Guidelines for Academic Papers and Academic Writing

Term papers are one of the most important and fairly difficult types of exam at the Anglophone Literature and Culture division. As part of their degree programmes, students have to learn how to find and discuss a topic academically and using academic terms and methodology. We have drafted a few helpful guidelines:

Information on Planning and Structuring a Paper

  • For absolute term paper beginners, we suggest diligently working through the instructions on How to Write a Term Paper. This gives you a step-by-step account how to set about structuring the paper, and what kind of formatting is expected.
  • If you know what a term paper is and how to set about writing it, but are unsure about referencing and quoting, you should use the MLA Style Sheet which contains a brief guide to referencing and drafting a bibliography according to the MLA format.

Finding and Using Secondary Literature

  • If you have never searched for secondary literature before and have only a hazy idea what this is about, visit the self-study unit on finding literature offered by the University of Göttingen (English version, also visit the SUB YouTube channel for English-language tutorials to using the library and doing research). You will learn what types of literature there are, how to set about finding them, and what to do with the text once you have identified what you need.
  • All students have to avoid 'stealing' - however unintentionally - from other writers' works. Such theft is called plagiarism, and it is a serious academic offence. What plagiarism is and how to avoid it can be learnt from the Department's Plagiarism website (German). Harvard University Library also has a comprehensive and hands-on page on plagiarism (English). Please be aware that non-compliance with the guidelines of good academic practice will result in you failing the course, and in severe repeat cases you may even be exmatriculated.
  • Göttingen University takes good academic practice very, very seriously at all levels of academic research and has created an Ombuds Office. Their website contains the guidelines that all researchers at the University must keep (see "Guidelines of the University" section) as well as information material.
  • What to cite and what not to cite is often difficult to decide for students. The Online Writing Lab of Purdue University has a very nice flowchart on this which students are recommended to use.
  • As part of your term paper, you have to confirm that you have abided by good academic practices (including not plagiarising). For your convenience a blank confirmation form has been drafted.

Aspects of Style

  • Make sure that your English is appropriate to an academic paper! We expect you to write good English and you should know how to express yourself. Bad English distracts from your argumentation, as does inadequate formatting. If your English is below academic standards, we may strike off points. For further information, please refer to this table.
  • The Online Writing Lab of Purdue University has much to say on a great variety of aspects of academic writing. Students can find information on the writing process and on facets of practical writing such as e.g. grammar and punctuation. Students are advised to engage with these pages.


Please do not forget that instructors are happy to discuss your term papers with you, both while you write them and after they have been graded!

Essentially, a thesis is not that different from a term paper - it is simply longer and more complex. The information sheets below therefore outline formal aspects rather than explaining how to set about finding topics, sources or planning your arguments. For questions on any of these topics, please contact your supervisors.

If you'd like to investigate examples of really good theses, visit the website of the Göttinger Schriften zur Englischen Philologie series. Most volumes are collections of both BA and Master theses which were graded "very good", so you can study how other students set about structuring their papers, what their methodology and analysis chapters look like and what kind of style and argumentation are used. The volumes are available in print form through the Departmental and University Libraries and as open access publications.