Writing a thesis: finding a topic

Notes on the topic selection of diploma thesis, master theses, master thesis, bachelor theses.

Do your part for a better world

Do you also belong to the poor students or doctoral candidates who are prescribed the exact topic for a scientific thesis by their professor? You are to be pityed. That can be exciting, but it does not have to be. Many professors and lecturers make it easy to choose from a pool of topics that they are familiar with and to “push” a topic on their undergraduate or postgraduate students. Really understandable, because even professors are people and tend to simplify the work – to practice.

The topic should mainly interest you, not your Prof. If you have the free choice (of course in your area of ​​expertise): There is certainly a topic that has accompanied you from the first semester. Maybe you have already written seminar papers about it. Deepen it!

But again not too deep. Keep the ball flat. You should write a simple scientific paper, a master thesis or a diploma thesis, not an opus magnum. Do not go too far or too deep.

Your work should answer one question, maybe several. You can ask yourself this question, but it can also have been asked by others.

The biggest secret but a successful and good scientific thesis is: It is useful. Always have the benefit of your work in mind, the benefit beyond your own. Sure, this work will take care of your diploma. But who else has something of it? Does the world need your scientific work? And if the world wants something like this: which world? The scientific? Or your parents, relatives, colleagues, nationals? The posterity?

The more you orient yourself to the benefit that your bachelor thesis or master’s thesis will have for others, the more successful this work will be. Show not just what you have learned during your studies, but how you can help others with it. Orient yourself thereby at the practice.

Take the Internet as a model: pages that others find useful are linked more frequently than pages that only reproduce the private circumstances of Mr. Meier. Create a useful page with your scientific thesis that others like to refer to!

Of course, the goal of a diploma thesis is by definition not to advance the state of research. But that’s why it can still be useful.

Bibliography and literature management

Overview: Literature management and source management with Word, citavi, endnote and index cards.

Creating your bibliography goes hand in hand with research. You will not research all important literature in one go; rather, you will encounter new titles as you go about your work, possibly dropping titles that have proven useless. A literature administration will do you some work. With a good literature management, you can also digitally ban key quotes immediately, eliminating the hassle of looking up and searching.

You do not have to use literature management exclusively for your scientific thesis. It may also be advisable to include all the literature that you encounter during your studies and that you consider important, with a literature management. So you have important quotes always ready without having to search long.

Alternatively, use your head and memory.

Index cards

Are you one of those old-fashioned people who are afraid of technology and would rather manage their literature offline? Then you use index cards, on which you capture all sorts of bibliographic data, which you can also provide with hints and quotations. Use index cards with different colors and a system in which you should place these cards. A5 is for the cards probably minimum size, if you want to describe them with quotes.

This system of index cards certainly can not crash and works even without electricity – even candles generate light. All others should be advised either to use a literature management software or to manually enter all titles directly into the document, and this list should now and then be printed out.

For the literature management by software different programs are suitable.

Word 2007

Since 2007, Word has also integrated a literature management system, which can be accessed via the “References” tab. For most Bachelor theses, master theses and diploma theses this literature management should be sufficient.

The Manage Sources feature lets you create sources that can be integrated into the text in just a few clicks. Finally, let Word conveniently create a bibliography that can be automatically updated.

To add a source, on the References tab, click Manage Sources, click New. Enter all important data and click on “OK”.

The default is the APA citation style; Maybe put him on “Chicago”. To insert a bibliography in the text click on “Insert quote” and select the appropriate source. The source is now inserted in placeholder form in the document. Click with the right mouse button on it and go to “Edit quote”. You can also specify page numbers (also in the form “S. XXX”). Keep in mind that there should be a protected space between the abbreviation “S.” and the number (CTRL + SHIFT + SPACEBAR).

After you have entered all the literature, you can create a bibliography. Click on “Bibliography” and “Insert bibliography”. Word now creates a bibliography that you can update with right-click and “Update Fields”.


Literature management with citaviCitavi is a bibliographic management program which, in its free standard version, is mainly suitable for seminar papers, diploma theses, master theses and the like, as only data sets with a maximum of 100 bibliographical references can be filled.

Citavi offers a very large selection of document types that can be managed.

To add a title after installing the program, click New, New Title (or press CTRL + N), select a document type, and fill out the following bibliographic form.

In addition, you can formulate abstracts for each title, specify keywords and locations, insert citations and much more.

For the bibliography you can then use the Citavi standard citation style. You can also add new styles. Click on “Citation” and “Change Citation Style”, in the new window on “Add Citation Styles”. Citavi then downloads the style you want via the Internet.

Unfortunately Citavi is not integrated in Word, so you have to enter the bibliography manually.

To do this, click on “Literature list” and then on “Copy to clipboard”. In Word, you can then import the list using CTRL + V or right-click and “paste” to the appropriate place.

As already mentioned, the free version is more suitable for bachelor or master theses with a bibliography of less than 100 titles. PhD students are recommended to pay the full version, which costs about 90, -.


Endnote is due to its complexity and also its price (about 175, – €) more suitable for dissertations and research institutions. Opposite z. B. Citavi leaves the usability much to be desired. For this it is integrated in Word and offers the possibility of an online literature search.

To add a bibliography in Endnote create a new project and then click on “New Reference”. In the list you can specify the document type, in the mask enter the bibliographic details.

If you click on your entry and then on “Insert Citation” the short form of the bibliography will be inserted directly into the Word document.

By clicking on “Format Bibliography” a bibliography can be inserted at the end of the document. The advantage is that it can be updated automatically, as well as all individual references in the text. So you can conveniently change your bibliography in the Endnote program without having to change every single reference in the text.

Endnote is quite uncomfortable to use, even if many institutes and scientists swear by it. It’s not worth it for small jobs, and postgraduate students should think twice about getting involved in the endnote for their dissertation, or rather on the more intuitive Citavi.

Conclusion: Literature management with endnote, Citavi, Word?

For the technology buffs and classics, the index cards provide a good way of managing literature, which is suitable for all types of scientific papers.

Endnote is recommended for die-hard users, whose time is not too bad to get involved in a literature management; the biggest advantage though is the integration in Word. Due to the complexity of the program, it is best suited for research institutes, possibly also for dissertations.

The bibliographic management function of Word is suitable for term papers as well as diploma theses or master theses, but not for long-term archiving. It is very practical, but still quite limited in its possibilities. For changes, the entire document does not need to be checked for references to be changed, and the automatic bibliography is also very convenient.

Citavi offers the best surface for literature management, even if unfortunately it is not integrated in Word. It is not only recommended for a scientific thesis, but for the entire course of study, since every entry in the literature can also be filled with appropriate quotes and comments.

What does a bibliography look like?

Regardless of the fact that modern literature management software will provide you with a bibliography based on your input data, you should know what a bibliography looks like. (Of course, you should also know the purpose of a bibliography, what is the purpose of a bibliography, and is there a difference between a bibliography and a bibliography?)

Usually, in the bibliography of a scientific paper, the titles are listed in alphabetical order. For larger directories, such as dissertations, the bibliography may also be sorted according to the type of literature (sources, secondary literature, etc.).

For more on the layout and typography of a bibliography, see the section on word processing and typography with Word.