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Research Phase (Program)

One of the main features of doing a doctorate within a program is the educational program that accompanies the research phase. It is meant to support doctoral candidates in their research and in the development of their interdisciplinary competences. The curriculum therefore includes disciplinary courses on methods and theories or colloquia and professional skills.



Each of the separate doctoral programs designs the course of its curriculum and the relationship of time for research. All of them have in common that you are expected to finish your research within a maximum of three years. Details of the curriculum can be found on the websites of the respective programs.


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 for details.



Another feature is that you will usually have a team of two or more professors or postdocs in a structured doctorate who will act as supervisors or mentors. The program will assign you at least the primary supervisor while considering your own suggestions. Ideally, the supervisors should represent the interdisciplinary scope of your research project. The advantages of a team include more feedback and heightened transparency in supervision.


The supervisors will act as your academic supervisors for the doctorate. They will help you to refine the dissertation topic and advise you on how to proceed with your research. Generally, they also serve as the 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.


Supervision Agreement

You should regularly discuss the status of your project and whether you need additional training, e.g., method training, and which conferences or summer schools you should attend. Plan the next steps and set goals together.

A written supervision agreement between doctoral candidate, supervisors and program define topic and time schedule of the research project, members of the supervisory team, as well as rights and duties of both parties.



Depending on the field of research, writing the thesis can   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.