Academic Style Sheet

1. What is a Term Paper?

Your term paper (schriftliche Hausarbeit) is an investigation of a clearly defined aspect of culture, language or literature that aims to enhance an academic reader's understanding of your chosen subject. It is meant to demonstrate your knowledge and skills. Your term paper should generate interest in your subject, have a clear focus and advance a challenging argument.

2. Layout

All term papers must be typed, with the text printed on one side only of DIN A4 paper. The pages are to be numbered with Arabic numerals. The spacing should be one and a half, except for indented quotations, footnotes and the list of works cited, which should be single-spaced.

Leave a small margin on the left (2 cm) and a generous margin on the right (4 cm) for your instructor to write in, as well as a margin of 3 cm each at the top and at the bottom.

      New paragraphs must be indented three to five spaces (like the word "New"  in this paragraph).

Choose a font that is easily readable and a font size of 12, except for footnotes, which take 10.

3. Title Page and Contents Page

The title page contains a) the title of the paper; b) the name of the university and department; c) the title, semester, and instructor of the seminar/class for which the paper has been written; d) the student's name, student ID number and e-mail address. While the title page is included in the page count, the page number "1" is omitted. Hence, the first page number that appears is the "2" on the contents page.

The table of contents appears on the second page (the text proper starts on the third page). It describes the structure of the paper and indicates the page on which each section or subsection begins.

4. Italics

The following items should be italicised:

  • titles of independent publications, i.e. of books or journals (exceptions: the Koran, the Bible)
  • words or phrases that are not simply used but commented upon (e.g.: the words tale and tail are homophones; it is impossible to define the term democracy)
  • foreign words and phrases (e.g. sui generispar excellenceGemütlichkeit)

You may italicize words for emphasis, but keep such alterations to a minimum. Quotations are not italicized (unless the italicization is present in the original).

5. Quotation Marks

Double quotation marks (". . .") are used to indicate quotations and titles of publications that are not independent. This includes printed publications such as poems, short stories, articles, and book chapters, but also blog entries, episodes of television shows or songs.

Example: The short story "The Dead" was published in 1914 as part of a collection entitled Dubliners.

Or: The song "Express Yourself" is included in Madonna's album Like a Prayer.

Single quotation marks ('. . .') indicate quotations within quotations as well as translations or definitions of words and phrases discussed in the paper. Example: In Shakespeare'sTwelfth Night, the word cousin means 'relative.'

6. Quotations

All quotations must, in every detail of orthography and punctuation, be identical with the source. Obvious mistakes in the source may be indicated by a [sic]. Quotations must also be accompanied by a bibliographic reference that enables the reader to locate the passage in the original source (see 6. below). Quotations have to be taken from the original. If, in exceptional cases, a passage is quoted from a second-hand source, a "qtd. in" (quoted in) must be added. Short quotations, i.e. quotations that are up to three lines in length, are marked by double quotation marks.

Quotations which cover more than three lines must be indented three to five spaces. The spacing is single; the quotation marks are omitted. The following paragraph is an example of such a quotation (taken from The Essentials of Academic Writing by Derek Soles):

Good academic writing has a clear beginning, middle, and end; is written in Standard English; and projects a forceful anc confident voice. Good academic writing, in other words, has ISCE: intelligence, substance, clarity, and energy. An essay projects intelligence when it contains insightful ideas and cites authoritative sources; it is substantial when ideas are developed in enough detail so readers grasp the knowledge the writer is conveying; it is clear when its grammar, sentence structure, organization, punctuation, and diction are sound; it has energy when the writer uses a strong and confident voice in a fluid and vigorous style. (Soles 6)

Longer quotations of verse are also presented in single spacing and without quotation marks. Shorter verse quotations may be integrated into the text, with the end of a verse being marked by a stroke: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate." The end of a stanza is signalled by a double stroke (//).

