Academic Tips and Tricks

All the help you need for good essay writing

Tips and Tricks 5: Essay Formatting

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To many of you, this may be obvious, but it is something that is so worth doing. Most of you probably receive a style-guide at the beginning of the academic year listing the standard essay format in which your tutors would like your work submitted. Obviously I can’t claim to know all your submission guidelines, and I suspect the vast majority of universities now have electronic submission, so some of these tips will be less relevant. However, all this aside, this will ensure your tutors do not get frustrated whilst reading your essay by something which is so easily remedied.

Formatting
These were my department’s guidelines, and should work well for most academic assignments:

  • Font: Times New Roman or Ariel, 12pt, black
  • Spacing: 1.5 – double
  • Margins: 1.5 – 2cm

Graphical assignments/art subjects will probably be more fluid in their presentation rules, but check first if in doubt.

Header
Always have one. This is especially paramount if you’re handing in a paper copy of your essay. And don’t forget, even if you use electronic submission many tutors will print out your work for archiving or just because they don’t like to mark assignments looking at a screen. The header should include:

  • Page numbers
  • Your name
  • Your tutor’s name
  • (optional) assignment title
  • (optional) your module name/code
  • (optional) your student ID number

All of these things make the assignment more clear and easy to read. They also make it easier to look back to the assignment and remember when and who it was written for.

Title Page
This should contain all the info in the header, plus all the optional points. It should be one full A4 sheet and in a larger font to make it clearer:

This is the title page of my MA dissertation, for standard assignments, the line about “dissertation submitted for the degree of…” does not need to be included.

Contents
For essays of 4000 words plus, a contents page can be very helpful, especially if you have a lot of headings and sub-headings, as you can see from the picture below, even very complicated essays can be easily understood if the contents page is clearly formatted:

As always, I hope this helps.

(Both example pages are taken from my MA dissertation, and are the intellectual property of myself, Elizabeth Marsden – though you may, of course, use the formatting and layout as inspiration in your own assignments if you wish).

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Author: Liz

Hi, I'm Liz. I like easy crafts, photography, cooking, lifestyle blogs and YouTube videos. I work as a part-time proofreader and am currently studying for a PhD in linguistics.

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