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A dissertation, or doctoral thesis, is an academic paper in which the candidate demonstrates his or her ability to independently conduct original research and contribute to existing knowledge on a scientific topic. This means that in terms of length, literature research, systematic treatment, and analysis of the topic, a dissertation is much more demanding than a master or diploma thesis. In particular, the candidate must show a profound knowledge of the most important theories and methods in the chosen field, and make a significant contribution to scientific progress.

The dissertation is the main focus of the doctoral program, and is worked on throughout the program in close cooperation with the candidate’s thesis supervisor. Cumulative dissertations are possible. However, requirements and criteria vary widely and must be discussed with your thesis supervisor.

Submitting your dissertation

Dissertations are submitted electronically using the LEARN learning and information portal. For more information on the submission process, please see the MyLEARN-Guide. All dissertations submitted are subjected to plagiarism detection. Two bound copies of the Dissertation have to be submitted to the Doctoral Office. Your thesis supervisor and second examiner may also request one hard copy each. The examiners have four months to evaluate and grade the dissertation (counted from the date when the bound copies were submitted to the Doctoral Office). Once the dissertation has been evaluated, the examiners are required to submit the completed grading protocol and written appraisals to the Doctoral Office.


All theses completed at WU (bachelor’s and master’s theses, dissertations) that are submitted for evaluation are routinely subjected to plagiarism detection on LEARN.

A work is considered to be plagiarized if it incorporates texts, contents, or ideas produced by someone else and passes them off as the author’s own. This is the case especially when another person’s intellectual property is incorporated into a work without marking the elements in question as quotations and referencing the original sources and authors. In particular, plagiarism includes:

  • Quoting passages from other works without referencing the sources

  • Downloading texts (or parts of texts) from the internet and passing them off as one’s own

  • Passing off other people’s work (or parts of other people’s work) as one’s own (ghostwriting)

  • Using translations of works (or parts of works) written in another language in one’s own text without referencing the sources

  • Handing in the same text (or parts of the same text) more than once in different seminars or for different papers or theses (self-plagiarism)


Plagiarism can entail a range of consequences, depending on the severity of the misconduct and on the time at which the suspicions arise. For detailed information on the possible consequences pursuant to the applicable study regulations and criminal law, please see the Directive on plagiarism and academic fraud and the resulting legal consequences issued by the Vice-Rector, Academic Programs and Student Affairs (Richtlinie der Vizerektorin für Lehre und Studierende zu Plagiaten und den damit verbundenen Rechtsfolgen).

If you have any questions on plagiarism or if you have detected a case of plagiarism, please contact the Study Information office by email.

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Completing Your Studies