Term Papers

Basics

Term papers (15-20 pp.) require a clear research question and a transparent method that allow you to structure your topic and the solutions you aim to present in an understandable way. Not only are these skills relevant to obtain an excellent grade, but they will also be asked for in your future professional life.

Focus

Many term papers build on a presentation given in a seminar. They elaborate on the presentation, but they concentrate on a particular problem in more detail. Defining a corpus of research, a specific research interest and a particular method is crucial for this. The current state of research in the field needs to be taken into critical consideration, too. Selection is key: What is really important or crucial to your line of argument; what is rather redundant? Remarks on the biography of the authors you deal with are usually negligible.

Outline

Term papers are often divided into a theoretical/methodological part as well as an interpretive or analytical part. The theoretical/methodological part needs to be related to your research question and should be more than just a general summary. The line of argument of your term paper must be mirrored in the table of contents included at the beginning of your paper. The table of contents should neither be too general nor too detailed; it should include max. 1-2 pages.

Argumentation

The main part of you paper is used for developing your own theses and findings. Avoid mere enumeration of disconnected quotes. Instead, explain your approach, form a hypothesis and put this hypothesis to a test by verifying it with reference to your (theoretical or literary) texts.

Literary Analysis

When analyzing literary texts, mere paraphrasing should be avoided. You should support your analyses and interpretations by referring to structural features of the literary texts in question (for example, the narrative situation, focalization, lexical, grammatical or metrical features). Conversely, the sheer naming of such formal features should be avoided, but they should always be related to interpretive theses concerning their semantic value. For example, stating that a poem consists of blank verses is of no use unless you describe how the text actually works with this metrical design.

Technical Terms

Don’t use technical terms without providing working definitions for them. Be aware of historical and cultural specificities concerning the individual concepts you are referring to. For example, the meaning of “author”, “work”, “imagination”, “gender” in the 18th century differs hugely from what we understand by them in the 21st century.

Office Hours

Go and see your lecturers in their office hours in order to discuss a possible topic and a cogent structure for your term paper; and keep them informed about the progress of your writing.

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