Approaching different assessment tasks

Academic writing can take many forms, each presented in its own way. This topic introduces you to different types of assessments.

Learning outcomes

This topic will help you to learn general formatting requirements and how to respond to specific assessment tasks, including:


Assessment tasks at university can take many forms. Each task has unique requirements and is presented in its own way. Unit materials, including task information and marking rubrics, are your essential guides to what is needed for particular tasks. However, several standard formats or typical structures can serve as a foundation for your learning and responding to specific assessment tasks.

Navigate through the relevant sections below to find out more about general formatting of written assessments and how to approach annotated bibliographies, essays, reports, case studies, reflective writing and other types of assessments.

formatting written assessments

APA 7th and Harvard are two commonly used referencing styles at SCU. As well as indicating the detailed format for citing a source in text and providing a complete reference in a reference list, different styles also determine the general format of your written assessments. Everything from margins, line spacing, fonts, text alignment and paragraphing to titles, subtitles, seriation, headers, footers and page numbering are dictated by the style you are using. A particular style may also include requirements for title pages, abstracts or executive summaries, tables of contents, and tables or figures.

It is helpful to become familiar with and apply a general formatting style consistently. Confidence in setting up your document for an assessment task in a particular style will save you time, assist with organising your written response and provide your reader or marker with a satisfying reading experience. Consistent formatting identifies the writer, the specific assignment and unit of study. It also creates space and organises your text in ways that support the coherence of your response to the task. Your reader or marker will be able to navigate your writing and map your response to the marking rubric with ease. This is significant as marks are usually assigned to formatting or presentation.     

APA 7th is standardised according to the style manual of the American Psychological Association (APA). This manual is used to develop the APA 7th Referencing Guide made available to you by the SCU Library. Use the SCU APA Referencing Guide for specific examples of in text citation and complete references for different types of sources. For general formatting, see Paper Format provided by the APA. Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) also includes detail on general formatting for APA as well as examples and a sample APA paper with annotations.

There is no universal standard for Harvard style. At Southern Cross University, a new SCU Harvard Referencing Guide has been introduced by the SCU Library (June 2022). It is based on the Australian Government style manual. There are many style changes that have been incorporated into this guide. Take the time to become familiar with these changes. This comparative summary document of the main changes may be helpful initially. The pre-June 2022 SCU Harvard Referencing Guide remains accessible until 31 October 2022. Check your task information or with your unit assessor or lecturer for which version of the SCU Harvard Referencing Guide you should be using. The SCU Harvard Referencing Guide provides specific examples of in text citation and complete references for different types of sources. For general formatting, click on the headings under Harvard Mini Style Guide below for more information.

See also the Student Learning Zone’s Quick Guides on APA7th and Harvard formatting under Writing at University.

Harvard mini style guide

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