What characteristics affect scientific research

German studies advisory portal

Approaches to the term "science"

The number of definitions of terms used in science is large, here you will find a - non-representative, subjective - selection:

  • "Science: an ordered, consequently structured, coherent area of ​​knowledge" (Wahrig-Burfeind 2010: 1666).
  • Science: "Objective, of the epitome of general truths founded on one another, whereby science differs from art in that it contains merely principles of practice, but those general truths founded on one another". (Adoration 1970: 1582)1)
    scientific: "in the manner of a science, d. i. in general truths grounded in one another. The scientific knowledge which reduces the individual things to general concepts, and sees their reasons and connections; to the difference from the merely historical, which only knows that the individual things are there, and at most how they are there. "
  • "Designation of a learned disciplin" (Grimm 1971: 781).
  • "Methodology, freedom from prejudice, freedom from values, verifiability and verification of every statement, possibility of criticism and intersubjectivity" (www.wissen.de [last accessed: 2015-09-04]).

Chalmers (2007) provides a good overview of various theories of science.

Science versus sciences

Apart from the fact that there is obviously no uniform, generally valid definition of science, the above statements on the subject also raise the question of whether it is the Science there. Because the statements refer to very different areas of application: to individual (specialist) areas or disciplines or to the overriding, general "area of ​​knowledge". It is possible that there are also numerous, different sciences that stand side by side. In order to clarify this at least approximately, it is advisable to take a look at typical characteristics of scientific work:

Characteristics of academic work (alphabetical order)

  • Falsifiability: Hypotheses must always be formulated in such a way that they can be checked and, if necessary, refuted. For example, normative sentences (“You shouldn't kill.”) Or tautological sentences that combine all conceivable possibilities (“Speakers in German replace genitive objects with phrases in the dative, or they don't”) cannot be falsified. On the other hand, statements that can be checked by observation ("All speakers of German replace genitive objects with phrases in the dative.") Are falsifiable.
  • Formulation of an interest in knowledge: In principle, scientific work must pursue the goal of generating (scientific) knowledge. In addition to the formulation of hypotheses and key questions, this also includes the accuracy in processing, the critical questioning of existing findings and a healthy skepticism when dealing with the results of others. In any case, this also involves taking into account the current state of research on the object of investigation.
  • Intersubjectivity:2) Neutrality and objectivity in scientific work; Inclusion of various positions on the subject of research - the findings must also be comprehensible to others, regardless of personal opinion and their own point of view. Occasionally this is also used by objectivity spoken; see for example the definition by Adelung (1970) above. However, since science is always carried out by individuals, this term is in our opinion inappropriate - subjective perspectives are always introduced into scientific work (e.g. already through the selection of a research topic), so objectivity is not only not given, it is simply impossible. To work scientifically, however, it is essential to become aware of your own point of view and reflect on it - this is the only way you can actually work in a neutral and objective manner. - An essential aspect of this feature is an implicit publication requirement: Scientific knowledge must be published in a suitable form so that it can be subjected to an intersubjective examination.
  • Reliability: The reliability of a scientific paper is measured primarily by its formal accuracy (by excluding interference and random factors in measurements); In our opinion, this is also where the methodological transparency is to be located. Above all, this includes describing the methodological procedure as precisely as possible, reflecting on the methods used, documenting and disclosing all sources and data (texts, surveys, experiments / studies, simulations, observations, etc.) - these sources and data must be traceable and so that they can also be subject to a review.
  • Transparency and verifiability: In addition to the already mentioned aspects of methodical transparency and the documentation of sources and data, this also includes the structured approach: Scientific work and the presentation of knowledge or knowledge processes follow a logical order, arguments are clearly presented. In addition, scientific representations follow certain conventions (rules and norms) - for example, compliance with guidelines, formalities and the appropriate use of technical language (terminology, graphic display systems in mathematics, etc.).
  • validity: The statements made with an investigation / study must be reliable. This can, for example, relate to the number of texts in a corpus and the range of the statements to be made with them: If you infer a general tendency towards the use of written regionalisms in all regional short stories based on a corpus of five regional short stories, then one is not special well-founded assumption - the validity of the statement could rightly be questioned. The method used must therefore examine / measure what is also to be examined - the examination of a representative, well-structured corpus can certainly lead to general statements about the type of text examined.
    In the case of investigations, it must also be ensured by choosing the appropriate method that the results relate to the object of investigation. Disruptive factors must be identified and eliminated or - if that is not possible - taken into account when evaluating the results. This applies, for example, to the so-called observer paradox, which goes back to Labov (1971: 147ff.), Who formulated it for the investigation of spoken language, but which in German studies plays a role in all empirical studies in which interaction or Communication through a third person is observed.

So there is no single definition of the term science, but there are a number of characteristics that describe what is used in scientific work must be guaranteed. Looking at these features, it becomes clear that they all belong to a higher-level, more abstract concept of science (“science” as a higher-level, non-concretized entity). In this respect, these characteristics also apply to German studies - we deal with the subject-specific conventions in the tutorial.

Single scienceen The only concretizations of this abstract term appear here in the subject-specific conventions, i.e. certain guidelines, formalities, terminologies and possibly graphic display systems. Subject-specific information - i.e. for German linguistics, German medieval studies and modern German literary studies - can also be found in the corresponding courses; Usually the proseminars are the place where you deal with it more intensively.

Consequences for scientific work in German studies

If you transfer the above Features now referring to German studies, there are the following requirements for scientific work in the subject:



  • Adelung, Johann Christoph (Ed.) (1970): Grammatical-critical dictionary of the High German dialect with constant comparison of the other dialects, but especially the Upper German. 2. Increased and improved edition. Leipzig, Hildesheim, New York
    available online: http://www.woerterbuchnetz.de. [Status: April 20, 2015]
  • Chalmers, Alan F. (2007): Paths of Science. Introduction to the philosophy of science. Edited and translated by Niels Bergmann and Christine Altstötter-Gleich. Sixth, improved edition. Heidelberg
  • Labov, William (1971): The Study of Language in a Social Context. In: Klein, Wolfgang / Dieter Wunderlich (1971) (Ed.): Aspects of Sociolinguistics. With the collaboration of Norbert Dittmar. Pp. 123-206
  • True-Burfeind, Renate (Ed.) (2010): True. German dictionary. 8th edition Gütersloh, Munich

Further literature and information