When examining a dissertation or a Licentiate thesis, particular consideration should be given to the following:
- The topic and its originality
- The quality of the research material and its applicability to investigating the matter under discussion
- The research methods and their reliability. Has the work required the use of methods which examine the problem under scrutiny in a new way, or the creation of completely new methods?
- The reliability and scientific significance of the observations. Do the research results support previous observations, or does the research feature completely new observations?
- Are the conclusions reliable, and can the author contrast his or her own observations with previous research? Particular attention should be paid to the significance of the conclusions with respect to opening new perspectives in the field of the dissertation.
- Does the author display a command of the field and a familiarity with the literature?
- Are the overall composition (the relative scope and logical organisation of the literature review and the sections discussing the material, methods, etc.), presentation, style, language and layout appropriate for the dissertation?
A grade of Pass with Distinction requires that the results of the research bear international significance and that the included observations and conclusions are new and greatly change previously held notions or clinical practices. If the student conducted the research as a member of a group, indisputable proof of his or her independent contribution is required.
According to Rector’s decision (HY/498/00.00.06.00/2017), a doctoral dissertation must consist of peer-reviewed scholarly publications or manuscripts accepted for publication, as well as a summarising report on the said documents (an article-based dissertation); or it must be a scholarly work in the name of the doctoral candidate alone and based on previously unpublished research results (a monograph). The doctoral dissertation may also take the form of another work that meets the appropriate scientific criteria, provided that the doctoral candidate’s independent contribution to it can be verified.
All doctoral dissertations should meet the following scholarly criteria:
a) contain new scientific knowledge
b) demonstrate critical thinking on the doctoral candidate’s part
c) demonstrate profound familiarity with the field
d) demonstrate mastery of research methods and their application
e) be scientifically convincing
f) contain justified results, and
g) demonstrate scientific integrity and adhere to the ethical norms of research.
The supervisor and the doctoral candidate must limit the topic and content of the dissertation in such a way that the degree can be completed in four years of full-time study.
The doctoral dissertation must have a brief abstract of one to two pages, providing a summary of the dissertation and its key results. The abstract must outline the doctoral candidate’s objectives or research questions as well as the core research methods, results and conclusions.
A monograph dissertation is a scholarly work issued under the name of the writer alone and based on independent research. Previously published work shall not be accepted as a monograph. Before completing the dissertation proper, however, the author of a monograph may publish articles on related topics and refer to these in the dissertation. Direct quotes from the dissertation cannot be published later under a research group. The length of a monograph dissertation is normally maximum 250 pages. Supervisors of monographs must take particular care to ensure the quality of the manuscript before it is submitted for preliminary examination.
An article-based dissertation typically comprises several peer-reviewed scholarly articles related to a single topic and a summarising report which is considered the dissertation proper. The number of articles depends on the extent, the scientific quality and significance of the articles, the publishing forum, as well as, the own contribution of the writer. If the number of original articles is small (1-2), special attention is paid to high quality of the research and the amount of work done. In addition, thesis committee (follow-up group) is to make a statement in favour of the public dissertation and the doctoral candidate is to indicate their significant contribution in the original articles of the dissertation with a report signed by the candidate and their supervisor. The report is to be more detailed than usually (with the accuracy of each individual test/experiment or analysis).
The doctoral candidate writes the summarising report, which is a synthesis of the articles in the dissertation including the literary review. The summarising report of an article-based dissertation must present the background, objectives, methods, material, results, discussion and conclusions of the research. The summarising report must be a balanced work based on both the publications included in the dissertation and the research literature.
The component articles are to have been published in well-regarded international refereed scientific publication series or journals, or to be approved for publication with the exception of one article. Common review articles are not accepted as component articles, whereas high-standard meta-analysis and systemized reviews might be accepted.
If the summarising report of a doctoral dissertation reproduces tables, figures or graphs from the doctoral candidate’s original publications, the doctoral candidate must contact the publisher to ascertain that he or she can include them in the doctoral dissertation. Many publishers announce on their websites that they permit the reproduction of such material in theses and dissertations. The caption for each reproduced table, figure or graph must indicate that the publisher permits its reproduction and that the publisher’s permission has been sought, as follows: “Reproduced with permission from…” and a reference to the original publication. With regard to original publications attached to the end of the doctoral dissertation, it has not been customary to separately request permission to reprint them because they are presented in their original format.
