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Dtsch Med Wochenschr. 2002 Jun 14;127(24):1307-11.

[Medical dissertation: differences between successful and aborted research projects].

[Article in German]

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Fachschaftsinitiative Medizin Universitätsklinikum Charité, Medizinische Fakultät der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany.



To obtain the title "Doctor medicinae" in Germany a dissertation is required. There are no data currently available to compare successful and unsuccessful student research projects. This study's aim was to determine observational differences between the two groups of successful and unsuccessful dissertations pursued by medical students.


All medical students of the 11 (th) to 14 (th) terms of study at the Charité Hospital in Berlin (n = 1036; 560 females [54.1 %] and 476 males [45.9 %]) received a questionnaire, which invited them to describe the current and/or up to two aborted dissertations. The returned questionnaires were classified into "successful" and "unsuccessful" dissertations.


324 (31 %) students responded, describing 348 dissertation projects at the Charité. Of these, 72 were identified as successful and 65 as unsuccessful. Successful dissertations were significantly better supervised (the supervisor was available more often [64 % vs. 29 %]; the supervisor was more often helpful [57 % vs. 9 %]). Further, planning of successful projects was significantly better (dissertation faithful to agreed-on specifications [42 % vs. 5 %]; financially supported [39 % vs. 8 %]). In addition, efforts to attract the student as a future research partner were significantly more frequent when the dissertation was successful (50 % vs. 17 %).


Successful dissertations are clearly the result of better preparation and continuous close supervision. To improve the chances of success, better planning and supervision are essential. Moreover, financial support and proper preparation for scientific work, e. g., by special courses, maybe promising instruments to increase the fraction of successful dissertations.

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