The time has come: You want to finish your studies and find a topic for the bachelor’s thesis or master’s thesis. Lately, I have been receiving more and more requests from students who are looking for a topic for a master’s thesis or bachelor’s thesis. I would therefore like to make some recommendations for action in this article for students of economics and business informatics.

Tip: Download my step by step guide to finding topics.

Difference Academy and Practice

People often think: “Theme XX is exciting – that’s what I want to do”. But there is a big difference in practice and the academy. For a practical article you are looking for some topic, which is exciting and write about it. You summarize up-to-date information and then add your own opinion in a well-dosed manner. The article should be easy to read and practical and give a guideline.

Find a topic for bachelor's thesis
Always build up on the current state of knowledge and expand it! (own illustration)

In the academy, however, things are different: this is about summarising the current knowledge and building on it! The aim is to observe and question. For this reason, it does not make sense to brainstorm yourself, but to look only roughly for a topic, which one finds exciting and to build on the current state of knowledge.

On the shoulders of giants! (Google Scholar)

We need to build on other researchers and have an ongoing dialogue. You have to imagine it this way: On the subject of agility, there is a beer table where several authors sit and have been debating it for years. Every now and then someone gets up and down and sometimes someone sits down. Now you sit down and what are you doing? You listen to the discussion and summarize it (literature analysis). Then you say something about it yourself (research).

For example, we have been talking about leadership for many years. Here, too, there is an ongoing dialogue. First it was research on tribal leaders and the mafia, then on leadership in industry, then research on what the leadership of knowledge work and agile leadership can look like. And now we’re talking about digital leadership and virtual team leadership. So it has always somehow continued in an ongoing dialogue.

Find a topic for bachelor’s and master’s thesis – how do I proceed?

Now the question arises: “How should I find a topic for my bachelor’s thesis or master’s thesis?” In the following, I explain the procedure that is fundamentally recommended for the search for topics. It’s actually a pretty simple process. If you are writing a work together with a company, you will find some additional tips for a practical work at the end of the article.

Find a topic for master's thesis
Searching for a topic is a systematic process (own image)

Finding literature – what is academic?

The supervisor will have told you to use academic literature. But what is academic? The VHB-JOURQUAL3 is a ranking of business-relevant journals based on judgments of the VHB members. Soon the VHB4 should also come.

Over 1,100 members of the VHB have carried out a total of 64,113 reviews of magazines in recent months. Of the 934 journals that were rated, 651 journals exceeded the 25 rating threshold and received a rating.

Reading tip: Literature analysis

Everything you find in these magazines is academic and can be used. These are broken down by A,B,C,D. Basically, the closer to A, the better a good D-Journal can bring added value! D-journals often refer to themselves as the interface between academy and practice. So here are academics writing for practitioners. At the C-level, on the other hand, academics write for academics. Mostly, however, these are not internationally known, but rather nationally known. B-journals are international and always in English – A, on the other hand, are the actual top journals of a respective field. There are also various A+ journals. A post for such an A-journal often takes 3 years. So a lot of work is needed. The distribution is as follows:

  • 22 outstanding and world-leading scientific journals in the field of business administration (A+ = 3.4%),
  • 72 leading scientific business journals (A = 11.1%),
  • 217 important and respected scientific business journals (B = 33.3%),
  • 273 recognised business journals (C = 41.9%) And
  • 59 scientific business journals (D = 9.1%).

