Doctoral research: getting started

Are you considering a future doctorate or are you about to get started with your research? In this section, you will find information on a range of topics relevant to those in the early stages of their doctorate. Go directly to:

Why do a doctorate?

At the latest shortly before graduating, many Master's students are faced with the question of whether they should begin doctoral studies and which career paths will open up after completing their doctorate.

The doctorate is the highest academic degree that can be awarded at universities. A doctoral degree offers you the opportunity to intensively deal with a research topic or project over a longer period of time. With the degree, you demonstrate the ability to work independently and scientifically and it opens up a wide range of career options – both within the university and in science-related areas, business and society.

The decision for or against the doctorate should be well considered. The driving force should primarily be an in-depth interest in a research question or research topic.

In any case, we recommend that you talk to the professor at an early stage, who you can imagine as your supervisor, or arrange a consultation with us. In addition, the Frühjahrsakademie of the Research Academy Ruhr offers support in the decision-making process and in the initial phase of the doctorate to those interested in PhD studies within the University Alliance Ruhr.

Different ways to obtain a doctorate in Germany

There are basically two different ways to obtain a PhD in Germany:

Individual doctorate

You choose and work on your research topic independently and are supervised by your doctoral supervisor. As a rule, you will look for your supervisor independently.

During your individual doctorate, you will often be employed as a research assistant at a chair or institute.

In the section "Financing the doctorate" you will also find an overview of other ways to finance your PhD studies.

Structured PhD programmes

In contrast to the individual doctorate, the PhD study in structured programmes is formally regulated and offers numerous integrated support offers. Structured programmes, such as DFG Research Training Groups, usually offer funding in the form of positions as research assistants. The application modalities vary depending on the programme. Further information can be found on the websites of the doctoral programmes.

Here you will find an overview of the structured doctoral programmes at the UDE.

Requirements and Regulations at the University of Duisburg-Essen



The prerequisite for a doctorate is a) a degree after a relevant university or art college course of study with a standard period of study of at least eight semesters, for which a degree other than Bachelor is awarded, or b) a degree after a relevant university course of study with a standard period of study of at least six semesters and subsequent appropriate preparatory studies in the doctoral subjects, or c) a Master's degree within the meaning of § 85 Paragraph 3 Sentence 2 HG, i.e. a further degree qualifying for a profession with a standard period of study of at least two semesters.

If the degree was not relevant, the Doctoral Committee shall determine appropriate doctoral preparatory studies in the doctoral subjects that must be proven before final admission to the doctoral procedure.

Doctoral Regulations

The right to award doctorates lies with the faculties, which therefore determine the procedure and rules for doctoral studies. These rules are laid down in law in the published doctoral regulations of the respective faculty, which in turn are based on the model doctoral regulations of the university.

All doctoral regulations (also an English version of the model regulations) can be found here.

An overview of the doctoral committees of the faculties can be found on this page.

Please note the special regulations at the Faculty of Medicine, if applicable. All information, as well as FAQs on the old and new doctoral regulations of the Faculty of Medicine, can be found on the Faculty's website.

Preparatory Studies

Preparatory scientific studies have a maximum duration of four semesters and are jointly determined by the doctoral committee and the applicant. If preparatory studies for the doctorate are still to be completed, admission to the list of doctoral candidates is conditional and the supervision agreement of the faculty applies.


Enrolment in a doctoral program takes place within the enrolment period for non-restricted programs. For enrolment in a doctoral program you have to submit the required certificate (confirmation from the supervising professor or confirmation from the doctoral committee) and the completed application for enrolment. You can find all important information such as opening hours, registration deadlines, necessary documents etc. in the application form. Please note the information on the enrolment procedure for degree programs without admission.

How to find a supervisor

If you decide on an individual doctorate at the University of Duisburg-Essen, you must first find a supervisor for your PhD project. You can apply for job advertisements as well as unsolicited apply to a chair holder in your area of interest.

Perhaps you already have an exact idea of which professor you would like to work with. This could be someone who has published in your field of research or whom you got to know at a conference or during your studies. On the faculty's website you will find the contact details.

If you still have no idea which professor could be your supervisor, we recommend that you research the websites of the faculty or department in which you would like to do your PhD studies to find out which professors work in your field and then contact them.

The important criteria for the professor's confirmation of supervision are usually your qualification(s), your research goal and the feasibility of your research project. If necessary, the professor will request an exposé in order to better assess your project. In the exposé, you define an initial framework for your dissertation in terms of content and time and set out in writing what you want to achieve.

Once you have found a supervisor and agreed on a research topic, the next step is for the doctoral committee of the responsible faculty to check whether the doctoral requirements have been met and decide whether you will be accepted as a doctoral student. You can then enrol as a doctoral student (see section "Enrolment").

During your individual doctorate, you will often be employed as a research assistant at a chair or institute. In the section "Financing the doctorate" you will also find an overview of further options for financing a doctorate.

Stages of doctoral studies

Depending on the subject area, the doctorate takes between three and five years to complete. Of course, each doctorate is very individual, but as a rule different characteristic phases can be distinguished:

Orientation phase (approx. 1-3 months)

The orientation phase includes the decision for the doctorate, the choice of topics, the search for a supervisor and a suitable financing model. The admission to the doctorate is then carried out by the doctoral committee.

Entry phase (approx. 3-9 months)

In the introductory phase, you will familiarise yourself with your research topic and formulate your doctoral exposé. At the beginning of this phase, it is advisable to prepare as detailed a structure and a schedule as possible.

Research phase (approx. 2.5-3 years)

In the research phase you will work on your project and make changes and adjustments if necessary. The securing of results and clean documentation of your work is relevant throughout. The research, review and evaluation of relevant literature or the collection of data covers the entire doctoral phase. Transparent communication with your supervisor is also very important over the entire period: In addition to organisational arrangements, a regular dialogue about the content of your thesis should be guaranteed in the supervision relationship.

Final phase (approx. 3-12 months)

In this phase you will complete your research project and complete your dissertation. In the final phase, you and your supervisor set a deadline for the submission of your dissertation and – depending on the estimated time for correction phases, the preparation of expert opinions and the dates of the doctoral committee meetings – agree on a deadline for the disputation if possible. The written application for admission to the doctoral examination must be submitted to the doctoral committee; any other requirements to be observed are governed by the doctoral regulations. You will only be admitted to the oral examination as part of the doctoral procedure after a positive assessment and acceptance of the dissertation.

If you have successfully passed the doctoral examination, the last step is to publish the dissertation in a suitable form, for example as a monograph in a publishing house or as an Open Access publication. An exception to this is the cumulative doctorate, in which you publish several articles individually during the doctoral phase (usually three or four, depending on the doctoral regulations) and provide them with a framing text for submission as a dissertation, which establishes the connection between the individual contributions and your overarching research question. The University Library Duisburg-Essen offers you an own contact point for all questions concerning the publication of your dissertation. The contact persons of the UB's dissertation office will give you valuable tips and information about guidelines and design principles.


Phases according to Sibel Vurgun (Hrsg.): Kompetenzen von Nachwuchswissenschaftlerinnen und Nachwuchswissenschaftlern. Entwicklung eines Kompetenzmodells. UniWiND-Publikationen Band 6, 2016, S. 18. Online verfügbar unter: (letzter Zugriff 26.3.2019).