"Not only did I gain a broad theoretical and methodological approach, I also enjoy the inspiring, interdisciplinary context offered in the CDSS program." Mascha Rauschenbach, CDSS

CDSS PhD Programs

Program Structure

The PhD Programs in Political Science, Psychology and Sociology at the CDSS consist of two semesters of course work and extend over three years overall.

PhD students must commit to advanced graduate-level studies in five mandatory courses and a number of elective courses, as well as in a bridge course from a different discipline during the initial two semesters. They are also expected to write a literature review leading to their dissertation proposal.

PhD students decide about their thesis topic and supervisor in the course of the second semester. The other members of the dissertation committee can be appointed later. From the third semester on, students are required to participate in weekly CDSS doctoral workshops and research colloquia besides working on their dissertation.



Program requirements

1st semester:

  • One preparatory course 'Mathematics for Social Scientists' and the core course 'Current Research Perspectives' (2 ECTS each)
  • Two graded core courses - 'Crafting Social Science Research' and 'Theory Building and Causal Inference' (6 ECTS each)
  • Submit a literature review at the end of the first semester (6 ECTS)

2nd semester:

  • 'English Academic Writing' course (3 ECTS)
  • Attend the 'Dissertation Proposal Workshop' (2 ECTS) and submit a dissertation proposal (8 ECTS) at the end of year 1.

1st and 2nd semester:

  • 18 ECTS from the CDSS elective courses portfolio on methods of the Social Sciences
  • 12 ECTS from topical elective courses (research seminars) in the respective discipline
  • One elective bridge course of at least 5 ECTS. Choose from a different CDSS discipline or from courses offered by the CDSB and CDSE. The course must cover a different research topic than the own research topic

3rd semester onwards:

  • Regularly participate in research colloquia (2 ECTS per semester) and the CDSS Dissertation Workshops (3 ECTS per semester)
  • Work on dissertation and its defense (90 ECTS)

The entire PhD program amounts to 180 ECTS points.

The following grading scheme is used at the CDSS: 1,0 (excellent) to 4,0 (fair/pass) and 5,0 (fail). A differentiation in 0,3 steps (1,3; 1,7 etc.) is possible. Elective courses are graded either PASS or FAIL. 

For an overview of CDSS courses, please refer to the CDSS course catalogue.

Degree requirements

  • Completion of the CDSS course program
  • Completion, submission and acceptance of the thesis
  • Thesis defense
  • Degree awarded: Dr. rer. soc. (Doctor rerum socialium / Doctor of Social Sciences)

CDSS PhD theses may consist of several original papers in one area which all will be published in good scholarly journals. However, the classical form of a dissertation (a longer text analyzing one topic in depth) is also possible with the clear perspective that the contents of the dissertation will be used towards articles published in scholarly journals. The decision about the form of the thesis is made by the student and his/her supervisor.


For further detailed information on program and degree requirements, please refer to the section on regulations at the CDSS.