Modifying Quotations

Sometimes it is necessary to add something to a quotation, e.g. to explain a pronoun that would otherwise be unintelligible. Like the above-mentioned [sic], such an addition must be placed in square brackets: "He [Gabriel Conroy] watched sleepily the silver flakes." If one wishes to omit a passage from the middle of a quotation, one must indicate this by means of an ellipsis, i.e. three periods separated by spaces: "He watched . . . the silver flakes." If one wishes to change an upper-case letter into a lower-case one at the beginning of a quotation (or vice versa), one should indicate this with square brackets: James Joyce writes that "[h]e watched sleepily the silver flakes." Do not add unnecessary ellipses at the beginning or end of a quotation, as in the following example: James Joyce writes that ". . . [h]e watched sleepily the silver flakes . . ." If you wish to highlight a word in a quotation by means of italics, you have to add the explanatory comment "(emphasis added)."

Modifications must not distort the meaning of the original and should be used sparingly. One should try to formulate the text surrounding the quotation in such a way that no modification is necessary.

7. Documenting Sources

In an academic paper, the use of a source must be documented (not only if it is quoted from directly but also if it is paraphrased). The use of a source must be indicated immediately; including it in the list of works cited or referring to it somewhere else in the paper is not enough.

Since all the relevant information about each source is given in the list of works cited, the author's last name and the page number generally suffice to document a source in the main text of the paper. Example: In an article on The Island of Dr Moreau, Gorman Beauchamp describes the novella as a "theological grotesque" (409). Or: The Island of Dr Moreau has been described as a "theological grotesque" (Beauchamp 409). Sources should not be indicated by footnotes. If several works by an author are listed in the Works Cited, an abbreviated version of the title must be added to the author's last name (e.g. Atwood, Oryx 35). If a source is being used several times in a row, the author's name need not be repeated every single time. Basic rule: It must be obvious to the reader from which source a particular piece of information has been taken.

When citing primary texts, always use a scholarly and reliable edition - the latest standard edition, if possible. In the case of the Bible, Shakespeare's plays and similarly well-known texts, which exist in many different editions, it might be more helpful to the reader if the page numbers are replaced with a different type of reference. In quoting from plays that are divided into acts and scenes, indicate the act, scene and line(s) (e.g. Much Ado About Nothing 1.2.24-26); in the case of long poems, give stanza and verse numbers.

Footnotes or Endnotes

Footnotes or endnotes can be used for a qualification, an explanation or additional evidence whose inclusion in the main text would interrupt the argument considerably. They are numbered consecutively throughout a paper. The existence of an footnote/endnote is indicated in the main text by a superscript Arabic numeral (i.e. by an Arabic numeral that is raised slightly above the line). The numerals should be placed immediately after the sentences, clauses, or phrases containing the quoted material; they should follow, rather than precede, punctuation marks.


The use of abbreviated book, journal, and series titles is acceptable if the abbreviations are common in the field of English studies - e.g. OED or PMLA. For standard abbreviations of Shakespeare's plays and other important works (including the Biblical writings), see the MLA Handbook. In a bibliographical entry, University Press is abbreviated as UP (e.g. Princeton UP or U of Madison P).

8. Works Cited

based on: MLA Handbook, Eighth Edition 2016 and

The eighth edition of the official MLA style aims at presenting a flexible method of documenting references which is applicable to all the different types of sources - from scholarly books to web sites to YouTube videos.

Nine core elements are used to structure the entries of the Works Cited list. The elements of information to be included in individual entries are listed in the following order established by the MLA:

  1. Author.
  2. Title of source.
  3. Title of container, [a container may be a book, a periodical, a web site etc.]
  4. Other contributors,
  5. Version,
  6. Number,
  7. Publisher,
  8. Publication date,
  9. Location.

(Please note that not every entry actually uses every single element listed.)

Sample entries for common references to be included in a Works Cited list:

Book with single author or editor

Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Penguin, 2006.

Nunberg, Geoffrey, editor. The Future of the Book. U of California P, 1996.

Book with multiple authors

Ward, Jeffrey C., and Ken Burns. The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945. Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.

Book with author plus translator

Euripides. Ten Plays. Translated by Paul Roche, New American Library, 1998.


