Counseling for Students
Our Counselors are available for you via Telephone, WebROOM and E-Mail.
Even if or precisely because life on campus is coming to a standstill study related challenges are present. The time without social activities and ongoing teaching can be used to progress with written assignments, to reflect and to improve study skills.
- Do you ask yourself how to advance and optimize your writing process despite the loneliness at your desk?
- Do you have questions on academic writing?
- Or do you want to talk about how to self-organize and stay motivated?
We provide guidance and support on study related challenges via telephone or E-Mail. Our counseling is confidential and free of charge.
To make an appointment contact us via E-Mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief specification of your concern.
Here you find answers to your questions about the current measures of the TU Chemnitz dealing with the Corona situation.
- Student Counseling
- Consultation on Academic Writing
The following are some EXAMPLES of typical questions and concerns of students who came to our counseling.
- Studying abroad can be daunting. I am feeling alone. I need somebody to talk to.
- I failed my exam. I am afraid of failing again.
- Exam preparation is stressing me out. I need help.
- I feel low because I don’t get things done.
- My new study environment is challenging for me. How can I improve my academic performance?
- I would like to work more motivated. What can I do?
- I exceeded my regular period of study time. What happens now?
- I am unsatisfied with my study program. What should I do about it?
- I have no idea who is the right contact person for my problem. Can you help me?
- I am in despair about my term paper. I need help.
- How can I develop a good topic and research question for my term paper?
- How can I structure my term paper or thesis?
- How do I have to use scientific literature?
- What can I do to improve my writing skills?
- I have no idea how to quote and I do not dare to ask someone for help.
Counseling takes place in personal meetings. It is also possible to arrange consultation via phone. Our counseling is confidential and free of charge.
To make an appointment, please contact:
Interkulturelle Personalentwicklung und Kommunikationsmanagement (M.A.)
Europa-Studien mit Sozialwissenschaftlicher Ausrichtung, Wirtschaftswissenschaftlicher Ergänzung (B.A.)
- seit 2012 Beraterin im Projekt TU4U | Individuelle Beratung rund ums Studium
- 2012 - 2014 Lehrkraft und Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin am Institut Europäische Studien
- andere Aufgaben im Projekt:
- Koordination Teilprojekt "Lernräume schaffen, Übergänge beraten und gestalten"
- Koordination Study Skills Workshop im Lern|RAUM
- Koordination Arbeitskreis Kompetenzorientierung an der TU Chemnitz
- 2017-2019 Tätigkeit als Justizvollzugspsychologin (Schwerpunkte: Krisenintervention, Suizidprophylaxe, Prognose im Rahmen psychologischer Gutachten und Anfertigung von Stellungnahmen, Empfehlungen von Lockerungsentscheidungen und Sicherungsmaßnahmen, Interventionen im Einzel- und Gruppensetting, Leitung anstaltsinterner Fortbildungen)
- 2012-2017 Mitwirkung bei der Beratung von Studieninteressenten und Studierenden an der TU Chemnitz (ServiceLine, Zentrale Studienberatung)
- andere Aufgaben im Projekt:
- Koordination Mentoring Start Smart HSW
- Study Skills Workshops im Lern|RAUM
Master Anglistik/Amerikanistik, Bachelor Europa-Studien
- 2010 - 2019: Tätigkeit als Übersetzerin in einem Marktforschungsinstitut
- 2017 - 2019: Dozentin an der VHS Zschopau für Englisch und Französisch Seit 2019: Dozentin bei TU4U Seit 2019: Tutorin Anglistik History of English Literature sowie Theories and Methods
- andere Aufgaben im Projekt:
- Academic Writing Workshops
Rechts- und Sozialwissenschaften (M.A.)
- seit 01/2017 Beraterin im Projekt TU4U | Individuelle Beratung rund ums Studium
- 2012-2017 Beratung von Studieninteressenten und Studierenden ohne Abitur an der WH Zwickau
- Weiterbildung zur Lernberatung an der Evangelischen Hochschule Nürnberg
- Weiterbildung zur Kompetenzbilanzierung (ProfilPASS)
- andere Aufgaben im Projekt:
- Study Skills Workshops im Lern|RAUM
- Professionalisierung der Beratung an der TU Chemnitz
- Koordination AG Beratung
Support for your Online and Self Studies
Studying and writing scientific papers can be lonely processes. This has become more challenging during the current situation. No matter whether you are studying at home using digitally provided materials or working on a writing project, there are many challenges to overcome. Missing routines, unfamiliar online tools, and procrastination traps at home can make work hard.
