Doctoral thesis

A doctoral thesis must provide new knowledge and in this way take research forward.
A doctoral thesis presents the results of research and at the same time provides evidence of a doctoral student's ability to formulate and solve disciplinary or academic problems, to be an independent researcher.

Two thesis types

There are two different kinds of doctoral theses:
  • Monograph
  • Compilation thesis

Your supervisor's qualifications are important

A supervisor should have much knowledge about and long experience of research training. For this reason it is crucial to select a field of research in which the department in question has adequate supervisory competence. If this competence is not present, the student should consider choosing a more appropriate department.

Experimental and clinical disciplines

In experimental and clinical subjects, the individual doctoral student's own opportunities for choosing a subject are rather limited. Admission to a third-cycle programme in these faculties often entails being offered the chance of becoming a member of a research project that is already in progress, and being given an appropriately dimensioned research assignment. In these cases the student must be prepared to adapt the subject of the thesis to the projects being carried out at the department.  

An individual thesis

It is most common for doctoral students to work on an individual thesis.

Your doctoral thesis is not your life's work

Discussions regarding the magnitude of the doctoral thesis - how long should it be, how much should it cover - have a long history and have a tendency to go back and forth between two schools of thought: should it should be your life's work, or should it be a part of your education and your first big research assignment.

The latter way of thinking has become more dominant over the years. The Doctoral Reform of 1998 stresses that a doctoral programme is an educational programme that shouldn't drag on indefinitely. A doctoral degree is evidence of the doctoral student's ability to complete a programme at the PhD level.

Today, discussion focuses most on the independent researcher rather than the doctoral thesis as the most important result of doctoral studies. Doctoral studies should give the doctoral student the skills needed not only in the academic world, but outside.

Last updated: 2014-08-11
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