Gikandi, Simon. Ngugi wa Thiong'o. Cambridge UP, 2000. ACLS Humanities E-book,

(Here, the online location is given by the reference to

Article in an edited book

Dewar, James A., and Peng Hwa Ang. "The Cultural Consequences of Printing and the Internet." Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, edited by Sabrina Alcorn Baron et al., U of Massachusetts P, 2007, pp. 365-77.

Article in the print version of an academic journal

Goldman, Anne. "Questions of Transport: Reading Primo Levi Reading Dante." The Georgia Review, vol. 64, no. 1, 2010, pp. 69-88.

Article in an academic online journal

Goldman, Anne. "Questions of Transport: Reading Primo Levi Reading Dante." The Georgia Review, vol. 64, no. 1, 2010, pp. 69-88. JSTOR, Accessed 12 January 2015.

Chan, Evans. "Postmodernism and Hong Kong Cinema." Postmodern Culture, vol. 10, no. 3, May 2000. Project Muse, doi: 10.1353/pmc.2000.0021. Accessed March 19 2002.

(Please note that in the first reference the URL indicates the online location; in the second reference the doi: 10.1353/pmc.2000.0021 is given for the online location. If possible, cite a website's DOI [digital online identifier] because - unlike URLs - DOIs don't change.)

Article in the print version of a newspaper or magazine

Krugman, Andrew. "Fear of Eating." New York Times, 21 May 2007, late ed., p. A1.

Poniewozik, James. "TV Makes a Too-Close Call." Time, 20 November 2000, pp. 70-71.

Article in an online magazine

Deresiewicz, William. "The Death of the Artist-and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur." The Atlantic, January/February 2015 issue, Accessed 5 March 2015.

Entry in a dictionary or encyclopedia

"academia, n." OED Online, Oxford University Press, July 2018, Accessed 24 September 2018.

"Shakespeare, William." The Oxford Companion to English Literature, edited by Margaret Drabble, 5th ed., Oxford UP, 1985, p. 889.

Web site

"Comma Gets A Cure." IDEA International Dialects of English Archive, 2018, Accessed 24 September 2018.

Blog entry

Hollmichel, Stefanie. "The Reading Brain: Differences between Digital and Print." So Many Books, 25 April 2013, Accessed 27 August 2013.


Melancholia. Directed by Lars von Trier, performances by Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kiefer Sutherland, Zentropa Entertainments, 2011.

Episode of a television series aired on TV

"Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things." Game of Thrones. HBO, 8 May 2011.

Episode of a television series watched online

"Under the Gun." Pretty Little Liars, season 4, episode 6, ABC Family, 16 July 2013. Hulu, Accessed 17 June 2014.

Episode of a televsion series produced for and watched through a streaming service

"Into the Ring."Daredevil, season 1, episode 1, Netflix, 10 April 2015. Netflix, Accessed 10 March 2017.

(Please note that in this example Netflix is the publisher in the first instance and the container in the second instance - that's why it is italicized.)

Episode of a television series watched on DVD or BluRay

"Hush." Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Fourth Season, created by Joss Whedon, performance by Sarah Michelle Gellar, episode 10, WB Television Network, 2003, disc 3.

Video on YouTube

RotoBaller. "RotoBaller MLB: Top Fantasy Baseball Catcher Dynasty League Prospects for 2016." YouTube, commentary by Raphael Rabe, 27 Mar. 2016, Accessed 10 March 2017.

Song or album

Madonna. "Express Yourself." Like a Prayer. Sire / Warner Brothers Records, 1989.

Madonna. Like a Prayer. Sire / Warner Brothers Records, 1989.

Song on an online album

Beyoncé. "Pray You Catch Me." Lemonade, Parkwood Entertainment, 2016,

Song accessed through a music streaming service

Stapleton, Chris. "Tennessee Whiskey." Traveller, Mercury Records, 2015, Spotify,

9. Citation Conventions in Linguistics

Most linguists prefer an author-year citation style. In a parenthetical citation based on this style, the year of publication is added after the name of the author.