To support you, we have gathered advice for your studies at home. The following tips and guides are designed to help you start the writing process, stay organized during your self study, and master the summer term successfully. This advice is an extension of our counseling service. We are still here for you! You can reach us via telephone or e-mail or can find us in our webroom. Do not hesitate to contact us.
Studying at Home
Are you new to using digital media for studying and your professional communication? Switching to online studies is a challenge for both sides – students and lecturers. At the beginning you may have to find your way around and arrange with different approaches and tools of your teachers. This takes patience and initial difficulties are completely normal. See the current situation as an opportunity to deal with the digital possibilities and to strengthen your self-management skills. The digital teaching, which is often independent of time and location, offers you a lot of flexibility.
You can find an overview of all online classes in the course catalog: https://www.tu-chemnitz.de/verwaltung/vlvz/suche/?digital=1
Here are our university’s most important online tools that you should know:
- TU Chemnitz VPN Service: A VPN service offers you access to the university's campus network, even if you do not live on campus. You might need this to access digital library resources.
- Study Platform OPAL: Universities in Saxony use the learning management system OPAL - you will be able to find most online classes here. You can enroll in courses and download your study materials. Moreover, lecturers will communicate important information there. Further information and log in:
- Online Meeting Tool „BigBlueButton“: BigBlueButton is an open-source web conference system, which can be used for live online classes. The tool offers different webrooms, which TU members can use as common rooms, i.e., for streaming lectures and presentations or online meetings in virtual teams and study groups. Students receive an invitation for individual lecturers' sessions and they are able to reserve rooms.
You can find an overview of the individual eLearning tools used at TU Chemnitz here: https://www.tu-chemnitz.de/e-learning/tools.html
Other Online Tools
Aside from these tools, there is a broad selection of other options that can help you with studying and communication.
- Overview over the online tools of the Hochschulforum für Digitalisierung (German):
- Overview over online-supported study tools at universities (English):
Let's be honest, when studying at home, it is easy to stay in bed with your laptop or to stay in your PJs all day, and to get distracted by unimportant stuff.
Structures and Routines May Help
Structure your day and communicate your plans to your flatmates. This way, you are being held accountable and they can make sure to respect your plans.
- When do you work?
- When do you take longer breaks?
- When do you have free time?
Create rituals that you can cognitively connect with your work at home. Holding on to certain behaviors may help you organize your day, get ready for work, and actually start to work.
Here are a couple of examples:
- During self-study at home, there is often a lack of set appointments. Still, you should try to start your day around the same time each day and follow a similar structure. Take your shower, make breakfast, and then start to prepare your desk. That way you can get yourself into the right mindset to start working. Once you are done with everything you can start working without having wasted half the day.
- How are you dressed during your work session? Try to be professional and dress like you would for university.
- Set dedicated hours for your online study each week.
- Create the workspace for yourself. Ideally, it should be a quiet, bright, and tidy space - either a separate room or a quiet corner at the kitchen table.
Getting an Overview
Especially during online study sessions, you might get lost in the broad selection of materials provided by your lecturers. It is hard to gauge the workload, especially when you are enrolled in multiple online classes with several videos and documents.
You should try to create an overview of your learning material to orientate yourself. You could use a mind map to organize the core topics of a class or exam topic. The overview helps you keep track of the whole - it helps you organize the mountain of study materials. Moreover, you can orientate yourself so that you can easily allocate new knowledge or details later. Such a knowledge network can help you understand and retrieve study content.
- Which partial aspects belong to this topic?
- Can I see some sort of structure in the content?
- Which examples are pointed out?
- Which central questions are dealt with in the class?
Once you have visualized everything and have a grip on your study materials, you have a solid foundation for drafting a study plan as well as setting big and small study goals and steps.
Drafting a Study Plan
Just diving head-first into your work is not a good idea. You need goals and a plan to achieve them!
Planning means setting goals, breaking them down in milestones, and determining all needed steps, tasks, and deadlines. You can then take these building blocks to come up with a personalized plan - helping you get to your goals, stress-free, at your own pace.
Attention! A plan is just a plan. During counseling sessions, students often report a motivational low when they cannot keep up with their meticulously planned scheduled, e.g., when they've planned too much. An important function of plans is reducing your insecurities and the pressure associated with the task. This happens when you break down the task into steps, time frames, and partial goals. However, whilst you are working, unforeseen things might happen that might set you back in your plan. Therefore, you should always plan for enough time reserves and try to maintain a positive mindset. Don't get frustrated! A good plan is flexible, has time reserves, and leaves room for changes. Take time now and then to reflect on your progress, adapt your plan, and celebrate what you have already accomplished.
