Mastering Assessments Part 2: Submitting Assignments

In follow up to my previous blog about writing assessments, here I conclude with the points of issue for submitting them: referencing, statement of authorship, Turnitin, deadlines, essay boxes versus online submission, and finally a note about special considerations. Figure them out early and you need never encounter an issue when it comes to handing in assignments.

1. REFERENCING

References are confusing. The differences are as simple as punctuation changes usually, but styles vary from school to school within your faculty. In HUSS we use Harvard and Oxford, but you can apply my tips to any style, just look for those subtle differences.

To start with, bookmark the library’s referencing guide, The Academic Referencing Tool (ART), which provides a user-friendly page filled with tips and examples to help you master the ART (hehe).  It gives examples of the four main styles used at La Trobe – Oxford (footnoting), Harvard (author-date), APA 6 and ALGC – including websites, blogs, books, journals, government publications and more. At the bottom of each style on the lefthand tab, there is also a link for style notes. Be sure to check this out for extra help, for example in Oxford, for mastering the ibids and subsequent footnote references.

References Explained

Harvard and Oxford have very subtle differences.

  • Harvard aka in-text referencing aka author-date system

When you write via Harvard, you might make a quote “I say this” (Smith, 2013, p.xx), or Smith (2013) argues.., or structure a sentence as Summary or Idea blah blah blah (Smith, 2013, p.xx). Then the bibliography will give the full details.

Wilson, CR & Yost, JA, 2002, ‘The Creation of Social Hierarchy,’ in Ethnographic Essays in Cultural Anthropology: A Problem-Based Approach, eds RB Morrison & C Roderick, FE Peacock Publishers, Itasca, pp. 107-137.

  • Oxford aka footnoting

With Oxford, you write “I say this”1 or Smith2 suggests…. or summed sentence3. Then you use footnote superscript numbers with the bottom of the page stating the full reference the first time with page number, then the second time stating surname, title and page number, or, if it is the same as the previous footnote, ibid or ibid (page) xx if the page differs. Ibid is Latin for ‘in the same place’.

Lila Corwin Berman, ‘Jewish Urban Politics in the City and Beyond’, The Journal of American History, 99/2 (2012), 492-519.

Oxford changed it’s style last year, there are brackets where they weren’t before, and the year goes in a different spot (in footnotes it goes in still a different spot).  Pay attention to what your tutors say if you have to use Oxford, and be sure to use the library as your only guide, as other guides off google may steer you wrong and you can lose valuable marks.

  • You only reference page numbers if you are taking a direct quote or idea.
  • Webpages don’t have page numbers and if you are taking an overall idea then you don’t need a page number.
  • Your word count does not include references.
  • In terms of the bibliography, the differences between the two are very slight, just punctuation and where the year goes.
  • Note the first example I gave was a chapter in a book, so I listed the chapter title then wrote in before listing the book title, whereas in a journal article (the second example) you do not need to put in, regardless of using Harvard or Oxford.

Don’t think about it too much. As long as you are consistent throughout, you should be fine. Sometimes even the tutors have a hard time remembering the right way; they’ve admitted it plenty of times.

How Many References?

Check with your tutors about how many references to use in essays. As a guide for first year you will be writing 1000 word essays, which require 5-10 references, but when you get up to 2000 word essays you need to have more like 10-15. Incidentally I have encountered subjects this year who expect just 5 references from a 1000 word essay and just 8 for a 2000 word essay – so you really need your tutors and lecturers to be clear about what they are expecting before you write. Mostly they clarify this in the tutorial that discusses the essay.

Quotes

A quick word about using quotes and how to lay them out: anything shorter than three lines can be used within the paragraph, just by adding quotes and setting it up with a Jones states “blah di blah blah” (2013, p.xx). Quotes longer than three lines should be set out like you’d see them in a textbook. That means indenting the text (use the paragraph arrow on the home tab in word and indent left and right to 1cm or so). Quotes should be 1.0 single spaced, not double spaced like the rest of your text, and it should be written in double quote marks. How you introduce it doesn’t matter, but I try to mention the author in the sentence right before, to lead in with. Naturally, after you should finish with either a superscript footnote number or a bracketed reference.

2. TURNITIN

This technical program scans your assignment against everything on the internet to show that it does not match the same wording anywhere else; in short it is checking for plagiarism.   You should ideally upload your essays to Turnitin 1-2 days before the due date to allow it to get back to you with the receipt displaying how much similarity there is. Getting the originality report takes up to 24 hours; with a percentage of originality, 1-24% is a green light, yellow is 25-49%, then after that you get orange and red rated. Don’t worry about this too much, assuming you are indeed writing your own work! I love my quotes and use a lot and the most I’ve ever received has been about 10%. Read over the guides for the program here, or find more info on the LMS under assessments for each subject.

Check with your tutors about how many times you are allowed to submit your essay to Turnitin. Some will only let you submit once, some give you a chance to submit a draft and a final copy, and then others will let you submit as many times as you want. Some students find reassurance in being able to do this, but I personally have never had a need for it – once is enough.

Handy tip: Turnitin recommends that when quoting you use “double quotes” to help the program identify what is a direct quote.

On being orange or red

My lecturers in first year talked about the red papers – people in my classes who had whole paragraphs of their assignments copied directly from somewhere else. All I can say is, be original, use your own ideas and if you are going to quote, use the double quotes with the source correctly referenced. La Trobe is very strict on plagiarising so just don’t do it. If you do find yourself getting your receipt with a yellow, orange or red dot, ask your tutor what to do and consider for yourself why it is reading these. Are your quotes too long? Do you have loads and loads of references? Most people only get green dots so if you got anything else and you have been original as best you can, you are best to seek staff help.

