16: The Perfect Essay Presentation

Now that your essay has been written, edited, and proofread, it's now time to perfect the presentation before you hand it in for marking. This chapter includes how to get the look and feel right to your essay, how to make a visual statement with your essay presentation, and what to check and double-check before submitting it to your tutor.

Chapter 16 contents:

16.1: Preparing Your Essay For Submission

Besides the content of your essay, getting the best grade is also about making a good impression in terms of how your essay looks. Now, your presentation will not make up for the fact that you did not put all your effort into your essay - there's no hiding that if you have not taken that task seriously - but it will add to your grade if you get it right. You want to make sure that you are proud of your essay in every way so presentation is very important in terms of its look and feel. The next few sections will break down each component of the perfect essay presentation.

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16.1.1: What looks good

All the comments in these sections are about the appearance of the essay rather than the content, so just keep that in mind. We've already covered content in numerous chapters so if you are not sure about something there, jump back to those to continue refining your essay content.

Look at your essay the way you would look at a product you were thinking of buying. Ask yourself:

  • Would I buy it?
  • Is it packaged in an attractive way?
  • Does it speak high quality or does it look kind of cheap?
  • Would others buy it?

The next few sections offer some specific ways to enhance the look and feel of your essay "product" to make it something everyone - especially your tutor - would want to buy!

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16.1.2: Best Paper To Use

Even in the age of digital technology, you still have to turn in a hard copy of your essay so paper still counts. The best paper to use is at least 80 grams per square metre, but 90 to 100 grams per square metre is even better looking and feels more professional. Here are some other tips about paper:

  • Stick to bright white paper; don't use coloured paper. However, you can use colour paper for questionnaires that are inserted in the appendices, if absolutely necessary.
  • Print on one side of the paper unless your tutor asks that you use both sides to save paper.
  • Always check that you have enough supplies to print your essay, including toner, ink, and paper for your printer. Or, make sure you don't wait until the last minute to use a printer at your university in case they run out of supplies because everyone else is trying to print their essays, too!

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16.1.3: Pages

From paper to pages, there are a number of presentation items to think about on each page of your essay:

  • Number all pages and be consistent on where the page numbers are located on each one. Typically, this is in the footer section of your page and will also include your name and student number so that the tutor can account for every page should it come apart or loose.
  • Don't forget to number any and all appendices you have for your essay by Appendix 1, Appendix 2, etc. Start each Appendix on a new page.
  • Double check that you have all the pages, they are in the right order, and they are facing the right direction. Sounds silly but you would be surprised how easy it is to get things messed up, especially if you are rushing and a nervous wreck!

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16.1.4: Binding Your Essay

Once your essay is printed and you have the pages numbered and in the right order, it's time to bind your essay. Here are some tips on making sure everything stays together:

  • If your essay only has a few pages, you can staple or paper clip together.
  • If your essay is long, you may need to put it in a plastic cover that binds it together.
  • It's best to check with your tutor on binding preferences prior to turning it in.
  • If you have to punch holes or place it in a binder, your essay may need to be reprinted to accommodate a larger margin on the left-hand side. After all, you don't want any of that great content to disappear so your tutor can't read it!

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16.1.5: Essay Cover Sheet

Typically, every essay requires a cover sheet. While some universities may supply you with one, you may also have to make your own. Here's what the essay cover sheet should typically include:

  • Your name
  • Student number
  • Course name and reference number
  • Assignment number
  • Essay title
  • Tutor name
  • Word count
  • Submission date

Don't put any graphics, such as pictures, graphs, or charts on your cover sheet. No one is impressed.

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16.2: Closer Inspection

Now, it is time to go deeper with the presentation and appearance of your essay. This includes everything from font and font size to headings to italics, spacing, and data presentation.

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16.2.1: Font and font size

When it comes to font and font size, your university or tutor may have already provided what you should use. Typically, it is Times New Roman or Arial in 12 point type. If they have not and it's up to you, here are some tips to keep your presentation on target:

  • Don't choose a font that is difficult to read, doesn't look academic, or that looks like handwriting because this also makes it more challenging to read.
  • Ask your tutor what they like.
  • Make sure that you use the same font and font size throughout your essay, including headings, sub-headings, etc. Some suggest that the headings and sub-headings can be different fonts and font sizes. If anything, we recommend you could make the headings and sub-headings a slightly bigger font size, but don't change the font type as it makes it look too busy.

