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A Simple Guide to Writing the Perfect Assignment
Not written an assignment in a long time? Daunted by the task at hand, unsure you can stretch your answer to 1,500 words or more? Whether you are new to writing assignments or coming back to learning after a break, this simple but effective assignment writing guide is jam-packed full of fantastic information and advice.<
#1 Read the Question Carefully First up is an obvious step, but one many students leave out. You need to always read the question carefully.
We often skim read the question, picking out keywords that we think are important. A word jumps out at you, and off you go, scribbling down 1,000 words in answer.
But are you really answering the question? In any question, there are keywords that are directing you to the information it wants to elicit from you.
For example, it may ask you to ‘ discuss the use of split infinitives in popular writing’ or ‘ explain the growing use of text speak in every day English’.
- Highlight or underline what the question is asking you to do – g. discuss, explain, examine,
- Refer to the question after each main point or paragraph – is it relevant to the question, or are you simply ‘filling in’ with concepts or ideas you do know?
- Rewrite the question so that you fully understand what information you need to answer it effectively.
It is rare for even for seasoned academic to plunge into writing an essay of any length, either 1,000 words or a 10,000 words dissertation, without outlining a response.
Outlining and planning your assignment will make the difference between a mediocre grade and a fantastic one, a boost to your confidence when it comes to your studies.
There are several things you need to do. As well as planning your assignment content, you also need to look at:
- Assignment criteria – how long does the assignment need to be? What other aspects is it asking for, if any e.g. a labelled diagram?
- What points do you want to include? What kinds of paragraphs will you write to illustrate these points?
- Setting it out – how does your tutor want the assignment set out? Should you include your name, student number, page numbers, double-line spacing and so on?
#3 Structure There are three main parts to your assignment: the start, the middle and the end.
This is a small paragraph that sets out what you are going to talk about in response to the question asked. It introduces the reader to the aim and purpose of your assignment, along with the basic concepts you will address.
The main body
This is where you will discuss these concepts in turn. The basic guidelines are:
- One idea per paragraph – when you start to discuss a new idea, start a new paragraph
- Always refer to the question to keep the main body of your assignment on track
This is your closing paragraph. It is a summary of what you have discussed. The ‘golden rule’ simple: don’t introduce new topics or ideas in your conclusion that you haven’t discussed in your main essay.
Academic assignments are not usually written in the first person. So don’t write ‘I found out through researching the topic’, instead write something along these lines, ‘Research shows that…’
#4 Referencing When you write an assignment, you will use the concepts and ideas of other writers and academics. This is exactly what your tutor wants to see – you have researched the topic, used their ideas and applied them.
When you do this, you need to reference and cite their work. This is like giving your tutor and address or a signpost as to where you got the information and where they can find it.
Different learning providers will use different systems, so check carefully how they want references to be cited. In most cases, as well as giving an indication in the main body of the assignment, you will also need to create a bibliography of books and websites you have used, listing them in alphabetical order.
Check how to reference correctly , depending on the system the learning provider uses.
Practice Makes Perfect For some people, writing is a tough assignment, but there is support, help and advice available. If you are unused to writing, why not take a look at creative writing courses such as these to give you the writing practice that you need.
Don’t forget to ask your tutor for help too. And when you get your marked assignment back, follow their suggestions for improvement too.
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Home / Blog / 15 foolproof tips for writing a great assignment
15 foolproof tips for writing a great assignment
15th Aug 2015
If you’re the kind of person that only has to hear the word “assignment” and immediately has flashbacks to stuffy classrooms, ticking clocks and staring a blank page for hours….DON’T PANIC.
Our 15 foolproof tips for writing a great assignment will guide you to success.
Before you start…
1. do your reading.
Your course or module will have a reading list; make sure you actually use it! Your tutors choose texts to specifically help with your assignments and modules, and you’ll gain some valuable insights into the topic that are sure to make writing your assignment easier.
Expert tip: If you have the time, do some reading from other sources not on your list to back up your argument.
2. Check the deadline
There’s nothing worse than scheduling time to sit down and write then glancing at the calendar and realising you’ve only got a few days left. Double-checking the deadline means you’ll have no nasty surprises.
