Well, if you are one of those students who wish to score higher grades and step towards a promising future, then you need to make sure your assignment contains all the elements that are required to get straight ‘A’s. This article focuses on the technical aspect of the presentation of an assignment, and it will give you a detailed idea about how an academic assignment should be presented ideally.
Before we go into further details of the significant aspects of assignment presentation (including assignment writing and referencing), it is important to address the elephant in the room, i.e. the topic of plagiarism. Plagiarism quite evidently has taken over the field of academics, and it has become a major concern for every individual or entity that is related to the field of academics. Well, plagiarism is described as the unethical use of any intellectual property. It can be committed by copying someone else’s work without any acknowledgement, by claiming someone else’s intellectual property as one’s own, or by presenting an idea as new when it has been lifted from some other source.
As a student, you are prohibited from practicing such actions, and if you are found with plagiarized work during submission, you may fall into some serious trouble. The penalty of such unethical action even can be expulsion from the University. You wouldn’t want that. But unfortunately, while writing long academic assignments, there is a possibility that you may fail to distinguish plagiarized content from your own. Well, here are several guidelines that can help you avoid plagiarism.
- Keep notes of the study material that you use while drafting your assignment. You’ll need its bibliographic details (such as the author, its title and year of publication) for the reference list. So, if you are getting a photocopy of the source material, ensure those details are also there.
- Use direct quotations moderately. In fact, it is better to use general statements to back your arguments by paraphrasing the quotes, instead of overusing them. Paraphrasing shows that you have a decent understanding of the material. Although always remember to make reference to the source while paraphrasing the words or ideas of another person.
- Don’t just copy and paste chunks of material from online or printed sources and put them in your assignment. Even though you are putting the references, if you don’t add any original comment or relevant material in the copy, it may appear as a lack of intellectual input from your side which may cost you some valuable marks since the content won’t have any academic merit.
- There are several genuine plagiarism checker tools available on the internet, where you can recognize the portion of your content that is plagiarized. Some of these tools may require a paid subscription, but it is worth it. After all, plagiarism is a serious issue. And since most of the academic institutions have zero-tolerance against plagiarism, it is wiser to get your content checked and be assured about the originality of the content.
After spending several years in academics, you must have realized by now that finishing the assignment somehow is not enough to get the desired grades. There are several guidelines and norms to follow while drafting an academic assignment. For instance, the point format is acceptable in reports, while it is certainly improper in case of an essay. If there’s any confusion about the formats, it is better to consult your professor on that matter. Some universities have a faculty handbook that has all the necessary guidelines and instructions on how one should present the content. Look, if there’s such handbook in your university which can be of any use to you.
Also, it is important to use appropriate sources for the information. The textbooks and peer-reviewed journals can be of huge help in this context. You should know that online sources such as Wikipedia are usually not accepted in academics since the information is often found to be inaccurate and the credentials of the author remain unknown. The peer-reviewed journals are quite credible since the content of those journals gets scrutinized by the experts.
Formatting the assignment
Formatting of the assignment plays a crucial part in its presentation. In fact, academic writers give more stress on formatting than academic writing in most of the cases since it often determines the quality of the overall presentation. Here are some segments that are significant to an assignment format.
- Assignment cover sheet
The cover page of an assignment contains the name of the student with his student number, the email address of the University, name and number of the unit of study, and the title of the assignment. The requirements of details on the cover may vary from one university to another. So confirm the requirements from your professor. Remember, this cover page identifies your work and if there’s any mistake in the details, it may not reach the right person, get graded or return to you.
- The table of contents
You may not require a table of content if your assignment is short in length. It is usually needed when the text is segmented into chapters or a few subheadings. It gives the reader an overview of the material that they are going to find in your assignment. It generally includes the major segments of the assignment such as the introduction, chapters or sub-sections, reference list, bibliography and appendix. You should include the page number to tell the readers where they can find a particular section in the document.
- Abstract or Synopsis
This part of the assignment is not always required. If you decide to mention this in your document, limit your exploration to the outline of the arguments you are going to present in the document, although not in details. You can also briefly mention the methods and procedures that were used to gather data, and shortly describe the general conclusions you have reached. The length of an abstract is typically very short. It is usually 5-10% of the entire document. It is positioned in between the title page and the beginning of the assignment text. A well-written abstract usually answers the following questions, in more or less in the given order.
- What is the purpose of the study?
- What was carried out during the study?
- How did you approach the issue?
- What did you discover with the study?
- What did you infer from the study?
