Word Limit Rules

All written assignments will have a word limit that you need to follow. The word limit will tell you what is the maximum number of words you are allowed to use to write the assignment. In some cases, there may also be a minimum number of words. Why do we have a word limit, what's included in the word limit, and how can you write a good assignment within the word limit? Read on to find out.
Why is there a word limit?
A word limit serves as a guideline for how much work is needed for the assignment. Assignments with a higher word limit will expect you to include more sections or give more detail than assignments with a lower word count. For this reason, third year courses will often have a higher word limit than first year courses. Third year courses will expect you to do a more detailed review, include a more critical analysis, and/or generate new ideas. Giving this extra information needs more words.

Word limits also test how well you understand the key concepts of the assignment. Just like a time limit for an exam, the assignment word limit will define the limits on your "answer" to the assignment question. This will force you to be more focussed and to prioritise the information that is vital for the assignment.

Finally, word limits better approximate what is needed in the real world. Scientific publications, government documents, journal or magazine articles and the like all have limited space. For this reason, maximum word counts are imposed so that the length of reports do not get out of hand. In addition, the increased time demands at work means that it is more important than ever to get the main message across in as few words as possible. Would you rather read a report of 500 words or one that takes 2000 words and does not give any relevant extra information? Concise writing is a skill and a good way to learn the skill is by setting word limits on university assignments.
What are the word limit rules?
The following rules apply to all courses offered through the School of Applied Psychology:

  • The word limit starts at the first word of the assignment (it does not count the words on the assignment coversheet or the title page) and ends at the last word of text (before the references).

  • The reference list is not included in the word limit.

  • In text citations are counted within the word limit.

  • Tables and Figures, including captions, will count within the word limit. If a report requires several tables or figures, the convenor will have taken this into account with the word limit.

  • The number of words for the assignment must be written on the title page. Falsifying this information will be considered grounds for academic misconduct. You can read more information about the title page format.

  • The penalty for assignments over the limit will be to stop reading/marking the assignment once the word limit is reached. The assignment will be marked only on the content presented within the word limit.

How to write concisely
Writing concisely is a skill that you need to learn and practice. It can involve many aspects from removing redundancies, pruning sentences to phrases and phrases to words, avoiding qualifiers and intensifiers, excluding unnecessary phrases, give up using cliches and euphemisms, using active voice, and structuring your assignment appropriately. Due to its importance, we have devoted a whole section to writing concisely.