The author of the dissertation may also present unpublished research results in the summarising report. Any unpublished results must be referenced accordingly (“N. N. et al., unpublished results”). To avoid duplicate publication, unpublished results cannot be included in the summarising report as a segment equivalent in scope to an article, if the results are intended to be published later as an article.
In any co-authored publications, the doctoral candidate’s independent contribution must be clearly identifiable. For this purpose, the doctoral candidate, the supervisor and the advisory committee, if any, draft a free-form report on the participation of the doctoral candidate at each stage of the research work. If the co-authored publication has been used in another dissertation, this must be mentioned in the report. The doctoral candidate should deliver the draft of the report on his or her contribution also to the other authors of the publication.
The doctoral candidate shall deliver the report to the faculty when submitting the dissertation for preliminary examination and to the preliminary examiners, opponent and custos at a later date. The report may also be included in the summarising report or an article included in the dissertation.
As a rule, an article can only be used in one dissertation, and at least one half of the articles must only be used in the dissertation in question.
In case one or more of the articles have been previously used in some earlier dissertation, this information must be added to the end of the “List of original publications”.
Please see more information on the format and layout of doctoral dissertations at the Faculty of Medicine in instructions for students.
The examination process of doctoral dissertations comprises the following: 1) preliminary examination, 2) permission to print the dissertation and defend it at a public examination, 3) the public examination and 4) approval of the dissertation.
The preliminary examination process is launched in two stages at the Faculty of Medicine. Once you have submitted the doctoral dissertation for preliminary examination, the Doctoral Committee monitoring the quality of doctoral dissertations will process the application for launching the preliminary examination process. Only after the Doctoral Committee in their meeting has approved of the pre-examination process to commence, can the Faculty Council decide on the commence of the pre-examination.
Article-based dissertations that contain incomplete article manuscripts cannot be submitted for preliminary examination, but the matter can be suspended until the manuscripts are polished or revised.
At the proposal of the supervising professor (or the supervising person), the Faculty Council will appoint two preliminary examiners, who are familiar with the field of the dissertation. Preliminary examiners are to be professors, docents or doctoral degree holders with equivalent academic qualifications. Preliminary examiners are always selected from outside the doctoral candidate’s home faculty and, as a rule, from outside the University of Helsinki.
Permission to print and defend the dissertation requires supporting statements from the preliminary examiners as well as information on the opponent, custos, and grading committee member. All but one of the articles in an article-based dissertation must be approved for publication – this also pertains to dissertations consisting of six or more articles.
Once the preliminary examiners have submitted their supporting statements, the Faculty Council will grant permission to print and defend the dissertation and will appoint the opponent and custos at the proposal of the supervising professor (or the supervising person). One of the Faculty professors will serve as custos. The opponent must be a professor or docent (or have equivalent scientific qualifications) in one of the fields of research of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Helsinki or in a neighbouring field. The opponent must be from outside the faculty and, as a rule, from outside the University of Helsinki. The same principles of disqualification apply to both preliminary examiners and opponents. The opponent must not be involved in the dissertation research or in any co-authored publications with the author of the dissertation. He or she must be from a different division, clinic or research programme than the dissertation supervisor and the doctoral candidate. He or she must not represent the division, clinic, research programme or equivalent organisation where the dissertation has been registered, and he or she must not have cooperated with the dissertation supervisor closely or recently (in the last three years). A preliminary examiner can be appointed as opponent if the reasons are justified. The dissertation supervisors or thesis committee members cannot serve as opponents.
The doctoral candidate must agree on a time for the public examination with the custos and the opponent.
Further information on publishing an electronic dissertation can be found here. The doctoral candidate and dissertation supervisor should pay attention to the following: if the thesis submitted to E-thesis contains unpublished results to be included in an original article, the online publishing of the thesis may hamper the publication of the results. In this case, the doctoral candidate and supervisor should consider postponing the publishing of the dissertation in E-thesis until all results to be included in original articles have been published.
The dissertation must be displayed on the University notice board in its entirety for five days before the public examination.
The Faculty Council appoints one or two opponents to examine the dissertation, and one of the Faculty professors as the custos for the public examination.
The course of the public examination
Advertising the public examination
Instructions for advertising the public examination at the Faculty of Medicine can be found here.