Useful questions for drafting a study plan:
- What is the goal for class x in this semester?
- Which topics do you have to work through? (Visual Overview)
- Which study materials are provided for those topics?
- How much time will you need approximately?
- Until when should each topic be finished?
- Do you need time to revise study materials for an exam?
- How are you going to reward yourself once you have reached (partial) goals?
Planning is important, but why?
- Planning study tasks makes it more likely that you will accomplish them, as planning is the first step towards implementation.
- Long-term goals (exam in four months, deadline at the end of the semester) are less motivating than short-term goals (calculate three different exercises, summarise chapter 1 & 2).
- Large tasks (working though 120 slides of a script, writing a 60-page thesis) can be paralyzing or overstraining. Keep in mind: Rome was not built in a day! Studying happens in small increments, which is why you need to break down large tasks into smaller ones. The task becomes more attainable and visible partial successes help you stay motivated and productive.
- The Parkinson Law claims that work takes just as long as time is available (and not how long you’d actually need for your tasks).
- Setting yourself deadlines increases your self-discipline and helps you get through the semester in a focused manner (without panicking a week before the deadline or exam).
Without clearly defined goals you run the danger of wandering around aimlessly (academically speaking) and you are missing out on the feeling of success. To stay motivated, there is no way around formulating precise goals, controlling your progress, and rewarding yourself.
The SMART method is designed to formulate clear and attainable goals. SMART is an acronym composed of the words specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based. In order to have an impact, goals should fulfill these five criteria.
Worksheet SMART method
To increase your level of commitment, you should visualize or write down your goals and put them up around your workspace so you can always have an eye on them.
Staying focused at home is a real challenge - it is easy to get sidetracked! The following advice is designed to help you stay focused on your work.
Choose the Right Workspace
Is your workspace at home suitable for work? Finding a good workspace is crucial for staying focused. Ideally, you can find somewhere away from your family or flatmates and where you can mentally prepare yourself for the day's work. This may either be a separate room or a quiet corner at the kitchen table. In order to keep your studies and your free time separate, it should not be a spot you usually fall asleep in or use for your hobbies.
Get Rid of Disturbances
Do you often waste time surfing the web or cleaning your desk again? You should take five to ten minutes to prepare your workspace to avoid getting distracted. Try to eliminate all disturbances: tidy cluttered areas, switch your phone to silent, close unimportant browser tabs, and prepare the stuff you actually need to work. Now you're ready! Those minutes before your work session can become your pre-work ritual to get yourself in the right headspace to tackle your work!
Worksheet Being Prepared
Worksheet Starting on Time
Keep Your Efficiency Rhythm in Mind
We are not equally efficient all day. When are you especially fit and when do you have your daily lunch low? If your self-study leaves you room to do so, try to organize your work phases according to your efficiency rhythm. A twenty-minute-session during your peak performance might get you much better results than forcing yourself through difficult materials for two hours during a low. Many people are the most productive during the first two hours after getting up, as the brain is very receptive at this time. Use it to study!
Take a Break!
Studying for hours until your brain is fried is not efficient. Periodic breaks are extremely important - your brain needs a break every now and then to process and store what you have studied.
Therefore, you should take a five-minute-break every thirty minutes. Get up, stretch your muscles, enjoy the fresh air on the balcony, or get yourself a snack before you continue. Most people need a longer break after (at most) four hours of work. Reduce your cognitive input during these breaks - exercise, take a walk or cook a meal with your flatmate. If you continue to take periodic breaks and regenerate yourself, you will be in a much better headspace for your studies.
One of the big challenges of self-study is caused by the lack of personal communication between lecturers and fellow students. It is especially this direct exchange in classes, study groups, or during lunch breaks that increases motivation and supports your study sessions. Therefore, it is important to plan enough time for communication with your peers and lecturers.
Communication with Lecturers
Even though it is not possible to visit office hours right now, lecturers are still happy to answer your questions. Find out how to get in touch with your lecturers and do contact them in a timely manner.
As most of the communication happens via e-Mail right now, your lecturers are receiving a lot of them. Therefore, it is important to clearly communicate your issues and statements. Choose a clear subject line (e.g., Feedback request: term paper topic seminar […]). Be concise and precise and have someone else read your text if you are insecure. This way you are set up for a successful communication without misunderstandings.
