Formatting and layout
Assignments vary in their requirements for formatting and layout. Check for formatting requirements in your course materials or with your course coordinator. Aim for consistency in your formatting. Most assignments are now submitted electronically and formatted as follows:
- Use a clearly legible font and font size (Times New Roman is the most common font and 12 point is the most common size).
- Set page margins to around 1 inch/2.5cm.
- Use 1.5 or double line spacing.
- Keep the space between paragraphs consistent. Two styles are:
- Do not indent paragraphs and leave a blank line between paragraphs. (This is the most common style.)
- Indent the first line of each paragraph, but leave no spaces between paragraphs.
- Ensure text alignment is consistent throughout the document. Assignment guidelines and style guides vary when it comes to text alignment. If you are following APA style, then align text left (also see the annotated sample APA student assignment).
- For help with formatting in Microsoft Word see Basic formatting.
Always double-check for the formatting requirements of your individual course.
Assignments that are submitted electronically via Stream will not usually require a cover sheet. If you have been asked to include a cover sheet and you are submitting a hard copy, attach the cover sheet to the front of the assignment. Distance assignments use a standard cover sheet; internal assignment cover sheets are often provided by your department or course coordinator. If you are following APA style, see the annotated sample APA student assignment.
Most assignments do not require a title page. Usually, it is sufficient to include the assignment title or question at the top of the first page and to place other details (name, student ID number, and course number) in a header. If a cover sheet is included, all the necessary information is already included on the cover sheet. However, title pages are sometimes needed for longer assignments, postgraduate assignments, or certain types of report.
The format of these title pages varies according to the specific requirements of the assignment, but typically contain:
- The title, centred, in the upper half of the page (e.g., about 3 or 4 lines down from the top margin of the page). Your title should be concise and, ideally, no more than a single line. If you have a subtitle, it can be separated from the main title with a blank, double-spaced line. The title should be in bold font and in title case (i.e., the first word of major words over three letters is capitalised). The title font is the same style and size and the rest of the cover page details (e.g., Times New Roman or Calibri, 12pt). Note: According to the 7th edition of the APA style guide, the title (in bold, centred, and title case) should appear on the first line of the first page of text. This may not be necessary, however, and you should ask your lecturer or course coordinator for clarification.
- The author's name and ID number. Use one blank double-spaced line between the assignment title and your centred name and ID. Write your name in full rather than using initials. Your name should be non-bold and the same size and font as the rest of the cover page. Omit all titles, degrees or licenses (e.g., Dr, Ms, Mr, PhD, RN). Multiple authors should be given alphabetically. The lecturer’s name and title (e.g., Dr.). The lecturer’s name should follow a blank, double-spaced line after the class code and name, and be non-bold and the same size and font as the rest of the cover page.
- The due date of the assignment. The due date should follow a blank, double-spaced line after the lecturer’s name, and be non-bold and the same size and font as the rest of the cover page.
If you've been asked to format your title page using APA style, see here for formatting guidelines. See here for an example of a title page formatted according to APA 7th edition guidelines.
The earlier (6th) edition of APA formats this differently. See 6th vs. 7th for details.
Some assignment types require headings and sub-headings, whereas others do not use any.
Essays, for example, do not usually use sub-headings unless you have specific instructions that they can be included. The only sub-heading common in essays is References, for the reference list. Instead of headings, the first sentence of each paragraph should signal the topic to the reader (see essay body paragraphs for more on this).
Reports, on the other hand, often require specific headings, such as Introduction, Discussion, and so forth.
If you are unsure whether to use headings or not, ask your course coordinator for clarification. If you do use headings and sub-headings, keep the style consistent throughout the assignment. If you are using APA style, see here for advice about formatting headings.
Most assignments do not use appendices, but sometimes you need to include additional information, transcripts, questionnaire details, or raw data. These should go in an appendix.
If there is only one appendix, it is given the title “Appendix”. If there are several appendices, each is given a letter (follow the same order that they are mentioned in the body of the assignment): “Appendix A”, “Appendix B”, “Appendix C”, etc.
The title is used to refer to the appendix in the body of the assignment:
The analysis shows that the mean was well above expected (see Appendix B for details).
Style guides differ on whether the appendices should come before or after the reference list / bibliography.
APA style (the style most commonly used at Massey University) and Massey University's Thesis Presentation Guide put the appendices after the reference list / bibliography.