Expert tip: There are many apps out there that can add a ‘countdown’ to your phone or tablet. Use these to keep your assignment deadline front of mind.
3. Plan your time
Finding time to write is easier said than done, but if you break your time down into manageable chunks you’ll find it’s much easier to keep on top of your workload. Try scheduling mini-deadlines along the way (e.g. aim to have the first section done by a certain day) to keep your momentum going.
Expert tip: Be realistic about the time you have spare, and the time you’re willing to give up. If you schedule a writing session at 9 p.m. on Friday evening when you’d rather be relaxing, chances are you won’t get anything done.
4. Ask for help (if you need it)
If there’s any doubt in your mind about the question or the requirements of the assignment, ask your tutor. It’s better to start right than have to re-write in the last few days.
Expert tip: Remember, your tutor wants you to do well. He or she will not be annoyed if you need to ask a few questions.
5. Plan your assignment structure
Before you start, it can help to create a basic assignment structure. This can be as detailed as you like but the basic structure should contain your introduction points, your key arguments and points, and your planned conclusion.
Expert tip: Try writing out your plan on sticky notes. These will allow you to rearrange your arguments and points easily as your plan develops.
As you’re writing…
You wouldn’t start a conversation without introducing yourself; your assignment is the same. Your first paragraph should introduce your key argument, add a bit of context and the key issues of the question, and then go on to explain how you plan to answer it.
Expert tip: Some people find it easier to write their introduction after they’ve finished the rest of their assignment. Give it a try!
7. Structure your argument
As you write the body of your assignment, make sure that each point you make has some supporting evidence. Use statistics or quotes you gathered during your reading to support your argument, or even as something to argue against.
Expert tip: If you’re using a lot of different sources, it’s easy to forget to add them to your reference list. Make things easier for yourself by writing it as you go along.
Your conclusion is your final chance to summarise your argument and leave a lasting impression with your reader. Make sure you recap the key points and arguments you made in your assignment, including supporting evidence if needed.
Expert tip: Make sure that you don’t introduce any new ideas in your conclusion; this section is purely for summarising your previous arguments.
9. Getting over writer’s block
Struggling to write? There’s nothing more frustrating than putting aside time to write and then just staring at a blank page. Luckily, there are lots of thing to try to get you inspired : a change of scenery, putting on some music, writing another section of the essay or just taking a short break.
Expert tip: If you find yourself unable to write, try to use your time to read ahead or re-read what you’ve already written.
10. Make sure you use your ‘essay voice’
While each university, school or each college will probably have its own style guide, you should always use a neutral and professional tone when writing an assignment. Try to avoid slang, overly-familiar phrases and definitely don’t use text-speak!
Expert tip: If you’re not sure about a phrase or word, search for it online to see what other publications use it. If it’s in a dictionary or used by a national newspaper it’s probably OK to use in your assignment.
After you finish…
11. get a little distance.
If you’ve got time (and you should have if you managed to stick to your schedule!), put your first draft aside for a day or two before re-reading it. This will give you time to step back and read your assignment objectively, making it easier to spot mistakes and issues.
Expert tip: If you find it easier to review on paper, print out your assignment with double-line spacing to accommodate your notes and corrections.
12. Make sure you’ve answered the question
As you’re reading through your first draft of your assignment, check that all your points are relevant to the original question. It’s easy to drift off on a tangent when you’re in mid-flow.
Expert tip: Read each paragraph and consider it on its own merit as to whether it answers the question, and also to check that it contributes to your overall argument.
13. Don’t be afraid to cut text out
Sometimes, when you’ve struggled to reach a word count it can be hard to remove text that you’ve slaved over. But if a piece of text isn’t supporting your argument then it doesn’t have a place in your assignment.
Expert tip: With word processing software, the ‘Track Changes’ feature allows you to edit text without losing it forever. And if you realise later that you’ve made a mistake, just reject the change.
14. Check and double-check your spelling
Nothing can give a bad impression as quickly as a spelling mistake. Errors are distracting, look unprofessional and in the worst case they can undermine your argument. If you’re unsure about the correct use of a word, look it up online or use an alternative that you’re more comfortable with.