Moreover, we recommend using your TU Chemnitz e-mail address, as it is more official and more binding. Set up an e-mail forwarding service if needed.
Communication with Fellow Students
You may also keep in touch with your fellow students online in order to talk about study relevant questions. Online meetings, messenger services, or video conferences can help organize your study groups.
In order for a group to be productive (meaning no time is wasted on unimportant things), you should define a few group rules in the beginning. Here are a couple of examples:
- What is the group’s goal? Are you studying for an exam together or are you drafting up a presentation?
- Who is responsible for what? Is there a moderator? Does someone take minutes? Do these roles rotate within the group?
- What kind of content is shared? What kind of information must not be passed on (e.g., social media usernames, photos, personal data)?
- Do you wish to receive feedback from your group members? What are the feedback rules?
The current situation and the associated social and economic implications cause many people to be anxious or insecure with respect to their future. If you feel the same and are scared or have trouble dealing with the pressure right now, do take those feelings seriously and do not try to suppress them. Talk about your feeling with a person you trust or take advantage of psychological counseling services. Only when you face your emotions and learn coping mechanisms you can reach emotional stability again. If you are scared and anxious, you are not open to your studies or new study content. Should you need help or someone to talk to, the TU Chemnitz instated a psychological emergency and advice hotline.
More information: https://www.tu-chemnitz.de/tu/pressestelle/aktuell/10071
Have you ever planned to do something but just could not start? Have you ever procrastinated until it was (almost) too late? Has this happened to you more often? Is this something you are suffering from that you would like to change? Then this is just the right place for you to be! Here, we will help you by…
- …explaining what procrastination is
- …tell you how to analyze different procrastination phases
- …provide you with a first aid-kit against “procrastinitis”.
Once you are done here you are more than welcome to talk to one of our counselors about your individual procrastination behavior and gain more knowledge on the topic. Just set up an appointment by sending an e-mail to beratung4u@...
First things first: Procrastination does not equal laziness! Occasional procrastination is widespread and harmless. More precisely: Postponing tasks because of other tasks with higher priorities as well as working shortly before a deadline without subjectively suffering from it are habits most of us know. If other tasks come up that actually have a higher priority or temporal limitation, it is only logical to postpone an initial task in favor of the more important task. Moreover, postponing a task you cannot currently get done in hope of having a creative enlightenment at a later point is not intrinsically counterproductive.
How often do people procrastinate? Let’s look at the numbers::
|80 - 98% occasional procrastination -> problematic with approx. half of students||15 - 20% occasional procrastination -> variation according to diagnostics employed|
Interesting! Especially students seem to procrastinate. The issue is that about half of the student procrastinators have problems arising from this behavior. Should you also belong to those people that have procrastination-related issues: you are not alone!
More precisely, we only talk about procrastination once your postponing behavior has taken on pathological dimensions (let's talk about that more later) and external intervention is needed. Why do we point this out here? In this case, it would be negligent to simply provide you with some kind of self-help script and then leave you alone with the problem again. Therefore, we will assume different degrees of self-organization in this text.
Become acquainted with your inner couch potato! Procrastination, in its essence, encompasses the following:
- unnecessary postponing of essential or important tasks
- tasks do not get done or get done only after a long time (meaning it might already be “too late”)
- even though you have the opportunities and skills needed to get to the task, you do not start to work at it (N.B.: If your task is to build a space ship but you do not possess any technical know-how, you are simply incapable of starting the task)
- instead of actually getting to work, you constantly overthink the task
- you engage in many replacement actions, which promise a short-term and immediate pressure relief (this is the actual essence of procrastination!)
- in the long term, procrastination causes discomfort and can massively impact your mental health
- it can result in serious personal or professional consequences
The aversive nature of procrastination does not only become evident in the piles of tasks on your desks. In the long run, you are undermining your self-efficacy (i.e., your belief in yourself when it comes to efficiently mastering challenges), which can cause you to feel a sense of powerlessness (“I’m not doing what I actually wanted to so”), guilt, and self-depreciation. This is what we want to avoid!
If you are now wondering whether you should be worried about the extent of your postponing behavior, we would like to go ahead and say this: there is no general rule or a cut-off value. Procrastination (in its pathological form) is not a mental disorder in itself and is not a medically recognized illness. However, procrastination can be a symptom of another mental disorder, e.g., depression. Therefore it is imperative to take a close look at the causes and enabling conditions of procrastination and get to the bottom of your individual procrastination behavior (we'll talk about that later).
