What is considered scientific

Bibliography and the source chaos

Definition: bibliography

The bibliography identifies other people's thoughts and separates them from your own. It can be checked where each quotation used comes from and to which author it can be traced back. The quintessence of scientific work is to create something new based on the results and preliminary considerations of others. The personal contribution consists of skillfully incorporating other people's ideas into one's own argumentation and using them as evidence.

The bibliography must be immediately after the quotation and it refers directly to the bibliography at the end. Depending on the convention, references can be found either in footnotes or in round brackets directly in the running text. Some citation systems require the full specification, while others use a short form for economy, referring directly to the full form in the bibliography relates.

frequently asked Questions

With a bibliography you give all important information of a source. This information differs depending on whether you are citing a book, an internet article, or an academic article. This procedure is independent of the citation style you choose.

TIP:In our blog posts we show you exactly how you can cite correctly.

The German way of citing is characterized by the fact that you do not use references as you do with APA or the Harvard citation style in the text, but with footnotes. However, the scope of the bibliography is independent of the citation style.

Example:Andermann, Ulrich, Martin Drees & Frank Götz. 2006.How to write scientificWork?3rd edition Mannheim: Dudenverlag.

Which citation style is suitable for your scientific work depends on your field of study. A distinction can be made between citation styles in the text (Harvard, APA) and the German citation (Footnotes). In the humanities and linguistics, the German citation style is particularly used. Economics often uses the Harvard citation style, while social sciences typically use APA.

Video tutorial on citation

In this video you get Bianca from our doctoral student in 5 minutes Useful explanations of the references and information on how to recognize citable sources for the bachelor thesis or master thesis.

What is a Quotable Source?

Before one can deal with how to cite correctly, one must ask oneself what can be cited at all, i.e. which sources are recognized as scientific when citing the literature. Of course, it is clear to everyone that scientific factual knowledge cannot be found in fairy tale books, novels or tabloid magazines that deal with the love life of stars and starlets. Nevertheless, one should be aware of the types of scientific sources, including those that are available in electronic form, and how one can identify these different sources from a literature citation.

First of all, it is important to clarify what citability means, where the gray area is and which sources are not in the House work, bachelor thesis or master thesis should be quoted. “Publicly accessible scientific papers and official statistics can be quoted without restriction” (Krämer 2009: 142). So the basic requirement is that it is a scientific source or scientifically recognized sources, published by scientific publishers and written by scientists who are active in the respective subject area.

Tip: Writing a bachelor thesis with examples

Tip: It is generally recommended to use books (textbooks, handbooks, specialist dictionaries, individual titles, anthologies) to understand a topic and then to deepen the basic knowledge by reading specialist articles in specialist journals, because these deal with specific issues and are even more detailed (see Brauner & Vollmer 2004: 97).

The following overview lists the citable literature sources for scientific papers such as the bachelor thesis, master thesis or dissertation; Of course, it may also be necessary to use statistics or information from ministries etc. in addition to books and specialist journals. Particularly in the legal field, one invokes legal texts for the drafting of legal opinions, accordingly these must also be cited.

Lück & Henke also state that it is fundamentally possible to quote “something from the reader understood and checked [Emphasis on the author] can be: words, clauses (passages) and sentences from scientifically recognized literature, but also legal texts, ordinances, guidelines, comments, published statistics, reports from associations, banks ”(2009: 67). Above all, it is emphasized that it must be easy to check at any time where foreign ideas come from and whether they have been correctly adopted. This guarantees the scientific nature of a work and its validity. Of course, not all of the sources listed are used in every subject area, but you get an overview of what can / should be used as a reference source in scientific papers.

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Overview of scientific, citable sources for the citation of the literature

(Brauner & Vollmer 2004: 98)

Note: Citability also means that the sources are published and easy to find. Therefore: "Sources such as oral information, unpublished term papers, study papers and diploma theses or lecture scripts that can hardly be obtained by third parties are therefore not quotable or only in special cases" (Rossig & Prätsch 2005: 122).

