Supervision and Thesis Topic

You decided to start a doctoral study at TU Wien? Great! However, before you take care of your admission, we recomend that you first take care of  two things: one, finding a (coarse) thesis topic and two, finding a supervisor. This page deals with both issues, which will typically be interconnected.

The topic of your thesis

Basic rule: The topic of your thesis has to match at least one field of study offered by TU Wien. For instance, it is not possible to write a thesis about Byzantine currency at TU Wien. It is also going to be very difficult to write your thesis about classical business administration. The TU Wien awards a Dr. rer. soc. oec. title in principle, but there is no working group or institute for the topic of business administration. This rule makes sense as you need a supervisor who is knowledgeable in the topic you are to write about.

In our experience the topic itself is a somewhat “organic” thing: during the time of your research it is likely that the goals, methodology or even a whole subtopic will change a bit. Therefore, you need not flesh out your topic in every detail – after all, that is what your thesis is for.  On the other hand, this does not mean that you can leave the topic blank: a rough idea or problem, with significance to the scientific community and informed by the scientific state-of-the-art, is a crucial starting point.

You can distinguish between given topics or personal ideas for a topic.

Given topics

Advertised topics can be found:

Another, often very effective way is to talk to the leaders of research groups personally and ask them if they have any vacant topics and jobs for you. Of course that strategy is more time consuming, but it is worth it. Contacts of head of institutes can be found in TISS.

Personal ideas

If you have a promising idea for a thesis, the first thing to do is finding a suitable supervisor. You find contacts to institutes and employes in TISS.

At this point is important to discuss financial support and working area for your research.

Your supervisor

Your supervisor is your primary contact for questions about your research and organizational stuff. Good supervision is a key ingredient for a sucessful thesis and entails, among other things:

  • regular, ideally weekly, meetings where you discuss your research activities,
  • embedding you into your supervisor’s research and teaching activities, for example by attending conferences,
  • your supervisor always finds a minute for your problems and feedback about your work

Any person authorized to teach (habilitated or full professor) can act as your supervisor. If you choose from a given topic, there is often already someone responsible for the supervision. If you bring your own idea, you have the possibility (or the obligation) to search for a suitable supervisor by your own.

External supervision

External supervision means that your supervisor is not authorized to teach at the TU Wien. For instance, this could be somebody from the industrial sector or somebody from another university or a different research establishment. If you plan to have full external supervision you should think about the following points:

  1. Your topic has to match some program offered by the TU Wien (e.g. Mechanical Engineering, Organic Chemistry etc.),
  2. The Dean of Studies has to approve your topic,
  3. The Dean of Studies organizes the two evaluators for your thesis.

Since there are various research groups, it should be no problem finding a supervisor for almost any interest and idea.

It is advisable to have a supervisor at the TU Wien. It is also possible to have more than one supervisor.