Here are some red flags you should keep in mind:
- You are suffering mentally and your mental health is impacted (anxiety, insecurity)
- Your procrastination behavior spills into other life areas (job, social relations)
- You are almost unable to tackle the tasks you need to get done (pushing back exams, presentations, term papers)
- You suffer from sleeping problems and have trouble focusing (potentially as a result of the constant mental struggle of procrastination)
“Diagnostic tools” (like the extensive self-test here: https://www.uni-muenster.de/Prokrastinationsambulanz/Angebote_Test.html - German) usually cover the following areas:
- How often do you postpone tasks?
- What is the extent of your aversion?
- Which replacement actions do you engage in?
Are you now wondering what these tests can do for you if there is no clear cut-off point? Well, they can help you get a realistic sense of your procrastination behaviors extent. Moreover, the result can make you realize you might need help (procrastination clinics, psychological advice) in order to find relief.
In order to understand why this behavior is so persistent, let us look at the following graphic:
Source: Konau, A. (2020) based on: www.jangoeritz.de/prokrastination-wieso-schieben-wir-dinge-vor-uns-her/
An unpleasant task causes discomfort. Humans (usually) strive to even out or reduce that feeling. Instead of getting to the actual task, people choose other, easier to attain actions that promise some sort of direct reward. These replacement actions might be small tasks like vacuuming the apartment, cleaning windows, or straightening your photo albums, that offer an immediate feeling of success. However, at the beginning and end of this cycle, the initial task continues to loom. We have successfully scammed ourselves by rewarding our procrastination behavior with the replacement actions' success and have therefore increased the likelihood of procrastination in the next instance.
- In order to take a closer look at procrastination, we should also examine the surrounding conditions that may increase the likelihood of procrastination behavior. Procrastination is likelier to happen when…
- …you do not believe in your future success
- … the conditions for the goal are not concise enough or the task is perceived as too big
- … the task is aversely connotated
- … you are impulsive and easy to distract
- … goals and rewards for this task are too far in the future.
Let's satisfy the eternal doubters: of course, there are people procrastinating again and again purely due to laziness. The difference to pathological procrastination, however, is the individual suffering caused by these behaviors (which also determines whether an intervention is needed).
We were also able to observe that real procrastinators are very active during their procrastination (apropos laziness!): even though they might not do the task they should be doing, they are actively engaging in other, relatively more pleasant tasks.
There is no relation to intelligence or skills, meaning smart people are not safe from these kinds of behaviors.
And, last but not least, to transition into the eagerly awaited first-aid-kit: forgive yourself and try to do things differently the next time! People that are able to forgive themselves and do not mentally hold on to their failures are more likely to successfully stop procrastinating than those who continue to overthink and engage in self-reproach.
First, take a moment to reflect:
- Which important task have you procrastinated (for a long time) and why?
- What helped you start the task and (ideally) successfully finish it?
Concrete measures for future endeavors:
- As crude as it might sound: Start! Stop wishing, start doing! The good news is: if you are currently using this web page in order to start being active and do not “abuse” it for procrastination, you have already taken the first step!
Worksheet: Starting on Time
- Engage in conscious self-reflection without trying to scam yourself and analyze past procrastination! Worksheet: Conscious Self-Reflection
- Prioritize tasks and write them down! In order to determine what is important and should be done first, the Eisenhower matrix is very useful.
- As soon as your tasks are priories, look at the scope of each task and break down large tasks!
Worksheet: Structuring Tasks
- Set up a weekly plan with concrete time frames and breaks!
- In that same vein, make realistic plans! Estimate the time needed for tasks and then double it so the panic does not paralyze you if you have not planned enough time. Another interesting and impactful technique (that does take a bit of practicing) is the work time restriction. However, this does not work when deadlines are close.
- Do not just sloppily phrase imprecise goals (“be done with it”), but use the SMART rule: Worksheet SMART-Method
- Preparation is everything: Remove distractions from your immediate workspace (if possible). One of the preceding phenomena of procrastination is the fact that you think you still have to prepare oh-so-much before you can begin. Try to figure out what is actually relevant and what makes you procrastinate the procrastination even more.
