You are about to graduate and it should now be about you writing a bachelor’s or master’s thesis. But you can’t think of an issue? You have been looking for days and there is simply no research gap or your research question is simply too generic? I can give a rough guide to this in the following. However, if you already have the subject and only want to limit the question, then I recommend another article.

Reading tip: Limiting the research question

The tips are from my doctorate. For this reason, they are quoted from this. I have had to limit some topics on the basis of the wishes of my practical partners, as well as uncovered other topics. That’s why I’m giving some literature tips. If you like a topic, you should build a suitable research design in the first step.

Reading tip: Find research design

My other topics, which have opened up in my doctorate, are as follows:

  • Big Data / AI
  • Influence of automation on work
  • Privacy
  • Influence of digitalisation on business models
  • IT organization
  • Knowledge work in SMEs

Automation of work

I have looked at the impact of digital change on work in SMEs. My suggestion would be to extend the influence of automation. As I found out in my phD, David H. Autor addressed the question in 2015: “Why are there still so many jobs?” He addresses the progressive automation of classic jobs and cites numerous international and AMERICAN studies on the advancement of automation. There are predictions that low-educated jobs could be questioned and high-education jobs could increasingly automate processes. As also noted in my doctoral thesis, my studies (Lindner et al. 2017) confirm that internal processes are increasingly being automated in SMEs and that there is not yet a study with a focus on the automation of knowledge work in SMEs, but with a focus on automation in the manufacturing sector in the course of Industry 4.0 (Schuh et al. 2017).

Digital business models

In this topic, we talk about a transformation of the core business. In my doctorate, for example, I noticed that the topic of the business model is becoming important. Numerous studies have now been carried out to examine the concept of the digital business model. In the course of my doctorate, I have published Werth et al. (2016), which examines digitalization in the context of medium-sized management consulting. In this way, it is questioned whether the classic people business can be virtualized or digitally supported in consulting companies. I also found Becker et al. (2016), which has already found that SMEs tend to have a high proportion of industrial enterprises and therefore mostly very traditional business models. Even after further research, the publications in the field of Industry 4.0 predominate, which is why studies on IT business models would be exciting.

Big Data

Another topic is big data. In my doctorate, I have included Dremel et al. (2017). In an extensive study, the authors examined the implementation of big data at AUDI AG. In the conclusion of the study it was found that due to the high dependence on service providers, an extensive big data solution is only possible if the medium-sized producers also provide appropriate interfaces and interfaces. I have also found that there is again a high proportion of studies on Industry 4.0, but also individual studies on service SMEs such as Lies (2017). It investigates the use of big data in marketing. Certainly, further studies focusing on SMEs make sense.


As I also noted in the doctoral programme, the problem of big data solutions for the security of this data has been addressed time and again in the studies. I have Icks et al. (2017) which warn that a misjudgment regarding data protection leads to significant problems and even bankruptcy, especially for small businesses. Becker et al. (2017) also criticise recent studies, as none of them responds to the specific framework conditions of SMEs, which often do not have data protection guidelines.

IT organization

Furthermore, the topic of the IT organization was mentioned more and more strongly in the roundtable of my research. Due to the exceptional introduction of technology, this is also subject to a more constant change than it was a few years ago (Urbach and Ahlemann 2016). The two authors examine new organizational and IT architectures that require long-term careful planning and implementation. After my doctorate, I will examine the question of building a meaningful IT architecture in an SME with a smaller budget from July. To this end, I build on my study Lindner et al. (2017) and Bley and Leyh (2016).

Knowledge work and SMEs

In summary, all the topics mentioned offer potential for further research. I would be pleased if there were fundamentally more studies on SMEs with knowledge-intensive services. In summary, my proposals would therefore examine the digitisation of knowledge-intensive SMEs in the context of business models, big data, automation and data protection, as well as the topic of the IT organisation. Don’t forget to check in the shot whether you want to publish your thesis with me.

Tip: Publish thesis

Tip: An example of a literature analysis with many thematic suggestions for a thesis can be found in my study of 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.

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.

Verwendete Quellen anzeigen

Author, D. H. (2015). Why Are There Still So Many Jobs? The History and Future of Workplace Automation. Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Becker, W., Ulrich, P., Botzkowski, T., & Eurich, S. (2017). Digitization of business models BT – Digital transformation of business models: basics, instruments and best practices. In D. Schallmo, A. Rusnjak, J. Anzengruber, T. Werani, & M. Jünger (Eds.) (pp. 283-309). Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden.

Dremel, C., Wulf, J., Herterich, M. M., Waizmann, J.-C., & Brenner, W. (2017). How AUDI AG Established Big Data Analytics in Its Digital Transformation. MIS Quarterly Executive, 16(2), 81-100.

Icks, A., Schröder, C., Brink, S., Dienes, C., & Schneck, S. (2017). digitization processes of SMEs in the manufacturing sector. IfM Materials, Institute for SME Research (IfM) Bonn, 255, 77.

Leyh, C., & Bley, K. (2016). Digitisation: opportunity or risk for German SMEs? – A study of selected companies. HMD Practice of Business Informatics, 53(1), 29-41.

Lies, J. (2017). Conclusion: Marketing 4.0 in small and medium-sized enterprises – more fiction than fact BT – The digitalization of communication in small and medium-sized enterprises: impact of Marketing 4.0. In J. Lies (Ed.) (pp. 59-62). Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden.

Lindner, D., Ott, M., & Leyh, C. (2017). The digital workplace – SMEs between tradition and change. HMD – Practice of Business Informatics, (5), 1-17.

Schuh, G., Mühlbradt, T., Prote, J.-P., Luckert, M., Ays, J., & Lensing, W. (2017). SM 4.0: Working and Learning with Digital Media. ZWF Magazine For Commercial Factory Operations, 112(10), 635-638.

Urbach, N., & Ahlemann, F. (2017). The IT organization in transition: implications of digitalization for IT management. HMD Practice of Business Informatics, 54(3), 300-312.

Urbach, N., & Ahlemann, F. (2017). The IT organization in transition: implications of digitalization for IT management. HMD Practice of Business Informatics, 54(3), 300-312.

Werth, D., Greff, T., & Scheer, W. (2016). Consulting 4.0 – The digitalization of management consulting. HMD Practice of Business Informatics, 53(1), 55-70.

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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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