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My masters program is in physics. I already have quite some research experience, but almost exclusively in the R&D department of two well known companies. Therefore neither my bachelor thesis nor my internship reports are publicly available.

I have one research paper I published with one of the companies during my internship that I can openly talk about and one related patent, but everything else is off limits. And this publication is not really just my work but the work of an entire department and has multiple authors.

I'm now thinking about doing my master thesis also at a company, but my (new) supervising professor warned me, that it might be bad for me not to be able to talk about the contents of my master/bachelor thesis when applying for a phd. He suggested to ask the company to allow me to split my thesis in a non-confidential and a confidential part, but that is not really feasible.

How serious of a concern is this? Do phd advisors really read the master theses of their applicants?

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Your advisor is giving good advice and is likely positioned to know. Take the advice.

I doubt that all advisors read the masters theses of their students, but they will be curious enough about the quality to have questions. They need assurance that you are capable of taking on doctoral level research and so it is difficult if you can't discuss it with them.

I doubt that it is an absolute block, but think your advisor has it right in your case.

In the US it might be less of an issue than some other places since less is expected of newly entering doctoral students in most cases (not all).

It may even be that your masters thesis isn't especially relevant (or helpful) if it is overly focused on product development. Doctoral research isn't likely to have similar focus or methodology.

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  • I'm not in the US but central Europe. Thanks for the advice.
    – asker1924
    Feb 12 at 22:57
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    Germany, in particular, but others as well, expect quite a lot of an entering doctoral student.
    – Buffy
    Feb 12 at 22:58
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I have one research paper I published with one of the companies during my internship that I can openly talk about and one related patent, but everything else is off limits.

That is sufficient.

this publication is not really just my work but the work of an entire department

That is normal.

my (new) supervising professor warned me, that it might be bad for me not to be able to talk about the contents of my master/bachelor thesis when applying for a phd.

He is right.

How serious of a concern is this?

A PhD is an apprenticeship in academic research, and proper academic research is public. If you do research and you want academic recognition for it, you need to plan for it to be disclosed. If you plan on applying for a PhD, I would recommend not doing confidential work.

Do phd advisors really read the master theses of their applicants?

They are likely to at least verify that it exists.

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