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© Erim Giresunlu

Finding a supervisor

In most disciplines, working towards a doctorate takes three to five years. Therefore, having the support of a suitable supervisor is crucial. Main factor in the choice of a supervisor is your research topic. As soon as you have selected topic and possibly methods of your dissertation project, you should contact potential supervisors.

The doctoral regulations of each faculty state who may supervise doctoral studies. Generally, full university professors, junior professors and private lecturers (PD) of the University of Cologne are eligible.

  • First, select potential supervisors by carefully reading all available information about their main research areas and/or methods, including their list of publications. The supervisor from your master’s thesis might also be able to give a recommendation.

  • Next, you contact your potential supervisor, usually by email. Concisely introduce yourself (name, university, degree and subject) briefly outline your dissertation project/interest and give your reason for contacting this particular professor. Finally, ask for an appointment to further discuss supervision possibilities.

  • Bear in mind that professors are usually very busy and receive many emails. In general, attaching a detailed resume and project proposal to your first email is neither necessary nor advantageous. Rather, offer to send these documents upon request.

Apart from academic considerations, you should strive to find a suitable match on a personal level. Efficient and constructive communication with your supervisor is a cornerstone of successful doctoral studies. Meeting, if possible, with more than one potential supervisor is conducive for an informed choice.

Many faculties accept professors from other universities and research institutes as members of thesis advisory committees. Co-tutelage agreements provide an opportunity of international cooperation for individual doctoral studies. Please refer to the doctoral regulations or contact the respective  doctoral studies office for more information.