Formatting and referencing

This week we are looking at a technical aspect of the assignments: formatting and referencing. It’s not complicated stuff once you’ve got the hang of it but if you’ve not done it before or used different system it’s something to get your head around.

Formatting Ptlls assignments

Instructions for this should be in your Ptlls handbook and you should familiarise yourself with the guidance there, checking with your tutor if anything is unclear. The formatting refers to the visual presentation of your essay and can vary.

Some issues to be aware of:

  • Should you put your name on the essay or keep it anonymous with a candidate number, etc?
  • Do you need to write out the full title of the essay?
  • Are there instructions about font, font size and line spacing?
  • Do you need to show your word count?

Depending on the institution not following the guidelines may affect your mark or may result in your work being returned to you, wasting everyone’s time.

There are also the official front sheets that need to be filled in and attached to your essay, don’t forget about those and make sure you have an extra copy in case something goes wrong. Another tip is to always make sure you have an extra printed copy of your essay so it is quick to replace if it should get lost and make sure your original is safely handed in.

That your work should be word processed is a given, really. If you don’t have access to a computer at home you can try local libraries, the vast majority of which now have at least a few computers and bigger libraries may have dozens, free to use though there will probably be printing charges. If your Ptlls course is one you attend at a college they will also have lots of computer resources. And if you’re not confident with or comfortable using a PC that needs sorting out as well, you can use the course as a kickstart. There are lots of computer courses available: start your search at your local college, council or library.

Referencing Ptlls assignments

Ptlls uses the Harvard Referencing System (or Author Date System) for the essays. Good referencing shows you have read around the topic and taken account of expert views and avoids accusations of plagiarism. It’s a two part system with the first acknowledgement in the actual body of the essay and then the full reference at the end in the bibliography or references section. I’ve found the guidance in the Ptlls handbook focuses on the latter stage, the bibliography, and not the initial reference in the text so we’re going to have a closer look at that.

The “in essay” part gives the author’s name and the date of publication. If a direct quote is used you should also include the page number. Brackets are used but the information doesn’t have to be in them as long as it is within the sentence. It’s a sort of mix and match approach. A Ptllsy example using Ann Gravells’ Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector would look like this:

Gravells (2006) recommends a different style of speech when presenting at the board.

A different style of speech is recommended when presenting at the board (Gravells, 2006).

When presenting at the board it is recommended to ‘read presentations more slowly than you would normally hold a conversation’ (Gravells, 2006, p59).

Gravells (2006, p59) recommends to ‘read presentations more slowly than you would normally hold a conversation.’

All of these are properly referenced even though they look quite different. I just picked a random sentence from the book, I can’t think why you would need to be quoting that.

In the bibliography it would use the same format, regardless of the above:

Gravells, A. (2006) Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector, 3rd edition, Exeter, Learning Matters. p59.

Information found online also needs to be fully referenced. Just like a book you need the author name and date. If you can’t find who the author is or feel a bit hesitant about citing it because it might be a bit dodgy then look for a different source. People can be snobby about information found online even from trusted sources and these are very few – the internet is a minefield of wonderful information mixed in with the false. The Great Wikipedia Debate highlights these issues and many academic institutions have banned Wikipedia from being used as a reference for papers. Even though it is a fantastic repository of information the risks and potential downsides can be enough to rule it out.

Just like books websites are referenced by author and date (Directgov, 2011) and within the bibliography more or less as books are, except you should add the date you actually accessed the resource.

Directgov, (2011) English for speakers of other languages, [www] available at 18 July 2011.

Here’s a good page showing all the possible permutations and how to reference them from the Anglia Ruskin University. It also covers how to reference multiple authors, different editions, journals and so on.

Hope that helped! If anyone has any corrections or observations leave a comment.


  1. 1 February, 2012
  2. 2 February, 2012
  3. 29 February, 2012
  4. 29 February, 2012

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