University Assignment Templates

Use your concept map or plan

Write your assignment using your map or plan to guide you.  As you write, you may well get new ideas or think about ideas in slightly different ways.  This is fine, but check back to your map or plan to evaluate whether that idea fits well into the plan or the paragraph that you are writing at the time. Consider:  In which paragraph does it best fit?  How does it link to the ideas you have already discussed?

Paragraph planning

For every paragraph, think about the main idea that you want to communicate in that paragraph and write a clear topic sentence which tells the reader what you are going to talk about. A main idea is more than a piece of content that you found while you were researching, it is often a point that you want to make about the information that you are discussing.  Consider how you are going to discuss that idea (what is the paragraph plan). For example, are you: listing a number of ideas, comparing and contrasting the views of different authors, describing problems and solutions, or describing causes and effects?

Use linking words throughout the paragraph. For example:

  • List paragraphs should include words like: similarly, additionally, next, another example, as well, furthermore, another, firstly, secondly, thirdly, finally, and so on.
  • Cause and effect paragraphs should include words like: consequently, as a result, therefore, outcomes included, results indicated, and so on.
  • Compare and contrast paragraphs should include words like: on the other hand, by contrast, similarly, in a similar way, conversely, alternatively, and so on.
  • Problem solution paragraphs should include words like: outcomes included, identified problems included, other concerns were overcome by, and so on.

Some paragraphs can include two plans, for example a list of problems and solutions.  While this is fine, it is often clearer to include one plan per paragraph.  

Linking paragraphs:

Look at your plan or map and decide on the key concepts that link the different sections of your work.  Is there an idea that keeps recurring in different sections?  This could be a theme that you can use to link ideas between paragraphs.  Try using linking words (outlined above) to signal to your reader whether you are talking about similar ideas, whether you are comparing and contrasting, and so on.  The direction that your thinking is taking in the essay should be very clear to your reader.  Linking words will help you to make this direction obvious.

Different parts of the essay:

While different types of essays have different requirements for different parts of the essay, it is probably worth thinking about some general principles for writing introductions, body paragraphs and conclusions.  Always check the type of assignment that you are being asked to produce and consider what would be the most appropriate way to structure that type of writing. 

Remember that in most (not all) writing tasks, especially short tasks (1,000 to 2,000 words), you will not write headings such as introduction and conclusion.  Never use the heading ‘body’.

Writing an introduction:

Introductions need to provide general information about the topic. Typically they include:

  • Background, context or a general orientation to the topic so that the reader has a general understanding of the area you are discussing.
  • An outline of issues that will and will not be discussed in the essay (this does not have to be a detailed list of the ideas that you will discuss).  An outline should be a general overview of the areas that you will explore.
  • A thesis or main idea which is your response to the question.  

Here is an example of an introduction:

It is often a good idea to use some of the words from the question in the introduction to indicate that you are on track with the topic.  Do not simply recount the question word for word. 

Writing the body:

  • Each paragraph should make a point which should be linked to your outline and thesis statement.
  • The most important consideration in the body paragraphs is the argument that you want to develop in response to the topic. This argument is developed by making and linking points in and between paragraphs.

Try structuring paragraphs like this:

  • Topic sentence: open the paragraph by making a point 
  • Supporting sentences: support the point with references and research
  • Conclusive sentence: close the paragraph by linking back to the point you made to open the paragraph and linking this to your thesis statement.

Here is an example of a body paragraph from the essay about education and globalisation:

As you write the body, make sure that you have strong links between the main ideas in each of the paragraphs.

Writing the conclusion:

This is usually structured as follows:

  • Describe in general terms the most important points made or the most important linkage of ideas
  • Do not include new information, therefore it does not usually contain references
  • End with a comment, a resolution, or a suggestion for issues that may be addressed in future research on the topic.

Here is an example conclusion from the essay on education:

These templates should be used in conjunction with Writing an Assessed Essay by Professor Robin C A White (PDF) or Writing a Research Paper by Professor Robin C A White (PDF) (for research students and undergraduate dissertation students).

They serve as a guide and are not strictly enforced. You should however follow good practice and are expected to produce an attractive, consistent and readable document.

Download the templates

Note: the layout in Microsoft Word 2007 documents onwards (for Mac or PC) is professionally designed and consequently, a default 'new' document produced by this software will suffice for your essay. If you have changed your default settings or are unsure, download the example files below. (The only change we make in our Word 2007 template is to indent quoted paragraphs.)

Word 2007+ documents also have other benefits such as new anti-aliased fonts (Calibri and Cambria are just two examples) which work better on laptops and flat-panel screens.

For older versions of Word please ensure you use the example files below.

For non-Microsoft Word users or those who rather add the styling themselves, we include some ‘guides’ to formatting at the foot of the page.

The templates for Title, Abstract and Contents are combined to overcome some technical difficulties as are Table of Authorities and Bibliography. Any unneeded part of this template should be deleted.

Tips and Common Problems

  • Save your work regularly
  • Have at least 2 working backups. Make sure one is networked; use My Documents on CFS, email the file or use an online service such as Dropbox, Google Docs, Skydrive, etc.
  • If you have lost control of your formatting, re-apply the Normal style
  • Word count includes footnotes
  • Use informative file names, not 'document1.docx' but 'evidence-confessions.docx'. Append or prepend the date where you have multiple backups 'evidence-confessions-08-nov.docx'
  • If you have too much space between paragraphs or titles, you have added extra paragraph returns. Click the Show/Hide button to see where these are and delete them

Formatting ‘guides’

Formatting ‘guides’

The law school took the decision in 2011 to be more flexible in the layout of student work. Consequently any attractive, consistent and readable document should be acceptable. There are suggested example Word files attached above or you can follow these ‘guides’.

  • Paper-size: A4
  • Margins: 2.5 – 3.0 cm
  • Font: Avoid letter plate and script or handwriting fonts otherwise there are many choices. Traditional ‘serif’ fonts include Garamond, Times, Palatino; modern fonts that work well on both screen and in type include Calibri, Cambria, Georgia, etc.
  • Font-size: depends on font used but usually 11-12
  • Line-spacing: around 1.3 lines is a good average (but anything between 1.15 – 2.0)

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