Expert tip: While you’re running your spell-checker, check your word count too. You’re usually allowed to deviate by 10% above or below the assignment word count, but check with your institution’s guidelines.
15. Cite your sources
References and creating a bibliography are key skills that you unfortunately have to master when writing an assignment. Check your institution’s guidelines before you start to make sure you’re including all the information you need.
Expert tip: Some eBooks have a citation feature that automatically collates all the information you need for your bibliography.
Wondering how you can apply these skills? Download a prospectus to choose your course today!
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5 tips on how to start your assignment
Oct 6, 2020
We all know the feeling when someone mentions the word ‘ assignment ’ and dread sweeps over you. Maybe you put it aside for now. After all, the due date is three whole weeks away.
Don’t sweat, it’s all about how you approach it. Doing an assignment is a process, these tips might help get you started and hopefully avoid last-minute stress and struggles.
1. Set realistic goals and reminders
Make goals for your study - how many days do you have, and what will you get done each day or each week? Today, will you get your plan done? Two hundred words finished? Break it down into achievable chunks. Be realistic and update your plan as you go. Things change, you might have to make room for a family dinner, holiday, or another assignment.
When’s the due date? Put it on a calendar. Put another reminder a week before that. And also a reminder the week before that. Don’t put pressure on your memory. You’ve got other things to remember. Make that date and your goals visible. If you're prepared, it won't sneak up on you. You can always use our quick and simple free calculator tool, too.
>> Check out our free Assignment Calculator
2. Start when you're feeling fresh
Make it easier on yourself - start when you’re fresh and focused. This might be different for everyone. Some people are fresher after soccer practice or after dinner, and some prefer early mornings. Find the best time and make it regular. Recent studies suggest that it’s better to do work in short blocks (say 50 minutes), more often. This will help you stay fresh and work productively.
3. Clarify what is required
Make sure you start by understanding the question. Break it down and circle or highlight the key words. Identify the key concepts and ideas in your topic and if you're unsure or anything, ask someone - a teacher, your parents, a friend or an expert . Knowing what is required right from the start - even reading the question out loud - will help you source the right research material, feel more confident, and form your own ideas and work.
4. Be flexible and learn as you go
Are you keeping the assignment question in mind? As you start your research and re-read texts, you might discover new things that change what you think about the answer to the question. You can’t change evidence, but you can change your point of view, or acknowledge a different perspective.
5. Get something on paper
If you're really stuck and just can't get that first sentence out, start by writing notes and ideas down. Here are some creative tasks that might help you start:
Take notes under common headings and find themes in your notes
Brainstorm your ideas on paper around keywords in the question
Write ideas on notecards and group them into piles or columns to create your assignment structure and paragraphs
- Read the question, then read your planned responses out loud as if answering someone in front of you.
If you'd like to run any questions or ideas by one of our expert Subject Specialists, we're always here to help. Our Specialists can help with everything from assignment planning, writing, grammar, or research.
Topics: Students , Homework , Study , Assignment Help
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Formatting and presenting your assessments correctly is important because many include marks for presentation.
This may include marks for things such as:
- formatting and layout
- APA referencing
- writing style
- grammar and spelling.
Before you start on your assessment:
- check your assessment question, emails from your course leader, and learning materials for how it should be presented
- read the instructions carefully. Make sure you understand them and follow them exactly
- if you're not sure about what’s required contact your course leader.
General guidelines for electronic submissions
- Most assessments should be produced using Microsoft Word.
- You can also submit assessments using: .doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx or .rtf.
- if you don’t have Microsoft Word go to My Open Polytechnic to download and access your free version
- if you're not sure about the file type required, contact your course leader.
- Use a clear, readable font, such as Verdana, Calibri, Tahoma or Arial and use the same font throughout.
- Use black text on a white background.
- Avoid coloured backgrounds or text in a colour other than black, unless you have special permission to use them.
- Use 11 or 12 point font for the body of your assessment.
- Use 1.5 spacing and 2.53 cm (1”) wide margins.
