Re: “wissenschaftlicher Anspruch”

Students asked for clarification about the “wissenschaftlicher Anspruch” (scientific aspiration) of their final theses. Professors often use this term without being all too clear about what is meant by that. Let me try to clarify my understanding of this term in the context of Informatik Master theses.

Here is what the Prüfungsordnung (degree rules and regulations) has to say:

§ 46 Masterarbeit […] (1) 1 Das Modul Masterarbeit […] besteht aus der schriftlichen Masterarbeit im Umfang von 27 ECTS-Punkten und dem „Begleitseminar mit Referat“ im Umfang von 3 ECTS-Punkten. (2) 1 Die Masterarbeit dient dazu, die selbständige Bearbeitung von wissenschaftlichen Aufgabenstellungen der Informatik nachzuweisen. […]

The key term is “scientific task” given to the student. No further definition is provided, meaning that it is left to the professor to interpret this. I take it to mean that the student is given the chance to demonstrate their capabilities using a task that is at the state of the art. A task at the state of the art (i.e. scientific) is a task that needs state of the art capabilities: Exactly those that the student learned during their studies.

We distinguish at least three distinct types of tasks, leading to three distinct types of final theses:

A research thesis tries to answer a research question using research methods, an engineering thesis tries to solve an engineering problem using engineering methods, and a teaching case thesis analyses a particular business case situation using the appropriate analytical tools and casts the results as a teaching case.

Initially, all thesis work is conceptual in nature, even if it leads to different work results like statistical models, software source code, or financial analyses. The type of thesis determines the questions to be answered, for example, an engineering thesis has an engineering problem (to solve), but not a research question to answer.

Finally, however, all of this work needs to be presented in writing as the final thesis itself. Ideally, the structure and content of the written thesis corresponds one-to-one with the logical structure of the work. Please see the above links for more information on the structure and content of thesis, depending on its type.