17.10.2017

Guide for the doctoral candidate

Examination and assessment of doctoral dissertation

Absence of grounds for disqualification

According to the Administrative Procedure Act (434/2003, 27 §) an official shall not participate in the consideration of a matter or be present during such consideration, if he/she is disqualified. This means that none of the persons involved in the examination and assessment of doctoral dissertation (preliminary examiner, opponent, Faculty Council member or the person making the draft of the Faculty Council’s decision or the member of the assessment board) should be incompetent due to the likelihood of bias.

Schedule

Generally, it is realistic to reserve a couple of months between the submitting of the dissertation to the preliminary examiners and its public examination. The schedule, however, is affected by several factors that can either speed up or slow down the process. One important factor is the publication channel of the dissertation and the schedule of the publisher. The doctoral candidate should find out well in advance about the publication practices in his or her subject and decide whether he or she wants the dissertation to be published in traditional or in electronic form.

Each doctoral candidate must consider the stages of the process and their possible duration.

From an administrative point of view, the stages and factors affecting their duration are roughly as follows:

  • submitting the dissertation manuscript for preliminary examination and receiving the permission for a public examination:
    • the Faculty Council meeting schedule (note: no meetings in July or August) regarding both submitting the dissertation manuscript for preliminary examination and granting the permission for a public examination
    • the duration of the preliminary examination: the preliminary examiners are expected to hand in their statements about two months after they have received the dissertation manuscript, but things such as holiday seasons may prolong the process
  • decision on the permission for a public examination:
    • the Faculty Council meeting schedule (note: no meetings in July or August)
    • finding a date that suits the doctoral candidate, the opponent or opponents, the custos (the chair), the main representative of the subject, and the assessment board
    • note that the date of the public examination, the opponent(s), and the custos are nominated in the same Faculty Council meeting in which the permission for a public examination is granted. The faculty approves of public examinations taking place outside the academic year with the consent of all the participants.
  • the public examination:
    • practical requirements (such as official announcements) mean that it is not usually possible to have the public examination earlier than a month after the permission for the public examination has been granted
    • publication channel and the possible schedule of the publisher may affect the schedule (see Dissertation distribution and costs)
    • doctoral candidate must take care of the distribution of the dissertation at least ten days before the public examination
  • receiving the degree:
    • statements by the assessment board and the opponent usually arrive relatively quickly
    • the faculty sees that the doctoral candidate has completed all required postgraduate studies – if this is not the case, receiving the degree will be postponed
    • the Faculty Council meeting schedule (note: no meetings in July or August)

Under special circumstances, such as during summer, the dean may nominate the preliminary examiners, the opponent or opponents, and the custos and decide on the permission for the public examination, the time and date of the public examination, the acceptance and the grade of the thesis if all the statements and proposals are completely unanimous, unambiguous, and undisputed. 

Preliminary examination and the permission for a public examination

It is the duty of the supervisors to ensure that the dissertation manuscript is eligible for preliminary examination. The supervisors also ensure that the manuscript meets all dissertation requirements (including abstract and summary). 

Before the preliminary examiners are proposed:

  • the doctoral student submits the dissertation manuscript to the plagiarism detector (Urkund) by sending it as an email attachment to the address provided by his or her supervisor-in-charge. The supervisor-in-charge is responsible for processing the (Urkund) report. The supervisor-in-charge sends the (Urkund) report and a short statement concerning the responsible conduct of research to the Faculty (to coordinator Heli Niskanen) for archiving. The faculty is responsible for providing the report for the preliminary examiners in case they want to use it in assessing the manuscript. Information and instructions on Urkund can be found here.  
  • if possible, it is recommended that the manuscript should use the University of Jyväskylä dissertation template (for more information, see library's instructions).
  • it is the duty of the candidate to ensure the correctness of the language of the dissertation. This should be done before the preliminary examination, if possible, or at the latest when the manuscript has been finalised. It is recommended to use a native proof-reader. There is a separate process description concerning the proofreading of theses and abstracts. Attention should also be paid to the correctness of the language of dissertations written in the native language of the candidate.

When the doctoral student, having heard his or her supervisors, has decided to submit the dissertation manuscript for preliminary examination (Degree Regulations 22 §), he or she sends the study intended as dissertation to the Faculty and the supervisor-in-charge. The manuscript is submitted as a PDF to the Coordinator Heli Niskanen at the Faculty Office.