- Leave a blank line between paragraphs.
- If the questions are short, leave a blank line between each question. If they are long, start each question on a new page.
- Left-justify your work (also known as left-aligned).
- Use bold for headings.
- Essays don’t usually need subheadings; reports usually do.
Most assessments need a title page, which should include:
- the title and number of the assessment
- the course number and name
- the due date
- your full name and student number.
Centre this information on the page, starting approximately one-third of the way down the page.
- Number and clearly label figures and tables.
- Add numbers as follows: Figure 1, Figure 2, Table 1, Table 2, and so on.
- Put table and figure captions above the table.
- Don't number the items in a reference list.
For more help with figures and tables, check:
Get more help with tables and figures – APA Style website
Headers and footers
Insert a header or footer on each page (except the title page). It should contain:
- your name (last name, first name/s)
- your student number
- the course code
- the assessment number
- page numbers.
The reference list comes at the end of the assessment and should start on a new page labelled 'References'.
Need more help with reference lists? Check out the guides below:
Quick referencing APA guidelines (PDF 47 KB; opens in a new window)
Guide to APA referencing (PDF 395.11 KB; opens in a new window)
Appendices are used for information that:
- is too long to include in the body of your assessment
- supplements or complements the information you are providing.
Start each appendix (if applicable) on a new page. If there's just one appendix label it ‘Appendix’ without a number. If there is more than one, label them Appendix A, Appendix B, and so on.
In the main text of your assessment, refer to the Appendix by the label – for example, Appendix A.
Tops and bottoms of pages
Check the top and bottom of your pages to ensure they avoid:
- widows – single lines of text at the top of a page
- orphans – first lines of paragraphs at the bottom of a page
- tombstones – headings or subheadings alone at the bottom of a page
- split lists – lists that are divided between two pages (if possible).
General guidelines for hard copies
Most of the guidelines above also apply to hard copies (printed or handwritten documents).
If your course requires or allows handwritten assessments, be sure to follow the course instructions on presenting handwritten assessments.
Word limits and word count guidelines
Word limits support the development of concise writing skills. Word count guidelines help you to understand the expectation of workload for an assessment.
For more detailed information about these go to:
Word limits and word count guidelines
Got a question?
If you want to talk with someone about formatting and presenting your assessments, contact The Library and Learning Centre | Te Whare Pukapuka Wāhanga Whakapakari Ako.
Contact the Library and Learning Centre
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- Assignment writing
Follow this step-by-step guide to assignment writing to help you to manage your time and produce a better assignment.
This is a general guide. It's primarily for research essays, but can be used for all assignments. The specific requirements for your course may be different. Make sure you read through any assignment requirements carefully and ask your lecturer or tutor if you're unsure how to meet them.
- Analysing the topic
- Researching and note-taking
- Planning your assignment
- Writing your assignment
- Editing your assignment
1. Analysing the topic
Before you start researching or writing, take some time to analyse the assignment topic to make sure you know what you need to do.
Understand what you need to do
Read through the topic a few times to make sure you understand it. Think about the:
- learning objectives listed in the course profile – understand what you should be able to do after completing the course and its assessment tasks
- criteria you'll be marked on – find out what you need to do to achieve the grade you want
- questions you need to answer – try to explain the topic in your own words.
Identify keywords in the topic that will help guide your research, including any:
- task words – what you have to do (usually verbs)
- topic words – ideas, concepts or issues you need to discuss (often nouns)
- limiting words – restrict the focus of the topic (e.g. to a place, population or time period).
If you're writing your own topic, include task words, topic words and limiting words to help you to focus on exactly what you have to do.
Example keyword identification - text version
Topic: Evaluate the usefulness of a task analysis approach to assignment writing, especially with regard to the writing skill development of second language learners in the early stages of university study in the Australian university context. Task words: Evaluate Topic words: task analysis approach, assignment writing, writing skill development Limiting words : second language learners (population), early stages of university (time period), Australian university (place)
Brainstorm your ideas
Brainstorm information about the topic that you:
- already know
- will need to research to write the assignment.
