Seminar and Thesis How-to

The purpose of this page is to provide some useful hints and tips for writing a seminar paper or thesis at the Chair for Systems Security (SysSec).


LaTeX/TeX is a typesetting system that is a common standard for writing seminar papers, theses, dissertations, and conference submissions in computer science related subjects. We provide a template with our logo and preferred style for seminars and theses, please contact your advisor to learn more about this.

In case you are not yet familiar with LaTeX, the following links should provide you with good starting points to learn more about the system:

Structure and Writing

When writing a seminar paper you have to summarize existing literature but are not required to produce "new" results, in contrast to a thesis where we expect some novel contribution. However, you should still write your seminar paper in a lively and well-structured manner. Therefore, most advices for writing good scientific papers (those with new results) still apply for both a seminar and thesis:

In case you want to read a book on the subject you might want to take a look at the following ones:

Style Hints and Most Common Mistakes

You should read the style guide The Elements of Style by Strunk since it provides a comprehensive overview of important style hints and common mistakes. Furthermore, please take the following list of the most common mistakes into account in order to please your advisor’s red pen:

  • Prefer active to passive voice
  • Do not treat reference as nouns, use them in a passive way (for example: "Rivest et al. introduced RSA [1]" vs. "In [1], Rivest et al.")
  • All tables and figures have to be referenced somewhere in the text and you also need to explain each of them
  • When being part of a reference, terms such as "figure", "section", or "table" start with a capital letter (e.g., "in Section xx", "in Figure xx"). Furthermore, add a tilde within the LaTeX document to insert a non-breaking space (e.g., "in Figure~ref{fig:foo}").
  • Do not put a comma before "that" (see Comma Rules in English)
  • The words in the title of the paper and the major headlines all start with a capital letter, except for words like "then", "and", or "or"
  • Address the reader in third person (e.g., "as one can see from")
  • Do not use short, informal forms like "can't" or "don't"
  • Put a comma before and after e.g. or i.e. (for example: "blah blah, e.g., blah")
  • Avoid footnotes

Many common hints for writing a technical paper are available in the document Scientific Writing for Computer Science Students by Hämäläinen. Our template also provides an overview of the most common mistakes and you can find some hints in German in a document provided by TU Berlin (Tipps zur Anfertigung einer Diplom-, Master- oder ähnlichen Arbeit).

When in doubt concerning the style of your paper, you should take a look at the theses and dissertations published at the SysSec chair. They have been written and approved by experienced researchers and reflect the style of writing that your advisor will expect.

Literature Research

One purpose of the seminar is to teach you how to work with and search for relevant scientific literature. If you write your thesis at the chair, we also expect that you search for background literature on your own. In order to obtain a quick overview of relevant literature in your field, you should use scientific search engines and databases. This is also helpful, as we greatly encourage you to use BibTeX as literature reference management system which is supported by most scientific search engines. This allows the instant generation of a BibTeX entry but we encourage you to check the result immediately as some databases have problems with special characters (e.g., ü,ä,ö). Some useful search engines and databases are:

When searching for literature you should also be aware that the quality and relevance of a scientific publication can greatly depend on the conference or journal it is published in. Your advisor will likely know relevant results that have been published at these conferences and will expect you to include them in your seminar paper. There are even rankings for conferences that provide you with an overview of the top venues in computer security.


Please use BibTeX to manage your references. Make yourself familiar with BibTeX and the correct way to cite other papers in scientific work:

In case you are unsure or have questions related to the correct way to cite other work please contact your advisor.

Local Support

In case you need support when writing your seminar paper, you may visit the Schreibzentrum (Center for academic and scientific writing) of the Ruhr University. They offer open consulting hours, mini workshops and longer courses. You can also take courses on scientific writing and general English lessons at the Zentrum für Fremdsprachenausbildung (ZFA). The courses are of a very high quality and should also qualify as "nicht-technisches Wahlfach", but they require registering and a test before the beginning of the semester.