Indications of citable sources for the citation of the literature

Samac, Prenner & Schwetz have created a catalog with reference points, which is helpful in recognizing whether the literature used is also scientific; It is also pointed out that the level of awareness of the author is not necessarily the decisive factor (cf. 2009: 93):

Reference points for scientific workReference points for content-relevant work
Correct citationRecognized publisher
Detailed ReferencesIndication of recognized sources
Scientificity in the reasoningArticles in anthologies by well-known editors
Correctly conducted empiricismJournal articles

It becomes clear that the selected source must itself follow the guidelines for writing scientific papers.

Tip: It is always advisable to stick to the books and specialist journals made available by the university library (be it in book form or digitally as e-books or in the form of online journals in certified databases of the university). Here one can assume that these are scientific sources and that they correspond to the above indications.

Wikipedia as a scientific source?

Wikipedia, archenemy of science for unquotable sources. After it has become clear which sources are generally quotable, one should also be aware of what is not quotable and what the reason for this is. Not quotable does not mean that it is a personal decision to what extent one should quote information, but simply that one should not name the source of this information, e.g. B. if it is general knowledge or can be found in conversation encyclopedias (cf. Stickel-Wolf & Wolf 2013: 230).

Franck exaggerates this even further with the statement: “Quotations should not embarrassing be ”, because everyone knows that the earth is not flat and television is a mass medium (2004: 296). Furthermore, nothing has to be quoted that is used as basic knowledge in the respective subject area, for example in an economics thesis it is not necessary to quote the term "profit" (only if the thesis is specifically designed for this aspect and If different definitions are compared, this may be necessary) (cf. Stickel-Wolf & Wolf 2013: 230).

It is essential to note: The Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia is by no means quotable. This should never be used for lectures and presentations in the scientific field, as it is dubious. “There is something in it about most topics, but not always the right thing” (Krämer 2009: 142). So definitely hands off! You can certainly get a first rough impression of something there, but you can never take quotations!

In addition, “the so-called trivial literature (e.g. magazines), lecture notes and Seminar papersand final theses, as these thoughts that have been developed elsewhere are compiled ”(Stickel-Wolf & Wolf 2013: 230). Magazines and newspapers (the vast majority of them, especially BILD, Bunte, Bild der Frau etc.) do not, of course, fall into the field of science. Lecture notes are also critical, as these are not always fully quoted and are intended more as a learning summary than as a true source of facts for quotations. In addition, opinions differ as to the extent to which information from conversations and discussions may be quoted, but because of the difficult traceability one should exercise caution here (cf. Stickel-Wolf & Wolf 2013: 230). The written word still offers the greatest security.

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Important: Even if magazines or newspapers are viewed as untrustworthy sources, there is one exception, namely when they are the subject of the investigation and are therefore primary sources. For example a Thesis about "misogyny in women's magazines" or a master thesis on the “personalization of social conditions in tabloids” (cf. Franck 2004: 296).

Uncertainty factor internet sources: why caution is advised here

Finally, a few words about internet sources. Of course, it is not forbidden to use sources from the Internet for the term paper or master's thesis. However, it is always best not to quote from the Internet, as these sources are uncertain and it is your responsibility to assess how serious they are, also in consultation with the supervisor (cf. Samac, Prenner & Schwetz 2009: 94 ). Internet sources can change over time, so the date of the last access must be given. We also recommend a printout or screenshot that can be attached to the work. As above, it is also legitimate to have a Quote internet sourceif it is the subject of the investigation. All in all, one can say: only use internet sources as an exception, because they should always be used with caution!

The general rule: General knowledge and what can be seen as part of general education is never quoted! We all know that water freezes when temperatures drop below zero. Because “Quotes shouldn't embarrassing be: 'The earth is not flat', 'Television is a mass medium' "is nothing new to anyone, just as little one cites" what is trivial: All people have to die "(Franck 2004: 296).

