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How To Write A Cover Page For An Assignment Must Be In What Form

Step-by-step guide to assignment writing

When you’re undertaking tertiary study there are often a lot of assignments and writing to do, which can be daunting at first. The most important thing to remember is to start - and start early.

If you give yourself enough time to plan, do your research, write and revise your assignment you won’t have to rush to meet your deadline. Once you've started, you’ll also have something down on paper or on screen that you can improve on.

Using the steps below will help your assignments to become do-able, interesting and even enjoyable.

Step 1: Plan

Step 2: Analyse the question

Step 3: Draft an outline

Step 4: Find information

Step 5: Write

Step 6: Edit and proofread

Step 1: Plan

Planning your assignment will help you get focused and keep you on track.

  • Check how much your assignment is worth and what percentage of the final mark it is. This will help you decide how much time to spend on it.
  • Check the marking schedule to see what your tutor will be looking for when they mark your work and how the marks will be assigned. This will help you know what to focus on. If there is no marking schedule check the assignment question to see if the information is there.
  • Think about what you need to do to complete your assignment (for example, what research, writing drafts, reference checking, reviewing and editing, etc). Break these up into a list of tasks to do.
  • Give each task a deadline, working backwards from your assignment due date.

Step 2: Analyse the question

Before you can answer a question, you need to know what it means. Read it slowly and carefully, and try to understand what's expected of you. Ask yourself:

  • What's the question about? What's the topic? 
  • What does the question mean?
  • What do I have to do?

To help you understand the question, try rewriting it using your own words using the format below:

‘This assignment is about ______________________ I have to___________________ ’

When you are analysing the question:

  • Look for words that tell you what to do (instructional words). For example, analyse, compare, contrast, etc. 
  • Check the meaning of the words used. 
  • Look for topic words, which tell you what you have to write about.
  • Look for restricting words, which limit the topic and make it more specific.

You can also check for additional information about the assignment and what’s expected of you in the course materials or on your course page or forums.

Tip: When you find something about the assignment on a course page or in a forum save a copy of it. If you save all the information you gather about the assignment in one file you will have all the information in one place when you start writing.

More about instruction words:

List of instruction words - Otago University website (opens in new window)

Question wording quiz - Language and Learning Online, Monash University website (opens in new window)

Step 3: Draft an outline

Drafting an outline will give you a structure to follow when it comes to writing your assignment. The type of assignment you are doing will give you a broad structure, but you should also check the question and marking schedule, as they will help you understand how the lecturer expects the topic to be structured, what must be included, and which sections are worth the most marks.

From there you can create your outline, using headings and gaps for the information you have to fill in.

Types of Assignments

Essay outlines

Most of the assignments you will have to do are essays, which generally follow the same basic structure:

  • Introduction (+ 10% of the assignment) – This is where you introduce the topic and the main points, and briefly explain the purpose of the assignment and your intended outcome or findings. It is a good idea to write the introduction last, so that you know what to include.
  • Discussion (+ 80% of the assignment) – This section is divided into a number of paragraphs. Decide what points you want to discuss and include a new paragraph for each main point. A paragraph usually starts with a topic sentence stating the main idea, followed by supporting evidence and examples. In your outline try and include draft topic sentences and a few ideas outlining what you want to include in each section.
  • Conclusion (+ 10% of the assignment) – Conclusions briefly restate your main argument, evaluate your ideas and summarise your conclusions. They don’t introduce any new information.

Step 4: Find information

Before you start writing, you need to research your topic and find relevant and reliable information. You will find some in your course materials and recommended readings, but you can also try:

Once you have found information, the next step will be to evaluate it to ensure it is right for your assignment. For more on how to researching and evaluating information go to:

Step 5: Write

Once you've found the information you need it’s time to bring it altogether and write your assignment.

Write your first draft

  • Use your outline and fill in the gaps, writing your main points for each section. 
  • Write freely, getting as much down as you can without worrying about the wording being 100% right. 
  • You may find it easiest to start with the conclusion so that you know which direction your writing is heading, or the background. 
  • The introduction is often the hardest to write, so leave that till last. 
  • Don’t spend too much time trying to make this draft perfect as it will change!

Fine tune

  • Revise your first draft, and check that it makes sense and includes everything it needs to.
  • Fine tune the wording, and make sure your writing flows well.
  • Make sure you keep different copies of your drafts as you may want to go back to them. 
  • Leave the writing for a day, read it, and fine tune again.
  • Compile your bibliography or reference list.

Academic writing

How to use APA referencing

Step 6: Edit and proofread

Once you've written your assignment, you can improve it by editing and proofreading, but before you do take a break. Even a short break helps you to get some distance from your work so that you can check your assignment with a fresh eye.

Look at the big picture

  • Have you answered the question you were set? Check your assignment against the marking schedule as well as the question.
  • Is the structure correct?
  • Have you included all relevant parts? For example, the title page, introduction, conclusion, reference list?
  • Is the content logically arranged?
  • Does your assignment read well, with each section flowing smoothly on to the next? A good way to check this is to read it aloud.
  • Have you used your own words and acknowledged all your sources?
  • Is your assignment well presented?

Check the details

  • Have you used academic English (if required)?
  • Check the grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Don’t just use a spell checker (it won’t pick everything up).
  • Check your referencing - have you acknowledged all work that isn't your own? Is your APA referencing correct?
  • Are your pages numbered?
  • Have you included your name, student ID, the assignment details and the date on each page?

Tip: If possible, ask a friend or family member to proofread your assignment, as it can be difficult to see mistakes in your own work. 

More about editing and proofreading:

Editing and proofreading - Massey University website (opens in new window)

Editing and proofreading - The Writing Center, University of North Carolina website (opens in new window)

Before you submit your assignment, print it out and check it one last time. It’s often easier to spot errors in print than on screen.

Once you’re happy, submit your assignment.

Submitting your assignment

Related information

Research and reading

Types of assignments

Referencing and avoiding plagiarism

Copyright and disclaimer information

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

File format

  • 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.

Fonts
  • 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.
Spacing
  • 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.
Headings
  • Use bold for headings. Not underlining or italics.
  • Essays do not usually require subheadings; reports usually do.
Title page

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.

Numbering
  • 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.
Word count

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)

Reference list

The reference list comes at the end of the assignment, and should start on a new page labelled 'References'.

Referencing and avoiding plagiarism

Appendices

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.

Handwritten submissions

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).

Related information

Submitting your assignments

Types of assignments

What lecturers want in your assignments

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