How Do I Go About Finding a Supervisor?

Before applying for acceptance as a doctoral candidate, you must have confirmation of supervision from a person authorised to supervise doctoral theses in your chosen field at the JGU. And before applying for a GSHS Research Proposal Scholarship, you will also need a mentor who is authorised to supervise you in your intended field. The choice of the most suitable supervisor(s) for you, both academically and personally, is also very important for the success of your doctoral project.

The choice of supervisor is therefore also linked to the choice of doctoral studies field, i.e. you must fulfil the subject-specific requirements for the doctorate in the discipline represented by the supervisor. Further information on this can  be found in the Doctoral Degree Regulations (in German), additional advice is  available from the Doctoral Studies administration in the dean’s/rector’s office.

This is formally regulated in the Doctoral Degree Regulations (in German). Both university professors and junior professors at JGU are entitled to supervise doctoral theses.

Lecturers with Privatdozent status (abbreviation: PD) at the JGU are also usually authorized to supervise doctoral theses. In some cases, other people may also be appointed examiners and thus have supervisor status for doctoral candidates. In case of doubt, please contact Doctoral Studies administration in the dean’s/rector’s office.

There are two ways of finding potential supervisors:

JGU Directory: The faculties and chairs are listed here. Under the heading "Faculties" (on the left) you will find listed all professors, junior professors and in some cases also PDs. The directory provides a quick overview, though in most cases without any detailed information on the research interests of the professors/lecturers.

Homepages of the institutes/departments/chairs: takes you to the homepages of the individual faculties and from there to the pages of the various institutes, departments, chairs, etc. The personal pages of the supervisors contain a lot of useful information on research foci, publications, research projects, etc., along with information on the doctoral projects they are currently supervising or have supervised in the past.

If you are aiming to do an individual doctorate, you can contact a supervisor you think would be suitable at any time. There are no application deadlines or formal requirements (for structured programmes and collaborative projects there may be other requirements).

In the case of individual doctorates, supervisors are free to decide how many and which doctoral students they wish to accept. It is usually not possible to tell from the homepage whether a particular supervisor is interested in accepting (further) doctoral students. Likewise, there is normally no posting of potential doctoral topics. It is up to each student to take the initiative and think about how best to convince a potential supervisor to take them and their project on.

In preparing for an initial contact/first meeting it may help to think about the following:

  • Key points of the research project: topic, research question, possibly some initial thoughts on the corpus and methodology and the current state of research
  • Academic curriculum vitae, in particular which degrees you have or the current status of your studies, if applicable, degree certificate/transcript of records
  • Motivation for the doctorate
  • Why have you chosen to do this topic and research question? What is it about it that you find interesting, relevant and topical?
  • What sort of preliminary work have you done (e.g. have you looked at current research, done any archive research)?
  • Current research interests/projects of the supervisor that are relevant to your project. Why did you choose to contact this person?
  • Academic recommendations from your home university if any

Finding the supervisor best suited to you can take some time. Supervisors are not always able to respond quickly to requests. They may be on holiday, ill, on maternity leave, a research trip abroad, a research sabbatical, attending a conference, or have a particularly heavy workload (especially at the beginning of semester or during the exam period). A potential supervisor may want to arrange a personal interview with you first or ask to see further documentation from you before deciding to accept a supervisory role (or mentoring as part of the research proposal scholarship). If the person you approach is unable to take on your supervision, they may recommend an alternative supervisor for you to contact.

It is also a good idea to take some time to think about the arrangement and ask yourself whether the prospect of working with the proposed supervisor/mentor for the duration of the research proposal scholarship, or even the entire doctorate, is something you are likely to be happy with.

Effective communication between the doctoral candidate and the supervisor is essential for the success of the project. In the field of humanities and social sciences in particular, the possible forms of supervision and other elements of the support framework are very diverse. Given the great variety of doctoral projects and the various research approaches of students and supervisors, very different supervision concepts can be employed to bring about the desired success.

It is all the more important, therefore, that you talk to your intended supervisor at the beginning of the doctorate about the supervisory relationship to find out what each of you expects from the other:

  • How often do you want to meet?
  • How close can/should the supervision be, how much leeway do you need or want?
  • How much support can the supervisor give you in obtaining funding for your project or in networking within the academic/research community, and how much initiative and personal responsibility is expected of you? In a supervisory relation with mutual trust, you can also talk about particular personal circumstances, such as care responsibility, that are important for your doctoral project.
  • Does your supervisor have the type of contacts and networks that will be most useful to you? Depending on the type of project and objectives you have, these can be very useful for you (e.g. contacts in business or industry, positions in specialist academic societies, participation in specialist journals, academic contacts or universities abroad…).

The Supervision Agreement is useful as it gives you a means to record the arrangements made, to review, or even amend them if necessary.

It can be helpful to talk to other doctoral students of your intended supervisor and ask about their experiences. Or course their opinions will be subjective, but they may help you gain a first impression. A professor’s homepage will often enable you to see which/how many doctoral projects they are currently supervising and which of them have recently been completed.