Homework hints

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If you want to write a term paper, you must register for an examination in HISPOS and discuss the topic with me.

IMPORTANT: Please register only for the examination, not for the coursework, even if the latter is a prerequisite for the former.



The topic of your term paper must be within the thematic framework of the seminar in which you wish to take the examination. The prerequisite for this is the completion of coursework. You may choose the topic yourself; it may be the same as the topic of your coursework.

You should suggest the topic of your term paper. We will then discuss this proposal in several consultations until we have agreed on an outline.

Specific, thematically focused and interesting topics are suitable for term papers. General and overview topics that could be generated with artificial intelligence are unsuitable.



Before you write the introduction to your paper and decide on the content and methodology, you need to research the specialist literature.

The best place for literary research is and remains the library. It is true that the possibilities of the Internet have improved in recent years. Nevertheless, library research usually opens up horizons through "collateral finds" that remain hidden on the Internet. The best literature on a specific topic can usually be found in the bibliographies and references of the relevant specialist literature. If you cannot find certain books or articles in the Kassel University Library, try the SUB Göttingen.

The Karlsruhe Virtual Catalog offers a very good online search for books and their locations. The most important German and international library catalogs are brought together here. You will therefore find almost all the books in the world here, provided they are registered in a library.

Scientific articles in anthologies are somewhat more difficult to find. The German National Library offers a particularly interesting function. There you can view the tables of contents of anthologies.

You can search for journal articles via the research portal (databases) of Kassel University Library (KARLA). We recommend the Bibliography of German Linguistics and Literature . Please bear in mind, however, that you will only find part of the relevant specialist literature there. Journal articles often contain important research contributions. Therefore, you should also use other options (bibliographies of specialized literature) to find these articles.

First editions or important editions by authors can be found on Wikisource. You can also find many original primary sources among the digitized journals on Google.

Google and Google Books are only recommended to a limited extent. Searching there is also very opaque.



There are various ways to introduce an academic paper. It is important to adhere to certain conventions of the subject: Convention and tradition come before innovation.

Divide your introduction into two sub-chapters: state of research and method.

Please note the following:

1) The introduction is the first thing that the correctors of your term paper will read; it is the calling card of your paper. Experience shows: If the introduction is bad, the paper is usually bad too. So make every effort here. Revise your introduction after you have finished your work and adapt it to the results.

2) The justification or derivation of your own scientific approach is derived from the various research positions. Mistakes that are often made are as follows:

  • You make too little reference to the specific questions of the paper. Since your term paper is dedicated to a very "narrow" topic, you cannot afford to write about generalities or things that do not pertain to the actual topic. So leave dictionary knowledge, general knowledge, summaries and biographies, even if the connections described here are new to you.
  • Please do not start from the "definition" of a literary term and please do not check whether a literary text fulfills these definitions or certain epochal signatures.
  • Developing your own approach does not mean paraphrasing the table of contents. This is a very common mistake that you can avoid by simply avoiding the "I". Instead, state positions using neutral language.
  • Do not announce anything, do not write what you have written, are writing or will write. If possible, do not refer to yourself or your text. Derivation instead of announcement!

The suggested pattern of deriving your own writing approach from the research discourse is very productive and you can't really go wrong with it. And once again: leave out platitudes!

3) Do not reveal the results of your work in the introduction!

4) Do not quote from just one source in the introduction. Avoid online sources here too. This would give the impression that you are not making any effort at all.

5) Pay particular attention to formal issues in the introduction. Absolutely no comma errors, no wrong spaces, no sloppy bibliographic information. Do not underestimate the negative effect of poorly and inconsistently written notes. A poor first page will drag the whole paper down.

6) A good introduction should

  • contain a scientifically interesting, relevant and well-founded research question, ideally derived from a review of the current research literature,
  • a (literary) scientific methodology and
  • show a coherent structure of your work and
  • be formally unobjectionable.



You should also avoid biographies, summaries and any general or dictionary knowledge in the main part of the paper.

Very important for your writing style: The paper is a specialist text, a text by specialists for specialists. It does not have to be written in such a way that your relatives can understand it. Therefore, once again: Avoid internet knowledge, popular science or esoteric literature. (The University Library also buys what users order. This is great, but has the disadvantage that we occasionally find unscientific literature among the scientific literature). If you use popular science or esoteric literature, you will usually end up with a very poor grade.

On the other hand, make extensive use of digitized specialist literature. For works that are only digitized via Google Books or other Internet portals, please cite the source as if you had read the book in the original. Keep URLs and links to a minimum.

It is important that the selection of your texts (primary and secondary literature) meets academic requirements. Use current and relevant literature on your specific topic. In most cases, the holdings of Kassel University Library are not sufficient. Therefore, please use the possibilities of interlibrary loan or visits to other libraries or archives (e.g. the SUB Göttingen, the University Library Marburg or the Hessian State Archives Marburg).

Analysis and interpretation of texts should be methodically correct. This is very difficult at the beginning of your studies and is more a case of trying to avoid certain mistakes. Imitate good literary texts.

When writing, it is often impossible to detach yourself from the pure reproduction of content (of primary and secondary texts). Here, too, you will make progress more easily if you try to avoid mistakes: Generally refrain from content references or reduce them to the absolute minimum necessary, because you are writing a specialist text. The readers and correctors know the content of the text. Points will be deducted if you serve up the obvious, which you must have read anyway, as part of an academic paper.

To ensure that you engage sufficiently with the research literature, please observe the following rule of thumb :

  • cite three times per page,
  • one work of secondary literature per written page in the bibliography.