When you brainstorm:
- use 'Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?' questions to get you thinking
- write down all your ideas – don't censor yourself or worry about the order
- try making a concept map to capture your ideas – start with the topic in the centre and record your ideas branching out from it.
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THE COVER PAGE
Students may design their own cover page (selection of different fonts, addition of graphics etc.) . However, the minimum information that must be on your cover page is shown below. An assignment without the plagiarism statement will not be accepted. (You may copy the required information from the box below by highlighting the text and copy and paste it into your document.)
Tells the reader what the assignment is going to be about.
· Provides the reader with the necessary background for what is to follow (i.e. a set of signposts).
· Tells the reader what the paper is about. · Should contain a logical development of the argument. · Write to a predetermined plan and structure. · Gradually build up your case. · Keep your focus on the problem; don’t get sidetracked. · Be critical and analytical in your approach.
CONCLUSION or RECOMMENDATION
REPORT PRESENTATION – KEY ELEMENTS:
PRESENTATION – WHAT ELSE IS IMPORTANT?
Every assignment must have attached an Assignment Attachment Form and a C over Sheet including a Plagiarism Statement with the student signature as shown above .
Assignments to be handed in as loose paper collection stapled together at the top left corner. The assignment should be presented as a technical report. It must consist of a cover sheet, content page, and should have an introduction, a body, a conclusion or recommendation, and a reference page.
Do not forget to number the pages. Any embellishment, fancy fonts and borders should be avoided. (Your report is a technical document and not a selling brochure that needs to catch the attention of the reader.)
Include photos, diagrams sketches, tables etc., and do not forget to refer to them in your text. Avoid cutting and pasting photocopies, as presentation will be part of the assessment.
Do your research, and then write up a draft. Before you write your final assignment, you may discuss your draft with your class lecturer to clear up any problems you may have encountered. Make sure your final assignment is ready by the due date.
If you have difficulties or are unfamiliar with report writing, contact the Learning Resource Centre where you will find numerous textbooks about report writing.
A catalogue of mistakes guaranteed to lead to a poor report and poor marks
- Assignment not properly stabled together (pages on backside coming off)
- Incorrect layout of the assignment or report
- Silly layout or type style in word processing (e.g. 18 pt fonts in heading and 8 pt text)
- Length of paragraphs of report not appropriate
- Report clearly not proofread for typographical errors, spelling errors, repeated words etc.
- Incorrect punctuation that makes the text ambiguous or incomprehensible
- Present or future tense instead of past tense
- Abbreviations like “can’t” or “doesn’t”. This is colloquial, and not professional written English
- A paragraph starting with a figure and not a text.
- Diagrams stuck in crooked or sideways
- Figures and tables not properly labelled
- Lack of scales on drawings and sketches
- Units on figures are missing.
- Sloppy scribbled diagrams done at the very last minute
- Figures shown in text but no reference made to them
- Assignment topics not properly addressed and leaving out important information
- Writing style as in a recipe for cake
- Inadequate or incorrectly presented references
If you want further information on Assignment writing look at the Internet and search for “assignment writing”. You’ll be amazed how much on information you’ll find on this topic.
Don't leave the assignment to the last minute!
Home > Library > Study and assignment skills > Write assignments > Structure assignments
- Structure assignments
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While there are different types of written assignments , most academic writing has a similar structure comprising of:
- Introduction—acts as a roadmap for the reader.
- Body—presents points to support your argument.
- Conclusion—summarises main points discussed.
The introduction helps your reader understand where you’re going in your assignment, how you will get there and what they will see along the way.
An introduction should include:
- topic sentence—outline the most important concepts relevant to answering the question
- aim—indicate the focus or purpose of the assignment
- scope—mention any limits of your assignment. What will you emphasise? Will you intentionally leave anything out?
- structure—signal how you will present information in the assignment, and the order the key points will appear
- thesis statement—clearly identify your argument.