Scientific databases

Academic literature is distributed in various databases. In these databases, as a rule, only literature from the journal, or high-quality research is allowed. Searches in here with a search string, which consists of keywords. For example, in Emerald for a search for the digital workstation, type “digi* AND (workplace OR “knowledge work”) AND (mobile* OR individu* OR agil*)” or at ScienceDirekt “tak(digi*) AND tak(workplace OR “knowledge work”) AND tak(mobile* OR individu* OR agil*)”. The well-known databases include:

  • EBSCO (ASC, BSC, EconLIT)
  • ScienceDirect
  • Emerald
  • Web of Science
  • Acm
  • Aisel
  • EconBiz
  • Ieee
  • Proquest
  • Springerlink

The Mother Paper

Now search with a search string and look at the results. You will find 3-5 very good paper at the end. I like to call you mother paper (I learned the term from Dr. Carolin Durst in a seminar yam and I really liked it). These are papers that do exactly what you want to do. I have 5 for my doctoral thesis, which I keep citation. So you should search until you have found these mother papers for yourself. These have the following characteristics:

  • You will find the papers exciting!
  • You are exactly concerned with your subject matter!
  • You are doing something like you want to do!

It is important to keep in mind that the academy is an ongoing dialogue. With the theme search, you have now created your own beer table. In your literature analysis, these 3-5 authors of the mother paper now sit at a beer table and show the readers what they have to say about the subject. In your subsequent research section, you make your personal, further contribution to this.

Tip: Download my step by step guide to finding topics.

Finding a research question

Now the mission research question find quite simple. It is necessary to form a meaningful research question from the mother papers, one’s own interests, as well as the will of the caregiver. I once found a nice overview at Bachelorprint. This is based on Kornmeier’s book. From a number of question types, you can design what you want to do thematically. Description, explanation, forecasting, design, criticism – I have adapted the illustration of Kornmeier somewhat to our current topic: agility and digitalization.

Reading tip: Book by Kornmeier

Customized table from Bachelorprint

Question Task and central question(s) Examples of the research question
Description/Description Describe a state: What is the case? What is the “reality”? (or: Does reality really look like this?) (Karmasin & Ribing 2014: 25) What is the current state of digitalization in medium-sized companies?
How and in what contexts do managers use Holacracy?
Reason/
Declaration
Understand/explain a connection: Why is something like this? What are the causes of which effects? (Samac, Prenner & Schwetz 2009: 49) Why do companies differ in their personnel development intensity?

Why has agility in SMEs changed since 2015?

Design Measures to achieve an objective/solution of practical problems: What measures are appropriate to achieve a specific objective? (Karmasin & Ribing 2014: 25) How can the employment rate be ensured in the future with increasing automation?
What measures/strategies should large companies take to introduce basic income?
Forecast Outline future events and their consequences: What will something look like in the future? What changes will happen? (Bänsch & Alewell 2013: 4) How will the agility of companies in an industry change?
How will digitalisation in SMEs change over the next five years?
Criticism/
Evaluation/
Review
Criticism of something, suggestions for improvement: How should a particular state be assessed against the background of explicitly mentioned criteria? (Samac, Prenner & Schwetz 2009: 49) How should digitisation in SMEs be assessed in terms of promoting formal performance dimensions?
How has the introduction of virtual and agile teams affected employee job satisfaction?
Utopia Speculation, sense/ethics from a scientific point of view based on long-term predictions or developments: What will the world of tomorrow look like? (Kornmeier 2013: 61) What will professions look like after the digital transformation?
What is the role of work in an increasingly automated society? Will only a small elite be able to work?

Title of a master’s thesis or bachelor’s thesis

The title of a work is now quite easy to determine. It consists of two parts: what do I do & how do I do it. Thus, the first part has the real topic, e.g. agility in SMEs or automation of workplaces. The second part then describes the procedure: e.g. the study of a selected company, case study of SMEs, expert interviews and empirical evaluation, survey of selected SMEs, etc. – here are some examples:

  • Agility in SMEs – Survey of selected companies
  • Digitization of knowledge work – Expert interviews and empirical evaluation
  • Basic income in Germany – a case study

Tip: An example of a literature analysis with many thematic suggestions for a thesis can be found in my study of 2019 (online from March 2019).

Lindner, D., & Christian Leyh. (2019). Digitization of SMEs – questions, recommendations for action as well as implications for IT organization and IT service management. HMD – Practice of Business Informatics, 4, 21.

