Layout & appearance

These are general guidelines for formatting and submitting your work. Use these where you have not received specific instructions on formatting from your lecturer. Advice includes formatting specifications such as type, font and alignment; figures and tables; footnotes and endnotes and submission of work.

We recommend first completing the editing and proofreading of your assessment task before formatting.


All written work should be typed on a computer. If you don’t have access to a computer at home, there are many on campus, in the libraries and numerous computer labs.

What your document should look like
Appearance Word processed, not hand written.
Paper size A4, and printed on both sides where possible.
Margins 2.5cm
Page numbering Every page, beginning at 1.
Borders None. No other fancy Clipart is required.

Type, alignment & spacing

Fonts, text alignment and spacing can be changed in your word-processing program. If no font type is specified then the standard choice is 12pt Times New Roman, with text left-aligned.

What the contents of your document should look like
Font type Times New Roman or Arial
Font size 11 or 12 pt
Headings Depends on the type of assignment, e.g. reports may need numbered headings. Bold and left-aligned is acceptable. Aim for readability. Use the ‘Header’ function for a heading to appear on every page.
Header and Footer The standard option is to include the page number and a shortened title at the top left of your Header, and your name top right. Shorten the title to ensure there is space for your name.
Alignment of text Be consistent and apply only one style to your text. Use: either left-aligned (the text lines up straight against the left margin) OR fully justified (the left and right edges of the text line up straight against the left and right margins).
Spacing Leave one space between sentences. Use double line spacing within paragraphs. Between paragraphs, add a space. See example following.


The modern preference is to use blocked paragraphs. Generally, an indent at the beginning of the paragraph is no longer required, but check with your lecturer if you are unsure.

Blocked paragraphs have an extra space between them. Do not indent.

Blocked paragraphs are separated from each other by an additional blank line space. Do not indent the first line of a paragraph when using this style. Blocked paragraphs are separated from each other by an additional blank line space. Do not indent the first line of a paragraph when using this style.

Figures & tables

If you need to include figures (i.e. graphs, pictures, charts, maps or diagrams) and/or tables in your work but have not received specific instructions, use the following guidelines. You can place them within the text itself, or at the end as an appendix.

Check your chosen referencing style for more detailed instructions.

Consider whether the figures and/or tables are necessary for clarity. Include them in the body of the document if their presence directly illustrates your point. If, for example, a whole paragraph refers to a particular graph, then it would be most effective to place it directly below the paragraph.

Download our helpsheet, Figures and Tables.

Naming, numbering and noting

Number each figure and table consecutively and give each a descriptive title. Figures may need a ‘legend’ to identify things such as scale, direction of view or orientation

Example: Place the name of the figure below the figure.

Cite author(s), date of publication and page number.

Place the name of the figure below

Example: Place the name of the table above the table.

Example of table

Some figures or tables may need notes to provide one or more of the following:

  • Specific information on a particular item in the figure/table
  • General information on the figure/table as a whole
  • Source information (if copied/adapted from another source)

Place any notes directly below the relevant figure or table.


Whatever your reason for including figures or tables, aim for readability.

  • Mark all axes clearly on graphs.
  • Use descriptive column headings on tables.
  • Type size is generally smaller than the text in the paragraph, but no smaller than 8 pt, or larger than 14 pt.
  • Place them close to the paragraph where they are first mentioned.
  • Do not extend them outside the page margins.
  • Do not split a table over two pages (unless it is large); leave a small gap at the bottom of the page and carry it over to the next page.
  • Alignment of data within table columns depends on the type of data and other specific requirements, but generally the following applies:
    • Whole numbers to be right-aligned.
    • Decimals to be aligned to decimal points.
    • Text in columns to be left-aligned.

Appendices – a final word

If the figure and/or table provides further evidence but is not critical to illustrate your argument, then include it as an appendix and refer to it in your text, like this:

 “As can be seen in Appendix 1, the elephant population is in rapid decline.”

Footnotes & endnotes

Academic writing sometimes requires notes to the main text. These notes may contain information to supplement or explain the main text, and/or information about your sources.

The notes may be displayed as footnotes (at the bottom of the page) or endnotes (at the end of the work). Notes are numbered in a single sequence throughout a piece of work and normally set one or two points smaller than the general text.

Most word-processing software has a footnote/endnote function that inserts numbers and formats notes automatically. Different referencing styles require different formatting, so check which style you are required to use in your academic writing.

One style that involves inserting footnotes into the text is Chicago citation style.

Reference list or bibliography

Depending on your chosen referencing/citation style, your reference list might also be called a bibliography. This should come at the end of your assignment.

It should have the heading ‘References’ or ‘Bibliography’ and each source should have its own line. The formatting of the citations themselves should adhere to your chosen referencing style. Refer to FedCite for the examples of how to organise your reference list, bibliography or works cited list in academic writing.

Submitting your work

Title page or cover sheet

The Title Page contains some or all of these details for identification. You could include a header and footer on this page, to ensure nothing goes astray.

  • Name and student number (if group work, list all members’ information)
  • Course ID
  • Title of work being submitted
  • Lecturer and/or tutor/teacher name
  • Date submitted

A separate cover sheet and/or submission slip may also be required. Attach this to the front of your work. Some courses will provide one for you.

Submission checklist

These may seem obvious, but check off the following before you submit your work:

  • What your lecturer specified as method of submission.
  • If submitting electronically, save it and submit it as a Microsoft Word document (.doc or .docx).
  • Make a copy of the final version and keep as a record.
  • All required content is there and in the right order.
  • If required, your reference list/bibliography should be after your main body of work.
  • Appendices are attached near the end, depending on what referencing system you are using.
  • Pages are stapled securely in the top left-hand corner. No paper clips.
  • Do not use folders unless instructed to do so.
  • Submit your work by the due date (an extension may be granted in certain cases, but it should be confirmed with your lecturer/tutor/teacher ahead of time).
  • Submit your work to the right place and person.

Penalties for poor presentation

If you submit your work without meeting basic presentation standards, you can incur penalties. Many lecturers can be generous; however, you would be wise to avoid submitting a poorly presented assignment. Not only will you risk the outcomes listed below, but you also won’t be doing yourself any favours; your future boss won’t accept underperformance.

  • Your work may be returned and you may be required to resubmit (lucky outcome).
  • work may be marked down (not so lucky).
  • Your work may not be accepted or credited in your final grade (bad).

Download our general advice on formatting, Layout & Appearance.