Write dissertation: requirements, structure + 9 tips for your doctoral thesis

You want to write a dissertation? With us you will find out if the PhD is worthwhile for you and which requirements you have to fulfill. You will also get many valuable writing and publishing tips to help you successfully complete your PhD.

What a dissertation actually is

A successful dissertation leads to the highest possible degree of education that can be achieved: the doctoral degree. There are many terms for a dissertation (short: Diss.): Be it a doctoral thesis, PhD, Inauguraldissertation, dissertation or doctoral thesis – they all refer to a scientific work to obtain the doctorate at a university with a doctorate. In order to successfully complete your dissertation, you must take either an oral examination (Rigorosum) or an oral defense (disputation) in addition to the publication of your university dissertation.

Cumulative dissertation

In most sciences, it is customary to submit a monograph as a doctoral thesis, which is then published independently. But cumulative dissertations are now also allowed in the natural sciences. This type of promotion is also called collective dissertation.

It is characterized by the fact that, instead of a self-contained monograph, it contains several publications that are published in specialist journals. As a rule, three articles are required, which are tested for scientific quality in a procedure. In essence, this type of dissertation differs little from a common monograph, but the research certainly has a wider reach.

Requirements for a dissertation

To write a dissertation, you need a university degree. This means: diploma, master, master or state examination. Some subject areas stipulate that it is only allowed to do a doctorate in the same area with the attainment of a minimum grade. In other areas of study, however, it is possible to do a PhD in another subject area. Inform yourself in advance so thoroughly at your university and talk to lecturers, which options you have.

Normally, an application for doctoral studies is made to the Dean’s Office, which briefly presents the research topic and names the possible supervisor. If a supervisor has not yet been found, the universities usually offer help to find a suitable teacher who is familiar with your topic. Otherwise, it is also possible to do a PhD without a supervisor. Nevertheless, you should think carefully before, if you really want to give up technical support.

Is it worth the effort to do a doctorate?

PhD research is in vogue: The Federal Statistical Office reported that this year more people in Germany are sitting on a dissertation than ever before. On average, seven out of every hundred students start a PhD thesis. Every third doctoral student comes from the natural sciences and mathematics and one in five from engineering or linguistics and cultural studies.

This is how a doctoral degree affects your career prospects

In 2015, 27,000 people were awarded the doctorate in Germany. Of these, 65 percent wrote their doctoral thesis at a university, 20 percent in a company and 8 percent in a group at a graduate program. But who is it really worth to do a PhD and how does the title affect your career opportunities?

Fast Career: The doctoral degree as a key to high positions

For physicians, it is almost mandatory to do their doctoral and it is also worthwhile for chemists, if they one day want to take over the laboratory management of a company. In engineering, a doctorate is also often required when it comes to personnel responsibility and the rapid attainment of a high post. In general, it is possible to enter all these jobs without the highest level of education, but it takes much longer to get a high position. Half of all doctoral students take on a leading position when they start their careers and earn more than their colleagues with a master’s degree. So, if you do not want to work your way up for a long time, and scientific work is not an ordeal for you, it can be really worthwhile getting a doctor.

In other courses, a doctorate brings advantages. From your college you probably know that almost all lecturers have at least one title. So, if you’re looking for a career at the university, a Ph.D. will open up a career opportunity for you.

The personal impression improves

More generally, those who have mastered a dissertation are credited with perseverance, organizational talent, self-motivation, and analytical thinking. This increases your chances in all professional areas. So, if you are not sure yet which specific profession you are looking for, if you enjoy scientific work and you can afford it financially, it can never hurt to get a doctoral degree. Either way, every employer makes a good first impression.

Sometimes experience is more important than a title

Be aware that many doctoral students take several years to complete such a thesis. There are always other career-enhancing steps, such as internships or trainee positions. Here you will learn important practical skills for your later job, which may be more worthwhile than a doctorate, depending on your profession. In addition, the time required is probably lower.

Publication of your dissertation

In order to obtain your doctorate, it is necessary to publish your dissertation. In the scientific and technical fields, online publications are quite common nowadays. If they are freely accessible, they are probably quoted more frequently and therefore have more reach. In the field of humanities, on the other hand, many doctoral students still rely on printed book publications. Here you can impress by renowned publishers impression, but it can also come to grants of up to several thousand euros. With such sums, the idea is not out of the question to publish his work himself. How to do that and what to pay attention to, you will find out here.

9 tips for planning and writing your dissertation

Here are some important tips to keep in mind when planning and writing your dissertation. If you are aware in advance of possible mistakes and good options, writing will be easier, you will avoid mental crises, and you’re better on schedule.

Research time-saving and integrate common technical literature

For your dissertation you will have to do a lot of research – whether it’s about finding a topic, the relevance of your work, or common scientific sources in your department that you should keep an eye on. Probably the most important aspect when researching: saving time. The concrete time savings of filtering out unimportant information should be among the talents of any scientific writer. Here, it is important to quickly get an overview of the source, to read abstracts instead of rushing into the text, merely skim over literature and to devote only clearly relevant chapters. There are many more tips for the right research here.

You can find popular literature by looking at introductory books from your department and taking a close look at the bibliography. Maybe you discover a work that is more or less in line with your theme ideas and you can look into the directory of this work again. In addition, your supervisor will certainly be happy to help you. It also can never hurt to simply contact lecturers from your department via email and ask them for literature recommendations. Even if you’ve never attended a seminar with them, it’s worth a try.

Convince a supervisor of your work

Even if you only have a direction for the topic of your dissertation, you should look for potential technical support at your university. The sooner you find a caregiver, the better he can help you with your research topic. In addition, he can save you a lot of research with his skills, for example, by providing you with important literature or helping you narrow down your topic accordingly. He once did his doctorate and can certainly help you with time management.

There are several ways to find a caregiver. Ideally, you already had a seminar with him. If you do not know each other, you may need a little more persuasiveness. Be prepared for this topic well on your topic and excite with expertise. Another way to find a caregiver is at trade events. Here you could simply address the speakers after their presentation or ask them for possible specialist contacts. Another possibility is to research in specialist journals. Who writes something about your topic and might help you? Even if you are looking for a supervisor outside your university, it is worthwhile to be prepared for any questions.