The preliminary examiners are proposed by the main representative of the subject in question. The examiners should be experts in the field of study involved and at least one of them should be from outside the University of Jyväskylä. They should also be at least docents or have the same level of expertise. Anyone holding a doctorate can be a preliminary examiner if he or she is particularly distinguished in the field. A supervisor cannot act as a preliminary examiner. Ineligibilities must be considered.

The main representative of the subject uses a specific form to report the contact details of the preliminary examiners and information on who assessed the Urkund report and when. The form must also include up-to-date contact details of the doctoral student. The main representative also reports the supervisor-in-charge and other supervisors of the study.

The Faculty verifies that the doctoral student is registered as a student of the subject in question and enrolled for attendance as a postgraduate student.

The Faculty Council makes the decision on the preliminary examiners based on the proposal. The decision on the preliminary examiners is announced to the doctoral student and the supervisor-in-charge. At this stage, the Faculty checks the situation regarding the doctoral student’s postgraduate studies from the student registry and sends a summary to the doctoral student and the supervisor-in-charge.

The Faculty Office sends the manuscript to the preliminary examiners together with information regarding the examination process.

The candidate and the preliminary examiners may not communicate directly with each other. The Faculty oversees the communication between the candidate/supervisor(s) and the preliminary examiners. Preliminary examiner must mention in his/her statement if he/she has communicated directly with the doctoral student during the process. 

The preliminary examiners must provide a substantiated written statement (either jointly or separately) on whether a permission should be granted or rejected for the public examination of the dissertation. They are requested to state this clearly in their reports. They can suggest corrections, but the proposal for permission cannot be conditional. Suggestions for required changes that do not prevent the permission for public examination of the dissertation can be delivered to the author on a separate list. The faculty hopes to receive the written statements (recommended length 2–4 pages) within two months after the preliminary examiners have received the manuscript.

The written statements are delivered to the members of the Faculty Council who are entitled to vote in the approval process and to the candidate and the supervisor(-in-charge).

The doctoral candidate has ten days to comment on the preliminary examiners’ statements before a decision on the permission for the public examination of the dissertation is made by the Faculty Council. The candidate should deliver the comment to the Faculty Council (Faculty Office) within ten days of receiving the statements. The doctoral candidate has the right to interrupt the preliminary examination process before the Faculty Council handles the permission for the public examination. (Degree Regulations of the University of Jyväskylä 22 §.)  

The permission, the date and the place for the examination are decided and the opponent and the custos are nominated in the same Faculty Council meeting.

If one or more preliminary examiner gives a statement in which he/she suggests that the permission should be rejected for the public examination of the dissertation:  

  • If one preliminary examiner gives a statement in which he/she suggests that the permission should be rejected for the public examination of the dissertation, the Faculty Council nominates one additional preliminary examiner.
  • If two or more preliminary examiners give statements which suggest that the permission should be rejected for the public examination of the dissertation, the candidate is not granted the permission for a public examination of the dissertation and the preliminary examination procedure ends.

If the candidate is not granted the permission for a public examination of the dissertation, the preliminary examination procedure ends (for the follow-up procedure, see the Degree Regulations of the University of Jyväskylä 22 §). 

Public examination of doctoral dissertations

Once the candidate has been given the permission for the public examination of the dissertation, the Faculty appoints one or two official opponents for the occasion. The faculty also nominates the custos (the chair), the assessment board, the date, and the place for the examination. The main representative of the subject makes a proposal on the public examination to the Faculty Council.

  • The opponent should be an expert in the field of study, hold at least a doctorate but preferably be a professor or a docent, and his or her primary employer should not be the University of Jyväskylä.
  • The assessment board will propose the grade for the dissertation. The composition of the assessment board will be decided by the Faculty Council at the same meeting in which the permission for the public examination of the dissertation is granted. A proposal regarding the composition of the assessment board is made by the main representative of the subject. The assessment board comprises at least three members: the opponent; a representative of the subject in question; and a so-called external member. In the assessment board, the discipline is represented by the main representative of the subject or a representative of the department proposed by him or her. Members of the assessment board must hold a doctoral degree. In considering the composition of the board, it must be taken into account that the supervisor of the doctoral dissertation cannot be a member of the board. The representative of the subject serves as the chair of the assessment board.
  • According to the Degree Regulations of the University of Jyväskylä (23 §), the custos must have an employment relationship with the University of Jyväskylä. The Faculty Council usually nominates one of the professors or docents of the Faculty as the custos.
  • It is important to agree on the date of the public examination process as soon as possible. The date must suit the doctoral candidate, the opponent or opponents, the custos, and the main representative and the assessment board of the subject. The faculty approves of public examinations taking place outside the academic year with the consent of all the participants. The Faculty Council does not meet in July or August so in these cases, the final decision and assessment of the dissertation will take place in the autumn.

