Surviving the assignment hand-in season

deadline photoKnow thy deadline!

Late work attracts no marks, and lecturers are often unforgiving. There are lots of good things that you can do if you manage to finish your assignments even a few days earlier.  Click Read more for top tips on surviving hand-in season with your sanity and marks intact!

Expect to have your time wasted and for everything that can to go wrong

Attaching the right cover sheet and making sure you meet all the formatting and submission criteria – font size, typeface, line spacing, margins, cover sheets, filename, where to include your student number… all probably in your course or module/dissertation handbook all need figuring out before the deadline so you can check that your lovely work doesn’t suddenly look a lot less lovely after you have reformatted it! All this takes time and getting in early is the best way to avoid making a mistake.

Expect the wireless network to fail, Moodle to go down, TurnItIn to fall over, the printing system to crash and burn, and for all the enquiry points in every building to be inundated with queues of other students tearing their hair out in frustration as the deadline approaches.  We have seen all these things happen (though not all at once) before now simply because it is almost insupportable for any computer network to cope with half of all students printing, submitting and processing their submissions in the same half hour before the deadline.

Lecturers on the other hand cling to the quaint notion that if you have had months to complete an assignment that you might have thought to hand it in earlier than the last few minutes possible.  Handing things in a few days earlier is therefore a really good idea.

Rest and reprise

Finishing early also gives you a chance to leave your work (just don’t forget about it!) and come back to it with fresh eyes to re-read it carefully , work on the presentation, polish the wording, check the references match the in text citations. The first bite is with the eye and a well written piece is likely to attract a better mark than a similar piece that is badly presented and difficult to read.

Does it all make sense now you have set it aside for a few days?  Do the sentences all end or do some trail off midway through a complex series of. This sort of thing (and yes that was a deliberate mistake in the last sentence) is quite common. Do your ideas develop and flow logically one from the other through the work? You may find restructuring a sentence so that you start at the end or middle makes it flow much more easily. Some people find reading aloud makes it easier to spot grammatical errors.

A proof reader is your best friend; your best friend is your proof reader

Proof-reading one another’s work is also very helpful. It is very easy to see where someone else has written something badly, made mistakes or left a comma out: much easier than it is to see your own mistakes. Friends and course mates are very valuable at such times, and far better at spotting subtle errors than a spell checker programme. Swap your work and criticise yourself happy.  Just don’t take it personally when they find fault with your great thesis. They are helping you. Your work will be better for it. You can also choose what content, if any, you change. Professional proof reading services exist but other students are free, and proof reading others work will make you better at proof reading your own work when you get a job. It is a life skill that pays dividends over a lifetime.

If the worst happens

Don’t be shy in coming to the desk to ask for help.  Any technical problems can be resolved sooner if they are reported earlier, while librarians are no strangers to students suddenly realising they are missing an article they cannot find or need help formatting a few last references.  Just please come to see us as early as possible, just in case some vital computer system should decide to have a funny five minutes… at five minutes to the hand-in deadline!

Photo by vapour trail

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