Useful Hints for Assignments

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Approaching the Questions

  • first read through all the questions and then give answers strictly to each question
  • define (for yourself or as a short introduction structuring your own text) why one might ask the question
  • think of answers one might give at first sight, think of problems they could create, reflect the problems and offer your solution in an open deliberation of these problems
  • do not tell your personal story of how you solved the question

What do I do with secondary sources

  • Evaluate whether the question actually demands the use of secondary sources.
  • If you present facts any one can present without conflict of other opinions or copy right infringements, you do not need to quote authorities.
  • Deal with secondary sources as soon as you are expected to state your opinion in a context of other opinions. Quote these sources to lead into the problem (use the style sheet for your footnotes). Do not quote handouts or what has been said in your seminar etc.
  • If possible, read secondary sources only once you have reached your own answers on the questions. You will otherwise run the risk of feeling humiliated by what these sources offer - even if they do not offer what you are expected to offer.

Special situations

  • When you are asked to compare two texts: think of the use the comparison might have in a debate. Do not simply state lots of observations (like: this poem has a man as speaker, this is a 19th century poem, this a 17th century one, this one is about love, the other one about a beautiful landscape). The comparison should show something.
  • If there is a yes or no option in a question do not simply decide but reflect the advantages of both options.


  • Address an academic reader. Try to reach a point in which you could just as well offer your contribution in an academic discussion, in a journal, at a conference (this is a professional education - a professional tone is the aim). Avoid statements like: "when I first read this poem, I did not understand anything but on my second reading I realized what it was all about..."
  • Make sure you use terminology appropriately.
  • Distinguish between creative and academic discourse. Write in prose.


  • Avoid all stylistic devices designed to imply shared assumptions between you and your reader as in "of course", "anyway", "naturally", "everyone knows", etc.
  • Avoid all open assumptions as in "the [hero or] author seems to suffer", "the reader gets the feeling", "one could think at first sight...".
  • Avoid generalisations.

Digest results of your own work

It will happen that an argumentation you begin, will lead you to unexpected conclusions. We all experience that as soon as we start to write a longer text.

  • If you realise that you change your mind about a certain point of your argument be ready to revise your own text. Do not end a text of a few lines with "Now that I have written this I feel I was wrong at the beginning of this paragraph." If you come to that conclusion rewrite the paragraph accordingly.

Reread your own work

  • When you are finished and have printed your text, make sure to reread it and eliminate 'slips' and typing errors.

Past assignments

  • You find exemplary assignments from past semesters here.