Fakultät Akademische… Doctorate Doctorate in med. /… Planning &… Preparation


Finding an appropriate topic

Most doctoral theses are awarded via unsolicited applications. Another part of the doctoral theses is advertised, for example, via the MEDISS Promotionsbörse. Whether you are applying for an advertised job or sending an unsolicited application, you should put your request in writing (usually by e-mail). During the interview or a further discussion, you should discuss the topic of the dissertation, conditions and expectations as detailed as possible and document them in writing.

Define the subject area and type of work

Narrow down the subject area/topic focus and character of the thesis. Include in your considerations also the recommendations for the assessment of dissertations.

Basically, there are experimental, clinical (prospective vs. retrospective / "statistical") and theoretical doctoral theses. At this point, we would like to briefly explain the three terms.

Note: The character of the thesis is taken into account when assigning grades.

Experimental doctoral theses

  • Usually work in preclinical or basic clinical research.
  • Objects of investigation: Cell cultures, organ material, animal models
  • 1-3 years of work in the laboratory
  • With good topic and processing: first access to research / university career

To note: In some cases, an "experimental animal course" (short: "animal course") is required at the IBF. The lead time for a participation position is approximately 6 months. If patient material is used, an ethics vote may also be required.

Prospective clinical studies

  • E.g. cohort and intervention studies
  • Data is collected only after the start of the study
  • Usually a comparison or placebo group and a therapy group
  • Data collection takes about 1-2 years

To be noted: Clarify in advance in which time frame the patient sample is to be collected or whether an application has to be submitted to the ethics committee, etc.

Retrospective / "statistical" studies

  • E.g. case-control study, meta-analysis
  • Data already available
  • Mostly archive work
  • Only generation of hypotheses

Please note: Clarify data quality, as it can vary widely. Even retrospective studies usually require an application to the ethics committee.

Theoretical doctoral theses

  • Theses in the fields of: History, theory or ethics of medicine, medical education, medical informatics or biometrics.
  • Duration approx. 2-3 years


Search for offers in the MEDISS Promotionsbörse. In addition, you will find information from the clinics and institutes on doctoral theses and unsolicited applications in the exchange.

Further information sources & advice

Find out more about:

Organizational aspects


Prepare for the interview: Review lecture and internship content of the subject area, research the department website and literature databases, make an appointment, make a list of points you want to address.

Foreign degrees

If you have completed your studies abroad, please note that foreign educational qualifications must first be checked for equivalence with a German university degree before you can be accepted as a doctoral candidate. Since this may take several weeks at the Central Office for Foreign Education (anabin) in Bonn, depending on the country, the relevant documents should be submitted as early as possible in officially certified copies.

Selection of the supervisor

Be clear about the type of supervisor you want: Should the supervisor be more person- or subject-oriented, should he or she provide close supervision or give you room for your own ideas and mistakes? Are joint, structured seminars with other doctoral students important to you or do you prefer individual supervision?

On the basis of a few points, you can already assess in advance how a possible future supervision relationship can be structured. Depending on the priority, you can consider the following:


Publications of the doctoral supervisor can give information about:

  • Current research topic
  • Publication record of the laboratory
  • Networking / cooperation partners

Publications can be found in the database PubMed.

In heiDOK the topics of former dissertations of the working group are listed.

Preliminary discussions with your supervisor

In the preliminary discussions with your supervisor, you should also address these questions:

  • Who is supervising me?
  • Are there other doctoral students?
  • How will I be trained?
  • Is a trial internship / probationary period planned?
  • Is long-term supervision guaranteed?

Consultations with members of the working group

If possible, you should also try to talk to other members of the working group to get an impression of the working atmosphere. In SFBs, good supervision is usually guaranteed.