Research Profile

The Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences covers a very wide range of social science research, from the most abstract and qualitative to the most concrete and quantitative, and many mixtures in between. It also covers everything from research carried out purely because of academic or scientific interest, all the way to research that mostly has an applied purpose. In all the research we do, we aim to have an impact: either on the understanding of a particular topic or theme, and/or on a non-academic area, policy or topic, particularly in social and cultural fields.

The Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences has over 300 members.

Each year, the programme hosts a range of courses, seminars, and master classes organized by the disciplines, which are open to all doctoral researchers registered in the programme.  Many courses are held by distinguished international scholars invited to Helsinki for the purpose; others are designed by our own expert staff. These courses involve:

  • training in research methodologies and theoretical approaches;
  • specialist themes or topics in the social sciences taught by an expert in the field (e.g. globalization; inequality; political demography; social media; cultural difference);
  • doctoral skills and techniques (e.g. writing skills, publishing articles, time management, etc);
  • regular constructive critique of doctoral candidates’ work - where students present their work and they receive feedback on it. One of the advantages of having a cross-disciplinary programme is that students not only receive feedback from within their own discipline, but also hear the views of others, from other disciplines.

In addition, the programme holds an annual conference, which is an opportunity for doctoral students across all the disciplines to meet together in a large event and share their diverse approaches towards the study of social science.

The Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences has a strong commitment to providing the best conditions for doctoral students to carry out their research in the pursuit of this aim, whether their work is purely conceptual or scientific, or whether it has more of an applied purpose. We welcome dialogue and debate; that is at the heart of developing a strong research environment.

PhDs involve a long-term commitment, which requires planning and shared understanding of expectations and responsibilities. In the beginning of doctoral studies, each doctoral candidate makes a personal study plan (PSP) and a supervision agreement. The personal study plan is to ensure that the formal training you take will benefit the aims of your research. Only the student and the supervisor will know what counts as beneficial for each candidate as it varies across research topics and disciplines, and it varies at different stages of the completion of the PhD. Therefore, the personal study plan is done together with a supervisor or supervisors.

These documents - the personal study plan and supervision agreement - are designed to help both PhD students and their supervisors to keep track of progress, and ultimately to approach the goal of achieveing a PhD. 


Degree programme structure 1.8.2017 onwards

The doctoral degree consists of three modules:
Research-specific training (30 credits) + Academic competence (10 credits) + Doctoral thesis.

Module 1: Research-specific training (30 credits)

  • Regular constructive critique of doctoral candidates’ work: research-theme specific seminars and supervision (minimum of 10 credits and maximum of 20 credits).
  • Training in research methodologies and theoretical approaches specific to the PhD candidate’s research field (minimum of 5 credits and maximum of 20).
  • Training in research ethics so as to ensure the highest standards in protecting the privacy, dignity, interests and security of those we research (1-5 credits).
  • International mobility and conference participation (2-10 credits). 
  • Training in specialist themes or topics in the social sciences directly relevant to the doctoral research, which can include training from an external expert (no minimum; maximum of 10 credits).

More courses in Weboodi

Module 2: Academic Competence and Transferable Skills (10 credits)

  • Academic and transferable skills and techniques (e.g. writing and communication skills)
  • Pedagogy in university education, teaching skills
  • Research management skills and science in society
  • Career planning and general working skills

Courses and events

Module 3: Doctoral Thesis

The preparation of the doctoral thesis is the core work of any PhD candidate. All modules involve contributions to this, but this third module lies at the heart of the doctoral program. This module depends heavily on the supervisors (usually a minimum of two, with one main supervisor or two equal co-supervisors) and the doctoral candidate, working together throughout the period of the completion of the degree. There are four elements to this module:

  • Primary and secondary research and data gathering, which will include becoming fully familiar with existing literature and knowledge in the chosen field.
  • Thorough and rigorous analysis of data, which will include regular academic writing under supervision, and presentation of that work for critical assessment and peer review.
  • The writing of the final thesis in a coherent, concise, well organized and well-presented manner. The thesis can be monograph or article-based, as agreed by the supervision team. It is recommended that the thesis shall not exceed a maximum of 80 000 words in total, including footnotes, endnotes, diagrams and tables, and appendices, but excluding the bibliography, and excluding open access to primary data.
  • Submission of the thesis for examination, followed by a public defence of the thesis, in accordance with the regulations of the University of Helsinki.

The thesis can be monograph or article-based. If it is article-based doctoral thesis, the following information should be taken into account: 

  • The normally expected number of peer-reviewed articles will be no less than three (3) and no more than five (5). The final number must be agreed with the recommendation of the doctoral candidate's main supervisor, and must comply with University regulations. 
  • It is recommended that the summary and conclusions of an article-based PhD shall not exceed 20 000 words. The contents of the summary, which varies across disciplines and themes, should be agreed with the doctoral candidate's supervisor.
  • It is recommended that the total word count, including summary, conclusion and articles, shall not exceed 80 000 words (i.e. circa 250 pages).