Winter Term 2017

During the coming winter term term I offer the following research topics for master or bachelor theses.


  1. The Digitalization Score of Companies (Products, Services, Business Models, Culture)

  2. The Value Added of the new Berlin Start-up Aesthetics
  3. Gamifying Business Meetings: Action based Research in Berlin

  4. Seriously Gaming the Budgeting Process: Experimental designs and results
  5. New Digital Forms of Therapeutical and Identity Enhancing Management Control Systems
  6. Digital Transformation of Companies - Case Study Results.

  7. Compliance Reporting – an empirical analysis of the HDAX

  8. Lean Management Control and Analytics for Start-Up Companies

  9. Architecture and Industrial Design As Elements of a Management Control System
  10. New KPIs for the Digital Transformation - Empirical Evidence from Berlin Start-up Companies.
  11. Enhancing the Innovation Management Process in SMEs.
  12. Management Accounting as The Game Engine of the Corporation - A Conceptual Model


I am open to suggestions for related topics and do supervise practical theses.Please contact me with a research proposal as described below.




How to write a Research Proposal?

Phase One - Research, Planning and Story Building

Academic writing in the form of research papers or bachelor or master theses is a form of creative writing which is perceived as challenging by many students. This blog addresses academic writing from various angles to stimulate and enhance students' creativity and energy to write and give guidance on how to write an excellent research paper.




You have already chosen your research topic from the list of relevant topics above.

Now, the journey begins.  Open the research!

The natural first step to initiate your research is to look into similar academic articles that are close to your theme. You could use Google to start with, search for relevant blogs and online material. The HWR offers among others an EBSCOS database, where you can find many articles concerning your topic. This is the joy and fun phase where you can browse through new intellectual territories and collect ideas and inspirations.  Go to the libraries and spent your time on relevant or partly relevant books. Start looking into newspapers and magazines, whether your topic is treated in one way or the other.

After a certain time you will recognize repetition and patterns in the stream of information and data concerning your topic. You build your own individual cognitive landscape of the material. By now, the surprising moments during your research become less frequent and you start recognizing deeper and reflective thoughts.

This is the ideal time to build your research proposal. There are multiple ways of preparing your proposal and plan. I offer you one recipe for building the proposal.  It consists of several questions which you should answer. The answer to the questions will tell you and me how deeply you have penetrated the topic and it enhances the coaching process along the way. It will serve us in discussing what you want to elaborate within your research paper.




1) Define your intellectual starting point

What is your topic? How do you understand it? Why is the topic relevant? What does the academic or business arena say to the topic? This is the base of your academic reasoning. If you cannot position yourself within the topic, you have to continue reading and searching.

2) Narrow the topic down to your research question

Which particular aspect of the topic do you want to discuss or on which area do you want  to focus on? This is particularly important, since you are not asked to write a PhD-Thesis but a focussed seminar paper. It could be that your topic is so large or generic that you will have to focus on a specific industry, a specific branch of the discussion, a concrete business case or reduce the overall topic one question. E.g. "Is the Balanced Scorecard a suitable tool for performance management in the area of universities?" This individual focussing is your most creative contribution to mankind. Ask yourself, what would be interesting to read for interested audiences in business and academia.  This is how you choose your research question.

3) Define your methodology

If you have a concrete research question you can start assuming potential answers to it. Since academic writing is about generating a body of knowledge to which every academic paper aspires to add, your are asked to define your hypotheses or expectations. Scientific method consists of defining a method how to falsify or validate your expectations. It is not easy to define the right methodology. It all depends. And this is not the room to give a paradigmatic statement about science.  Statistical analysis can be a tool, case studies can be helpful. You can also build your own jigsaw of thoughts, building on the state of the current literature to motivate your answer. Dialectical thinking and self-reflection will be methods here. A seminar paper is only a miniature exercise of academic writing! You will find published articles of 20 pages which needed years of research. Your task is to display the capacity to allocate a limited topic into the stream of academic literature and discussion and creatively and critically develop your own thoughts against this informed backdrop. Intersubjectivity of your thoughts is key. This is why you have to name your sources. Plagiarism is to academic writing what fraud is to companies. If you have limited empirical study at hand, be sure to use a clear and understandable method. It is good to reference to previous studies and learn from prior experience.

4) Build a message

Even before starting to write your paper you should develop a message you want to convey. It can be identical with your hypothesis or linked to it. The message is what you will remember when you have to answer the interview question ten years from now, what you worked on in your master research seminar. You might find out in the course of your writing that this message evolves and gets altered. This can happen and is a positive signal that you are working hard. But if you have no message to begin with, it will be difficult to trace the changes. Discussing the intentional message of your paper with your professor can be interesting for you and the professor. This is where academic discussion starts.

5) Structure your paper and reveal your initial sources 

Now that you know what the message is you want to convey you can start building the structure and underlying story of your paper. I recommend a structure in five steps, where you first have an introduction where you explain your research project and show what you are going to tell us. It is usually written at the very end. Then you have a chapter 2 where you define your starting point, the state of the academic discussion and the relevance of your topic. Three explains the method of your research or develops your conceptual frame with which you want to convey your message. Chapter four  usually offers the result of your findings or the application of theory on a case to validate your point. Chapter 5 in this structure would be a conclusion and eventually an outlook.

Additionally, make a first list with the literature you used so far to build your outline. The informed professor will see how deeply you are in the discussion and might eventually give you hints where to look for valuable sources.

