Before you write your references:
As you write your references:
After you write your references:
Your research underpins and supports your assignment - just like a plate supports a sandwich. Your references are the visual evidence of your research.
When you are thinking about your assignment, you should always have the references in mind - build your essay on your references like you would build you sandwich on the plate (or cutting board, or table... let's not stretch this metaphor too far).
Think about writing your assignment backwards.
When you make a sandwich, you put down the plate first, then the bottom piece of bread, then the filling, and then the top piece of bread. "Build" your assignments the same way. Lay down the research you want to draw on (your references), then the conclusions you came to, then the body of the assignment where you discussed and elaborated on the evidence and the conclusions you made. Then top it all off with the introduction, which guides people through what they are about to read.
You don't have to write your assignment in that order, but it does help if you think about it in that order.
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