Worksheet Preparation is Everything
- As we have seen before, procrastination is fuelled by short-term goals, rewards, and positive feelings, even though you are procrastinating! Therefore, you need a reward system to reward your non-procrastination. For instance, you could drop a button into a bowl for every successful 20-minute work unit. Once you've reached ten buttons in the bowl, you can watch one episode of your favorite TV show (token system). However, it is important that you do not subtract points or tokens, as this will just increase the feelings of guilt you are already struggling with. Moreover, you should try to see a setback and an opportunity and not as a reason to stop trying.
- If the task allows for it, consider forming a study group with other students. If your social relationships permit, you can get your partner, flatmate, mother or father involved and ask them to quiz you about the content of each step once you are done.
- In order to stay objective during your analysis, we recommend keeping a work diary along the lines of a target-performance-comparison. You can use it to derive implications for the following work units.
Worksheet Work Diary DE
While procrastinating, *uh*, researching, we found this great website that we do not want to keep from you (even though there is, of course, a lot more material out there): https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/03/procrastination-matrix.html
Support for your Writing Projects
Generally speaking, the more systematic, the more reflective the topic is (help: exposé) and the better the introduction, the lower the risk that the work process stalls:
Planning Short Work Units
Especially at the start of the scientific writing process, it is advisable to begin with short but regular work units. If you spend time working on your project each day (thinking about topic ideas, researching, literature research, developing your argumentation), you will need little time to familiarize yourself with the respective unit, as your work status and the contents are still on your mind from the previous unit. Moreover, it is often easier to motivate yourself for short working hours (e.g. one hour) than for a long working day. Pressure increases and motivation decreases often when students try to organize a working day and cut out all other activities. The pressure to perform on that day tends to be so high that only a fraction of what could be done actually ends up being done. One or two "short" work phases per day are usually more productive. It is easier to avoid distractions and to focus on the essentials. A reward system (e.g. after this hour I will treat myself to...) can provide additional motivation. If you feel like you can continue working, you can extend the time as you wish. In the course of your work process, as you dive deeper into your topic, you will find it easier and easier to extend your work periods.
One way to plan and implement short work units is the Pomodoro technique. You can find instructions and tips for implementation here: Download worksheet Pomodoro
It is always easier to start a work unit when the goal is clear. Goals can be final actions (Today I am going to create an outline; Today I am going to read and excerpt contribution X thoroughly), however, at the beginning of the project, they can also be less concrete ideas for action (Today I am going to think about my topic, today I am going to check a few subject databases and see what I can find in research contributions).
Creating a work plan may help. The plan does not necessarily have to contain time-defined points (this can lead to pressure and demotivation), but it can list all the essential steps and sub-steps. Ticking these off after having done the work can be motivating.
Once you have finished a work unit, it is worthwhile to invest a few more minutes to prepare the next session: What were the open questions/problems of this work unit? How can they be addressed? At which point did it go well and where can you easily pick up work again? What could be the goal for the next unit? It may be helpful for your writing process to write transitions to the next chapter or paragraph, at least in keywords.
One tool to facilitate building such bridges can be, for example, a work diary. In it, you can reflect on the work process and note down ideas, thoughts, problems, open questions, and postponed work steps.
If it is not common practice in your department to issue topics, it is up to you to develop a suitable topic for the given scope of your work.
- Review all materials provided during the class (worksheets, readers, literature, your notes).
- Start brainstorming: collect all terms that look interesting or relevant to you (associatively).
- Create clusters: which terms belong together? - Work Sheet Finding a Topic
- Create a mind map: Order the collected terms by visualizing relations and dependencies between them by drawing lines.
- What fits together and how does the relationship look?
- Which terms can be described with an umbrella term? Which term do other terms relate to?
- Which group of terms is larger and more branched than the others?
- Relating to which group of terms can you phrase a first title?
- Can you formulate a first research question for a group of terms?
- Decide on a potential topic!
- Review your decision! A good topic:
- Is interesting to you and you can see yourself working with it for a long time
- Can be implemented within the scope (pages) and the academic requirements
- You may limit your topic (temporal, spatial, according to aspects or institutions) as long as you can justify your limitations
- Is useful with regards to your professional perspectives and goals
- Is too personal, meaning you cannot work on it objectively and neutrally
- Is so popular right now that the state of research is hard to gauge, and you run the danger of not getting any new research results
- Requires you to work with sources that are hard to access
- Requires you to use a method you are not familiar with
- Is too abstract to phrase a clear research question or to find your way into
The research question is the central theme of your work depending on your discipline, other terms used might be research problem or research interest. A question is not always needed, theses and problems may be phrased as well. The goal of your work is to find an answer to your question through results and thus to contribute to the relevant research area. Each chapter represents a step in the process of answering your research question.