Alternative: Observe practice phenomenon with theory

Many of you also write a work, working with a company. I also wrote my master’s thesis
agile in the Waterfallworld
with a company. Here, the topic is often said to be very practical and a problem of the company, but at the same time also very academic. However, solving a company-specific problem, such as the introduction of an SAP in a medium-sized SME, is not a sufficient bachelor’s thesis in a strictly academic sense.

In theory, this dilemma is easy to solve by taking a practical problem of the company as with me: agile and waterfall methods in a company. You can investigate this practical problem with a theory such as game theory, agility, Porter’s Five Forces or similar. So you are investigating a problem of the company on the basis of a scientific theory. This is the perfect bridge between theory and practice. You have to look here yourself and individually, which theory can fit here. The following is a list of well-known theories that make sense in the course of our topic:

In practice, however, you can often expect that a long vote is necessary and that you can schedule a good 10 – 12 instead of 6 months. But it’s worth it, as you are often employed directly afterwards and get good money during your master’s thesis. In addition to my starting salary, my time as a junior consultant was significantly shortened.

In the following I give a few examples and tips for finding topics. For this purpose, I list a lot of practical problems and give a suitable theory or an academic approach. Your task now is to coordinate them with supervisors as well as with the company.
Customized table from Bachelorprint

Practical problem Academic theory or perspective
Introduction of flexible work / mobile work Implications for IT, impact on people/stress or efficiency in the workplace through technology, forecasting the digitization of work
Introduction of Holacracy Change model by Kotter, influencing factors on the success of organizational models, evaluation of Holacracy at introduction, How will Holacracy change the team?
Digitization of a process through tool introduction Impact of software support on work performance, success factors of process digitization, difference digitization of processes from classic process management

Summary

In this article I have compiled my current knowledge of the topic finding. Of course, there are other possibilities and in the end the supervisor decides on the process and also the relevance of the topic as well as the practice partners if necessary. I have just made a few suggestions here which I believe are quite useful for a thesis. For further information, please take a look at my book suggestions!

Tip: Download my step by step guide to finding topics.

Reading tip: Book suggestions for thesis

Call for thesis

Call for Articles: If you have written an exciting thesis, you are welcome to write a summary of it (about 1000 words or more) and I publish it on my blog. This can be useful for an application as well as for your own reputation. Simply send an email to abschlussarbeit@agile-unternehmen.de.

Reading tip: Publish master’s thesis or bachelor’s thesis

Gibt es noch Fragen?

Falls es noch Fragen gibt, habe ich zwei Tipps. Ich habe meine Erfahrung aus 5 Jahren in der Betreuung von Abschlussarbeiten im Buch: "Empfehlungen für die Bachelor- und Masterarbeit" zusammengefasst. Dieses gibt es bei Springer und Amazon seit August 2020. Das Buch ist ein offzielles Fachbuch in kann damit zitiert werden. Weiterhin können Sie mich gerne mal anrufen. Hierzu einfach im Buchungssystem nach einen freien Termin schauen. Ich nehme mir jeden Monat einige Stunden Zeit um Studenten zu helfen.

Mein Tipp vor der Abgabe Ihrer Abschlussarbeit

Es lohnt sich immer eine Abschlussarbeit professionell Korrekturlesen oder auf Plagiat prüfen zu lassen. Der Vorteil ist, dass Sie dabei auch Feedback erhalten und den akademischen Sprachstil verbessern. Anbieter wie bspw. Scribbr helfen mit guten Preisen bei der Abschlussarbeit.

Genderhinweis: Ich habe zur leichteren Lesbarkeit die männliche Form verwendet. Sofern keine explizite Unterscheidung getroffen wird, sind daher stets sowohl Frauen, Diverse als auch Männer sowie Menschen jeder Herkunft und Nation gemeint. Lesen Sie mehr dazu.

Verwendete Quellen anzeigen

Photo: Maura24 – https://pixabay.com/de/graduierung-abschlusstag-2038864/

Kornmeier, Martin. 2013. Scientific writing made easy – for bachelor, master and dissertation. 6. Up- Bern: Head.

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Author

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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