Formatting and presenting your assignments
Formatting and presenting your assignment correctly is important because almost all assignments include marks for presentation.
This may include marks for things such as formatting and layout, word count, APA referencing, writing style, grammar and spelling.
Before you start your assignment:
- Check your learning materials, the course page, emails from your lecturer or the assignment question for how it should be presented.
- Read the instructions carefully, and make sure you understand them and follow them exactly.
- If you’re not clear about what’s required email your lecturer. You could phone but it’s better to have a record of the answer.
Some lecturers assume that students will know how to present work of the required standard or quality and don’t give specific instructions. If this is the case, follow the general guidelines below.
General guidelines for electronic submissions
- Most assignments need should be written using MS Word. If you don’t have MS Word go to Office 365 in My Open Polytechnic to download and access your free version.
- Assignments can be submitted one of the following file formats: .doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx or .rtf.
- Do not submit html files, web pages, CAD files, Visio (.vsd), PowerPoint (.ppt), PDF s (.pdf) or zip files unless these are specifically required for your course.
If you're not sure about the file format required contact your lecturer.
- Use a clear, readable, sans serif font such as Verdana, Calibri, Tahoma or Arial, and be consistent 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 (for example, if you're dyslexic).
- Use 11 or 12 point for the body of your assignment.
- Use 1.5 or double spacing and fairly wide margins. This leaves room for the marker’s comments.
- 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). Block-justified (flush left and right) might look tidy, but it’s harder to read as it can result in gaps between words.
- Use bold for headings. Not underlining or italics.
- Essays do not usually require subheadings; reports usually do.
Most assignments require a title page, which should include the following:
- the title and number of the assignment
- the course number and name
- the due date
- your full name and student number.
This information should be centered, starting approximately one third of the way down the page.
- Number all pages except the title page.
- Tables and figures must be numbered and clearly labelled. Table captions are placed above the table, while captions for a figures go below the figure.
- Don't number the items in a reference list.
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 number
- the assignment number
- the page number.
Include a word count (the number of words in your assignment) at the end of the assignment, before the references and appendices. Your assignment should not more than 10% under or over the prescribed word count. Remember that the title/title page, reference list and appendices are not included in the word count.
Word count calculator - Massey University website (opens in a new window)
The reference list comes at the end of the assignment, and should start on a new page labelled 'References'.
Referencing and avoiding plagiarism
Appendices are used for information that:
- is too long to include in the body of your assignment, or
- 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, but if there are more than one label them Appendix A, Appendix B, etc. In the main text of your assignment, refer to the Appendix by the label, e.g. 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 hand-written documents). There are also a few additional things to note.
Some courses allow handwritten answers, but make sure you check with your lecturer to make sure this is acceptable. When submitting a handwritten assignment:
- Print or write on white A4 paper on one side only, using a blue or black pen.
- Write legibly – if a marker can’t read what you’ve written, your answer might as well be wrong.
- If you make a mistake, use correction fluid or draw a neat line through the mistake.
- If there are too many mistakes and your work looks messy, rewrite it.
- Use a ruler for tables and graphs.
- Underline headings.
Stapling your assignment
- Staple multi-page assignments in the top left corner only.
- Don’t put your assignment in a plastic folder.
- Attach an 'Assessment Return Sheet' (coversheet) to you assignment. (If you don't have one Contact us).
Submitting your assignments
Types of assignments
What lecturers want in your assignments
By Lois Weldon
When it comes to writing assignments, it is difficult to find a conceptualized guide with clear and simple tips that are easy to follow. That’s exactly what this guide will provide: few simple tips on how to write great assignments, right when you need them. Some of these points will probably be familiar to you, but there is no harm in being reminded of the most important things before you start writing the assignments, which are usually determining on your credits.
The most important aspects: Outline and Introduction
Preparation is the key to success, especially when it comes to academic assignments. It is recommended to always write an outline before you start writing the actual assignment. The outline should include the main points of discussion, which will keep you focused throughout the work and will make your key points clearly defined. Outlining the assignment will save you a lot of time because it will organize your thoughts and make your literature searches much easier. The outline will also help you to create different sections and divide up the word count between them, which will make the assignment more organized.
The introduction is the next important part you should focus on. This is the part that defines the quality of your assignment in the eyes of the reader. The introduction must include a brief background on the main points of discussion, the purpose of developing such work and clear indications on how the assignment is being organized. Keep this part brief, within one or two paragraphs.
This is an example of including the above mentioned points into the introduction of an assignment that elaborates the topic of obesity reaching proportions:
Background: The twenty first century is characterized by many public health challenges, among which obesity takes a major part. The increasing prevalence of obesity is creating an alarming situation in both developed and developing regions of the world.
Structure and aim: This assignment will elaborate and discuss the specific pattern of obesity epidemic development, as well as its epidemiology. Debt, trade and globalization will also be analyzed as factors that led to escalation of the problem. Moreover, the assignment will discuss the governmental interventions that make efforts to address this issue.
Practical tips on assignment writing
Here are some practical tips that will keep your work focused and effective:
–Critical thinking – Academic writing has to be characterized by critical thinking, not only to provide the work with the needed level, but also because it takes part in the final mark.
–Continuity of ideas – When you get to the middle of assignment, things can get confusing. You have to make sure that the ideas are flowing continuously within and between paragraphs, so the reader will be enabled to follow the argument easily. Dividing the work in different paragraphs is very important for this purpose.
–Usage of ‘you’ and ‘I’ – According to the academic writing standards, the assignments should be written in an impersonal language, which means that the usage of ‘you’ and ‘I’ should be avoided. The only acceptable way of building your arguments is by using opinions and evidence from authoritative sources.
–Referencing – this part of the assignment is extremely important and it takes a big part in the final mark. Make sure to use either Vancouver or Harvard referencing systems, and use the same system in the bibliography and while citing work of other sources within the text.
–Usage of examples – A clear understanding on your assignment’s topic should be provided by comparing different sources and identifying their strengths and weaknesses in an objective manner. This is the part where you should show how the knowledge can be applied into practice.
–Numbering and bullets – Instead of using numbering and bullets, the academic writing style prefers the usage of paragraphs.
–Including figures and tables – The figures and tables are an effective way of conveying information to the reader in a clear manner, without disturbing the word count. Each figure and table should have clear headings and you should make sure to mention their sources in the bibliography.
–Word count – the word count of your assignment mustn’t be far above or far below the required word count. The outline will provide you with help in this aspect, so make sure to plan the work in order to keep it within the boundaries.
The importance of an effective conclusion
The conclusion of your assignment is your ultimate chance to provide powerful arguments that will impress the reader. The conclusion in academic writing is usually expressed through three main parts:
–Stating the context and aim of the assignment
–Summarizing the main points briefly
–Providing final comments with consideration of the future (discussing clear examples of things that can be done in order to improve the situation concerning your topic of discussion).
Lois Weldon is writer at Uk.bestdissertation.com. Lives happily at London with her husband and lovely daughter. Adores writing tips for students. Passionate about Star Wars and yoga.