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Fakultät Sozialwissenschaften
This essay writing guide does not claim to be of general validity and represents the requirements for an essay written as part of a course offered by the Department of Sociology of Work and Organization.

Essay writing guide

What is an essay?

"Following the Anglo-Saxon tradition, the term "essay" is now commonly used at German universities for argumentative short texts that students write to practice developing and formulating a thought."[1] The goal is not to deal with a topic as comprehensively as possible, but to consider a small, selected aspect (depth of content instead of breadth of content). The comprehensible presentation of one's own point of view on the basis of scientific findings is mostly more important than the actual point of view that is represented. A comprehensive review of the state of research is not necessary and thus the amount of literature used is smaller. Essays are usually not exclusively addressed to a specialized audience, but are also intended for interested parties outside the topic. Therefore, they may be topical, interesting and entertaining, but must also explain used technical terms briefly and related to the topic. An essay develops around a specific example or topic that serves as a hook, so all terms and theories used should be explained using the example of the hook.

Structure of an Essay

An essay consists of the three classic elements: Introduction, Body and Conclusion, which should have the following contents:

  1. Introduction: the introduction introduces the hook, which is the focus of the essay. With reference to the example, a reasoned question or hypothesis is posed, which is investigated.
  2. Main body: the argumentative treatment of the question or hypothesis is the goal of the main body. Here, the arguments are presented that answer the question based on the hanger or support the hypothesis. Since an essay is relatively short, it is important to focus exclusively on the specific question using the specific example. Few (1-2) sociological concepts, which must necessarily be supported with sources, should be cited for the argumentation. These are to be explained by way of example.
  3. Conclusion: In the final conclusion, the question from the introduction is taken up and answered. Additional questions that arose during the essay may be addressed here.

Formal requirements

  • Title page with the following information:
    • Topic of the essay
    • Title
    • University
    • Semester
    • Name of the teaching person
    • Name, address, e-mail address and matriculation number of the person writing the essay
    • Date of submission
  • Font: Times New Roman size 12 or Arial size 11
  • Line spacing: 1.5 lines
  • Margins: left 2cm, right 3cm, top and bottom 2,5cm each
  • Spacing: spacing after a paragraph is 6 pt. beforeAfter a paragraph 0 pt.
  • Justification
  • Enable hyphenation
  • Indentations by 0.5cm
    • The first line of each paragraph
    • The first line of each footnote
    • Blockquotes
  • Length: Unless otherwise specified: 4-6 pages excluding cover page and bibliography.
  • Page numbers are to be indicated in Arabic numerals in the lower right corner
    • The title page is counted as page 1, but is not to be marked as such
  • Use of gender-appropriate language! If this is not possible, use of the gender star (e.g. employees).
  • References: The citation in the essay and the bibliography at the end follow the APA guidelines (7th edition). A detailed description can be found in our guidelines for seminar papers in section 3.


[1]Frank, Andrea/Haacke, Stefanie/Lahm, Swantje (2007): Schlüsselkompetenzen: Schreiben in Studium und Beruf, Weimar/Stuttgart. J.B. Metzler [translated by the authors]