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The purpose of academic research and writing

The purpose of academic research and writing

Formal rules: Basic to scientific communication

Papers, lectures, and colloquia are essential elements of academic studies. Examinations as well as a bachelor's or master's thesis qualify for a degree. Surprisingly, there is not much of a difference between writing a paper and a thesis. In both cases students are required to demonstrate their ability to write scientifically and the basic rules for this are always the same (Krämer 1999: 184).

  • Keep everything reproducible and comprehensible
  • Don't mix opinions (yours and others) with facts
  • Be eager to gain new insights

These basic rules are key to scientific communication and comprehension. On the one hand, these rules are restrictive but on the other hand, they provide a framework for academic research and writing that enables us to understand and evaluate the work of others. These rules shouldn't form an obstacle or restriction; they should on the contrary create the prerequisites to write papers that can then be understood as intended.

These guidelines serve as tools to avoid mistakes and spark interest in doing scientific work. After gaining experience these tools are no longer obstacles but provide efficient strategies when dealing with science in more depth.


Studying means thoroughly engaging in a subject for several years while developing your personality and world view (the statements in this chapter are based on Reusser (1997)). Studying also means educating yourself and comprises not only the long-term development of coherent and flexible know-how but also the forming of general, disciplinary, individual, and social skills regarding learning and thinking in particular.

Studying not only means learning contents to be reproduced afterwards during examinations. To engage in your own learning and thinking processes should also be part of your studies. It is therefore reasonable to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses as well as your way of approaching and solving problems; it makes sense to keep an open mind in view of any changes. You should accept new experiences, new ways of thinking and proceedings as challenges to be tested while any reorganization regarding your self-perception and world view should be embraced.

If possible, you should not completely separate the knowledge gained during your studies from the professional and experiential know-how. It is essential to integrate newly gained knowledge into everyday life since it will then be easier to comprehend, memorize, and incorporate it into your body of knowledge.

It is also important to mind complete learning processes. It is not advisable to passively attend as many courses as possible for an extended period of time in order to collect material and deal with it later on. Knowledge building should always be followed by phases of consolidation, which means working through learning matters before absorbing them. Only knowledge that has been processed, is structurally transparent and flexible can be used for solving problems and further learning.

During the course of your studies, it is equally important to develop and work on your techniques and learning skills, both personally and academically. Dealing with specialized literature and writing scientific texts and papers, belongs to the core competencies of students. Any intentional act of studying - such as actively listening and taking notes, processing data and texts, writing reviews and papers - contributes to cultivating and consolidating these basic competencies not necessarily related to a specific field. You should seize every opportunity to reflect on basic procedures and strategies before modifying them if necessary.

Studying is not just attending required courses. You should also use the opportunity to actively participate in research projects, trainings, or tutorials. Learning content will then be consolidated more efficiently while perceiving it from another perspective. Additionally, you realize what science can or can't do, e.g. how scientific findings are used and implemented in practice.

Studying is not only an individual task. Discussing learning matters with peers, exchanging learning strategies, difficulties, and experiences are also part of your studies as well as single pieces of work or your individual learning process. Teamwork and discussions promote social skills as well as the ability to accept other opinions and approaches. These aspects are not just concomitants when studying; they should be cultivated and promoted deliberately.