Workshop “Preparing for a Doctoral Project“

23-25 June 2014, Munich


“Preparing for a Doctoral Project”, a workshop organized by the Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies in Munich in June 2014, was a very useful experience. The aim of the workshop was to prepare the students who did not study at German universities and who already have clear ideas for a PhD project for applying to the Graduate School.

The workshop gathered ten students coming from a wide range of disciplines with research projects on Eastern and Southeastern Europe. The postdocs of the Graduate School were working with students in small work groups divided on discipline criteria, with the purpose of improving and concretizing each research proposal. The postdocs not only provided us with important guidelines how to revise the proposals at the beginning of the session, but were also available throughout the workshop for consultations and discussing particular issues the participants met during the revising process.

Very important content of the workshop were lectures on general application standards and requirements of the Graduate School which dealt with each part of the application process. The postdocs presented general guidelines on writing a good expose, motivation letter and CV and also offered a chance to the participants to revise and improve their CV and motivation letter on the spot. This guidance is highly relevant for applying to the Graduate School and for applications to other institutions and foundations in Germany as well. The highlight of this part of the workshop was a presentation about writing an expose, especially because the main standards are different than those in Anglo-Saxon practice. This is what most of the participants would not be familiar with, if they had not participated in the workshop.

At the end of the workshop, all participants presented their revised research proposals in front of the postdocs and current doctoral students of the Graduate School. This was another vital point of the workshop, because the presenters were provided with even more feedback and useful advice from the doctoral students. In this way, the participants received one more insight in the possible theoretical, methodological or other issues concerning their proposed research. More informal discussions with the doctoral students about particular research projects continued also during the breaks.

Another significant part of the workshop were two public lectures organized by the Graduate School, where the participants had an opportunity to visit events which are a part of being a doctoral student at the Graduate School and also to hear renowned scholars. The first event was a lecture by Philipp Ther, a very well-known historian from Vienna, who presented his book about transformation and neo-liberalism in Europe since the eighties. Another lecture was held by Maarten Van Ginderachter from the University of Antwerpen, a historian who introduced to us a new research concept in the study of nationalism – nationalism from the margins, which has already turned into a large network of scholars involved in the study of nationalism and ethnicity. Coming from the field of nationalism studies and being very well acquainted with Van Ginderachter's work, this lecture was not only very inspiring for me, but was also another example of the interdisciplinary nature of the Graduate School.

All in all, the workshop was a very worthy experience which focused on the topics which are essential for those who will apply to the Graduate School. The input the participants received during these three days should definitely improve their chances during the selection process by preparing them and placing them at one level with applicants coming from the Graduate School and Germany.

Jelena Dureinovic