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Information for Second Reviewers

You have been asked to act as second reviewer for a doctoral thesis?

On this page you´ll find information on the role of second reviewers in doctoral procedures in the Department of Political and Social Sciences, their appointment by the competent Committee for Doctoral Examinations and the requirements defined by the regulations for the conduct of doctoral examinations. Should you have any further questions the team of the Early Career Support will be glad to help.

Role of the Second Reviewer

As a rule, a doctoral thesis hast to be assessed by two reviewers, the supervisor and a second reviewer. In contrast to the supervisor whose instalment is part of the admission procedure, the second reviewer will be appointed by the Committee for Doctoral Examinations significantly later, after the doctoral thesis has been completed and submitted.

Combination of Reviewers

Doctoral candidates understandably wish to involve the second reviewer at the earliest possible time during their writing process, the formal appointment by the Committee for Doctoral Examinations however will follow much later in the doctoral procedure. This temporal discrepancy may lead to a problem: the Committee for Doctoral Examinations has to ensure that in an individual doctoral procedure at least one of the reviewers is a full professor in our department at the time of her/his appointment. In the time gap between the admission of the doctoral candidate and the instalment of the doctoral commission the status of the supervisor or the second reviewer may have changed, thus rendering a desired combination of reviewers unfeasible.

So should a doctoral candidate ask you to act as reviewer for her/his thesis it would be wise to settle the following questions:

  • Who is the supervisor? Is (s)he a full professor in the Department of Political and Social Sciences?

  • If not: are you?

  • When is the submission of the thesis to be expected? Will your status in the faculty have changed by then (limited duration of contract, retirement etc.)?

If you agree to meet the candidate´s request, you may decide how close your contact should be during the writing period.

Assessment and Period of Stasis

After the thesis has been submitted and the doctoral commission been installed, the Early Career Support will provide you with a letter confirming your appointment as second reviewer and your copy of the doctoral thesis.

In your report you should evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the doctoral thesis, assess the relevance of the candidate´s findings for the broader context of the subject and point out any flaws. In your overall appraisal you need to propose that the thesis be either accepted, returned to the candidate for revisions or rejected. If you recommend its acceptance you´ll have to include your proposal for a grade according to § 10 of the regulations (summa cum laude, magna cum laude, cum laude oder rite). You will have to submit your signed report per letter or mail attachment to the Early Career Support within an assessment period of 10 weeks and put it at the disposal of both your fellow commission members and the doctoral candidate who will need it in order to prepare for the oral examination.

As soon as both reviews have been submitted to the Early Career Support, a period of stasis will begin during which all professors and post docs in our faculty may read the thesis, be informed of the grades that have been proposed by the reviewers and submit their own statements which in turn have to be included in the doctoral file. During the lecture period the period of stasis has a length of two weeks, during the lecture-free period it is extended to four weeks.

Oral Examination, Agreement on the Grades

Once the period of stasis has ended the oral examination can take place and the doctoral commission can agree on the grades for the candidate´s performance (doctoral thesis, oral examination and overall grade).

The Chair of the Doctoral Commission will make arrangements for the defense date and invite the doctoral candidate as well as the members of the commission to the defense.

In the oral examination the candidate is expected to prove his/her ability to present and discuss scientific problems. In a half-hour lecture the results of the thesis shall be presented and integrated into the broader context of the subject. During a following discussion with a length of 30 to 60 minutes the candidate is expected to defend the thesis against critique and answer the questions of the commission members.

Decisions on the respective grades shall be taken with a simple majority, all members of the commission share the same right to vote. Every member´s thorough knowledge of the thesis and its scientific context as well as the soundness of their considerations may prove decisive for the vote of the commission.