Distribution of dissertations
The doctoral candidate must submit free-of-charge deposit copies to the University ten days before the public examination, as specified in the instructions below. The doctoral candidate may use the University’s internal mail service for this purpose. Any dedications should be written on a separate card or sheet of paper and submitted with the dissertation proper.
All doctoral dissertations must be displayed for five days before the public examination on the University's notice board in the downstairs lobby of the new part of the Main Building at Fabianinkatu 33. The head porter will pin the title page of the dissertation on the notice board, and the full dissertation will be available in the head porter’s office (Fabianinkatu 33, room 1131).
Distribution of dissertations
Please see distribution instructions under Publishing the Dissertation and Communications
Rector has decided on some changes in the dissertation grading. As of 1 March 2019, the new grading practice will commence. Please note, that the practice does not apply to dissertations already submitted for preliminary examination process.
According to the Rector’s decision, one or two faculty representatives will be appointed for the public examination at the discretion of the Faculty Council. The Council will decide on the matter when granting the permission to proceed to public examination, or should this not be possible, delegate the decision making to the Dean.
At the Faculty of Medicine as a rule, with the introduction of this reformation, grade is proposed by the opponent and custos. If custos is also the supervisor, the custos will find a new faculty representative. Faculty representatives must be professors or docents of the University of Helsinki or members of the university's teaching and research staff with the academic qualifications of a docent. The faculty representative(s) must be well acquainted with the grading criteria and regulations related to the examination of doctoral theses in use at the University of Helsinki.
Opponent and the faculty representative will propose a grade for the dissertation. The statements must assess both the quality of the dissertation and the doctoral candidate’s success in defending it at the public examination, thus, the faculty representative is to be present at the public defense. The preliminary examiners’ statements will also be taken into consideration when assessing the dissertation.
At the Faculty of Medicine, the faculty representative is appointed in the preliminary examination form. Thus, in the future, doctoral candidates are to give information in the form of their preliminary examiners, opponent, custos, and faculty representative, whether it is the custos or someone else from the faculty.
The Faculty Council will decide on the approval of the dissertation and on the grade awarded. The Faculty applies a two-tier grading scale: Pass and Pass with Distinction. The latter grade is given only to dissertations of an exceptionally high standard and cannot be granted to more than ten per cent of dissertations approved by the Faculty.
The Faculty of Medicine will pay the opponent’s remuneration and the costs incurred from using a lecture hall. If the public examination is organised in a University of Helsinki facility, and refreshments are served in the adjoining lobby or the Faculty Club in BM1, a two-hour reservation for these facilities will be included in the lecture hall booking paid by the Faculty. If refreshments are served elsewhere, the incurred facility costs will not be paid by the Faculty. Please notice that HUS facilities are not University's facilities and, thus, the University does not cover these costs.
The refreshments themselves will be paid for by the doctoral candidate. The Faculty of Medicine will not cover any refreshment costs.
The doctoral candidate’s unit will cover the opponent’s travel and accommodation expenses as follows:
- Air travel: in Finland up to €300; in Europe up to €600; outside Europe up to €1,000
- Bus, taxi, etc.: As specified by the University of Helsinki Instructions for Travel
- Accommodation: A maximum of two nights in a hotel as specified by the University of Helsinki
Instructions for Travel
If the supervisor is not employed by the University, the above expenses will be covered by the unit of the custos.
The doctoral candidate’s supervisor will cover the remaining travel and accommodation expenses of the opponent. If the supervisor has no funds or if she or he is not employed by the University, the selection of the opponent and the division of expenses must be agreed in advance with the head of the unit.
The opponent’s dress expenses will not be covered by the unit.
- Faculty secretaries will make all travel arrangements (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- The opponent is to submit the specification of travel expenses to Laura Viertola (email@example.com) , who will include the supervisor’s name in it and forward it to Project Services for payment.
DOCTORAL CANDIDATES: Hotels with which the University has an agreement, the University of Helsinki Instructions for Travel and the travel booking system can be found on Flamma
University's reference details for invoicing can be obtained mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
OPPONENTS: The costs of the opponent (air travel, hotel, taxi or bus fare) will be compensated later upon presentation of a travel expense report with relevant receipts. Opponents will be provided with the travel expense form when they are sent instructions on the public defence.
For further instructions, please contact: Tuomas Hurri (email@example.com)