All about relevance: who cares about my dissertation?
It is the greatest fear that all academics share: Three weeks prior to the publication of their own dissertation or scholarly article in an academic journal, a competitor publishes the same results. This fear, however, is usually unfounded. Two researchers working in the same area almost never reach the same conclusions. Much more frequently their research results complement each other and they become colleagues and future collaborators instead of competitors. Much worse is the fate of those, who do their research in an area that no one else is currently investigating. They run the danger of producing results that go unnoticed by their colleagues and that end up disappearing in academic oblivion. Data bases like ProQuest Dissertation & Theses can help you find out whether or not someone else has already exploited the topic of your interest or if there is promising space for a young scholar like yourself.
In any case, it is extremely important to be up to date on the research developments in your discipline. You should read academic journals and especially so-called "Review Articles," which provide succinct summaries of recently published academic books and studies and may also give useful suggestions for future research. Talk to faculty and older PhD students about your project. Younger, aspiring scholars are frequently much better informed about newest trends than established experts. Your future classmates will give you useful advice about the research directions that are worth pursuing and which dissertation topics you should probably avoid. At the same time, the word of older professors still counts: It is them, after all, who have to get excited enough about your dissertation project to write letters of recommendation and work together with you in other capacities in the future.
Live and love your dissertation
And finally, maybe the most important advice that will help you successfully complete the dissertation: Find a topic that you can get excited about. After all, it will be a constant companion during lonely hours in the archive or lab, on your desk or in the classroom. The topic of your dissertation will probably occupy your mind on the weekends as well. Good dissertations develop over the years and are written by people who burn for whatever it is they are writing about. If you are already sensing an internal resistance to the topic while developing your project, you will have a very tough time finishing it. However, if you can feel your curiosity grow while putting together the dissertation proposal, if you can't wait to get started, then you are definitely on the right track.
Apply to a German Graduate School - application guide
- Dissertation exposé
- Curriculum Vitae(PDF)
- Letter of motivation
- Language & admissions-test
- Personal interview