Many students would like to derive recommendations for action or a framework for companies in their thesis. This is basically a good idea, but it is often difficult and such frameworks or recommendations must not just be invented at random. In order to derive this meaningfully, there is the method of reference modeling, which is a constructive type of research.
Reading tip: How do I classify my research scientifically?

What is reference modeling

Reference modeling methods are used to create simplified representations of reality. Starting from observations (inductive) or derived from theories (deductive), these models are designed to represent a planned or optimized system environment.“(Bodendorf et al. 2012)
You can use the reference modeling to derive generally applicable recommendations for action from a theory. There are defined steps for this, which you should strictly follow. I give examples of this at the end of the article.

  • Problem: What’s the problem anyway?
  • What: Construction of the model frame (what are the framework conditions)
  • How: How do I solve the problem (recommendations for action)
  • Reference model: visualization of the model (graphic, checklist)

Limitations and advantages of reference modeling

As already mentioned by Bodendorf et al. (2012) said the limitation is as follows:Reference models themselves do not contribute to knowledge about facts or their explanation. They are only intended to cover a wide range of possible situations in reality and “serve as ready-made solution schemes or general recipes for certain classes of decision-making problems to cope with practical problems”. So they represent a recommendation or an idea of the situation and do not always have to be valid in other companies and are therefore more likely to be valid for a specific individual case, such as in your thesis. You should limit this.
At the same time, this is also the big one advantage , because you will never be able to derive concrete recommendations which are valid in all companies and your work is therefore vulnerable. Every second company will say to you: “Well, that’s not how we can implement it because of the internal guidelines.”
Tip: don’t forget yours Cleanly limit methodology.

Use of reference modeling

So if you want to create a framework or recommendations for action, first describe the problem. Example: How can a manager efficiently lead employees at other locations. Now define the general conditions such as: He is allowed to travel once a month and has e-mail, video tool and telephone to communicate with the employees.
You then show the recommendations for action. He can, for example, delegate tasks, trust employees, etc. In the end, you visualize this in a checklist or a great graphic. Don’t forget to limit afterwards. For example, they could travel more often or buy new tools so that they can improve their leadership. Different guidelines may also prevail in other companies, so that some of your recommendations cannot be implemented. Your recommendations therefore only apply to the framework conditions described.
Reading tip: Framework in the thesis
[student] Verwendete Quellen anzeigen

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Bodendorf, F., Löffler, C., & Hofmann, J. (2010). Research methods in business informatics. business Informatics , (1), 1-44.


I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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