Example - Introduction
Online social media network websites allow users to interact with other users creating and sharing content. These social networking websites (SNWs) allow students to create thousands of pieces of content and share it with other users, while educational institutions are using some of these sites and applications to build learning communities with their students. There are several issues related to this increased interaction, namely the ethical use of social media within an educational environment. Two implications of social media will be discussed, focussing on the higher education sector. SNW’s will be defined, and the issues of student privacy related to individual expression and communication in educational forums will be examined. Overall it will be argued that it is imperative for the educational sector, staff and students, to become informed around the privacy issues involved in the use and application of SNWs.
The body consists of paragraphs structured to reflect your critical thinking about the question and the chosen order for presenting your argument.
Each paragraph should include:
- topic sentence—starts each paragraph and expresses the main idea of the paragraph
- evidence and examples—contains explanations to support the key point of the paragraph. Supporting evidence is used to justify, explain or develop your argument.
- concluding sentence—links the main idea of the paragraph back to your argument and to the assignment topic.
The number of paragraphs in your essay will depend upon the length of your essay, and the number of points you wish to argue.
Example - Paragraph
Facebook accounts hold large amounts of personal information of its users and, given the recent data breaches, it is crucial that users understand how to secure personal information. However, research indicates that many users are unaware of how to change the default privacy settings and, therefore, they themselves less secure online (Bones, 2016; Markesh & Pashley 2015). Munoz (2018) contends that at the heart of this dilemma is the fact that private information becomes public once released to a wider social media platform, and consequently, the user loses control over that information. Issues related to this loss include identity theft, cybercrime and inappropriate behaviour such as online stalking and bullying (Gross & Acquisti, 2018). In order to protect and manage online privacy and security, it is important for user to become digitally literate with each social media platform, whether they are being used for personal, professional, or academic reasons.
The conclusion comes at the end of your assignment, summarising the main points discussed.
Importantly, your conclusion should:
- contain no new ideas or information
- briefly list your key points
- relate main points directly back to the question or argument.
You might also make future recommendations, evaluate your argument or forecast patterns of change.
Example - Conclusion
In conclusion this essay has looked at two implications related to the use of social networking websites in the higher education sector. One implication is personal information and online interaction becomes public once it is published online. This implies that staff and students need to become digitally literate in order to interact in an educational setting. Secondly, this essay has raised the challenges of Facebook infrastructure when it comes to implementing social networking into the classroom. Overall, it argues that staff and students need to be aware of the ethical implications of using Facebook in the classroom.
Before starting your assignment complete our Academic integrity module to help you understand how to produce honest work
Enrol in the module
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Academic writing skills guide: planning your 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
- Revising & Editing
- Grammar & Punctuation
- Reporting Verbs
- Signposting, Transitions & Linking Words/Phrases
- Using Lecturers' Feedback
There may be a temptation to skip the planning stage, especially when deadlines are approaching and you are keen to get on with researching but planning has multiple benefits.
- Make a rough outline plan - the plan begins with your own interpretation of the question; this initial plan helps you order your ideas and focus your reading
- If you really know nothing at all about the topic, some initial skimming and browsing through recommended readings or your lecturer’s course material can provide a few ideas.
- Once you have an initial plan, further familiarise yourself with all relevant module content and sources posted on your Moodle page. These resources have been specifically chosen by your lecturer to help you with your coursework so using these will help you refine your plan and make writing your assignment easier.
Before you start searching the library for resources or information, you need to have some idea of what you are looking for - note down all the questions you can think of that might relate to your assignment title and criteria and list some keywords around the topic you need to research. By taking time to properly understand the assignment title or question and brainstorming for initial ideas, it can help you make informed decisions about what you need to read for a particular assignment.
In this way, you can decide what information you need and then start gathering it. If left unplanned, the reading stage can swallow up huge amounts of time. Making intelligent decisions, based on your initial planning, about which sources to target, can help you to avoid spending time reading less relevant, inappropriate, or even completely irrelevant material. You will be much more efficient in your reading and your research if you have some idea of where your argument is headed. You can then search for evidence for the points in your tentative plan while you are reading and researching
Communications from the Library: Please note all communications from the library, concerning renewal of books, overdue books and reservations will be sent to your NCI student email account.
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- Last Updated: Nov 29, 2023 12:51 PM
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