You can approach the phrasing of your question (how, why, what, which) with simple (H)W-questions.
- Which causes does… have?
- Which measures could be useful?
- How does… develop?
- How are … and … related?
- Why do… need…?
- What does… mean?
A good research question:
- Can be answered within the scope of your work
- Is relevant (Can you justify why it is important to answer this question/research this topic?)
- Can be specified into sub-questions
A bad research question:
- Is phrased unclearly
- Contradicts itself
- Is based on wrong presumptions
- Does not lead to an answer
The development and reflection of your topic and research question can be supported by consulting a second person. In the consultation on scientific work and writing, questions are used to guide and examine the development of the research question.
Once you are satisfied with your topic and your research question‘s phrasing, you can start with your first literature research and start drafting the outline.
N.B.: It is recommended to consult with your work’s supervisor at this point (but no later than after having drafted the working outline).
If you have worked with the mind map method, you already have a first overview of the dependency relationships of key terms. Based on your previous work on the mind map, you may already be able to guess an outline.
The research question is the starting point of your outline. Everything you need to find an answer to has to be part of your work and therefore has to find its place within a chapter.
There are two ways to answer a research question:
- (1) deductive: a superordinate theory is applied to a concrete case
- (2) inductive: a general theory or conclusion is derived from a concrete observation or assumption
In any case, your outline needs to have a logical structure, i.e. your chapters and subchapters build on each other in a pyramid shape.
For this, there are clear rules and requirements: Download worksheet outline
- Ask yourself the following: What do I need to do first to solve my problem? What do I need next? …
Example (greatly simplified):
To answer the question about the influence of X on Y, I must first define X and Y. Then I can use a theoretical basis (previous research contributions on X and Y) to identify possible influencing factors. Afterward, I can initiate an investigation myself and in the course of this, I can check the previously defined influencing factors.
- From this, draft a rough working outline. Generally speaking, the following building blocks are needed:
- The definition of chapters results in corresponding sub-chapters.
- Reflect your outline by questioning the function and objective of each chapter concerning the research question.
No method or instruction makes creating an outline easier. It is important that you know how you wish to structure your work from the beginning on (even if parts may change and get rearranged during the course of the work process). The outline is not only an orientation for the reader in the form of the table of contents, but it is also your orientation in the writing process.
Counseling on scientific work and writing can help you to create and reflect on your outline.
Reviewing scientific contributions on your topic is not a separate step. Even before or at the beginning of the topic search, it may help to get an overview of the relevant research landscape, develop ideas for a topic from it, and/or place the topic in its research context.
Get an overview by selecting keywords related to your topic and conducting an initial search via the university library catalog and the relevant subject databases. This will give you an overview of what is available in the library (OPAC catalog) and what articles exist on your topic (subject databases) - many articles have now been digitized and are therefore accessible online. These PDF documents (usually) can be treated like a printed version (source reference, bibliography).
N.B.: You will need to use the university VPN service to access e-books and digital resources: VPN-Zugang
Reference: The Chemnitz University Library offers classes, e-learning and specialized research counseling. They also offer counseling on literature management software. Here.
Based on the tables of contents and by cross-reading the contributions, you can decide which monographs, articles, essays, etc. might be relevant for your work. In the beginning, the selection seems to be large. However, in the course of your writing process, your literature selection will inevitably be narrowed down. As a rule, you will have a large amount of orientation and overview literature and a small number of contributions with which you will work more intensively within the framework of your argumentation.
Important: Check the scientific character of your sources. You can check this with the help of the source apparatus/reference system (has the article been cited in other articles and is there a bibliography?), the publisher (has the article been published by a scientific publishing house?), and the author (does the author have an academic background?).
- After you have made your selection, it is imperative to manage your literature, i.e. to preserve all necessary data for you to be able to trace any citations you might use. There is literature management software (see university library), which is especially suitable for larger projects (master or doctoral thesis). When writing a term paper, it often suffices to note the most important information (i.e., using flashcards) of sources you want to cite (author, title, publisher, year, if applicable: edition and page numbers).
You can find in-depth advice on the handling of literature, reading, and citing on the TU4U academic writing and working website: Here
You can find a small selection of academic text types here: Download handout academic text types
Basic advice on citing can be found here: Download handout citations
Our counseling for scientific writing and working is available for further or more specific questions regarding the handling of scientific literature and how to cite.
