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
Written Assignments Format Requirements
The following are absolute requirements.Papers deviating from them will receive a grade of zero.
Unless otherwise required, all submitted work, big and small, must adhere to the MLA (Modern Language Association) format. Consult The Gordon College Reference Guide, Chapter 58 and http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/557/01/
All out-of-class-work must be typed.Use a black, 12-point Arial or Times New Roman font, and print on blank white paper. Double space all content. Staple all multiple-sheet submissions.
All homework assignments must comply with MLA standards for the inclusion of heading, header with name and page (to appear on all pages of the document), title, and margins, as shown in the example below.Also, include identifying tags to delineate parts of the assignment.
Put separate assignments on appropriately-labeled separate sheets.
John Doe (Class 1, 2, or 3)
10 September 2007 (due date)
Chapter Five: Written Assignments (assignment name)
“Identifying Facts,” pp. 77-78
“What’s Your Opinion,” pp. 78-79
Sample papers for many class assignments are available in The Gordon College Reference Guide and elsewhere, and some will appear on my webpage later. You are strongly encouraged to read these as guides for your own writing.
All major papers/essays must comply with MLA standards for the inclusion of heading, header with name and page (to appear on all pages of the document), title, and margins, as shown in the example below:
John Doe (Class 1, 2, or 3)
10 September 2007 (due date)
Personal Narrative Essay, Final Draft [assignment name and type of document]
Title of Paper (no underlining or quotation marks)
Each major paper will be part of a pack of documents that includes the following
1. a formal, full block-style business letter in which you:
a) explain changes, improvements, continued difficulties, etc., since your rough draft
b) comment on specific strengths, weaknesses, problems, concerns, questions, etc.about your
paper, and tell me where to focus my attention; and
c) give me permission to read and evaluate your paper.
Go to the following website and click on “full block” under the heading “sample letter.”
Follow the format exactly.
2. a signed grading rubric, supplied by the instructor
3. the stapled final copy of the essay, with “Final Draft” written next to the assignment name in the heading
4. a stapled duplicate final copy of your essay, with“Duplicate“ written next to the assignment name in the heading.
5. the stapled instructor-marked and student-revised rough draft of the essay submitted, with“Rough Draft“ written next to the assignment name in the heading.
All materials are to be placed in a pocket folder. Place the new material in the font pocket and the previous (graded) materials in the back pocket.