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16.2.2: Headings and sub-headings

When it comes to headings and sub-headings, the most important thing you can do in terms of presentation is to put these in bold so they stand out from the rest of the essay and serve as clear markers that you are introducing new ideas.

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16.2.3: Italics Within Your Essay

There are a few places in your essay where you can use italics:

  • You may italicise headings.
  • You should italicise any words in a foreign language, book titles, and magazine or journal titles.

Don't italicise words for emphasis in your essay as this a conversational writing device rather than an academic writing device.

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16.2.4: Spacing

Spacing in your essay is very important as a component of your presentation. You first want to make sure that your tutor has space to provide feedback about your essay. This means that you should leave margins on the left and right sides of your essay.

In terms of readability and just to make your essay look great, here are some other tips about spacing within your essay:

  • Double space your essay unless, of course, your tutor or university handbook would like you to use 1.5 spacing.
  • Leave a whole line gap between your paragraphs. This would be for block paragraph style. The block style is also known as justified. Some schools of thought on this style state that it creates too much white space while others find it more readable.
  • Alternatively, indent your paragraphs, which would mean that you don't leave a whole line gap between your paragraphs.
  • Ask your tutor on preferences about block or indented paragraphs. Then, be consistent with whatever one they recommend or you decide to go with.
  • Check for extra spaces that need to be closed between words and paragraphs.
  • Make sure that, if you have long quotes, you have single spaced and indented these within your essay.

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16.2.5: Data and Visuals

While data like lists, figures, and tables provide great ways to justify your argument in a visual way, they can also detract from the essay by disrupting the flow for the reader who can distracted and lose track of the point.  You can put this information in appendices as we discussed previously or you can create a more effective visual presentation. Here are some tips on using and displaying visuals in your final essay:

  • Create pie charts, bar charts, or graphs when you have results from surveys or questionnaires where a visual would be more effective than using up a lot of word count to explain the data. This also helps you to illustrate patterns and trends in the findings, clarifying your argument and simplifying it for the reader.
  • Don't overuse visuals; keep them to a minimum and only where they add to your essay.
  • Place visuals near accompanying arguments and incorporate the visuals in the content by noting the visual number or adding a sub-heading that numbers the chart or table and titles it.
  • Recognise that you will be most likely be printing your essay in black and white so bear in mind how the bar or pie chart will look this way versus the colour that appears on the screen. In fact, it could come out being unreadable because each section is a varying shade of grey. Consider using patterns for each section to make a visual more readable.
  • Leave plenty of space around the visual to help distinguish it from the content, but don't go overboard. A good place to look for examples of what looks good would be books and magazine articles.
  • Don't forget to add any secondary source information under the visual if you are pulling it from a book, magazine, or online source.
  • Don't split a table or chart across two pages. This makes it unreadable.  Either shrink the chart a little bit if it happens to just run over a little or if it is larger, then just move it to the next page.

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16.3: The Final Check

Now that you've taken of all those presentation components, it's time to do the final check with a handy list of items to tick off as you go:

  • Did you include all the necessary information on your cover sheet?
  • Did you put a title on the first page of the essay?
  • Have you numbered every page and in the right sequence?
  • Did you include any appendices?
  • Have you checked that there is enough white space and it is consistent throughout your essay?
  • Is your layout and presentation consistent throughout, including spacing, font, font size and spacing?
  • Are all the visuals in the correct place with captions, source information, numbers and titles?
  • Is the word count correct and listed on the title page?
  • Have you stapled, clipped, or bound it correctly?
  • Would you buy it?

After you have answered "yes" to all of these questions, then it is time to submit your essay to your tutor and celebrate that you got it done on time and that you are proud of your efforts.

And, by celebrate, we mean celebrate. Sure, you have not received your grade and that will most likely be the bigger celebration, but you should still take a moment to reflect on the moment that you accomplished a lot and put your skill and dedication into the essay. It will all pay off!

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Chapter 16: In Summary

Before you move on to handle essay results and essay feedback, answer these questions about essay presentation and finalising it to make sure you got everything out of this chapter:

  • What is the perfect paper?
  • What do you need to remember about presentation when it comes to the pages of your essay?
  • How should you bind your essay?
  • How do you create a cover sheet and what should it include?
  • What should you know about font and font size?
  • What should you remember when it comes to headings and sub-headings?
  • Where and when should you use italics?
  • What is adequate spacing within your essay?
  • How should you incorporate data and visuals within your essay?
  • What should be on your final check off list?
  • Should you celebrate turning your essay on time?

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