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Fakultät Sozialwissenschaften

Guideline for writing seminar papers

You should always submit an affidavit with your term paper confirming that you have written the term paper independently.

1 Basic rules

A seminar paper as a module final examination should be approx. 15 pages long (without outline, cover sheet and bibliography). Papers may deviate by a maximum of ten percent. The paper should deal with an in-depth examination of a topic and is based on the compulsory literature and the optional literature from the seminar and should include further, researched literature if possible.

The aim of a seminar paper is to work through the problem to be dealt with in such a way that readers are sufficiently informed about the problem, the central theses, arguments and findings.

The paper should show through a convincing presentation that the topic has been understood. The topic does not have to be treated exhaustively; it is more important to summarise essential aspects in a meaningful and insightful way. The specific achievement lies in summarising a topic independently and according to your own outline logic. Last but not least: Tell a story!

2 Structure

The following is an overview of how you should structure your paper.

1 Introduction

The introduction is the 'hook' of the paper and should be formulated precisely. By elaborating the problem, the reader's interest is aroused. Furthermore, the 'added value' of the work for the research must be presented and social references must be established.

Furthermore, the core research question is explicitly formulated, which is to be answered in the conclusion of the thesis. At the end of this chapter, a brief overview of the content of the individual chapters is presented.

You can use the following guiding questions for your introduction:

  • Who cares? (Relevance)
  • What do we know? What don't we know? (current state of knowledge and research)
  • What will we learn? (outlook/ structure of the work)

2 Main body

In the main body, start by introducing terms and relating them to the research question. Avoid a succession of definitions and models. Develop your own scientifically justified point of view and build up a stringent argumentation. Support arguments with references and/or evidence based on the introduction.

3 Conclusion

At the beginning of the conclusion, repeat the research question and summarise the results. In the conclusion, you add further considerations (e.g. unanswered questions, new questions and issues, critical objections). Finally, you draw an overall conclusion of the work.


1 Introduction

2 Main part

   2.1 Subsection of the main part

   2.2 Further subsection of the main part


3 Discussion and outlook


The table of contents or the outline is the calling card of your paper. As a rule, you should try to choose headings that are relevant to the content. Make sure that the content is already clear from the outline. 

3 Citation

In a scientific paper, citations with details of the sources are essential. The cited sources are indicated at the end of a scientific paper in the bibliography. It must always be clear whether the facts described are discussed from your own perspective or from the perspective of a referenced text.

Text references and the bibliography should be given according to the APA guidelines (7th edition). To ensure that your bibliography is complete, it is advisable to work with Citavi or another literature management programme (integration of APA in Citavi:

3.1 Short references in the text

For short references in the text, a distinction is made between direct citations, indirect citations/paraphrases and secondary literature.

Direct quotations:

If words, sentences or whole passages of text are taken over unchanged, the source reference follows directly after the quotation. Direct quotations are indented from three lines and the line spacing is reduced to 1.0. In addition, inverted commas are omitted.

Special features of direct quotations in the text:

Spelling and grammatical errors: are taken over and marked with [sic].
Omissions and abbreviations: Omissions are marked with ... are marked with ....
Self-added text is in square brackets: [Added text/added word].
Self-added emphasis is in italics and followed by [emphasis added] in square brackets.

One author: "Direct quote" (author, year, p. X).
Two authors: "Direct quotation" (author & author, year, p. X).
More than two authors: "Direct quotation" (Author et al., Year, p. X).
Indirect quotations/paraphrases:

In indirect quotations, content is stated in the author's own words, but with a reference to the source at the end of the statement:

Indirect quotation (cf. Author, Jar, p. X).
It is also possible to mention the author's name in the text.

Example: "According to Mustermann (cf. year, p. X), knowledge about...".
Secondary literature:

Mainly, citations should be made from so-called primary literature, but it may be that, for example, it is not possible to obtain it. Then the quotation can be taken from secondary literature.

"Quotation from secondary literature" (author A, quoted according to author B, year, p. X).
If there is already a quotation in the text passage to be quoted, then it is a quotation within a quotation.

Citation within a citation: "Citation from secondary literature 'Citation within a citation' (Author*in, Year, p. X)" (Author*in, Year, p. X).

3.2 Bibliography

In the bibliography, all works are listed that are cited in at least one place in the seminar paper or thesis or to which reference is made. The bibliography is also compiled according to the APA style.

The references are sorted alphabetically. In the case of references with the same authors, the earlier reference is listed first (2004 before 2010). In the case of references with the same authors and years, the references are distinguished with a and b after the year.

