After acceptance by the department and enrollment, the independent research project can start. The doctoral candidate is solely responsible for planning and implementation of the dissertation project.
In the natural and life sciences, the project and, with that, the everyday work is usually located within the research group of the supervisor.
Candidates from the social sciences and the humanities mainly work on their own.
Generally, it is expected that doctoral candidates will participate in a colloquium the supervisor gives for his or her doctoral candidates to discuss their projects. Regular meetings with the supervisor are also expected.
Generally, you are expected to finish your research within 3 years at a maximum. In some research fields, even shorter periods may be common. If you need additional time, at some departments you may be asked to justify your reasons for an extension. Otherwise, your admission by the department will be revoked. See the respective department's regulation for doctoral degrees.
A professor from your research field will act as your academic supervisor for the doctorate. This academic supervisor will help you to refine the dissertation topic and advise you on how to proceed with your research. Generally, she or he also serves as one of the two persons to review your thesis.
This relationship ideally should be based on give and take: your research helps strengthen your supervisor’s work in his or her field, and in exchange, he/she guides your research. You should provide quality research, efficiency, and enthusiasm, while the supervisor should provide advice, motivation, and expertise. During regular meetings with the supervisors the status of your project and the next steps should be jointly discussed.
Depending on the field of research, writing the thesis can begin at different points of time: immediately or following the first literature review, in the middle of the three years or toward the end of this period.
Also the length of the dissertation varies between the fields. Depending on the department’s regulations, the thesis can be a collection of articles previously published in peer-reviewed academic journals. For the language of the dissertation and further details, please see the department's regulation for doctoral degrees.