a verb. As a verb, it means to give someone a summary. Debrief is a verb that means to interrogate someone. Though they are related, they are not interchangeable, and you must use each carefully. To summarize, Brief means to inform someone with necessary information. Debrief means to interrogate someone for ...

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    The meaning of ASSIGNMENT is the act of assigning something. How to use assignment in a sentence. Synonym Discussion of Assignment.

  23. Revenue Contingency Assignment Rules

    A revenue contingency assignment rule consists of: Rule name and optional description. Revenue contingency to assign to transactions. One or more parameters that contain the conditions under which the contingency is assigned. The rule parameters available for rule definition include: Revenue Scheduling Rule. Transaction Source. Bill-to Customer.