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
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Paper Formatting and Uploading Guidelines
The guidelines on this page are based on the guidelines included in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th edition. You can find more information on formatting at the Diana Hacker Handbook site here.
What format should I use for the paper?
Margins and Spacing.The papers you write for this course should be typed and double-spaced with 11-12 point fonts and 1" margins.
Header Information. You don't need to use a title page. Please put the following information at the top left-hand side of the page:
Dr. Donna Campbell
Course Number (ENGL 210, ENGL 368), [list the assignment here, too: Paper 1, Research Paper, or whatever]
Title of Paper
Remember, your own title will not be italicized or have quotation marks around it unless you're using the title of the work you're discussing as part of your own title.
Page numbering. Please make sure to number your pages. In most word-processing programs, you can do this by clicking on Insert and then Page Numbers or some variation of that process.
How do I cite sources?
To cite your sources, use the MLA in-text citation method.
Do I need a Works Cited page if I'm just using the stories from the book?
Yes, you do. All papers must have a Works Cited page, even if you're using your textbook as the source for the works you'll be discussing.
I'm submitting my paper electronically. Is it okay if I attach my Works Cited page as a separate file? It's easier for me to do that.
No, please don't. All that means is that I have to open both files and add the Works Cited page to your document instead of having you do it yourself. I'll combine the files for you on the first paper, but for the second and subsequent papers, your paper will lose 1 point.
Where do I submit the paper, and in what file format?
You'll submit your paper by email to email@example.com.
Document Format. You need to save the paper using Word format (.doc or .docx,) rich text format (.rtf),or .pdf format. The first two are commonly available under the "Save As" function of all word-processing programs. Papers using any other format cannot be read and will not receive credit.
Filename Conventions. All submitted assignment files should follow the naming format as follows: last name, first initial, course number, assignment name. For example, if Joan Smith in English 368 submitted her first paper, it would be saved as SmithJ_368_Paper1.doc.
PLEASE don't upload your paper under the filename "Paper 1" or some variation of that. If you think about what it would be like to receive and save 40 files all called "Paper 1," you'll see the logic of the filename conventions for the class. Your paper will lose1 point if you don't follow the filename conventions.
Where and when will you return the papers?
As mentioned on the syllabus, if you submit your papers by email, I'll return them by email.
If you submit your papers in hard copy form (paper), I'll turn the papers back to you at the end of class once all the papers are graded.
It takes a minimum of 1 to 2 weeks to grade a set of papers, so you can expect to have them back in that time frame (not earlier).
Where can we read the comments on the paper?
If you turn in a paper copy, I'll write the comments by hand. If you turn in an electronic version, I will type the comments in the document and return it to you as a .pdf file in Angel. I add an "r" to the filename so that you know it's the returned version of the paper: SmithJ_368_Paper1r.pdf.
If you took your extension on the paper, you'll notice an EXT at the end: SmithJ_368_Paper1EXTr.pdf. This indicates that the paper isn't late but should be graded as on time because of the extension.
Note: Both kinds of submissions are graded in exactly the same way; it doesn't make any difference whether the paper is turned in electronically or handed in in hard copy.
You need Adobe Acrobat Reader to read .pdf files, and this program is probably already installed on your computer. If you do not already have Adobe Acrobat Reader, a free program, visit the "Angel Help Resources: Getting Started for Students" page to download it.
If I forgot to add a Works Cited page, didn't cite sources using MLA format, or otherwise didn't follow the directions listed here, will you take off for it?
Not on the first paper, but after that, yes, a failure to follow the directions will be counted in your grade, as stated above. After the first paper, a failure to follow the guidelines will result in penalties (- 1 for unreadable files that must be resubmitted; -1 for not following the naming conventions, -1 for absence of Works Cited page, and so on.)