You are about to graduate and it should now be a matter of writing a bachelor’s or master’s thesis. But you can’t think of a topic? You have been searching for days and there is simply no research gap or your research question is just too generic? In the following I can give you a rough guide. However, if you already have the topic and just want to narrow the question down, then I recommend another article.
Reading tip: Narrow down the research question
The tips are from my doctorate. For this reason these are quoted from it. Based on the wishes of my practice partners, I had to limit some topics and uncover other topics. That’s why I’m giving some literature tips. If you like a topic, the first step should be to develop a suitable research design.
Reading tip: Find research design
My other subject areas, which opened up in my doctorate, are as follows:

  • Big data / AI
  • Influence of automation on work
  • data protection
  • Influence of digitization on business models
  • IT organization
  • Knowledge work in SMEs

Automation of work

I looked at the impact of digital change on work in SMEs. My suggestion would be this around the point of influence automation to expand. As I found out in my doctorate, David H. Autor already dealt with the question in 2015: “Why are there still so many jobs?” He addresses the increasing automation of classic jobs and cites numerous international and US studies on the advancement of automation. Predictions are derived that jobs with a low level of education could be questioned and jobs with a high level of education could increasingly automate processes. As also stated in my doctorate, my studies (Lindner et al. 2017) confirm that internal processes in SMEs are increasingly being automated and not yet a study with a focus on the automation of knowledge work in SMEs but with a focus on automation in the manufacturing industry in the course Industry 4.0 (Schuh et al. 2017) can be found.

Digital business models

In this subject area there is talk of a change in the core business. In my doctorate, I noticed that the topic of Business model becomes important. There are now numerous studies on this that examine the concept of the digital business model. In the course of my doctorate, I wrote, among other things, the publication by Werth et al. (2016), which examines digitization in the context of medium-sized management consultancies. The question is whether the classic people business in consulting companies can be virtualized or supported digitally. I also found Becker et al. (2016) interesting, who has already found that SMEs usually have a high proportion of industrial companies and thus 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 PhD I have included Dremel et al. (2017) found. 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 level of dependency on service providers, an extensive big data solution is only possible if the medium-sized producers also provide appropriate 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 that of Lies (2017). She studies the use of big data in marketing. Further studies with a focus on SMEs are certainly useful.

data protection

As I also noticed in my doctorate, the problem of big data solutions for the Security of this data has repeatedly been addressed in the studies. For this purpose I have Icks et al. (2017), which warn that a misjudgment with regard to data protection can lead to considerable problems and, especially in the case of small companies, even to bankruptcy. Becker et al. (2017) also criticize current studies, as none of them deal with the special framework conditions of SMEs, which often have no data protection guidelines.

IT organization

Furthermore, in the round table of my research work, the topic of IT organization mentioned. Due to the exceptional introduction of technology, it is also subject to 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 careful planning and implementation with a long-term perspective. After my doctorate, I will investigate the question of building a sensible IT architecture in an SME with a lower budget from July onwards. For this I build on my study Lindner et al. (2017) and Bley and Leyh (2016).

Knowledge work and SMEs

In summary, all of the above-mentioned subject areas offer potential for further research. I would be happy if there were fundamentally more studies on SMEs with knowledge-intensive services. In summary, my suggestions would be to examine the digitization of knowledge-intensive SMEs in the context of business models, big data, automation and data protection as well as the topic of IT organization. Do not forget to check afterwards whether you want to publish your thesis with me.
Tip: Publish thesis
Tip: You can find an example of a literature analysis with many suggested topics for a thesis in my study from 2019:

Lindner, D., & Leyh, C. (2019). Digitization of SMEs – questions, recommendations for action and implications for IT organization and IT service management. HMD – Praxis der Wirtschaftsinformatik , 4th , 21.

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Verwendete Quellen anzeigen

Author, DH (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, MM, 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). Digitization: Opportunity or Risk for German SMEs? – A study of selected companies. HMD Praxis der Wirtschaftsinformatik , 53 (1), 29-41.

Lies, J. (2017). Conclusion: Marketing 4.0 in SMEs – more fiction than fact BT – The digitization of communication in SMEs: Effects 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 – Praxis der Wirtschaftsinformatik , (5), 1-17.

Schuh, G., Mühlbradt, T., Prote, J.-P., Luckert, M., Ays, J., & Lensing, W. (2017). SME 4.0: Working and Learning with Digital Media. ZWF magazine for economical factory operations , 112 (10), 635-638.

Urbach, N., & Ahlemann, F. (2017). The changing IT organization: Implications of digitization for IT management. HMD Praxis der Wirtschaftsinformatik , 54 (3), 300-312.

Urbach, N., & Ahlemann, F. (2017). The changing IT organization: Implications of digitization for IT management. HMD Praxis der Wirtschaftsinformatik , 54 (3), 300-312.

Werth, D., Greff, T., & Scheer, W. (2016). Consulting 4.0 – The digitization of management consulting. HMD Praxis der Wirtschaftsinformatik , 53 (1), 55-70.

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Dr. Dominic Lindner

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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