Rigour and flow of argumentation have a major impact on the quality of academic research. An essential component of argumentation is providing definitions. Definitions can be derived with the help of standard, advanced or professional approaches. Furthermore, the deduction of individual arguments is documented in paragraphs and chapters, which serve as the units of an academic paper. The logic of arguments has to be mirrored in the paragraph structure, which consists of three logical text elements: topic sentence, supporting sentences and concluding sentence. Transitioning between sentences as well as between paragraphs supports the flow of argumentation and provides cohesion within the text. During the development of an argumentation, the structuring of paragraphs and chapters shows an iterative character. Referencing that supports the argumentation can enhance the academic quality of the research output. Thus, arguments of other sources should be carefully combined instead of randomly compiled.
Link to e-learning videos: Overview of chapter 12
The e-learning videos of chapter 11 provide a brief introduction to academic language and academic writing style. Academic writing can be differentiated from other forms of writing, for example literary writing. Furthermore, different academic disciplines favour different styles of writing, which have to be studied on an individual basis. Independent of specific academic styles, the principles of accuracy and clarity, that have been introduced in chapter 2, provide a general framework that prescribes to be specific, to omit the needless, to beware of adjectives, to avoid subjectivity, to apply factual tonality and to focus on clear phrasing. The elements of coherence, structure and cohesion, further support the logic of argumentation. Logical links between and within sentences as well as linking repetition are techniques to enhance the inter-subjective comprehensibility. The academic writer has inter alia to differentiate between British and American English and should use punctuation, special characters, symbols and figures in a way that supports the documentation of research projects.
Link to e-learning videos: Overview of chapter 11
The academic principle of inter-subjective comprehensibility requires the traceability of thoughts and conclusions. Thus, academic research and writing is characterised by meticulous referencing. Style guides or citation guidelines define the applicable rules of referencing. Generally, five different types of references are distinguished: citation, indication, cross references, information and explanation. The two major types of referencing techniques are parenthetical referencing and footnote referencing. Parenthetical referencing can be performed by the use of the “author-date method” (“Harvard style”, “APA style”) or the “author-title method” (“author-page method”, “MLA style”). Parenthetical referencing requires an unstructured bibliography or an unstructured list of references. Footnote referencing with full information allows for a structured bibliography or a structured list of references.
Link to e-learning videos: Overview of chapter 10
A research problem needs to be clarified and has to be transformed into a precisely formulated research question. This is done in the chapter “research problem”. A pragmatic way to structure the chapter “research problem” is to apply the concept of deductive reasoning. According to deduction, the writer advances from paragraphs with general information to paragraphs with a higher specificity and ends with the research question. Simultaneously, the research problem with its research question determines the overall structure of the research paper, i.e. the outline. Once an aim has been identified, its implicit logic prescribes the structure of the outline. Moreover, the outline should be aligned with the structure of the chapter “course of investigation” and, if applicable, with a chapter “research method”. A research paper ends with a conclusion that can be segmented into three subchapters: summary of research findings, critical acclaim and outlook. Again, the summary of the findings should be aligned with the structure of the research problem and the outline of the main body. Finally, it is good style to critically reflect upon one’s own research findings in the subchapter “critical acclaim” and to provide an outlook regarding potential future developments in the subchapter “outlook”.
Link to e-learning videos: Overview of chapter 9
A well-thought-out interpretation of the topic is a prerequisite for the successful execution of a research project. Especially in academic settings, research candidates have not only the duty, but also the right to develop an interpretation of their topics. In some cases, the thesis advisor might assist the interpretation process. In other cases, research candidates have to derive an interpretation on their own. An ideal interpretation process starts with a negative and a positive interpretation of the topic and thereby the identification of possible aims. Once possible aims and their implications are known, the research candidate has to select one aim or a combination of aims. There are five possible aims: description, causal connection, intention, function, and comparison. The interpretation of a topic can be of an abstract (theoretical) or problem-based (applied) nature. Within the process of a problem-based interpretation, the empirical environment has to be considered. The identified aim predetermines the nature of possible research questions to be investigated.
