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  1. You need a specific topic, a guiding question, "Shakespeare's Hamlet" is not suitable; "Self-Referentiality in John Barth's 'Lost in the Funhouse" is. Biographical information on the author is almost always irrelevant and should be left out. Always assume the texts you are discussing to be familiar – a plot summary is superfluous.
  2. At the end of your introduction, always formulate a thesis statement clearly anticipating your main argument in the essay.
  3. A full seminar paper should have about ten pages of net text (plus title page, bibliography etc.). The minimum structure includes title page, table of contents, introduction, your main text, some form of conclusion, and a bibliography.
  4. Please leave a right margin of about 4cm for corrections.
  5. Be selective with www-resources; check their scholarly credentials; an "Online-Schülerhilfe" with biographical and interpretive notes about major authors and texts is not a scholarly source.
  6. All references should be made in footnotes. Cf. the model passage below for sample citations of primary texts, monographs, essays in collections and in scholarly journals. If you prefer, the MLA style with short references in brackets in the text and a list of works cited at the end is also acceptable. But please be consistent!
  7. The bibliography should be divided into "Primary Texts" and "Secondary Material" and should be alphabetically ordered in both sections. Here, the format is: Empson, Wiliam, Milton's God (Cambridge: CUP, 21981).
  8. In order to acquaint yourself with scholarly research tools, use the MLA Online Bibliography available on the website of the UB to find scholarly sources on your subject. In addition to books and journals from the UB, use at least one book that you ordered via inter-library loan (Fernleihe) and one essay or article ordered electronically from another library and indicate them in your bibliography.
  9. For a short assignment of 2-3 pages during the semester, you do not need a title page and a table of contents, nor do you need sources ordered via inter-library loan, but the same guidelines for citing sources apply.
  10. Every time you use information from another source, this must be indicated. Always distinguish between information you take over and reformulate entirely in your own words (in this case, a footnote is enough) and passages in which you use formulations from the source, even if it is only a few words (here, everything you directly quote from a source must be cited in quotation marks).
  11. Using material from the internet (or from any other source) without acknowledging quotations in not acceptable. Since there have been a lot of cases of plagiarism from the web in recent years, we check every Hausarbeit for unacknowledged sources from the internet.
  12. Include the following text at the end of every Hausarbeit and sign it: "Hiermit erkläre ich, dass ich diese Arbeit eigenständig verfasst habe und alle wörtlich oder dem Sinn nach aus anderen Quellen übernommenen Passagen als solche gekennzeichnet sind. Mir ist bekannt, dass Plagiatsversuche zentral registriert werden und in schweren Fällen ein Ausschluss vom weiteren Studium geprüft werden wird." Papers will not be accepted without this note.


Model Passage for Bibliographical Conventions

A convenient entry into the maze of critical debate about Paradise Lost is afforded by two passages from Empson'snotorious but now dated Milton's God:


  • [O]n one point Cromwell was impeccable, and appears to be unique among dictators; his admitted and genuine bother, for a number of years, was to find some way of establishing a Parliament under which he could feel himself justified in stopping being dictator.1 After accepting the sacrifice of the Son [God] is still an autocrat, grossly inconsiderate and at times spiteful (a form of military discipline perhaps), but all his actions are purified by his eventual high purpose, which is to stop being an autocrat.2

In his essay on Milton's theodicy, Dennis Danielson claims that "… to believe or not to believe in this God is such a fundamental thing that one cannot realistically join the conversation created by Paradise Lost and expect one's belief or unbelief to go unaddressed."3 In this context, Christopher Hill cites a crucial passage: "Since thy original lapse, true liberty / Is lost, which always with right reason dwells." (XII, 83f.)4

1 William Empson, Milton's God (Cambridge: CUP, rev.1981), 144. [for a book]
2 Empson, 323. [for further references to the same book]
3 Dennis Danielson, "The Fall of Man and Milton's Theodicy", in: D. Danielson, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Milton (Cambridge: CUP, 1989), 113-129, 113. [for an essay in a collection of essays]. Cf. also VirginiaMollenkott, "Milton's Rejection of the Fortunate Fall", Milton Quarterly 6:1 (1972), 1-5, 4 [for an essay in a scholarly journal].
4 John Milton, Paradise Lost, in: Poetical Works, ed. Alastair Fowler (London: Longman, 21998); all further references with book and line indicated parenthetically in the text will be to this edition [for the primary text you are citing most frequently].