The writing phase begins during or after the literature research and reception. In some subject areas or within the framework of some topics, data collection and evaluation are carried out at this point. Alternatively, you will deal with a different subject of investigation and the corresponding methodology. Afterward or parallel to this, the actual writing process begins.
If you have worked in a structured manner beforehand, your outline has already been worked out in detail, your literature has been thoroughly prepared and your approach and line of argumentation are already recognizable (to you), the writing process can proceed quickly and effectively. However, this is rarely the case, especially in larger writing projects. Writing is a complex process consisting of several levels (content, structure, form, style, and grammar). Therefore, there’s always a chance for you to encounter difficult phases in the course of writing.
To improve writing skills, a variety of writing methods have been developed that you may apply during different parts of your writing process have been developed. As writing is a highly individual process, not every method is suitable for every writer.
Systemic development and improvement of your writing skills, as well as the resolution of writer’s block, requires long-term didactic guidance through writing consultations. During these counseling sessions writing methods catered to your processes and difficulties can be tried, instructed or adapted. Texts can be checked concerning style and structure and may be reflected together.
In the following, only a few broadly applicable methods and tips for improving your writing process are introduced.
- Get a pen and a piece of paper or open up a new document on your computer, depending on what you are more comfortable with.
- Jot down the following questions (you may change those to content or research-related questions):
- What do I want to achieve today? / What is my daily goal?
- What steps are necessary to achieve my goal?
- Where do I start?
- What is going to be easy? What is going to be hard?
The first question is your leading question and is both reason and content of the text you are going to write.
The other questions are designed to support you while writing the text, should your writing stall.
- You now have five minutes (you may increase this time after a couple of tries) to write – your thoughts should be guided by the previously noted questions. Just write, do not focus on style, grammar, comprehensiveness, logical argumentation, etc. You only need to focus on your guiding question, everything else is irrelevant. So go ahead, do not think! Write!
- Now read what you have written on „autopilot”.
- Highlight the sections that you deem to be the most important ones.
- Extract and write the most important statements.
Targeted writing is a relaxation exercise and may help guide you into your work process. Once ritualized, it can ring in and support the daily writing process. As a positive effect, the writer gains more confidence in “unreflected” writing, as they realize that they are capable of producing a decent text without thinking about style, grammar, logic, etc. – or at least something they can work with.
With these results on hand, you can now start your day and your work.
Phrasing key points or partial statements:
To break down the complex writing process, you can focus on content and sequencing only first.
- Note down the objective of your next chapter or paragraph (i.e., present state of the research, provide arguments for X, present contradictory research results with own conclusions).
- Do not focus on phrasing, style, etc., but only jot down relevant statements.
- Order these statements logically.
- Only now should you formulate complete sentences.
If you struggle with scientific writing, you can also change the medium or text type. Write a text-based on oral sources (for example in letter form) or record yourself reading your text. By writing as you speak, you avoid focusing on the requirement of producing a scientific text. Sometimes it is easier to edit an existing text than having to deal with the pressure of producing a perfect text at the first try.
You can find advice on scientific writing styles here: Download handout scientific language
Reflecting the Text:
- Write a review. Focus on ambiguities, argumentation gaps, and problematic aspects of your work, but also emphasize the well-implemented aspects.
- Present your work to friends. This forces you to focus on the most critical results and argumentations. External people often have an easier time noticing ambiguities and fallacies, as you yourself are in too deep.
- Review your work, chapter, paragraphs, and sentences concerning their content (What do I wish to communicate with XY? Have I actually communicated that?). This helps you spot redundant passages and phrases.
Revisions should only be commenced after you have created a certain distance to your text. Moreover, it might be advantageous to have another person proofread your text concerning argumentation coherence or style, as you yourself might get "text blind" over time.
During the writing process, it can be advantageous to split the individual text layers and conduct several read-throughs.
- Reading for structure and content:
- First, read quickly to grasp the general gist of the text --> Where are comprehension gaps? Are the central statements clear? Is something nonessential and should be cut out?
- Now read slower and focus on form and structure --> Does the text flow nicely? Is there a central theme you are following? Do the transitions work? Is the structure logical?
- Reading for scientific merit: citations, sources, jargon, references.
- Reading for style and grammar, check references and transitions, cut out redundancies, check for clarity and preciseness of words and sentences
Criteria relevant to your evaluation besides content can be found here: Download handout evaluation criteria