All lines except the first for multi-line entries in the bibliography should be indented by 0.5 cm.

Books and eBooks:

Monograph, one author, with DOI

Koch, T. (2010). Power of habit? The influence of habitualisation on television use. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. Transfer title to Citavi project using this DOI.

Monograph, single author, without DOI

Schmidt, B. (2020). Citing correctly: A guide for students (2nd ed.). Springer.

Chapter or contribution in an anthology, without DOI

Neuer, M. (2016). With APA to success. In P. Lahm (Ed.), Citing and substantiating internet sources (19-35). Scribbr.


Journal article, single author, without DOI.

Burton, T. (2012). Citing correctly according to APA guidelines. International Citations Journal, 48(3), 13-29.

Journal article, multiple authors, with DOI

Zervas, G., Proserpio, D. & Byers, J. (2016). The Rise of the Sharing Economy: Estimating the Impact of Airbnb on the Hotel Industry. Boston U. School of Management Research Paper 2013(16), 1-45. Transfer title to Citavi project using this DOI.

To note: If a journal article does not have a DOI but does have a URL, list the URL at the end of the bibliography instead. For journal articles, always include the issue number, if available.

If the journal article has an article number instead of a page number, state the word "article" followed by the article number.

If a book, article, journal article etc. has 20 authors or less, name all authors. If a book has 21 authors or more, name the first 19 authors, then put three dots and finally name the last author.

Contribute to an online dictionary:

Duden reaction. (o. D.). Citation, the. In Duden online. Retrieved 15 October 2021, from

Contribution (presentation at a conference with URL attribution:

Schneiders, P. (2020, 10-12 March). Content remembered, source forgotten? Factors of effective social branding of news organisations [Poster presentation]. 65th Annual Conference of the German Society for Journalism and Communication Studies (DGPuK), Munich, Germany. Last accessed on: 16.06.2022.

Internet source:

Müller, T. (2020, 24 January). Cite sources according to APA. Scribbr. Last accessed on: 16.06.2022.

Online video (including YouTube):

Scribbr. (2020, 16 December). Citing correctly in 5 steps. [Video]. YouTube. Last accessed on: 16.06.2022.


Bach, N. [@studiglueck]. (2021, 24 March). Instead of freezing in front of a huge task, define small subtasks first and complete them at regular intervals. This way you develop motivating habits #Abi #Learning [Tweet]. Twitter. Last accessed on: 16.06.2022.

4 Formal design

4.1 Title page

  • The title page must contain the following information:
    • Name of the university and the faculty
    • Subject/title of the thesis
    • Type of thesis (seminar, Bachelor or Master thesis)
    • Title of the seminar in which the thesis is being written, if applicable.
    • Name, address, e-mail address, matriculation number and telephone number of the author
    • First and second referees
    • Date of submission

4.2 Formatting of the text

  • Font: Times New Roman size 12 or Arial size 11
  • Margins: 2 cm on the left, 3 cm on the right, 2.5 cm each at the top and bottom.
  • Line spacing: 1.5 lines
  • Paragraphs: Spacing after a paragraph is 6 pt. and spacing before a paragraph is 0 pt.
  • Justification
  • Indentations by 0.5 cm
    • The first line of each paragraph
    • The first line of each footnote
    • Block quotations

4.3 Outline and headings

  • Max. three levels of structure or headings per chapter.
  • Heading must not follow heading
  • If sub-chapters are used in a chapter, there must be at least three.
  • Subheadings must not be verbatim repetitions of the main heading.
  • The heading levels must be formally designed as follows:
    • Level: 14 pt., bold, left-justified, spacing after heading: 12 pt.
    • Level: 13 pt., bold, left-justified, spacing after heading: 12 pt.
    • Level: 12 pt., bold, left-justified, spacing after heading: 12 pt.

4.4 Page numbers

  • Right-justified at the bottom of the page
  • Pages up to the introduction are numbered in Roman numerals.
  • All pages from and including the introduction are numbered in Arabic numerals.
  • The title page is counted as page I, but not marked as such.

4.5 Gendering

Language has an influence on our perception, our thinking and our actions. It is therefore important that you are aware of the impact your choice of words has on your readership. The use of the generic masculine in academic papers categorically excludes individuals who do not self-identify as male and can also promote stereotypical role models. For this reason, please use gender-appropriate wording in your work, and if this is not possible, use the gender star. Make sure that you use them consistently.