Types of Academic Assignments

When studying your university degree, you may encounter types of essays that you haven’t written before. Typical university assignments include:

  • research essay
  • literature review
  • annotated bibliography
  • critical or analytical review
  • case study
  • lab report
  • project report

Each asks you to examine and present a thesis in a different form and each needs a different approach.
Each assignment type is designed to test your knowledge, understanding and progress in a subject in a different way to a standard essay.

Understanding the requirements, form and formats of every assignment is vital because if you have been asked to produce a review and you write a cause and effect essay you immediately have failed the first test – not understanding the assignment. If you miss off an annotated bibliography, you’ll lose marks. Just as it’s vital to understand the nuances between a literature review and an analytical review, knowing how to write up a case study versus producing a lab report is key to delivering to the assignment set.

This table displays the types, their differences and their nuances.

Type of essay Intention Tone Structure
Research essay
  • Answer a question
  • Present factual argument
  • Use active voice
  • Factual
  • Reads logically
  • Concise
Intro, body & conclusion
Literature review
  • Be aware of current research
  • Identify new ideas
  • Understand main ideas
  • Formal
  • Opinion-based
  • Intro, body & conclusion
  • Include critical comment and look at similarities/differences
Annotated bibliography Find important articles and assess their usefulness
  • Formal
  • Objective
  • List works in alphabetical order
  • Give summary of each and their relevance
Critical or analytical review Evaluate information and research methods
  • Analytical
  • Active voice
Brief summary

Assess how good the work is

Case study
  • Look at a situation
  • Examine pros and cons
  • Suggest procedure
  • Factual
  • Concise
  • Easy to understand
  • Numbered headings
  • Table of contents
  • Summary
Lab report
  • Explain your process
  • Make conclusions
  • Past tense
  • Clear steps
  • Objective
IMRAD headings (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion)
Project report Make a plan to follow, or examine results of plan already carried out
  • Factual
  • Future tense for plans to follow
  • Objective
  • Title page
  • Acknowledgements
  • Summary
  • Table of contents
  • Intro and body (no heading)
  • Conclusion / recommendations
  • References or bibliography
  • Glossary
  • Appendices

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