Doctoral dissertation

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dissertation); or it must be a scholarly work in the name of the doctoral candidate alone and based on previously unpublished research results (a monograph).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: they must 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.

Doctoral dissertation in Faculty of Medicine

When examining a dissertation or a Licentiate thesis, particular consideration should be given to the following:

  1. The topic and its originality
  2. The quality of the research material and its applicability to investigating the matter under discussion
  3. 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?
  4. The reliability and scientific significance of the observations. Do the research results support previous observations, or does the research feature completely new observations?
  5. 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.
  6. Does the author display a command of the field and a familiarity with the literature?
  7. 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/, 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:

they must

  1. contain new scientific knowledge
  2. demonstrate critical thinking on the doctoral candidate’s part
  3. demonstrate profound familiarity with the field
  4. demonstrate mastery of research methods and their application
  5. be scientifically convincing
  6. contain justified results, and
  7. 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.

Monograph dissertations

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.

Article-based dissertations

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, at least half of the articles in a dissertation are not to be used in other dissertations. Exceptionally high-quality articles where both writers have a central role and such publications where both writers clearly have different roles (such as laboratory work and bioinformatics), are exceptions.

 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”.

Choosing the publication forum

The Faculty recommends to choose journals with a publication forum level (levels 1-3). This will most likely mean that the publication forum is scientifically and ethically approvable. Please see the list from Publication Forum website. Another way to evaluate the level of the publication forum is to see whether it has been listed on Medline, Web of Science, and Pubmed. The Faculty Council has decided on 16 May 2023 that If JUFO drops a journal to the zero category, the journal is considered a predator journal by the Faculty either from the beginning of the next calendar year, if the drop occurs in the middle of the calendar year, or from the beginning of the drop, if the drop occurs on January 1. After this, new articles submitted to the journal in question will not be accepted for dissertations at the Faculty of Medicine.

Brand new journals have not been evaluated by the Publication Forum, and are not always immediately indexed in Medline, Pubmed, or Web of Science. When evaluating new publication series, the prestigiousness of the publisher plays an important part. If the publisher is a prestigious and well-known scientific community or a well-known scientific publisher, it is to be assumed that the new publication forum is proper, e.g. an “open access” version of a known journal. 

NB! Please be cautious about open access journals. More information on questionable open access publishers and journals is available on the Scholarly Open Access webpage. Articles published in questionable forums are not accepted as part of a dissertation. Thus, it is important for doctoral candidates and their supervisors to carefully check the publication forum selection related matters described above and save all communications with the journals.

The following are to be included in a dissertation (article-based and monograph):

  • Table of contents (with page numbering)
  • List of original publications
  • Abbreviations
  • A one- or two-page abstract of the dissertation and its key results, which must mention the objectives, main methods, achieved results, and conclusions drawn from the results.
  • Introduction
  • An analytical literature review, examining the development of information relating to the topic under discussion as well as the current situation
  • A statement of the research question
  • A report on the materials and methods used, presented in writing; in addition, a table of methods may be used
  • The research results and discussion
  • A discussion in which the independent research results are critically contrasted with previous research
  • A summary, and the conclusions
  • A bibliography
  • Articles in an article-based dissertation.

 The following system for the references and bibliography shall be followed when writing a dissertation. For inline citations, either numbering or the author’s name and date are used as references. The bibliography is either listed in numerical order or alphabetised by author name (following the system for the references). All authors, the title of the article and the name of the journal must be indicated for articles in the bibliography. Abbreviations from the Index Medicus shall be used for journals. After the name of the journal, the volume, the beginning and end page of the article and the publication year are given. When referencing monographs and books, the title, author or editor, publisher, publication location and year, and beginning and end pages of the reference must be included.

The cover and cover page of the dissertation must include at least the following information:

  • Name of the author
  • The fact that the work is a dissertation
  • Name of the faculty granting the permission to print
  • Research location(s)
  • Doctoral programme
  • Printing house
  • Printing location
  • Printing year
  • ISBN
  • Names of the supervisors
  • Names of the assessors
  • Phrase: The Faculty of Medicine uses the Urkund system (plagiarism recognition) to examine all doctoral dissertations.

ISBN codes are issued by the Finnish National ISBN Centre: tel. 02941 44329 or 02941 44312.

Doctoral candidates publishing in DSHealth publication series ‘Dissertationes Scholae Doctoralis Ad Sanitatem Investigandam Universitatis Helsinkiensis’ can find more information on the cover design in instructions for students.

All dissertations must include a table of contents and a list of the component articles for article-based dissertations. If one or more of the articles in the dissertation have been used as a part of a previously published dissertation, a notification of this must be included in the dissertation after the list of articles.