Overview of non-citable sources

  • Wikipedia
  • watch TV
  • Lecture notes
  • Trivial literature (e.g. magazines)
  • Information from conversations and discussions (questionable)

Understand literature references for a perspective in the source chaos

Now that the difference between citable and non-citable sources has become clearer, let's turn to citable sources again. The above overview lists all citable sources and you have surely noticed that they are diverse. In addition to books, there are also collections of articles, individual articles can be found in specialist journals, etc.

The entries in the Bibliographies and many lecturers assume as a basic knowledge that students look for sources themselves using a literature list provided by them. Especially at the beginning of their studies, many are unaware of the different types of sources (and the different places in which they can be found). Here is an overview with the most important sources and a description for “deciphering” various references and where to look specifically. Experienced students are welcome to skip this part.

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Example: bibliography of books (monographs)

Example: Bibliography of articles in books (anthologies)

Example: Bibliography for journals

Tip: The title page and the imprint page (the first page, when you open a book with the title itself, behind it is the imprint page) provide all the information necessary to create the bibliography. You should never only rely on the cover or the information in the library's online catalog, they can be incorrect / not up-to-date (cf. Andermann, Drees & Grätz 2006: 101). Therefore, it is best to always copy these two pages at the same time in order to save yourself the hassle of having to research again later.

Bibliography information from the title page of a book

Information for bibliography from the imprint page of a book


  • Scientific sources that serve as the basis for quotations for scientific papers are of different nature; Already during the research it becomes apparent that a book is cited differently than, for example, a magazine article.
  • It is important to be aware of which sources are considered citable and how to find them: while books can be found in the catalog of the university library, one has to search for articles in digital databases.
  • If one speaks of a citable source, one essentially means that it has been published publicly and is easily accessible; everyone can check where the quotes come from, that is the basic idea behind it.
  • In addition to specialist books, encyclopedias and articles from specialist journals, public statistics and laws can also be cited (depending on the need and subject area).
  • The internet source Wikipedia is not quotable! There you can find something on almost all topics, but it is not a scientific source.
  • In addition, any form of trivial literature is not quotable (unless this is the "object of investigation").
  • Internet sources themselves are to be treated with caution: They are not completely vilified as not quotable, but they should be used as sparingly as possible, as “nothing is set in stone” on the Internet and some information is difficult to verify.


Andermann, Ulrich, Martin Drees & Frank Götz. 2006. How to write scientific Work? 3rd edition Mannheim: Dudenverlag.

Brauner, Detlef Jürgen & Hans-Ulrich Vollmer. 2004. Successful scientific work - Seminar paper Diploma thesis PhD thesis. Sternenfels: Publishing house science and practice.

Franck, Norbert. 2004. Scientific work manual. Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag.

Kramer, Walter. 2009. How do I write a term paper or thesis? 3rd edition Frankfurt: Campus.

Lück, Wolfgang, Michael Henke. 2009. Technique of scientific work - seminar paper, diploma thesis, dissertation. 10th edition. Oldenbourg Published by München.

Rossig, Wolfram E. & Joachim Prätsch. 2005. Scientific work. 5th edition. Weyhe: PRINT-TEC.

Samac, Klaus, Monika Prenner & Herbert Schwetz. 2009. The bachelor thesis at the university and University of Applied Sciences. Vienna: Facultas.

Stickel-Wolf, Christine & Joachim Wolf. 2013. Scientific work and learning techniques - Study successfully - know how! 7th edition Wiesbaden: Springer Gabler.

about the author

Bianca Mohr

Bianca Mohr (M. A.) is a doctoral candidate and research assistant at the University of Erfurt. During her studies at the University of Würzburg, she worked as a tutor and was able to gain years of experience in giving students an introduction to scientific work and providing personal advice. She is doing her doctorate in the field of "early bilingualism". She also holds seminars for Bachelor students on the topics of early multilingualism and early second language acquisition. Ms. Mohr gives scientific guidelines on the subject of "Writing theses".