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Assignment Types

Most writing assignments fit into one of three categories: closed assignments, open assignments or semi-closed assignments.

Closed Assignments: Use these when you want to know how well the students have internalized information. The prompt asks for a student’s persuasive response. They are “closed” questions. For example:

  • Was the U.S. justified in invading Iraq?
  • In your opinion, was Napoleon a leader to be admired or condemned?
  • Should Russia be admitted into the European Union?

The student’s task is to make a claim and then support that claim with valid evidence.

Open Assignments: Use these when you want to know how well students can explain a topic within abroad context of information. They are “open-ended” questions. For example:

  • Describe your journey as a literate person.
  • Analyze the effects of the sugar trade on the institution of slavery.
  • What should be done to resolve the post-colonial ethnic disputes in sub-Saharan Africa?

The student’s task is to determine the scope and narrow the subject to fit their interests while keeping the information within the assigned page limit.

Semi-closed Assignments: Use these when you want to know how well students have internalized information within a very specific topic. These assignments ask “open-ended questions” within a closed topic. For example:

  • Explain the relationship between the United Nations and one of its member states.
  • Compare and contrast the economic theories of two modern economists.
  • Discuss the most pressing issues of globalization.

The student’s task is to make an argument within a specific focused topic.

Adapted from L. L. Irvin, “What is Academic Writing?” Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, Vol. 1, 2010.

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