The state of research is very important in a dissertation. You can only find the research gap if you already know what you want to know. Without this gap, you will not receive a doctorate. But how do I find out what we already know? With a proven scheme.

What is the state of research, anyway?

This is a systematic overview of previous findings on a specific topic, question or object of investigation. The overview is either a table, a full text or both.

Why input do I need for the research status?

You will need the information from the state of research for these phases of the thesis:

  • for the introduction (short study overview),
  • to deduce the research gap,
  • for consultation on the subject and the procedure,
  • in the colloquium, to describe the research gap,
  • for defending your findings at the end of the thesis.
  • to define your own research design with methods, samples and procedures.

What exactly should I look for when I determine the state of research?

You are looking for scientific studies (papers) on your topic. The aim is to provide an overview of the following contents in these studies:

  • they examine models and factors,
  • the data basis (the so-called sample),
  • the respective methodology of the investigation,
  • the results of the analyses and their interpretation,
  • the outstanding issues.

When, where and how do I start compiling the state of research?

You start with it on your first day of work! You need related studies quickly.

  • Define your most important keywords. Look at the terms of the first studies.
  • Familiarize yourself with the criteria for evaluating scientific sources.
  • Search for the best articles and papers in the best catalogs for scientific studies.
  • Limit the time you give yourself to search to 2 hours at a time, otherwise you will lose days
  • Find the studies that best match your search terms.
  • Don't read into the articles, just read the abstracts first.
  • You need a list of relevant articles as soon as possible.
  • Be selective and evaluate fewer studies at the beginning. That sounds paradoxical but when you include studies on less relevant issues, you carry these less important questions around with you for far too long. They only end up taking up your time.

How can I recognize that my research status is "complete"?

Complete means that you will not find any other scientific sources on a specific topic. You can see this from the fact that well-known papers are repeatedly quoted in later studies.

By the way, you will also notice it very quickly based on the source list of the article that is closest to your topic and most current (because such an article will list all the important sources).

How do I present the state of research in the text and at what point?

This is a separate longer main chapter in the monograph. This chapter follows a certain structure.

A table is also welcome. This will make previous research on the topic transparent. This so-called Review Matrix follows a certain structure and can be downloaded in the Dissertation Guide.

In the case of article-based dissertations, the state of research is presented only very briefly. Actually only the authors and their questions are listed. The interested reader must then find the details himself.

How do I work with the research status?

  • I define and operationalize the research gap in my own thesis.
  • With the state of research I classify my own project into the research area and make my supervisors happy.
  • I use the same terms as the authors of the studies and build on the appropriate models of the evaluated studies.
  • The methods and data samples of the studies give me orientation for my own choice of methods and samples.
  • In the end, I classify my own findings into the state of research chapter. Discussion and Conclusion.

How long will it take to determine the state of research?

At the beginning of the dissertation, this will take about 3-4 weeks but then you have the most important 20-30 studies on the topic. After that you will always find new studies to add to the chapter with the state of research.

Compile the state of research according to the plan using the instructions and templates in the PhD-Guide. A thorough survey of previous findings will make the path to the finished dissertation much easier. You will finish faster and receive a better grade.

We wish you success with your dissertation!

Silvio and the Aristolo Team

PS: Check out the PhD Guide for writing a PhD in 200 days.