Link to e-learning videos: Overview of chapter 8
The structural elements to be applied in academic writing depend on the nature of the research project. Manifestations of academic writing range from student assignments and term papers to doctoral theses and other forms of complex research documentations. Some structural elements are always used in research papers. Other structural elements are optionally or selectively used. Technically, research papers can be divided into four sections: addments, directories, main body and annex. Each of these sections contains different structural elements that have to be applied in accordance with the formal instructions laid out in academic style guides. Although the applicable rules may vary according to the field of research, some commonalities for structural elements exist. These commonalities may be based on logical considerations or result from traditional academic conventions. Important elements to be discussed in this chapter are cover page, abstract, outline, directories, main body, bibliography and list of references, glossary and appendix, declaration of originality as well as data carrier and electronic storage media.
Link to e-learning videos: Overview of chapter 7
Every research project requires the sourcing of information in the form of literature and/or empirical data. Different types of literature, each with individual characteristics, can be used in academic research. It is important to understand the specific categories of literature, such as monographs and textbooks, articles in academic journals, concise dictionaries, edited works, working papers, conference proceedings, white papers and green papers, technical papers, consultation papers, manuals as well as legal sources and documents. Given the variety of literature sources, an academic appraisal of references with respect to their citability and credibility is essential. The existence of a peer review process can signify the academic quality of journal articles. Furthermore, the consultation of citation indices and journal rankings may help to identify acceptable references. Grey literature in particular, which is literature that is not commercially published and distributed, needs to be appraised with respect to its citability. Information access and retrieval can take place via the Internet or in a library. Library catalogues and databases allow for a literature search that uses individual search logic in order to identify adequate references.
Link to e-learning videos: Overview of chapter 6
Every research project addresses an underlying research topic. The research topic is the subject matter of the research to be performed. All researchers need to be able to translate their research problems into appropriate research topics. The motivation and qualification of a (student) researcher play a major role while identifying a suitable research topic. Moreover, potential problems of limited information access have to be considered before deciding for a research topic. The aim of a research project can be of an abstract or a problem-based nature. Both types of aims have different characteristics in terms of practicality, independence, creativity and inherent challenges. A number of proven techniques can be applied in order to identify a potential aim and ultimately a research topic. Six idealised process steps with corresponding actions can help to refine the chosen research topic. The differences between research topic and research title and possible forms of their interaction have to be kept in mind. Clarity while verbalising a research topic can be achieved by following the principles of clearness and proper composition.
Link to e-learning videos: Overview of chapter 5
The e-learning videos of chapter 4 introduce you to the research process and its cornerstones. Every research project starts with an open-ended indirect research question, which is implicitly or explicitly accompanied by a research hypothesis. Often a research problem is substantiated by an ad-hoc hypothesis, which advances to a working hypothesis and ultimately will be developed into a scientific hypothesis. The logic and quality of hypotheses can differ and determine the success of the research process. Depending on their inner logic, scientific hypotheses can be formulated as cause-effect hypotheses, distribution hypotheses, correlation hypotheses and difference hypotheses. Based on their quality, scientific hypotheses can be differentiated into nomological hypotheses, quasi-nomological hypotheses and statistical hypotheses. The research approach has to match the research problem to be investigated. Literature-based research, theoretical research, developmental research, quantitative research, qualitative research or a mixture of the aforementioned approaches provide means to tackle a research problem at hand. Different academic disciplines favour different scientific styles that predetermine the applicable research approaches. Three general types of scientific styles are introduced and critically reflected: the theoretical solution-driven style, the empirical solution-driven style and the hypothesis-driven style.
Link to e-learning videos: Overview of chapter 4
The e-learning videos of chapter 3 “Research logic” introduce you to the underlying philosophical or, more precisely, logical aspects of research. The basic understanding of research logic is a necessary foundation for every research project. Induction and deduction are the two major types of reasoning and are frequently applied in research. Both types provide a framework for generating inter-subjectively comprehensible conclusions and projections. The understanding of the basic structure of syllogisms, the ancient Greek sets of logical conclusions as laid out by Aristotle, helps to differentiate between universal and existential propositions as well as affirmative and negative statements. The deductive-nomological model and the inductive statistical model provide techniques to formally describe logical reasoning. These thoughts and ideas help to comprehend the concepts of falsification and falsifiability. Finally, indicator and causal hypotheses are introduced in order to discuss individual limitations of induction and deduction and the benefit of a combination of both types of reasoning.
Link to e-learning videos: Overview of chapter 3