HOW TO WRITE A LINGUISTIC
ESSAY / TERM PAPER –
A DETAILED MANUAL
• Length of paper
• Maximum 3,000 words
• Date of the exam of our course (according to the exam period
• You will have to upload the final version to the e-class of our course
(of course, only the instructor of the course will be able to read your
paper — before the final version, you can email the instructor as
many drafts of your paper as you like
• It is prohibited to use works, ideas or statements of other people
without appropriate indication. If you use others’ statements in their
exact wording you will have to label them as direct quotations and
indicate the source in the running text as well as in the list of
references. This also holds for all forms of paraphrases and indirect
• Material (chapters, articles, handouts, etc.) at the e-class of our
2.Requirements Regarding Form and Content
• Layout (form)
• cover sheet
• table of contents
• list of references
• (((appendix, if necessary)))
• Cover sheet
• title of paper
• author information (including student number and email address)
• course of studies, semester
• course title
• semester in which you took the course
• instructor’s name
• date of submission
• Table of contents
• The table of contents should be (consecutively) numbered, i.e., 1, 2,
3; Subsections: 1.1, 1.2, and so on. Please note that subsection 1.1
makes sense only if there also is a subsection 1.2. The numbered
sections and their titles should be left-aligned, followed by their
respective page numbers, which should be right-aligned. Tables of
contents and the general structure of (academic) linguistic
publications are always a good model.
• Outline of the paper (content)
• sections (e.g. theory section, methodology section etc.)
• list of references
Issues of content and structure
• 1. Introduction
• Depending on the kind of paper you are writing and the topic of the respective
paper, an introduction should contain the following aspects:
• Field of study
• Briefly describe the field of study. In which research area is your study located?
• If there are previous studies on your topic, and if these studies relate to your own research you should include them.
• Niche of research
• If there is an academic void in your field of study, you should mention it.
• If a research question remained unanswered or open in previous studies, you should take it up.
• If your approach/paper follows a tradition you should mention it.
• Introduce your research project.
• Formulate your research questions and objectives.
• Map out the structure of the paper (what will be presented in
the second section, in the third one
• 2. Theoretical Background + Methodology
• Theoretical Background
• Relevant definitions of your object of research should be compared and discussed critically and you should make clear which working definition
you are using in your paper (e.g. if you are dealing with compounds you
will have to provide a definition of ‘compounds’ or make clear which of
the available definitions you will be working with).
• Any relevant and necessary theoretical notions (N.B. only the ones that
are relevant for your topic) should be included, i.e. if you are writing a
paper on compounds you should for example talk about the problems of differentiating between compounds and phrases. These problems should be discussed critically rather than merely described.
• It is essential that you then clarify the relevance of these theoretical notions in relation to your research project.
• It is indispensable to indicate the research claims of other scientists in your text. The list of references at the end of your paper should
provide details on the used sources. Such claims can be for example
introduced as follows:
• o According to Bauer (1983: 35), compounds are…
• o Plag (2003: 43) points out/argues/tests/shows/proves/claims/verifies/falsifies…
• o As early as 1969, Robertson developed…
• o Weinreich (1953), for instance, identifies this kind of second language acquisition as subordinate bilingualism.
• o Thus, According to Muysken (1981: 62), “the combination of the Sp[anish] word hambr
• It is a prerequisite that you use specialized (linguistic) literature
which you can find in: linguistic journals (e.g. English Language and Linguistics, Journal of Pragmatics, Journal of Sociolinguistics, etc.), textbooks (e.g. for a paper in morphology: Plag (2003): Word-Formation in English or Katamba (2006): Morphology), and linguistic dictionaries (e.g. Bussmann (2006) Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics).
• Any non-academic websites (such as Wikipedia) are not acceptable sources for definitions of linguistic terminology or
for an evaluation of the current state of research.
• Data / Examples / Sources: main books, articles, chapters that you use / Sources of your examples / Sources of the description – or previous analyses and theories
• This section should be dedicated to describing any data-examples you used in detail. This description should cover the following aspects:
• Explain the type and quantity of the data-examples used and elaborate
on why you chose this kind of data. (Why did you choose this kind of
• Describe the source of your data (articles, chapters text corpus, questionnaire, interview etc.) and include an explanatory statement. (Why
did you choose this source?)
• Description of the data source
• o for corpora/dictionaries as data source:
• – corpus/dictionary should be briefly described/introdu
• The following aspects should be considered here:
• Data analysis: How did you analyze your data? What did you
do with the data? According to which aspects/ principles
/categories did you classify the data? You should motivate
• Note that it is highly important to give examples of your own
data to clarify your procedure of analysis, i.e. while explaining
your method of analysis give respective examples from your
own data in order to allow for transparency of your methods.
• 3. Analysis (/ Results) + Discussions
• Analysis (/ Results)
• In this section you should present your data in detail using
examples for describing and evaluating them. Quantitative
results are sometimes best illustrated with tables and figures.
• If you use tables they should be explained and discussed in
detail, as well as labeled and consecutively numbered (e.g.
Table 1, Figure 4, etc.
• In this section the results should be discussed critically with
reference to the research question(s), i.e. you should show how
your research question(s) can be answered by means of the
results of your research project.
• What are the possible implications of your results? Do your
findings contribute to the field of study? And if so, how?
• 4. Conclusion
• You should refer back to the object of research, e.g. “This
paper has dealt with the problem….”, “In this paper I have
• The main results should be briefly summarized (2 to 3
sentences), e.g. “The results show that…”
• When applicable you should mention implications for future
research in the respective field, unanswered or additional and
open questions, remaining issues, and the necessity for further
• 7. List of references (see below)
• (((8. Appendix
• The appendix contains a list of the data, questionnaires which
were used, and, where necessary, further figures or tables. )))
• 3. Formal Requirements
• Margins and Page Numbers
• 2,5 cm: left-right-upper-lower margins
• The pages should be numbered consecutively, starting with the first
page of text and ending with the last one (note: cover sheet and table
of contents are counted but not numbered).