Retaining the original research material

The author must retain the original research results pertaining to the dissertation at least as long as the processing of the dissertation at the Faculty is underway. The results must be presented to the Faculty or to Faculty-appointed assessors on request.

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
  4. approval of the dissertation.

Pre­lim­in­ary ex­am­in­a­tion instructions in detail can be found Instructions for students' article Faculty of Medicine: submitting the doctoral thesis

When the dissertation manuscript is complete, the doctoral candidate must apply for its preliminary examination from the Faculty Council. If the dissertation comprises articles, all articles but one – or two, if there are a total of six or more articles – must be accepted for publication.

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, normally from Finland, who are familiar with the field of the dissertation. The preliminary examiners will issue a statement on the dissertation manuscript to the Faculty Council for the purpose of granting the permission to print and defend the dissertation.

Financial support for thesis completion.

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 in the article Publishing the dissertation and communications and on E-thesis instructions. 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.

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.

Opponent's travelling

Travel reservations must be made through the Faculty's secretaries, so that in the event of cancellations, the university's travel insurance will cover the expenses incurred. The doctoral researcher, supervisor or opponent can contact the secretaries directly regarding travel bookings (

The supervisor's unit will cover the opponent's travel and accommodation expenses as follows (if the supervisor is not employed by the university, the expenses are covered by the custos' unit):

• Flight: Finland max €300, Europe max €750, non-European country max €1250 (economy class)

• Buses, taxis, etc.: According to the universities travel guidelines. Any taxi or bus trips will be paid afterwards to the opponent with 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.

• We recommend using public transport instead of a taxi whenever possible. The easiest way to buy a public transport ticket is with the HSL application, where you can also download receipts for the travel invoice.

• We recommend ordering taxis in Helsinki by phone, using an app or through the hotel reception. In this way, we make sure that the taxis are reliable service providers, whose prices are reasonable, and you also get a receipt for the trip. On the travel invoice, you are to write the routes taken by taxi.

• Should the opponent use their own car for the journey, the costs will be reimbursed according to the cheapest public means of transport for the corresponding journey, not with kilometre allowances. A print of the fares is to be included with the travel expense form.

• The Faculty will not cover any parking costs.

• Accommodation: max 2 nights in a hotel according to the university's travel guidelines/ (reasonably priced accommodation, no suites, no the most expensive hotels). If the Faculty’s secretaries are not used to book the hotel, we will reimburse a maximum of 150 euros per night against receipts.

The doctoral researcher’s supervisor pays the remaining travel and accommodation expenses of the opponent. If the supevisor does not have funds or is not employed by the university, the selection of the opponent and the covering of expenses must be agreed with the head of the unit in advance.

To be noted:


• Flights must be booked as soon as the date of the public defence is known or no later than one month before the public defence. Additional costs arising from flights booked too late will be paid from the funds of the supervisor or the research team.

• The opponent sends a travel invoice with attachments for other possible expenses (bus, taxi) to the address, where the invoice is checked and forwarded to financial services for payment. The travel invoice form is sent to the opponent along with other instructions by e-mail when the dissertation process begins.

DOCTOR RESEARCHER: University of Helsinki's contract hotels, travel guide and travel booking system can be found in Flamma.


Dissertation hall and dissertation ceremony

The Faculty of Medicine pays the opponent's fee and the hall rent for the dissertation. If the dissertation meeting is organized in the premises of the University of Helsinki and the adjacent lobby or the Faculty Club of BM 1 is used for the coffee meeting, the 2-hour reservation will be placed in the same room reservation and the faculty will pay for it. If the coffee event is organized elsewhere, the faculty does not cover the space rent. Please note that HUS premises are not university premises and the faculty does not reimburse the rent of these.

In principle, the public defence is to be always organized in Helsinki at the premises of the university or HUS. If you want to organize the event in another location, you must agree with the faculty in advance. Independently managed arrangements can lead to the postponement of the public defence.

The doctoral researcher pays for the coffee service held after the dissertation conference. The faculty does not pay any catering costs related to the public defence ceremony.

The opponent's coat costs are not reimbursed from the unit's funds, incl. possible own project financing.

The university does not compensate the opponent's meals or pay any daily allowance in connection with the defence.

You can ask for reference information at

You can get more information about expense billing from Tuomas Hurri,

Welcome to the public examination

The procedures and formalities related to the public defence of doctoral dissertations have evolved in the course of several centuries. Today, faculties have different views as to the degree of formality of the public examination of dissertations. Some faculties observe old traditions, while others aim to create a seminar-like atmosphere with vivid discussion. The Custos appointed by the faculty acts as the official chair of the examination, so any details regarding the examination procedure should be agreed with him or her.

Check out the proceedings and the protocol of the public dissertations