Are you looking for a few days and just can’t find any papers on the subject? In this text I would like to give tips for students who currently can’t find literature on their thesis. By the way, if you get the topic given by a practice partner, then I recommend reading my other article.

Reading tip: Thesis with practice partners

“Help! I can’t find literature!”

I often receive emails asking me: I write about topic X and can’t find literature. Do you have any tips? In 99% of cases, I also send literature back. However, this is not to your advantage. This is because you have to state in the thesis: Why did you take this literature? An answer like: Did Mr. Lindner send me or happened to come to Google, your supervisor will probably not be happy. Nevertheless, I am happy to give you recommendations.

Reading tip: Literature recommendations

Often you have thought about your topic out of pure creativity or you have liked something in the lecture or a practical partner sets the topic. The most common reasons why you can’t find literature is often:

  • Your subject is too new and there is no literature yet
  • Their topic is not relevant in the Academy, but a purely practical topic
  • You write for a group and the topic is group-specific
  • Your topic is examined in a different context

I would therefore like to explain to you how the academic world works. There are currently 631 magazines, which according to the VHB Jourqual are considered academic. So if you’re looking for academic literature, you’ve got to be in the 631 journals. Not every topic is discussed in this journal. The journals’ papers can be found in the numerous databases using a search string. I’ll explain in more detail how this works below.

You have to imagine this as follows: The figure shows the overall level of knowledge about SMEs in the 631 journals. For example, there are 4000 contributions to SMEs in the last 5 years (fictitious figure). These can be broken down into, for example, cloud, agility and many more. The respective points can be broken down again, for example in cloud (private and public cloud). You need to use this data to look into which cluster your topic fits. For example, you now want to write about HR in SMEs and can’t find a cluster to do so. Now HR can be discussed a little in the cluster agility and cloud but direct literature is not found. So you have to be careful that your subject also has a cluster or you have to think something around the corner and find papers that touch the topic. This is often very difficult.

Example of a clustering of literature using the example of SME research

When did I find a cluster?

After entering your search string in numerous databases, you will find 3-5 papers that cover almost the same topic (e.g. Workplace in SMEs or Home Office). Congratulations: You have found a cluster. These 3-5 papers form the foundation of your work and you can build your theme on these papers. As you can find exactly, I’ve summarized in my following article under the subheading Mother Papers.

Reading tip: Find topic

“But I still can’t find anything!”

If you have followed my classification (see reading tip at the end of the paragraph) but still can’t find a cluster for your topic, then unfortunately you are out of the academic discussion. If you’re a famous Nobel laureate, you’re welcome to start a cluster. If not, you should leave it first or read my alternative solution to the Grouded Theory (below). I explained in the following article how a literature analysis works exactly, which databases exist and how to make a search string.

Reading tip: Literature analysis

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., & Leyh, C. (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: Think around the corner!

Another tip would be that you think around the corner. If, for example, you have agility in clubs then you could look: What results from the agility of companies are transferable to clubs or you have as a topic: agility in the financial industry and find no literature. Maybe results from the automotive industry (if there are any) can be transferred? So think a little around the corner and transfer results from other areas!

Special case: Investigate certain context!

You only find general literature and nothing for your context, e.g. agility in clubs or agility in production? Then read my article that specifically helps you with this problem:

Reading tip: Find literature for contexts

Grounded Theory as an alternative

If you still want to go through the topic because your practice partner pays for it or you simply love the topic, then of course you can. Simply generate information for yourself by starting with interviews or by collecting case studies yourself. Especially if you write with a practice partner, then you have one thing: interview partners. My practice partner had 120 employees at the time, which means that I had 120 potential interviewees.

Reading tip: Go through the topic without literature

Thus, you do not rely on a literature analysis, but on empirical data. So you start on the green meadow without literature. I have already supervised such a master’s thesis. It’s a lot of work, so think carefully about whether you want to get through it. If you want to know more, I have written an extra article about it. The idea of this, as shown in the illustration, is that you generate your own data through interviews, on which you can build. However, I can tell you that this is a considerable additional effort and is very complicated. Read my article.

Reading Tip: Grounded Theory

grounded theory example
Sequence of a Grounded Theory

Conclusion: Stay tuned and follow tips!

They realize that a thesis is not easy and is therefore the last milestone of their academic career. Many initially put the topic too broad or past the academic discussion. Systematic literature research can be used to avoid the problem. Therefore, follow the classification in my article.

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.

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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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