Dissertation - research phase

Once you have satisfied the formal prerequisites and have been accepted on to a doctoral programme, you can start work on your dissertation. The dissertation is the core of your doctoral degree and the most important piece of work you will produce for this degree. It is usually written as a monograph which is a comprehensive, self-contained treatment of a research topic.

The main focus of the dissertation is agreed with the supervisor. But of course the candidate is responsible for planning and carrying out the doctoral project.

The dissertation is an independent piece of research

and should reflect the state of the art within the relevant field. It should also make a contribution to scientific knowledge. It is an individual piece of work and must satisfy high academic standards. The dissertation may involve more experimental or more theoretical elements depending on the academic discipline. It is also often possible to write your dissertation in a language other than German or to write it jointly with other doctoral candidates.

In accordance with the rules of good scientific practice, all material in the dissertation which has been taken from other works either in wording or in meaning must be appropriately identified. In the case of a joint dissertation, the contributions of the individual authors must be clearly demonstrated and documented.

Cumulative dissertation

Alongside the monographic dissertation, more and more faculties are offering the possibility of submitting a publication-based dissertation, known as a cumulative dissertation. This consists of several shorter pieces of work which are thematically linked.

The totality of the written doctoral works must satisfy the requirements of a monographic dissertation. Faculties which allow cumulative dissertations may have very different requirements, for example in relation to:
•    The type of publication (book, journals, manuscript)
•    The current status of the publications (published, submitted, in preparation)
•    The scope of the publications and the results they contain, etc.

If you wish to write a cumulative dissertation, you should find out at an early stage whether this option is available at your faculty and if so, what requirements apply.


Once the candidate has permission to sit for examination, the doctoral panel appoints the reviewers who will assess the dissertation. This group often includes your dissertation supervisor.