What is your current research about?

How do you write a research status?

Usually it will be more extensive Homework, the bachelor thesis or master thesis, but also the dissertation, preceded by a so-called state of research. This has its place immediately after the introduction and reflects the current state of research on the selected topic.

Many students find it difficult to write such a research status. It's not that difficult at all. You just have to know why it is necessary and what the state of research should look like. This article takes a closer look at this matter and shows how to write a state of research, how detailed it needs to be, and what goes into it.

What is the research status used for?

So many bachelor thesis, not a few master theses and practically every dissertation makes its own scientific contribution to the theme research. It is not enough, however, to simply claim that incredibly new and highly explosive findings have come to light. You have to be able to prove this. And this is exactly where the state of research comes into play. With it, the author documents what the state of affairs on the research topic looks like and what the own and new contribution consists of or which theses one would like to tie in with. The state of research is therefore not an end in itself and is only there to keep students or doctoral candidates on their toes. Instead, it forms the basis from which your own work can be tackled.

In this respect, the state of research according to Einsiedler et al. (2013) also differs, for example, from a specialist article in which the unspoken heading is something like: "What do we know about the topic so far"? Then the facts on the topic are listed. In a dissertation it can be a little more detailed. This is not just about the simple listing of bullet points, but rather a kind of serial novel. The unspoken heading could be: "What has happened so far ...". It then describes the path that others have already taken and which ultimately led these researchers to the current results.

In this respect, the subject of research can be compared with a request to speak in a discussion in which one refers to the previous speakers, but then presents one's own and advanced positions. Last but not least, you shouldn't neglect to explain why you spoke up in the first place. For this reason, one's own position must be located within a discourse.

Position the work in the discourse

On the one hand, the state of research forms a kind of basis on which one can tie in with one's own investigations. On the other hand, it is also part of one's own legitimation. Because it makes it clear how your own research relates to the state of research described.

CARS model

In order to be able to locate the work appropriately within a scientific discourse, it is advisable to take a closer look at the CARS model by John Swales. CARS stands for: "Creating A Research Space" and aims - as the name already suggests - to use its theses to conquer a place of their own within a research field. And in order to define this place, it must be clarified what knowledge is already available on the given research object and what new contribution can be made to it.

Positions of the CARS model

To illustrate this, Swales offers four possible positions:

Opposite position: You develop and represent a counter-position, for example by considering parts of the prevailing doctrine to be wrong and arguing them wrong with your own theses.

Research gap: One fills a research gap, for example by taking a closer look at an aspect or a question that, in one's own opinion, has received too little attention so far. Alternatively, one could come up with a new or alternative research method that illuminates a known problem from a previously unknown side.

Question: Something is called into question, for example, by questioning the theses that have been common up to now in so far as one points to new technical possibilities for their investigation or interprets the conclusions drawn up to now in a different way.

Research tradition: A tradition of research is carried on, for example by deepening and consolidating previous research with the aid of newly acquired knowledge, making comparisons or summarizing and commenting on disparate research results.

Further research: You develop the basis for further research. This is the case when your own theses are located within an already existing research tradition, but you do not do so with the aim of building on it. Rather, the aim is to create alternative connection options that break out of the previous research tradition. This is often the case when connections have to be clarified, mechanisms of action understood or causes for phenomena to be determined.

The also gives an overview of the topic University of Hamburg.

How is the state of research written

The state of research is basically nothing more than a recapitulating overview of all the works and studies published on the research topic so far. How detailed it needs to be depends on the one hand on the selected topic and on the other hand on the university's specifications. In some cases, a few summarizing theoretical remarks are sufficient; at other universities, according to Tietz (2012), extensive empirical publications are required. It is best to clarify this in advance with your supervisor from.

It is only important that all findings relevant to the work are summarized as concretely as possible. Ultimately, the question needs to be answered: Who published or researched what, how, when and in what form?

The following scheme has proven itself:

What?Research goal, interest in knowledge and Question
How?Methodology (survey, Interviews), Sample size, objects of investigation (e.g. newspaper articles or experts), if necessary empirical studies
When?Year of publication
In which form?Monograph, anthology, journal or specialist article, etc.


Depending on the subject area and the available studies, the state of research should reflect at least the last 10 to 20 years and summarize it critically. By the way: There is always an obligation not only to know the German-language literature and to recapitulate it in the current state of research. At least the English-language literature should also be covered.

The formulation and presentation of the state of research

For some students, the mere formulation of the state of research poses a certain challenge. As I said, it is not enough to simply string together facts or list works. Rather, one should compare different studies with one another and point out similarities and contradictions.

The following formulations, among others, have proven effective for this:

To present the research findings

  • The author X first proved in 1998 that ...
  • Y deals with the following findings in his study on the subject
  • The publication by X is part of the basic literature on this topic. In it, X deals with ...
  • In his work Y, X comes to the conclusion that ...
  • With his investigation of Y, X proves that ...
  • X's research shows that ...
  • In plant Y, X takes the position that ...
  • The authors X and Y dedicate themselves to the investigation of ...
  • The research findings of Z, however, prove that ...

Highlight similarities

  • X argues in Y similar to Z.
  • Y comes to the same result as X in his study ...
  • The research findings of X and Y have similarities.
  • These statements are consistent with those of X.
  • X shares a similar assessment as Y.

Emphasize differences or opposites

  • In contrast to X, Y in his 2012 publication ...
  • X is of the opposite view.
  • The results of X.
  • However, X takes a different view. In his study Y he makes it clear that ...
  • Against this thesis of X speaks ...
  • However, the following factors are not taken into account in X's study: ...

If the state of research is very extensive, in addition to the textual representation, it is advisable to include a Create graph or table. This gives the reader a quick overview of the publications available on the topic and shows the state of research at a glance (cf.Information from the Georg-August University of Göttingen).

As has been seen, writing a research status is not particularly difficult - but it is inevitable for larger projects. It is now a matter of presenting the current state of knowledge and appropriately locating one's own contribution to the research topic within the scientific discourse.

If you also manage to present the whole thing in a clear manner, you can quickly tick off the topic of "research status".


Einsiedler, Wolfgang / Fölling-Albers, Katrin / Kelle, Helga / Lohrmann, Katrin (2013): Standards and research strategies in empirical primary school research - A handout, Münster.

Tietz, Fabian (2012): Writing scientific term papers - which criteria to look out for, Munich.