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
It’s all about first impressions. But how much care do you put into dressing up your documents?
Is it all title, headings, subheadings, bullets and paragraphs, or do you put some more thought into the documents you create in Microsoft Word?
There are a lot of things that go into a professional Microsoft Word documentHow to Create Professional Reports and Documents in Microsoft WordHow to Create Professional Reports and Documents in Microsoft WordThis guide examines the elements of a professional report and reviews the structuring, styling, and finalizing of your document in Microsoft Word.Read More. But we are talking about first impressions here. So, let’s take on the first thing our eyes fall on – the cover page.
The cover page is the very first page of your document. Its purpose right at the beginning is to give the reader the “Big Idea” about the document. The why and wherefore is communicated through a specific title, the author name, date, a one-liner on the subject and any other bit of important information that you think is important for the reader.
What Does a Vanilla Cover Page Look Like?
You might have spotted monochromatic and simple cover pages on research documents and school essays. They are dictated by style guides like the Chicago Manual of Style. The title page takes a minimalist approach to cover page design. For instance, the title or topic of the study is centered one-third of the way down the page.
For an academic assignment, do check with your instructor before using a cover page.
But what if you want to give your document a cooler cover page when not dictated by a style guide but realize that you don’t have the design chops for it? Design your own.
Insert an Attractive Cover Page
Microsoft Word makes it painless to create a professional cover page.
The Office suite comes with a few well-designed cover pages that you can re-purpose for your document. There’s a good variety to choose from.
Open a new Word document. Click on the Insert menu on the ribbon. The dropdown for Cover Page is the first feature you will spot on the menu (under Pages). Click on tiny arrow next to it and open the inbuilt gallery of templates. Pick one from the 16 pre-formatted templates and three more on Office.com.
Select the one you like and click on it. The cover page appears at the beginning of the document by default. But to place it in any other location, right click on the cover page thumbnail in the gallery and select from the options given. Though, am not sure why you would want to!
Customize Individual Fields
Click on each pre-formatted field (the square brackets) and the whole thing gets highlighted with a blue field label on top. Type in your version for the given field. The author name might appear by default if the Office installation is in your name. Place the common information in Quick Parts and you don’t have to bother with typing them again and again.
Change the date fields with the drop-down arrow and select a date from a calendar. You can format all fields just like normal text.
You can easily edit graphical cover page elements like any other image. Just click on the graphic to display the Drawing Tools and Picture Tools menus on the Ribbon.
Change the Design on the Fly
Customizing a pre-formatted cover page is a piece of cake. The templates consist of formatted controls and graphic boxes that come in different color themes. So, you can change any part of the template on the fly.
Notice a picture on the cover page template? Maybe, you would like to swap it out with a logo or another more appropriate image. Just right click on the picture and click Change Picture in the context menu.
Changed your mind about the entire cover page? While working on one cover page, you can change it for another cover page by selecting a new template from the drop-down. The new template retains the field entries.
Note: To replace a cover page created in an older version of Word, you must delete the first cover page manually, and then add a new design from the cover page gallery.
Click on Save to finalize the cover page as a document.
If you would like to save the cover page for later use in another document, select the entire cover page. Click on Insert > Cover Page > Save Selection to Cover Page Gallery. You can use the same menu to remove a selected cover page from the gallery.
Design Your Own Cover Page
Microsoft Word templates are a time-saving solution, but they don’t allow your personality to shine through. To add a personal touch, you should put in a bit more effort and make a thoughtfully designed cover page from scratch.
You have all the image editing tools in Microsoft Word at your disposal. When you can design your own logo in Microsoft Word, a cover page is less of a chore. Borrow or steal ideas from the process.
The screenshot below displays a cover page I created in Microsoft Word from scratch. I used a few basic Shapes to create the design and formatted them with color.
Save Your Custom Template
Complete your design on a fresh Microsoft Word document. Save this document as a Microsoft Word template (File > Save As > Microsoft Word Template) in a location of your choice.
Now, the next steps are about adding your own cover page to the default choices under the Insert menu. Follow these steps:
Press CTRL + A to select the entire page.
Add these selections to the Quick Parts gallery. Go to Ribbon > Insert > Quick Parts (the Text Group). Select Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery… from the drop-down.
Enter the details in the dialog for a new Building Block. Building blocks are reusable Microsoft Word elements that you can add to any of the galleries available in Word. This is what the dialog box looks like:
- Name: Give the cover page a Name.
- Gallery: Choose “Cover Pages” from the dropdown.
- Category: Choose a category. For better organization, make a new category.
- Save in: Save it in your template or in the building block. When saved as a building block, you can use it in any Word document without opening the template.
Click OK and close the Building Block dialog box. Go to the Insert menu and check your new cover page template.
Add Some Style with a Cover Page
A cover page is one of the best ways to stylize your document. But is it one of the more underused features of Microsoft Word7 Underused Microsoft Word Features and How to Use Them7 Underused Microsoft Word Features and How to Use ThemAre you overlooking some of Microsoft Word's most useful features? This application features a surprising number of underused tools and options. We have unearthed seven and will show you how to use them.Read More? A Word document is often bland. So, do consider the merits…
- A cover page gives the reader a quick visual of the content inside.
- Save and re-use a generic company-wide cover page in the gallery.
- Convert a document with a cover page to PDF with one button and send to any device.
Most of us don’t commonly employ a cover page with a document. Or do you? Let us know the benefits you find in inserting a well-designed cover page.
Image Credit: faisalsk007 via Wikimedia Commons
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