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  • PhD Process

PhD Process

The PhD process at SSE, is well structured and accompanied by close and regular supervision.

The process is structured into five steps, shown below. Each step ends with a Quality Gate. At each transition to the next phase, these Quality Gates ensure that the progress and quality of your work allows you to successfully proceed to the next step. Quality Gates cover quality aspects as well as formal aspects regarding content.  
In addition to a structured process, we fully support you on your way to your PhD with additional means, which include in particular:

  • Weekly meetings in small, thematic groups
  • Biannual workshops PhD workshops (page in German)
  • Regular PhD seminars (page in German)
  • Biannual, individual feedback sessions
  • Sabbatical
  • Workshops for improving your research methodology and writing skills

(1) Thematic outline (after 6 months)

The outline is a brief sketch of the main idea of your PhD thesis. It typically takes the form of a few Powerpoint slides. You are allowed to choose adequate topics on your own, or we may initially determine an interesting research area for you. The Quality Gate ‘Outline finished’ is expected to be reached within six months. Formally, it comprises the following aspects:
  • Problem context, including relevance for research
  • Research question and hypotheses
  • Other relevant research groups in that area including their respective approaches (relevant research community and their key journals, conferences, and players)
  • Tentative solution and its central elements, such as concept, tool, experiment, and validation
  • Risks that may threaten the successful completion of your PhD (with respect to both contents and methodology)

(2) Proposal writing (after 18 months)

Writing a proposal means extending the outline to an about 15 pages long, proper textual description. The Quality Gate ‘Proposal completed’ should be reached 18 months after you began working with us. Your proposal will consider the following points:

  • Problem context, including relevance for research
  • Research question and hypotheses
  • Other relevant research groups in that area including their respective approaches (relevant research community and their key journals, conferences, and players)

(3) Planning of A-level publication (after 18 months)

Planning your A-level publication means that you prepare a submission for a conference or journal with a high reputation. You are expected to lay down your schedule for this in two or three pages. The schedule must be ready after 18 months, or earlier. The final decision which conference or journal will be considered as A level will be taken by your professor together with your supervisor. The plan may be presented at our semi-annual doctoral workshop. The presentation should focus on the following aspects:

  • Detailed description of your submission: paper structure, including sketches of argument structure and individual steps. What is my contribution and how can I show its benefits?
  • Identification of missing pieces and what can be done about it: Sketch of things that need be done before submission, including schedule. What needs to be done? Until when? How?
  • Selection of appropriate A-level conferences and journals. Why this particular conference/journal? What signs of quality characterize this publication venue as one with high reputation? What are the pros and cons?

(4) First publication accepted (after 24 months)

We expect your first publication to be accepted within 24 months after the beginning of your work. This can be any publication that conforms to the specifics given below. In particular, your first publication is independent from the A-level publication referred to in Quality Gates 3 and 5. Formal clearance will be given by your professor and by your supervisor.
Prior to this, the conference/journal must be agreed upon and your paper needs to pass an internal review. Your first publication shall be accepted at an adequate publication venue, which can be either a renowned conference or journal, a highly recognised workshop, or a doctoral symposium. In any case, the following requirements are obligatory:

  • Four pages or more in A4 or letter format
  • Peer-reviewed
  • Properly published (ACM, IEEE, Springer, etc.)
  • Significant contribution, if co-authored

(5) Submission of A-level publication (after 30 months)

Submission of your first A-level publication is due 30 months after commencement of work. Formal clearance will be given by your professor and by your supervisor. Prior to this, the conference/journal must be agreed upon and your paper needs to pass an internal review.