Standard work

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Standard work or standard literature is the designation for works whose meaning within the respective field of knowledge there is a broad internal technical consensus. They represent either the communis opinio or a particularly influential school of thought and are an indispensable point of reference when dealing with a particular topic.


The generally recognized contents of standard works ensure the continuity of the subject. Standard works “reduce the subject-related knowledge” and enable easier “participation in communication” of the subject. They thus fulfill an important function for the canonicalization of knowledge, since they create a connection to institutions "that transfer the canonized knowledge into their everyday contexts". In addition, standard literature fulfills a central purpose in the creation of scientific papers. It is used to present the fundamentals of the subject area being worked on, which can then be built on - for example via in-depth literature, current results from the Internet or empirical analysis (carried out by yourself). This also applies if one intends to deviate from the communis opinio . That is why it is a fundamental prerequisite for any scientific work to build on the broadest possible (which does not necessarily mean: quantitatively large) base of standard literature. In this context, the quality of the literature on which it is based is decisive.


Standard works are often known in their fields by the names of their authors. The designation of a standard work after the family name of its original author or editor is usually retained because of its popularity (and in honor of the scientist concerned) even if the work has been so fundamentally revised in the meantime (possibly even several times) that actually only very much Little of the original content is available and therefore hardly anything comes from the eponymous author.


For example, the Etymological Dictionary of the German Language , published in 24 editions since 1915, is referred to as the standard work of German linguistics and the standard work on the etymology of the German language. In oriental studies , the Arabic dictionary by Hans Wehr , an extensive Arabic-German dictionary, is considered a standard work, even outside the German-speaking area. In mathematics, the book Algebraic Geometry by Robin Hartshorne is regarded as the standard work of modern algebraic geometry . All three works are known in their subject areas by the names of their authors, the etymological dictionary as “the clever”, after its first editor Friedrich Kluge , the Arabic dictionary as “the defense”, the mathematical textbook as “the hard horn” or “that Hartshorne's Book ”.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Klaus-Michael Bogdal : Knowledge canon and canon knowledge. Literary standard works in times of disciplinary change ( MS Word ; 162 kB). Text + criticism. Journal of Literature, 2002
  2. Alois Hahn: Canonization styles In: A. Assmann, J. Assmann (ed.): Canon and censorship. P. 32. Quoted from Klaus-Michael Bogdal: Wissenskanon und Kanonwissen. Literary standard works in times of disciplinary change ( MS Word ; 162 kB). Text + criticism. Zeitschrift für Literatur, 2002, p. 37.
  3. Elke Hentschel, Harald Weydt: Handbook of German grammar. 3rd edition, W. de Gruyter, 1990, ISBN 978-3-11-011596-3 , p. 453 ( limited preview in the Google book search).
  4. Majed F. Saʿid: Review of "A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic" by Hans Wehr . In: Language. 38, No. 3, 1962, pp. 328-330, JSTOR 410799 .
  5. ^ W. Hackbusch, HR Schwarz, Eberhard Zeidler, Ilja N. Bronstein: Teubner - Taschenbuch der Mathematik. 2nd edition. Vieweg + Teubner Verlag, 2003, ISBN 978-3-519-20012-3 , p. 1257 ( limited preview in the Google book search).