15 pages of term paper therefore mean at least 45 annotations (footnotes) and 15 works of secondary literature cited. That sounds pedantic, and it may be. However, following these rules will help you to get used to the conventions of academic writing.

The main part of your thesis will therefore assess

  • whether the selection of texts (primary and secondary literature) meets academic requirements (current or relevant literature on the topic),
  • whether the analysis and interpretation of the texts is correct (literary methodology),
  • whether you can detach yourself from the pure reproduction of content (of primary and secondary texts) and reflect on it scientifically,
  • how good the quality of the argumentation is and
  • whether there is sufficient engagement with the research literature.



There are few places where the difference between writing in the upper grades and writing in literary studies is as clear as here. You do not need to give a personal opinion or statement because you do this throughout the paper (using neutral language).

Therefore, the same applies here: no "I"!

Please do not be so unimaginative and simply repeat the facts and wording of the main body or parts of the introduction.

Try not to call your conclusion "Conclusion", but to find an elegant, meaningful title that is aligned with your research topic.

A good results chapter reflects the results of the work in a larger scientific context or presents the scientific relevance of these results. An outlook or a comparison could also have its place here.



There is a relationship between content and form: Formally poor papers are generally also poor in content and vice versa.

Use a clear scientific style without pathos and emotion. Avoid experience reports. Not: "When you think of the word fairy tale, you always associate certain things with it. Personally, I often think of my two grandmothers."


  • colloquial breaks in style (not "steal", but "steal"),
  • phrases that reveal an unfamiliarity with the subject matter or are inappropriate (e.g. "in our time/at that time", "nowadays", "in the Age of Enlightenment", etc.). It is clear that the Enlightenment is meant as an epoch in literary contexts, i.e. simply "Enlightenment".
  • Tautologies such as "nonetheless", "finally", "ultimately", "already"
  • Exaggerations such as "absolutely",
  • Please also not: "Brothers Grimm", but "Brothers Grimm" or "by the Brothers Grimm", but "by the Brothers Grimm".

Germanic term papers and theses must contain any grammatical or spelling mistakes. If it becomes apparent that the basic rules of German punctuation have not been mastered, the work will be assessed as "unsatisfactory".

  • QUOTATIONS or individual words in old orthography arenot marked with a "sic".
    • The citation style and form of the bibliographical information should follow a standard scheme - preferably not the American one. In modern German literary studies, the footnote is used.
    • Pay attention to consistency. Notes begin with a capital letter and end with a period.
    • Quotations are placed in normal (double) quotation marks. If the quotation is longer than three lines, it is indented and set one period smaller. The quotation marks are then omitted.
    • For the footnotes, the scheme "Name year, p. page number" is recommended, i.e:
      • Müller 2012, p. 10.(The abbreviation "Müller 2012" is then broken up in the bibliography).
    • For indirect citations or references to literature, please use the appropriate citation style:
      • Cf. Müller 2012, p. 10.
    • For consecutive use of a source, please use:
      • Ibid. p. 12.
    • For indirect quotations, please use: ibid:
      • Cf. ibid., p. 12. (Errors are very common with this type of reference. Pay close attention to capitalization, punctuation and spaces).
    • Please do not use the reference "p. 5ff.", but always use the specific page reference: p. 5-7.
    • However, if there is only one following page, it is usual to use "p. 6f.".
  • In the LITERATURE DIRECTORY, please arrange the individual works alphabetically according to the short reference (e.g. Müller 2012). The complete bibliographic information is given under this short reference according to the following schemes:
    • Monographs are listed according to the scheme "Author (last name, first name): Title. Place Year.":
      • Weschta, Friedrich: Eichendorffs Novellenmärchen "Das Marmorbild". Prague 1916.
    • Contributions in an anthology are listed according to the scheme "Author (surname, first name): Title. In: Editor (first name, surname): Title. Place, p. Page numbers.".
      • Ehrhardt, Holger: The old Kassel Grimm collection. In: Matthias Schulze (ed.): Historical heritage and contemporary information structures. Libraries at the beginning of the 21st century. Festschrift for Axel Halle. Kassel 2020, pp. 157-197.
    • Articles in journals are listed according to the scheme "Author (surname, first name): Title. In: Journal no. (year), p. Page numbers.
      • Rölleke, Heinz: Spitzen und Bijouterien als Contrebande. On Caput II in Heinrich Wintermärchen. In: Wirkendes Wort 2 (2020), pp. 165-168.
    • Academic online sources are provided with the access date after the URL: (Accessed: DD.MM.YYYY)
    • If there are several titles by one author with the same year of publication, please use the following scheme: Müller 2012a, Müller 2012b, Müller 2012c.
  • Please also pay attention to the correct use of DRUCKZEICHEN. Please refer to the Duden dictionary.
    • Distinguish between the semiquaver (-), which is used as a dash, to dash (also for page references!), mirror dash, back dash, line dash, for monetary amounts, etc., and the quarter dash (-), which is used as a hyphen, hyphen or supplementary dash (linguistics and literature, moonrise and moonset).
    • Place or suppress spaces in the correct places, e.g. the slash (1964/65), the to dash (1989-1993) or between the abbreviation point of "p." and the page number of a footnote (vol. 2, p. 10).
    • Don't confuse single apostrophes with apostrophes or accents. Consult the Duden dictionary for more information.
  • Don't get confused by nonsensical AUTO CORRECTIONS (automatic capitalization of word groups in outlines or after periods), poor formatting (especially line spacing and indents) and other automatic features of writing programs. The best thing to do is to dispense with automatic outlines and delete predefined format or paragraph settings.