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If this is your very first piece of work at University you won’t have any feedback from your lecturers commenting on essays or other work you have submitted and had marked. It is likely, however, that you will have access to a module handbook and that you will also have been given some guidance by your lecturer about what is required in the work you are about to submit.  

 

The first step is to check that you have answered the question and in the way you were asked to do so. Check over any relevant course regulations and guidance to be sure you have complied with the following:

  • Maximum number of words. Be aware of any penalties for going over the limit and also check with tutor over what should be included in the work count in their course. Are tables included for example?
  • Learning outcomes and assessment criteria
  • Date and time and hand-in instructions
  • Exceptional circumstances, what to do if you cannot make the deadline. 

If submitting online through Blackboard or Turnitin do not leave it too close to the deadline to start doing this. If you do have feedback from previous work you have had marked now is the time to take a look at this to be sure you have acted on any pointers you were given. See our guide to working with and using your tutor's feedback on your work. 

Tip: Check the plan you made of your essay to be sure that you haven’t missed out any vital sections.

 

Check your referencing

Be sure that you have properly referenced all the evidence you have used in your work. Check that you have used the style of referencing that your department recommends.

  • Harvard - used by most students at Staffordshire University
  • APA (America Psychological Association Style) - used by students studying Psychology and Sport and Exercise.
  • OSCOLA (Oxford Standard for Citation Of Legal Authorities) used for referencing in Law.
  • For more information see: RefZone

It is vital to take accurate details of all the information sources you may have used - for example books, journal articles, newspapers, TV programmes, videos, the internet, government papers, statistics, etc. 

Every time you use quotations or draw upon facts and arguments you must acknowledge your sources. This protects you from accusations of plagiarism (copying). Always take the details of the source as you first use/or locate it since you  may  find it difficult to go back and find these later.

Citing your references enables the reader to identify and trace the works you used and shows the authority on which you base your statements.

See RefZone for more information.

Referencing terminology

It will help to know a bit about the words used to describe and make sense of referencing. The 3 important ones are citation, references and bibliography. 

Citation: A short way of describing a document or resources . It should include all the details someone else would  needed to trace the document you have used.


References: A list of citations (material cited) in a written work like a book or a journal article or even your own assignment. It shows the authority or evidence you have used and on which you base your statements. It is a starting point for anyone else wanting to find out about the subject.


Bibliography: A bibliography is a list of documents (books, articles, papers, websites) read for a specific essay of assignment. It can also mean a published list of works on a specific subject, e.g. "The Bibliography of Football".

Information for Referencing

For all the sources you use, make sure you note this information at the time you access it. This will save you having to go back to try and find the information later.

For books you will require:

  • name of author or editor
  • title
  • edition (if not the first)
  • volume number (if a multi-volume work)
  • publisher
  • place of publication
  • year of publication.

Note : Authors may be people (e.g. George Orwell), or institutions (e.g. Staffordshire University).

For journal articles:

  • name of author of article
  • title of article
  • title of journal in full
  • volume number
  • issue number
  • year of publication
  • inclusive page numbers.

For electronic publications:

In addition to author, title, date of publication you might also need to give the web address/URL and the date on which the information was accessed. Check the guidance on Refzone about this.

Proof reading

Please note that the Library and Academic Skills team cannot offer proofreading as one of their services.

If you are using Word to write your assignment, use the in-built grammar and spell checker to make basic checks to your essay. You do need to be careful, however, that when you use the spell checker you don't allow Word to make inappropriate changes to things such as author's names or specific terms related to your subject.

Word cannot detect when a word is spelled correctly but you have used the wrong word for a particular situation. It would not spot the mistake here; “dating form 1970” which ought to have been “dating from 1970”.

A good method is to read your assignment to yourself out loud. Reading out loud means that you can examine more closely how your assignment flows and if it makes sense.

You can also use the inbuilt text-to-speech tools in Word to have your text read to you.  See the Study smarter guide which give lots of ideas about using these tools effectively. 

If you want to know more about checking your work, please use our guide on proof reading