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
Harvard is a commonly used method of referencing, which uses the Author-Date system.
Which Harvard style?
Harvard has been adapted to suit many different publication styles. The style used in this guide follows the standard prescribed by the following manual:
Snooks & Co. 2002, Style manual for authors, editors and printers, 6th edn, John Wiley & Sons, Milton, Qld.This is the official style followed in most Australian Government publications.
Which style does my Faculty or School use?
Some Schools require a different style from the one outlined here. Use the citation style required by your Faculty or School.
Why Reference your sources?
It is important to reference the sources you use for essays and reports, so that the reader can follow your arguments and check your sources. It is essential to correctly acknowledge the author when quoting or using other people’s ideas in your work.
How do I use Harvard?
1. In-text citations are made like this
Paraphrasing and in-text citations
The point made by an analytic philosopher (O'Connor 1969, p. 32) is that values cannot be justified in this way. However Kneller (1963b, p. 102) insists that the theorist will inevitably be involved in value claims.
Note: Page, chapter or section numbers may be included in the in-text citation if the cited work is long and the information helps the reader locate the relevant information.
When the authors name is mentioned in-text (e.g. Kneller in the example above) add year and page numbers only to the in-text reference.
Entries that have the same author and year are noted by adding a, b, c etc. to the year, both in-text e.g. Kneller (1963b, p. 102) and in the Reference List (see entries in Reference List below).
Direct quotes and in-text citations
‘Having a solid plan as part of research design is essential’ (Hatch 2002, p. 46).
Hatch (2002, p. 46) believes ‘having a solid plan as part of research design is essential’.
Note: Always include page numbers when citing a quotation and enclose the quote in single quotation marks.
Block quotes and in-text citations
Inductive analysis is discussed:
Inductive thinking proceeds from the specific to the general. Understandings are generated by starting with specfic
elements and finding connections among them. To argue inductively is to begin with particular pieces of evidence,
then pull them together into a meaningful whole. Inductive data analysis is a search for patterns of meaningful data so
the general statements about phenomena under investigation can be made (Hatch 2002, p. 161).
Note: Place a quotation of 30 or more words in your work as a free standing block. These quotes are usually indented e.g. 5 spaces and are in a smaller font e.g. 1 point size smaller than the surrounding text. Do not enclose the quote in quotation marks.
2. Reference lists, at the end of your paper, are made like this
Arrange your list alphabetically by author.
Hatch, JA 2002, Doing qualitative research in education settings, State of , .
Kneller, JP 1963a, Is logical thinking logical?, Ponsonby & Partridge, Dubbo.
-----1963b, ‘Thinking and logical interaction’, Brain Logic, vol. 257, no. 4, pp. 54-62.
O'Connor, DJ 1957, An introduction to the philosophy of education, Routledge & Kegan Paul, .
[See the sample Reference list].