Hard Copy – Receipt Required!

If you have to submit a hard copy of your assignment, La Trobe likes you to print out the receipt you receive from Turnitin and staple it to the front of your assignment right after the Statement of Authorship. You can do this either from turnitin itself or your student email. If it also features your essay text, just select to print page one, or condense to one page. This is far easier than attaching pages and pages of your essay to a copy of your essay unnecessarily.

3. SUBMITTING

Making Deadlines

Plan ahead, be organised and aim to finish the bigger assignments especially, a week before, that way you have grace time if things do go wrong. Don’t try to pull overnighters to complete an essay.  You feel like crap for a week after and your rush job is evident to the marker, meaning you lose marks.  I speak of experience here. Some friends prefer to get up early and work solidly for a day, others, like me, prefer to work until late on it.  If you find you like to be able to do an assignment without stopping because you can stay focussed on it better, try to schedule ‘the day’ for the week before the essay is due, or even earlier, or break it up into two or three days of study, in a row even. This way, you can finish it as a rough draft rather than a final essay, leave it for a while and come back to review it and add/change it and make it better and clearer.

Naturally this won’t be an issue for you at all though. You would have read my last blog about writing assessments and followed the assignment calculator and time management planner links to be completely organised and be done well ahead of time. Right? (Note, I am not that person either.)

Extensions

Make the deadline, as best you can, it goes without saying. However, life happens. If you think you are going to have a problem getting it done on time, drop your tutor an email to ask for an extension. Keep in mind they don’t take too kindly with excuses like, because I have three assignments due Monday and it’s too hard. If you were sick, or have had computer issues, or had problems understanding the topic, these sorts of general reasons are usually acceptable. IT IS BETTER TO ASK FOR AN EXTENSION THAN JUST IGNORE THE DEADLINE. The penalty for late submissions is 5% per day, so if you are 5 days late you have already lost a quarter of the points available. Ouch.

Hard vs Soft Copy Submissions

Check if your tutors want a hard copy of your assessment. Unlike previous years, there is an increasing shift toward submitting things exclusively to the dropboxes on the LMS (they say Assignment 1: Submit Here, it may or may not be Turnitin).

  • Short assignments, under 1000 words, dropbox submissions online, no Turnitin(subject to faculty rules)
  • Long assignments, 1000+ words, definitely Turnitin, hard copy to essay box optional, soft copy is turned in exclusively through Turnitin

Look closely at the LMS login page.  Logging into to the LMS verifies your identity in the university’s eyes and thus a statement of authorship is not needed. It’s so much easier to submit this way, not to mention it saves paper, and you don’t need the following bits of advice for hard copies!

Hard Copy Submissions: Statement of Authorship, Title Page, Layout, Essay Box

Make sure you print out a Statement of Authorship; its link is found on the top right corner of the LMS. Sign it, date it, staple it to the front of your printed assignment, in front of the printed turnitin receipt. That signature is what shows the uni that it is your work and is not plagiarised.

May I highly recommend you submit a title page or space at the top of your essay, for a polished look (some tutors say they want one, others don’t). It can feature:

  • Name
  • Student ID number
  • Subject code
  • Tutor’s name
  • Tute day and time
  • Assignment name
  • Student email address
  • Date of submission

To save paper I make a title area at the top of my first assignment page.  I put those details listed above, and then have a header that features on the subsequent pages with page number, my name and ID number, and subject details including the tutor’s name. This is just in case something happens that separates the pages, they will be easy enough to identify as mine. Any title page goes behind the statement of authorship and printed turnitin receipt anyway, so its not like it is useful anyway, a title area is just as polished.

Layouts differ but here’s some of the specifics my tutors usually request:

  • Double spacing
  • 3-5cm margin on the left, for comments
  • Page numbers
  • Essay title, separate to the actual essay question
  • Your name on each page
  • Bibliography on it’s own page at the end

Essay boxes are located somewhere near your school’s office; remember where they are for turning in assignments. Find out from your tutors and put them in before the deadline.

4. SPECIAL CONSIDERATION

Sometimes the unthinkable happens. I got seriously ill in first year and missed several weeks of uni. So did my roommate (cursed house maybe?). If something happens in life, illness, tragedy, divorce, a baby, anything that is going to mean you miss more than a couple of weeks of class or it will affect your abillity to turn in assignments on time or sit exams, first of all call/email/talk to your faculty office for advice, then fill out a special consideration form, available on LMS on the top right corner or in LMS via your faculty link. This form gets submitted to the Student Centre who takes on the role of advising your tutors and lecturers of the situation and grants you exemption from meeting deadlines until your return. You still need to turn in assignments and tutors will best advise you on new deadlines etc, but always remember that this is an opportunity should at any time something unthinkable happen.

You should never just assume that when the worst happens you have to drop out of uni. If anything, La Trobe in particular wants to do everything it can to support you so that you can remain a student and succeed in your studies. I got great support from all the staff and amazingly still did well despite all the weeks I missed.

***

Hurray! Thanks for your patience in reading my academic series of posts, which aimed to pull all that info out there on La Trobe’s website and being given to you, into easy to follow advice from someone who has learned the long, hard way.  Everything you need to know about assignments, the library, lectures, tutorials, readings, lectopia, logging on to LMS, textbooks, subject guides, is somewhere to be found in my past posts.  From now on, with this new term, we shift into a lighter gear, and I will focus on some of the other services and things La Trobe has to offer, that can help you navigate your way through the next few years at LTU.

Enjoy the rest of your break and see you on campus! – Bec.

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