I have been offering a telephone consultation for 3 years and regularly exchange information with students, sometimes up to 12 students a month call me and ask me their questions. I think it’s very good and I’m happy to help. Since I can only help a limited number of students per month, I pour the most common questions into blog articles. In this article, I would like to address a very frequently asked question: “What actually comes into the basics and what comes into the literature analysis?”

The basics create a basis for the reader and are like a lexicon

The foundations are the foundation of the work and explain the most important terms without reference to the research question. As a first step, you have to consider which terms you want to include. I always recommend taking the terms from title and research question. For example: The impact of digitisation on SMEs with a focus on knowledge-intensive service providers – should include the words digitisation, SMEs and knowledge work. Now you can add often used terms in your work, such as scrum. You should also define all the research methods used (explanation, pros and cons).

Important: The goal is to give the reader a basis for understanding your work. You do not have to carry out a literary analysis, but explain the terms and research methods to the reader as in a lexicon in a completely universal way.

You can imagine the structure like a Wikipedia page or a lexicon like the Gabler lexicon. For example, you want to explain work. Here the Gabler lexicon has already illuminated the term very well from all corners and ends. Quote the article, mix 2-3 sources and you have already explained the term in a meaningful way. The same is true of research methods. I recommend 2-3 pages for terms 1-2 pages per term and 2-3 pages for research methods.

Show in the pages what the term means in various contexts and end each sub-chapter with: In this work, the term is understood as XY or in research methods: there are numerous ways to perform a literature analysis. In this work, the methodology of Webster and Watson is preferred. I recommend building the work in this way (Chapter 1 is the introduction):

Chapter 2: Research Methodological Basics with Sub-Chapters
2.1 Basics of Empirical Research
2.2 Literature analysis
2.3. Expert interviews
2.4. Qualitative survey

Chapter 3: Conceptual Basics
2.1 SMEs
2.2. Digitisation
2.3 Knowledge work

Important: Of course, you also have to do a small literature search on Google and databases. But this is far less detailed than the main analysis. You only have to define the term without reference to the research question in a meaningful way.

The literature analysis examines a wide range of contents and has an exact procedure

Searching academic databases using search strings describes, summarizes, evaluates, clarifyes, and integrates similar results and approaches (Fettke 2006). Although this does not primarily generate new knowledge, this can help to structure and build on the existing knowledge. The procedure includes the search for literature, the evaluation of literature and the analysis and interpretation in the context of the research question.

A literature analysis follows an exact procedure, e.g.

So you show exactly how you searched for literature and evaluate meaningful content only in the context of the research question. I have already written a large article about it, which I attach as a reading tip.

Reading tip: Literature analysis


You realize that the basics as the name already says provide a foundation and have nothing directly to do with the research question, but lay a foundation that someone is able to understand your work. The literature analysis, on the other hand, follows an exact diagram and provides insights adapted to the research question.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/de/photos/bibliothek-studium-der-1822683/

Are there any questions?

If you have any questions, I have two tips. I have summarized my experience from 5 years in the supervision of theses in the book: "Recommendations for the Bachelor and Master thesis". This is available at Springer and Amazon since August 2020. The book is an official reference book and can be quoted. You are also welcome to give me a call. Just look in the booking system for a free appointment . I take a few hours every month to help students.

My tip before submitting your thesis

It is always worth doing a professional thesis Proofreading or check plagiarism to let. The benefit is that you will also get feedback and improve your academic style. Providers such as Scribbr help with good prices for the thesis.

Gender note: I have used the masculine form for easier readability. Unless an explicit distinction is made, women, diverse and men as well as people of all origins and nations are meant. Read more about this.


I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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