What does relevance mean in my subject?

What you are writing about should be of academic relevance and deal with current topics of your discipline. 'Of academic relevance' means that the topic is important for your discipline, and possibly also for yourself. You can see that a topic is relevant for your discipline if it has, for instance, been addressed in the context of your study, e.g. in special seminars. Your supervisor can help you assess its relevance. The content and relevance of your paper result from the combination of your chosen theory, method and research question.

At the start of the writing process, it may be difficult to answer the question as to how relevant your paper actually is. By reading up on secondary sources in greater detail you will be able to increasingly narrow down your topic. This will, at the same time, enable you to assess the relevance of your paper more precisely.


The better your overview of your discipline is, the easier it will be for you to select a relevant topic. Here are things you can do to identify current trends and key research areas:

  1. Scan the topics that your seminar teachers and your supervisors have recently covered.
  2. Seminars and lectures also indicate what topics are relevant at the moment. Current trends in your discipline are also discussed in recent issues of specialised journals or edited volumes.
  3. Lectures and the bibliographies listed in the individual seminars can also be a good source of inspiration.
  4. Generally speaking, you can ask the following questions:
  • What topics are treated in my discipline?
  • What relationships, actors, institutions, materials, observations, etc. do I want to study?
  • What subarea of my discipline does my topic come from?
  • What theoretical approaches in my discipline do I know?
  • What is the objective of my paper?