Website of Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Kai Ambos
(the following guidelines are a compact version of my three-part course on legal drafting)

I. General Guidelines

1. Focus!

You need to have a clear focus! Be aware that your study (doctoral dissertation etc.) can only address a limited number of issues. To help you get a focus: You need to have a thesis! State your thesis clearly! Do not merely to describe your topic or the research area of your study. Explain your argument and the precise claims that you are making.

- Gefahr oberflächlicher Bearbeitung und des Weglassens wichtiger Gesichtspunkte

2. New?

Is your thesis state of the art? How does it relate to existing literature? Is it original or are you just describing/summarizing scholarship and data?

3. Relevance!

Clarify why your topic and your thesis are important: doctrinally, empirically, and/or theoretically. And yet: don’t write an agenda piece. Always make clear that you have a scholarly distance to the topic.

4. Method?

Explain your methodology! Include a “roadmap” and briefly explain what you are intending to do and how this aligns with existing methodological approaches. Are you collecting data, are you analysing norms or are you describing cases? In any case: Don’t be too descriptive!

5. Role Transparency!

Be conscious of your role as scholar, practitioner, NGO member etc. Especially when there is a risk of bias and impartiality: Disclose your role to the reader and explain why and how it might influence both your methodology and arguments.

II. Organisation of the text

1. It‘s not about you, it‘s about the reader!

Organise your study according to your thesis! Readers (!) unfamiliar with the topic should easily see why your text has the sections and subsections that it has, and why those parts appear in a particular order.

2. No Agenda Piece!

Don’t be one-sided. Again, this is not an agenda piece or a brief to a court. Consider other opinions and engage with them – at least with the most obvious ones. Also display different perspectives and avenues in your methodology!

3. This is not Twitter!

4. Scientific/academic ethics

Cite properly and don’t copy and paste!

III. Preparation: Before you present your thesis, parts of your thesis or before submit your text

1. Revise, Revise, Revise!

Ask a number of other colleagues to read and comment on your draft! Discuss your draft and listen to any suggestions made. Don’t show off – listen!

2. Language

Again: If you are writing in a foreign language: Ask someone to correct your language.

3. Audience

Consider your audience! What does the audience know? What do you want them to comment on?

Further Reading
Alonso Gurmendi and Paula Baldini Miranda da Cruz, “Writing in International Law and Cultural Barriers (Part I + II)”, in OpinioJuris, 7 August 2020, and
Basak, “Wozu sind eigentlich Fußnoten da?“, ZJS 2018, 568
Lahnsteiner, „Seminar- und Abschlussarbeiten effektiv und erfolgreich schreiben“, Jura 2011, 580
Kaiser, „Wissenschaftliche Themenarbeiten strukturieren“, ZJS 2021, 407
Mann/Tettinger, Einführung in die juristische Arbeitstechnik, 5. Aufl. 2018, 4. Teil: „Hinweise zur Anfertigung von Themenarbeiten“, Rn. 340 ff.
Möllers, Juristische Arbeitstechnik und wissenschaftliches Arbeiten, 10. Aufl. 2021, § 9 „Die Doktorarbeit“

Newsletter German Legal Language

Name *
Institution/ Affiliation
Email-Adresse *

By submitting this form, you confirm that you have read and accept our Privacy Policy.

* Mandatory field