Example: It has been argued that "metaphor [...] is absolutely central to ordinary natural language semantics" (Lakoff 1993: 203).

Or: Lakoff argues that "metaphor [...] is absolutely central to ordinary natural language semantics" (1993: 203).

In the citations, several works by one author are not distinguished by short titles but by the year (e.g. Lakoff 1993, Lakoff 1998, etc.). Several works by one author published in the same year are distinguished by small letters (e.g. Lakoff 1993a, Lakoff 1993b, etc.).

In the list of works cited, the date of publication is then placed right after the name of the author - this is the only difference to the MLA style. The small letters added to distinguish works by one author in the same year are of course included in the respective entry. In the case of sources for which you would want to provide the full date (e.g. for blog posts) you would still give the year right after the name of the author, followed by the month and the day (as in the final entry in the following list).

Baugh, Albert C., and Thomas Cable. 1978. A History of the English Language. 3rd ed., Routledge.

Culler, Jonathan. 1973. "Paradox and the Language of Morals in La Rochefoucauld." Modern Language Review, vol. 68, no. 1, pp. 28-39.

Lakoff, George. 1993a. "Cognitive Phonology." The Last Phonological Rule, edited by John Goldsmith, U of Chicago P, pp. 117-45.

Lakoff, George. 1993b. "The Contemporary Theory of Metaphor." Metaphor and Thought, edited by Andrew Ortony, 2nd ed., Cambridge UP, pp. 202-51.

Mair, Victor. 2017, March 4. "Difficult Languages and Easy Languages." Language Log,

10. Plagiarism

If you use somebody else's words or ideas without acknowledging it, you are guilty of plagiarism. Plagiarism is a severe offence, and it will be sanctioned accordingly. For an exhaustive definition of plagiarism, and tips on how to avoid it, see this web page published by the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University.

As a safeguard against plagiarism, the following declaration of authenticity must be attached to every written assignment:

Declaration of Authenticity

I hereby declare that the work submitted is my own and that all passages and ideas that are not mine have been fully and properly acknowledged. I am aware that I will fail the entire course should I include passages and ideas from other sources and present them as if they were my own.

------------------            ----------------
Signature                     Date

11. Further Reading on Academic Writing

This style sheet sets out the special rules for writing academic papers. Apart from conforming to these rules, papers should also be well-structured and written in a correct and clear style. To achieve this, you may find the following works helpful.

Aczel, Richard. Creative Writing. Klett, 2004.

---. How to Write an Essay. Klett, 2001.

Clanchy, John, and Brigid Ballard. How to Write Essays: A Practical Guide for Students. 3rd ed., Longman, 1998.

Durant, Alan, and Nigel Fabb. How to Write Essays and Dissertations: A Guide for English Literature Students. 2nd ed., Routledge, 2005.

Kirszner, Laurie G., and Stephen R. Mandell. The Holt Handbook. 6th ed., Harcourt, 2002.

MLA Handbook. 8th ed., The Modern Language Association of America, 2016.

Norton, Sarah, et al. The Bare Essentials Plus. 4th ed., Nelson Canada, 2012.

Oshima, Alice, and Ann Hogue. Writing Academic English. 4th ed., Pearson Longman, 2005.

Pirie, David B. How to Write Critical Essays: A Guide for Students of Literature. Routledge, 1985.

Rothstein, Björn. Wissenschaftliches Arbeiten für Linguisten. Narr Francke Attempto, 2011.

Siepmann, Dirk, et al. Writing in English: A Guide for Advanced Learners. 2nd ed., Narr Francke Attempto, 2011.

Soles, Derek. The Academic Essay: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Edit. Studymates, 2005.

Sommer, Roy. Schreibkompetenzen: Erfolgreich wissenschaftlich schreiben. Klett, 2013.

Zemach, Dorothy E., and Lisa A. Rumisek. Academic Writing: From Paragraph to Essay. Macmillan, 2002.

Zemach, Dorothy E., and Carlos Islam. Writing in Paragraphs. Macmillan, 2006.