• Font, Font Size and Line Spacing
• You should use a 12pt font size and a 1.5 line spacing for normal text. For long quotes use single
line spacing. Use a serif font (e.g. Times New Roman).
• Examples within the text are italicized, as in:
• “In this text thingy indicates that the speaker or author may not remember the proper word for the object they want to name.”
• “Actions and results are more commonly expressed in Early Sranan by nouns in V-N
multifunctional sets, as e.g. plati ‘to separate/ separation’, preki ‘to preach/ sermon’, sheki ‘to
• If you use more than one example in a row they should be separated from running text and numbered consecutively as shown below:
(1) a. *This a sample sentence is.
b. This is a sample sentence.
• Footnotes are only to be used to illustrate facts or thoughts which might interrupt
the line of argumentation in the running text. Different from literary studies,
footnotes are not to be used for bibliographical reference.
• Citation methods and bibliographical reference
• Short quotations have to be put in quotation marks; quotations exceeding three lines have to be indented, with single spacing but without quotation marks.
Bibliographical information – author, year, corresponding page number – has to
follow the quotation in brackets, e.g. (Bickerton 1981: 24). This helps to identify the quoted work from your list of references. Use direct quotations sparingly!
Bibliographical references in the running text should only include information on author, year of publication and corresponding page number (e.g. Plag (1992: 99) points out…). Please keep in mind that all cited works must be included in your
• The list of references should contain all cited works alphabetically
ordered by surname of the author(s)/editor(s). The examples below
illustrate a prototypical format for such bibliographic information as
found in many linguistic publications. There are three different types
of bibliographical information which differ in format but which are
not separated in the list of references: monographs, articles from
journals, and articles from collective volumes. The list of references
should follow the conventions of the Unified Style Sheet for
Linguistics, illustrated in the following. A complete description can be
• Sample reference entries (following the “Unified style sheet for linguistics”)
• Book (authored work):
• Chomsky, Noam. 1986. Knowledge of language: Its nature, origin, and use. New York: Praeger.
• Book (edited work):
• Gippert, Jost, Nikolaus P. Himmelmann & Ulrike Mosel (eds.). 2006. Essentials of language documentation (Trends in Linguistics, Studies and Monographs 178). Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
• Contribution in an edited work:
• Heller, Monica. 2001. Gender and public space in a bilingual school. In Aneta Pavlenko, Adrian Blackledge, Ingrid Piller & Marya Teutsch-Dwyer (eds.), Multilingualism, second language learning, and gender (Language, Power and Social Process 6), 257–282. Berlin & New York: Mouton de
• → Note: Entries for articles in edited works should always include full bibliographical information for the edited work. Abbreviating the entry (here, e.g., with “In Pavelenko et al., 257–282”) is not acceptable.
• Book also published electronically:
• Jefferson, Gail. 2004. Glossary of transcript symbols with an introduction. In Gene H. Lerner (ed.), Conversation analysis: Studies from the first generation, 13–23. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins. http://www.liso.ucsb.edu/Jefferson/Transcript.pdf (accessed 24 June 2008).
• → Note: Publication date = year of online publication or year of the latest update. The date on which the URL was accessed should be provided in parentheses at the end of the entry.
• Journal article:
• Neuman, Yair, Yotam Lurie & Michele Rosenthal. 2001. A watermelon without
seeds: A case study in rhetorical rationality. Text 21(4). 543–565.
• Journal article also published electronically:
• Inkelas, Sharon. 2008. The dual theory of reduplication. Linguistics 46(2). http://www.reference-global.com/doi/pdf/10.1515/LING.2008.013 (accessed 10 June 2008).
• → Note: Publication date = year of online publication or year of the latest
update. The date on which the URL was accessed should be provided in
parentheses at the end of the entry.
• Special issue of a journal (cited as a whole):
• Majid, Asifa & Melissa Bowerman (eds.). 2007. Cutting and breaking events: A crosslinguistic perspective. [Special issue]. Cognitive Linguistics 18(2).
• Jakobson, Roman & Morris Halle. 2002 . Fundamentals of language, 2nd edn. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
• Jacq, Pascale. 2001. A description of Jruq (Loven): A Mon-Khmer language of the Lao PDR. Canberra: Australian National University MA thesis.
• Kim, Yong-Jin. 1990. Register variation in Korean: A corpus-based study. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina dissertation.
• Translated title:
• Haga, Yasushi. 1998. Nihongo no Shakai Shinri [Social psychology in the Japanese language]. Tokyo: Ningen no Kagaku Sha.
• → Note: The English translation of the title should not be capitalized.
• Paper presented at a meeting or conference:
• Sarangi, Srikant & Celia Roberts. 2000. Uptake of discourse research in
inter-professional settings: Reporting from medical consultancy. Paper
presented at the International Conference on Text and Talk at Work,
University of Gent, 16–19 August.
• Several works by one author/editor with the same publication date:
• Vennemann, Theo. 2000a. From quantity to syllable cuts: On so-called
lengthening in the Germanic languages. Journal of Italian
Linguistics/Rivista di Linguistica 12. 251–282.
• Vennemann, Theo. 2000b. Triple-cluster reduction in Germanic: Etymology
without sound laws? Historische Sprachwissenschaft 113. 239–258
Examples for citation methods, formatting
of examples, footnotes, etc.
• N.B. The following examples use single line spacing, in your
paper you have to use 1.5 line spacing.