Student working

Presentation of Written Work

It is important that you present your written work in the correct format and that you ensure that you understand referencing conventions to avoid Plagiarism.


More information about the serious offence of Plagiarism can be found further down this page.


Please note: All students are required to complete the ELE module on Academic Honesty and Plagiarism.



All written work (essays, other forms of coursework and dissertations) need to be presented in the correct format and to follow accepted academic conventions on referencing and bibliography. Presentation forms part of the assessment mark for any coursework or dissertation and you may be penalised for poorly presented work. The main points to bear in mind are:

  1. You should write clearly and concisely. Avoid unnecessary jargon and technical language: the best kind of writing is simple, direct and straightforward. The aim of academic writing is to convey complex ideas and arguments in an accessible manner, not to confuse the reader.
  2. It is normal in dissertations to divide the work into chapters, with separate headings. These should each address a particular area or theme of the dissertation, linked together by an overall argument. You will receive further information later on concerning the exact layout and binding that a dissertation should have.
  3. Essays are not normally divided into separate chapters or sections. You should only do so for good reasons that do not detract from the flow of the text or the presentation of the argument. Headings may well be useful, though.
  4. You must keep within the word-limits assigned to each piece of coursework and the dissertation. Over-length work will be penalized. Writing within the given length is an essential skill which you must practise. References, bibliography, footnotes and appendices are not included in the word limit.
  5. You may not repeat material from one essay in another, since this involves gaining credit for the same work twice. If in doubt about how to handle apparently overlapping topics, please speak to your tutor, dissertation supervisor, or programme director.
  6. All work should be word-processed throughout, be in at least 12 point font, 1.5 or double spaced (except references and bibliographies which may be single spaced) and with margins of at least 40mm on the left hand side and 20mm on the right.
  7. Work should be printed on A4 sized paper. Work may be printed on both sides of the paper.
  8. All pages, including any abstracts, appendices, indices, drawings, maps, pages of photographs etc. should be numbered consecutively in one sequence.
  9. The work should be written in English. Spellings and usage should conform to UK English standards (including the layout of dates, numbers, capitalisation, quotations etc). If you are unsure of these please refer to a suitable dictionary, style sheet or consult your supervisor. Text quoted in other languages should be provided in translation.
  10. You need to provide references. The point of references is to guide readers to the evidence you have used in formulating your judgements or to indicate where you are drawing upon the words or ideas of others. Do not use them to ‘pad’ the text: if the information they contain is important, it should be in the main body of the essay or dissertation, if not it should be discarded. References should be laid out in a consistent pattern according to the nature of your research and writing. A number of systems exist. In the social sciences the ‘Harvard’ system predominates, while the ‘Humane’ system is the most used in the humanities. You can use textnotes (Harvard), endnotes or footnotes (Humane), but should not mix them. Be aware, however, that no set system is complete. In particular, references to archival material, internet sources, interviews etc. will often require that you need to make a judgement as to the best format. You need to provide enough information so that the nature and location of your sources is clear to the reader. The most important thing to bear in mind is that a reader of your work should be able, via your references, to go directly to where you have drawn your information in order to check that what you say has validity or to follow up an interesting idea you have put forward. Consult your tutor or supervisor about an appropriate layout for your work.
  11. You also need to include a bibliography at the end of the essay or dissertation. It should list all the material that you have consulted for the piece of work. The Bibliography should also be laid out consistently, with citations following in alphabetical order by author. All relevant information should be given for each entry: author, title, volume number, place of publication, date of publication. It is normal in the social sciences and humanities to divide bibliographies into sections. Primary and secondary materials should always be divided. You may also use subdivisions for further clarity: archival, printed primary, newspapers, official publications, memoirs, interviews are examples.
  12. Appendices, maps, diagrams, photographs and tables, if included, should only contain material directly referred to in the main text. Again they should not be used as ‘padding’ or additional information. They may include raw data, the results of interviews, filmographies or other kinds of material vital to the reader’s understanding of the findings of your research. Supervisors should be consulted on what is suitable for inclusion in appendices.

Perhaps the most important piece of advice you can be given concerning any writing is to make sure that you save your work frequently and always keep back-up copies and printed drafts at all times. Computers are marvellous devices but they are not infallible! Please note that problems with IT are specifically excluded as grounds for an extension to the deadline.


Plagiarism by any student is a serious offence: it can lead to your deregistration from the University. The University has issued the following guidelines relating to plagiarism;

Plagiarism, i.e. the act of representing work or ideas as one’s own without appropriate acknowledgement or referencing. There are four main types of plagiarism, which could occur within all modes of assessment (including examination):

  1. Direct copying of text, or illustrations, from a book, article, fellow student's essay, handout, thesis, web page or other source without proper acknowledgement.
  2. Claiming individual ideas derived from a book, article etc. as one's own, and incorporating them into one's work without acknowledging the source of those ideas. This includes paraphrasing a source, or altering the material taken from the source so it appears to be one’s own work.
  3. Overly depending on the work of one or more others without proper acknowledgement of the source, by constructing an essay, project etc. by extracting large sections of text from another source, and merely linking these together with a few of one's own sentences.
  4. The re-submission or re-use of the student’s own work in another assignment whether this was submitted at the University of Exeter or any other academic institution worldwide. (This is not intended to prevent a student from developing an academic idea over the period of a course, for example stating an argument in an essay for a particular module and then developing this argument in a dissertation, but to prevent the counting of credit twice for the same piece of work, however this operates at the discretion of the Panel considering the offence).

(Colleges may extend these definitions for specific subject areas and provide students with examples as appropriate. The correct referencing system for making quotations explicit and acknowledging sources should be available through personal tutors or supervisors, specific tutorial sessions in Colleges, and Colleges' student and research handbooks)

All cases of plagiarism are reported to the Unit’s Academic Misconduct Officer who then follows the University procedures for dealing with students who are suspected of plagiarising. See full details of the University's policies and procedures on plagiarism in Chapter 12 of the Handbook for Assessment, Progression and Awarding: Taught Programmes.


If you are in any doubt as to what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it please talk to your tutors, dissertation supervisor or another member of the academic staff of the College.

All students are required to complete the ELE module on Academic Honesty and Plagiarism.