The good news is that 50 % of the work has already been done. The rest is only writing the paper.  :-)


The coaching meeting with the professor

Send in the elaborate research outline to your professor. The overall outline should not exceed 3 pages. This is a good preparation for you and enables the professor to have quality time for each student. A well prepared research coaching meeting might only last 20 minutes and is mutual enjoyment.  An unprepared meeting will only last 5 minutes and  is a waste of time for both sides. There can be reasons, where the meetings take longer and even lead to consecutive meetings. This is all fine. If you are completely lost, this is also a good reason to talk to the professor. Do this quickly, because you will need much quality time to do the actual writing of the paper. If addressed timely, most challenges can be overcome with the willingness to do some extra work.


Please send me comments and enrich my blog. I am experimenting with this online-tutoring. Since this is a public blog, you can either use a pseudonym or your real name. Please add to your artificial name your initials, so I know who is writing.

Phase Two - From Outline to Thesis


Academic writing is disciplined work. Although there might be some creative genius within, excellent reasearch papers usually reap the fruits of industrious efforts and time consuming work.


Having gone through the joy of browsing the literature and elaborating a research outline, which eventually thrilled your professor, you will by now want to get into the writing mode. All your ideas and theories will now be put on the test of fitting into one paper. Again, there are several ways of effective writing and you can also look around the web and ample literature about academic writing. One useful source for inspiration could be:


I will limit myself to to five points as in phase one:


1. Organizing yourself and your thoughts.


You start with your clever and deeply reflected research outline. If you have not come up with one, it is high time to do it. :-) If you have not done enough research to comfortably start organizing your material (the nice little quotes and the papers and books...), because there is too little, go quickly again to phase 1 and do the work. If you have selected an empirical subject, be sure you have mostly completed your research before you start writing and polishing your text. At least, you should have developed hypotheses of what you expect as results.


Writing needs the very best of your energy. Even if you are obliged to work full-time, take your time and concentrate for -at least- a few days (e.g. an extended weekend) fully on the paper and related literature to get emotionally started. You have to mentally kick-start your paper in such a way that you passionately meditate upon the subject in your waking and sleeping hours. Falling in love with your topic helps, but hate works as well. :-) Again, you are not writing a PhD-Thesis, where you might encounter over the years of your research the strangest of experiences. However, dedication translates into quality and rational papers are often the result of irrational processes.


It can be a good advice to follow the flow of your writing and start a first draft. It will quickly tell you where your story needs back-up and pop-ups. It can happen that you are inspired to rethink your points and structure. As mentioned in Phase One, this can happen. Drafting yourself to your final paper is the usual way of writing.


2. From critical reading to reflective writing

The following might be not as relevant for you, if you pursue an empirical analysis. However, take your own findings and demystify them and gain critical distance.

Academic writing implies using your own mind as a critical tool for intellectual analysis and text creation. In the early phase of research one tends to identify with the first articles that one absorbs. However, academic writing lives from critical reading. Comparing different articles and different opinions will sharpen your perception of the research topic.

Since you are writing your paper in English, be aware that many German academic papers on "Controlling" are heavily influenced by the international discussion of management accounting. Unfortunately, the international discussion does not pay the same level of attention to the German discussion.  In many cases the English discussion is the original source.


There is a process of emancipation from the body of literature which is necessary to start a reflective writing which is more than just blending patches and jigsaws of other articles. You can develop your own academic voice against a backdrop of an informed and reflected knowledge of the body of literature concerning your topic. 


3. Style and substance


This blog is not meant to be an example of the style of academic writing. It lacks formality and many of the nice features you might find well explained following this link.


English as a second language is the norm for our class. Nobody expects you to write in the most elaborate of Oxford styles. As accountants we put "substance over form".


However, style matters. This also applies to your graphs, tables and overall formatting.


4. Revision, revision and revision


The most critical part of writing is the auto-critique and revision. Is every sentence needed? Can we be more precise? A heuristic question (and the most productive) I ask myself is: "Do I lose anything by deleting this sentence?" If not, be ready to delete it! Every sentence in a well structured academic paper should have a meaning for the overall message and logic of the paper. It is not merely there to fill the still empty pages. :-) I prefer two pages less of concise and sharp thinking to a wobbling mass of unmotivated text exceeding the page limit.    


You are responsible for writing your paper. However, at a mature stage of your editing phase, you might want friends or collegues or practical experts to critically read over your paper and give you feedback on substance and form. This will give you food for improvements. Discussing your ideas will confront you quickly with weak points in your logic that you were not ready to see for yourself. If you feel inclined after such a process to discuss ideas with the professor, you are most welcome.


5. The final objective: Getting published!


The final objective of academic writing is not just fulfilling the formal obligations to get the master degree or an excercise in critical thinking and creative writing but enriching the academic discussion by your creative and informed voice. This can only be achieved by getting published. Let's be humble. The research paper or your bachelor or master thesis is a mini-research project and will probably (like 99% of all academic publications) not revolutionize the thinking of the academic mainstream. However, creative ideas merit a try to get published. You will by the end of your paper/thesis have a feeling, whether it is worth trying. For those of you who come up with (in my eyes) publishable ideas, I will encourage you to enhance and polish your paper/thesis together with me with the goal of a joint publication. This could be the beginning of a sustainable research and publication habit!


Enjoy your research project.