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PhD Proposal and Proposal Defense

Important Dates FS15

Registration Opens 01.02.2015
Registration End and Submission Due Date 16.02.2015
Notification for Document 18.03.2015
Proposal Defense Date 01.04.2015

Please note:

Starting with FS15, registration end and submission of the proposal document will be on the same date - this being the first day of lectures of each semester. For HS15 this will be 14.09.2015.

PhD students will be notified by e-mail in due time about the submission and defense dates each semester. 

Important Dates HS14

Registration End Date 09.10.2014
Submission Due Date 30.10.2014
Notification for Document 03.12.2014
Proposal Defense Date 17.12.2014

Proposal Process

  1. PhD student registers for the PhD proposal
  2. Supervisor of registered student provides suggestions for external document reviewer or internal reviewer
  3. PhD student submits proposal document
  4. PhD student will be notified by Doctoral Committee about pass/conditional pass/fail on the proposal document
  5. PhD student with pass or conditional pass on proposal document prepare and defend their proposal at the proposal defense date
  6. PhD student will be notified by Doctoral Committee about pass/fail on PhD proposal

Proposal Formatting

The PhD thesis proposal must not exceed 20 pages and 80,000 characters (with spaces), illustrations, formula, tables and bibliographies included. A minimum of point 10 font size and 1.5 line spacing must be used. In general, the PhD thesis proposal should not contain any annexed documents.

Proposal Structure

A PhD thesis proposal typically consists of the following sections, whereas the order of sections can vary:

  • Motivation (1-2 pages)
  • Related work (2-6 pages)
  • Problem statement (1 page)
  • Proposed solution and research idea (2-6 pages)
  • Major references (1-2 pages)

A PhD proposal should answer the following questions:

  • What problem are you choosing to investigate? What is your hypothesis?
  • Why is the problem/hypothesis important/relevant?
  • What are the specific research questions your work will address?
  • How have others attempted to address this in the past?
  • How are you planning to address this?
  • How will you answer these research questions (e.g. what is the method/approach and why have you chosen these?)
  • How will you evaluate the extent to/success with which you have addressed these research questions?
  • What are the expected research contributions of this work? (i.e. what knowledge or research products will your work produce that others in the research community can use?)
  • How will you know that you accomplished your goals? (i.e. what is the stopping condition to be applied to your work?)

It might be useful to structure the proposal around these questions.

Note that your proposal should focus only on your research. It should not contain your list of activities that explained how you got your ECTS points. This document is about your thesis research only.

Proposal Defense

Students have to defend their thesis proposal at an official thesis proposal date organized at least once a term by the end of the 3rd year of their PhD. The goal of the thesis proposal defense is to ascertain that you have a plan to finish your thesis.

The thesis proposal defense will be given in English. By way of exception, the presentation can also be held in German, which in certain research fields is more commonly used (e.g. Business Informatics). Please apply to the Doctoral Committee if you intend to do so.

Prepare a presentation of 20 minutes' duration.

When preparing your proposal defense please take into account that the proposal defense is not a seminar talk. You need to assure us during your talk that you have good answers to the following questions:

  • What problem are you choosing to investigate? What is your hypothesis? What is your contribution?
  • What are the specific research questions your work will address?
  • Why is the problem/hypothesis/contribution important/relevant?
  • How have others attempted to address this in the past?
  • How will you answer your research questions (e.g. what is the method/approach and why have you chosen these?)
  • You need to have a clear plan (independent of possible project involvement)
  • How will you evaluate the extent to/success with which you have addressed these research questions?
  • What are the expected research contributions of this work? (i.e. What knowledge or research products will your work produce that others in the research community can use?)

In all of this please differentiate between your research contribution and the engineering tasks that you potentially need to undertake. We are interested in the former, not the latter. Also, you might want to consider the use "I" as opposed to "we" in your presentation, such that we know what you are doing personally as opposed to your collaborators (either in the research group or the project).

Please consider adding a detailed example to your presentation for people to be able to follow your ideas. Some things that are obvious to you may not be obvious to others, who are not emersed in your work.

The outcome of the proposal defense is either pass or fail. If you fail you may have to submit a new thesis proposal, defend it again, or both of those. You can only repeat this process once.