Why should one work towards a doctorate?


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"Anyone who supervises a dissertation has a great responsibility" - Chemnitz political scientist Prof. Dr. Eckhard Jesse gives suggestions for working with doctoral students

    1. Choose carefully

    Anyone who accepts doctoral candidates should pay attention to their excellent performance in their first academic degree, hold an intensive discussion and first encourage them to participate in a "trial doctoral group". This is more important than asking for a sophisticated synopsis, which changes in the writing phase anyway. The selection also relates to the topic: The doctoral supervisor should prefer to supervise studies from his own closer and wider working environment (without narrow-minded "territorial behavior"), but generally reject those to which he can contribute little "relevant". Universities that reward professors with many doctoral students do not promote the intrinsic motivation of supervision. - Mass doesn't do it.

    2. Strive for a relationship of trust

    Anyone who supervises a dissertation bears a great deal of responsibility. He trusts the doctoral student to work independently. In this respect, a regulatory doctoral program is a contradiction in terms, a doctoral agreement is not the ultimate wisdom. A doctoral supervisor who bows his ear to young scientists and who follows the rules of the game consistently is irreplaceable: the doctoral student who achieves something must make progress, whoever achieves something must not. A second chance is denied in the case of fraud (e.g. plagiarism). An interested teacher takes part in the further life of his student and, if requested, gives advice to the best of their knowledge and belief. - Preference counts.

    3. Demand and promote

    Whoever wants to write a dissertation has to be productive on the one hand and mentally stable on the other. The doctoral supervisor can therefore expect the doctoral candidate to be intellectually able to clarify a new scientific problem and to get a handle on any difficulties. If not, an end in horror is better than horror without end - for both sides. The supervisor should offer help, initially with the search for a grant, later with the conception of the work. A disinterested "raven father" is just as useful to the doctoral student as a caring "mother hen". - Proximity and distance belong together.

    4. Enjoy youthful motivation

    Anyone who researches and teaches in the mass universities is often rightly frustrated by the increasing schooling that paralyzes independence. Reliable commitment to doctoral students, on the other hand, makes it possible to combine research and teaching in a meaningful way and is a pleasure. To pursue and accelerate the performance explosion of young people who have escaped the sometimes senseless exam stress and the hunt for "credit points" has something uplifting for the supervisor. Young scientists thrive in an inspiring atmosphere of encouragement. This not only compensates for the dreary, not very intellectual committee system at the universities. - Science refreshes.

    5. Apply gentle pressure

    Anyone who has written a dissertation knows from painful experience how quickly time passes. A doctoral supervisor therefore encourages his doctoral student to keep an eye on the common thread, to produce text regularly, to observe the work plan and to strive for the successful end of the project. The teacher has to say it again and again: An excessive annotation apparatus does not yet speak for science. And he has to play the pest: It's "only" about a dissertation, in no way about the Leibniz Prize. The failure of a perfectionist is also due to the sometimes not so clever professor. - Persistent consistency pays off.

    6. Be sovereign

    Anyone who acts as a mentor to a younger person should neither expect nor work towards the fact that he only circles in the argumentative paths of his teacher. Originality shines through unconventional ideas that at first glance seem bold. A wise doctoral supervisor, inspired by empathy, encourages such creativity. There is something ridiculously anachronistic about the blind corps spirit in science. A "school" can flourish through liberality and convey cosmopolitanism, and a cooperative climate can constructively resolve conflicts. Post-prayer bores, intellectual nonconformism inspires. - Narrow-minded thinking paralyzes.

    7. Check the performance regularly

    Those who intensively supervise a doctoral thesis today are immune to unpleasant surprises tomorrow and thus protect doctoral students. They must present their project in writing - ideally in doctoral seminars - and put it up for discussion on an ongoing basis. They are motivated, experience transparency and get to know the standards of assessment. The doctoral supervisor gains an enlightening impression of the progress of the work (or not) and can intervene if necessary. Before the official submission of the dissertation, every responsible teacher reads the text in his own interest and that of the doctoral student and gives final suggestions. - Trust is good, control is better.

    8. Don't overtax yourself

    Those who supervise too many doctoral students out of scientific ambition or willingness to help (to only accept positive motives) are doing themselves and those supervised a disservice. The less gifted or less well-organized people suffer from the limited resources of the mentor. This increases the already high number of dropouts. However, another type is really no better: Some professors publish incessantly ("publish or perish"), but neglect the next generation of academics because they know about the rather poor social and scientific reputation associated with supervising doctorates. - Overuse harms.

    9. Assess thoroughly, evaluate fairly

    Anyone who judges such a work should renounce the bad habit of consistently giving top marks as if it were about collecting trophies. This devalues ​​outstanding studies and blinds less good doctoral students. Conversely, those who refuse "summa cum laude" in principle are hardly sovereign. The first appraiser should not cultivate any do ut des camaraderie with the second. Anyone who has first and second grade doctoral students takes the seriousness of the procedure ad absurdum. Through the oral examination, the doctoral candidate can neither significantly improve nor worsen his overall result, especially if the grades of the reviewers match. Otherwise the relationship between expense and income is reversed. - Judgment and sincerity are important.

    10. Relate the advice

    Anyone who slavishly implements such - noble - suggestions succumbs to dogmatism and will fail because he pays no respect to the individuality of his protégés. For example, it depends on the specific "professional culture". An experienced university professor varies his communication style, feels where he can "let go" and where he has to "tighten". A part-time dissertation, for example, requires a longer period of time than one based on a scholarship; a self-confident doctoral student needs less advice than an insecure one. Nevertheless: The performance principle forbids applying two different standards. Last but not least: There are no ideal doctoral students (and doctoral supervisors!), But there are idealistic ones. - No two "cases" are alike.

    The author Prof. Dr. Eckhard Jesse has held the professorship in Political Science II at Chemnitz University of Technology since 1993. For several years he headed the doctoral program on the subject of "Political Extremism and Parties". He is currently supervising a doctoral college financed by the Hanns Seidel Foundation (responsible: Prof. Hans-Peter Niedermeyer) "Political Extremism and Parties". In addition to two habilitation theses, Prof. Jesse has previously supervised 56 dissertations at the TU.

    On June 23, 2005, the weekly newspaper "Die Zeit" published the long version in the Chemnitz university newspaper "TU-Spektrum" in issue 1/2006 under the heading "With passion and pragmatism for the dissertation".

    Mario Steinebach

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