Doctoral dissertations

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dissertation); or it must be a scholarly work in the name of the doctoral candidate alone and based on previously unpublished research results (a monograph).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

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.

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.

Preliminary examination

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.

Dissertation completion grants (To use Flamma, you must log in with your University username and password.)

Permission to print and defend the dissertation requires supporting statements from the preliminary examiners as well as information on the opponent and custos. 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.

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 from 1 January 2016

A total of 20 copies of the dissertation must be printed, regardless of whether the doctoral candidate intends to also publish the dissertation online using the E-thesis service.

All doctoral dissertations completed at the University of Helsinki are to be published in the University’s open digital archive, i.e., the E-thesis service. For compelling reasons (e.g., if the dissertation contains unpublished articles) the doctoral candidate may refrain from publishing the dissertation using E-thesis.  In this case, the doctoral candidate will not be eligible for a University grant to cover the printing costs. To qualify for the grant, the dissertation must be printed at a printing house chosen by the University. Further information can be found on Flamma.

The National Library of Finland 7 copies
PO Box 15 (Yliopistonkatu 1)
00014 University of Helsinki

Helsinki University Library 1 copy
Kaisa House (PO Box 53)
Fabianinkatu 30
00014 University of Helsinki

University of Helsinki Main Building 1 copy (to be displayed on the notice board)
University of Helsinki head porter
University of Helsinki Main Building
PO Box 3 (Fabianinkatu 33)
00014 University of Helsinki

As per Faculty instructions, the remaining 11 printed copies of the dissertations must be distributed as follows:

  • Doctoral candidate, opponent and custos
  • Supervisor(s)
  • Faculty of Medicine
    Education Planning Officer, research and postgraduate studies
    PO Box 63 (Haartmaninkatu 8, 3rd floor)

    00014 University of Helsinki

The doctoral candidate must provide any extra copies for distribution at the public examination.

The opponent must provide a written statement to the Faculty Council within two weeks from the public examination. The statement must include an assessment of the scientific merits of the dissertation, of the fulfilment of its purpose, and of the performance of the doctoral candidate at the public examination. Grounds must always be given for a decision to fail a dissertation.

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 opponent will submit a proposal for the grade to the Faculty. The preliminary examiners are also requested to submit with their statements a well-reasoned proposal for the grade. The Faculty Council will approve the dissertation with a grade of Pass with Distinction if proposed by the opponent and both preliminary examiners (3/3 of the supporting statements) (Decision of the Faculty Council 14 May 2013).