Centre for Academic Success

Study Guides : Writing


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1.37 General presentation

The presentation of your written work is important: first impressions do count, and poorly presented work might lead your tutor to think that the work has been rushed or that you do not really care about it.

It is important to note, however, that no matter how professionally your assignment is presented, it will not hide mediocre content. A poorly presented assignment with excellent content is always preferable to excellent presentation with poor content, although you should of course always aim for a combination of the two.

Particular faculties or courses may have their own guidelines for different aspects of presentation, so always check your own course documentation or with course tutors. What follows is general advice on the presentation of courses assignments which is usually, but not always, appropriate.

Always use A4 size paper, and print or write on one side only.

Word processing
You will almost always now be expected to word process your work. If you need help or practice with this, ask in your learning/resource centre, or in the library.

Title page
Although you will always have to hand in your work with a faculty cover sheet, it is usually a good idea to include a title page at the beginning of your assignment, although this may not be necessary for very short pieces of work. (See Guide 1.25)

Contents page
A contents page is usually included with longer reports. (See Guide 1.26)

You may want to protect your work with a plastic sleeve or cover. There are usually no rules on this, but probably the longer the piece of work, the more important it is. Dissertations and theses will need to be bound. Don’t put individual pages into plastic sleeves.

Always use standard fonts, the type you would see in a book or journal; for example, Times/ Times New Roman, Ariel, Palatino etc. Don’t use Comic Sans!

The size for the majority of you text should normally be 10, 11 or 12, depending on the individual font (Times, for example, is small). The most important thing is that your text is clear and easy to read. Don’t forget that your tutor’s eyesight might not be what it was!

For headings and titles use a slightly larger size, but don’t make them to big.

Avoid overuse of formatting such as bold, italic and underlining.
Bold is probably best used just for headings and titles and italics just for names or specialist words (instead of using inverted commas). Don’t use italics for quotes incorporated into your text, although they can be used for longer quotes which are indented and separate from the rest of the text (See Guide 1.14). However, even in this case normal text is preferable.
Underlining is best avoided, as is the use of coloured fonts.

Line spacing
It is generally recommended that your text is 1.5 or double spaced, depending on the size of the actual font. In Word, go to Format and then Paragraph, where you will see the Spacing option.
The reasons for doing this are so that your tutor will be able to make comments and corrections easily, and also to avoid making your page a dense block of text with perhaps 500 or 600 words, which can be off-putting to the reader.

Always have left and right margins of around 2.5 cm (1”). This again allows for comments to be made, and also ensures that when the pages are stapled or bound, no text is lost.

Page numbers
Always include page numbers: they can go at the top or bottom, usually to the right.

See Guides 1.13 and 1.14 and also check your course documentation. There are different ways of doing this, and variations within each system; make sure that you are consistent.

Dissertations and theses
These will have stricter guidelines on how they should be presented. Check with your tutor/supervisor and if possible consult a model piece of work.

Always keep a copy of what you hand in, and remember to regularly back your work up.


Links to further resources on general presentation

University of Exeter
University of Exeter



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Steve Gould
Last updated: 4 January 2011

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