- Tables, graphs, illustrations and figures
Graphs, table, figure and illustrations can be used to improve the presentation of the assignment. However, overusing these components can ruin the overall presentation. Use them in moderation. In fact, when you feel the text (3-4 paragraphs) can be explained conveniently through a tabular or diagrammatic representation then it is okay to use them. Also, you should make a proper reference to the tables and figures, as you do with the written words. Avoid conveying too much information in the tables or graphs. You must understand that these illustrations must serve a definite purpose. It is recommended that you place them as close as possible to the place where they are referred to the content.
The appendix should be used when you wish to introduce some important material to your assignment, but that isn’t directly relevant to your focus argument. You can include the survey sheet that you have used to gather significant data, excerpts from the transcript of the case study, tests, questionnaires, unprocessed data, statistical data, etc. You can see that fact that including this information in the main copy can make the content difficult to read. The reason why the evidence is placed in the appendix is that when the reader wishes to read further information about the material, they can go to the appendix segment and read the additional information on the assignment. The appendix must not contain photocopies of text from references or journal articles. The content in the appendix must be referred in the body of the assignment.
- Final presentation
The assignments are meant for the readers to read. So you need to prepare your assignment keeping that in mind. Also to get a fair assessment from the readers, students will need the comments of the readers on the work. These comments or markers can help other readers to follow the work of the student easily, which will allow them to concentrate on the material without any distraction.
More often than not, students are marked on their assignment on the basis of the referencing. As you may already know, referencing is an integral part of academic writing, and it reflects the depth of your research for the given topic. It not only acknowledges the sources but also provides credibility to the arguments you make in the assignment.
There are several referencing styles that are followed by the universities around the globe. American Psychological Association (APA) style, Modern Language Association (MLA) style, Chicago/Turabian style, and Harvard style are the most common ones in the list. Before you start writing an academic paper, confirm which style is preferred in your college/university. You can learn about these referencing styles in detail by going through their manuals. For instance, the APA manual (6th edition), that was published in 2010 describes the APA referencing style minutely.
Interestingly, if there’s no referencing style mentioned for your assignment paper, you can continue with the APA style. It is preferred in most of the places as it provides the title of the source, authors’ details, and publication date in the text next to the content which is being cited. Most writers advise on using this particular style unless you have been specifically instructed to use a different style. There’s a cool reference management software named Endnote that produces in-text and reference list citations for a particular work. You can use that if the process seems complicated to you.
There’s bibliography as well which comply sources that have been used in the preparation of the assignment but wasn’t cited in the document. The sources you list in there should be done alphabetically, by author. The bibliography is usually used after the reference list. However, bibliographies aren’t always necessary to the assignments. You can add one in your assignment if you feel you should acknowledge the other sources that haven’t been cited.
Submission of the assignment
You may get the option to submit a draft of your assignment online as a part of the practice submission. It is wiser to avail the option as this will allow you to identify any issues that you may encounter in the process. For offline submission, make sure your pages of the assignment are bound firmly together. Also, be careful about these following things:
- Don’t submit your assignment in plastic sleeves of a folder. Also, do not put each page inside the plastic sleeves. This makes it difficult for the readers to put any comment. Also, avoid the use of ring binders unless you are asked to do so.
- The cover sheet must be signed. It includes the mandatory compliance statement.
- If you are confused about the cover sheet design, ask your instructor about it.
You must keep a copy of all submissions since the work gets misplaced a lot. The person who is grading your paper has no obligation to award you an extension just because your work has been lost.
Now it is time for some additional tips. You need to look out for some minute details in the paper while drafting it. Here are a few simple rules that can make your presentation better.
- Showcase your main content of the assignment on numbered pages that are in chronological order.
- Use double-spacing between lines while typing.
- Keep 3 cm wide margin on the left-hand side of the page.
- There’s no need to justify the right-hand margin.
- Avoid printing on both sides of the page.
- Be careful while choosing the font size and style. Go with the standard ones, such as Arial with size 10 or Times New Roman in size 12. Ensure that the text can be read properly.
- There are various styles for headings in assignments. You can choose according to your wish or consult your instructor for better clarification.
- Stay within the instructed word limit. Select the most important point and use them to make your argument. You may lose some marks for exceeding word limits.
- Although the mentioned word count should determine the words used in the main body, the words in the abstract or reference list should not be counted.
Now that you are aware how an academic assignment should ideally be presented, the format of the assignment will no longer cause any trouble for you. Also, remember to practice these aforementioned tips while writing your assignment. These may seem like small details but more often than not, these small factors make the difference.
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