The doctoral student is not allowed to communicate directly with the opponent. The communication between the doctoral student and the opponent must go via the Custos. The doctoral student must tell his/her supervisors if he/she has communicated directly with the opponent during the process.

Things to remember before the public examination of a dissertation:

  • Set the date of the public examination and either reserve a hall or confirm with the subject that a hall has been reserved.
  • The department, together with the candidate, is responsible for the practical matters related to the public debate. A specific task of the custos is to introduce the opponent to the practicalities of the public examination, especially if he or she has no previous experience of public examinations at Finnish universities (see Instructions for the Custos).
  • The language used in the public examination of the doctoral dissertation is decided in advance by the custos, after a discussion on the matter with both the doctoral candidate and the opponent.
  • At this stage at the latest, the doctoral candidate must decide who will publish the dissertation and find out about the publication and distribution instructions and quantities (see the following section).
  • Plan a press release. Note that they often include a picture of the doctoral candidate. Other possible arrangements are agreed with the PR and information office of the University when necessary. Be prepared to answer journalists’ questions on (and off) the topic of your dissertation. Instructions on writing a press release can be found on the University Communications website.
  • Be prepared for possible departmental publication ceremonies (such as the “naulajaiset” [nailing ceremony] of the History subjects).
  • Decide on clothing with the custos and the opponent.
  • Prepare the lectio praecursoria (introductory lecture). It is important to take the general audience in to account by making sure that the main points of the thesis are also comprehensible to non-specialists. If the examination is conducted in a language other than Finnish, the lectio is often in English. It is also possible to prepare the lectio in Finnish and use a different language in the examination.
  • Prepare for the coffee service. Contact the secretary of your department and ask him/her to organise the service and to ensure that a space is reserved for the coffee service (for example, Sonaatti-cafeterias).
  • Ask your supervisor(-in-charge) about the practicalities regarding the meeting before the public examination.
  • If the candidate wants to organise a post-doctoral party (karonkka) in honour of the opponent, he or she should prepare the invitations, organise the refreshments and programme, reserve a space for the party, and compose a speech to thank the opponent and all the other people he or she would like to acknowledge. Alternatively, the candidate may host a dinner in honour of the opponent. The candidate is responsible for covering the costs of the party or the dinner. If the party takes place at the University, the department will cover the rent of the room until midnight. 

NB! If any allegations concerning research misconduct has been made after the permission for the public examination of the dissertation has been granted, the Rector has to be informed immediately. The rector decides if any actions should take place.

Publication of the dissertation

The doctoral candidate sees to the publication of the doctoral thesis, which can mean either

A) having it published by a publisher

  • The dissertation can be published as a part of a research series through the Jyväskylä University Publishing Unit (the University series) or by a publisher not affiliated with the University. The dissertation can also be published online or in digital form, either by the Publishing Unit of the Jyväskylä University Library or another publisher. In other words, a dissertation can be published in a university research series (or somewhere else) solely in electronic form as long as paper copies are made for the public examination (see B) below).
  • The publisher’s instructions should be followed regarding the structure and the content of the work, but the candidate must pay attention to the dissertation requirements. For example, it is possible to supplement the introduction with a separate handout. In this case, the handout and the publication constitute the dissertation that is to be assessed. These kinds of decisions should be negotiated in advance with the supervisors.
  • The publisher’s instructions regarding the layout of the dissertation and the text format are to be followed.
  • The Jyväskylä University Library website has information about publishing a dissertation in a university research series.

OR

B) independently copying the necessary number of handouts for the public examination only

  • Using this so-called handout dissertation does not prevent it from being published through a publisher later. 
  • The departmental instructions regarding to the layout and the text format of the handout dissertation are to be followed.

Some mistakes may be found in the dissertation manuscript after the corrections based on the preliminary examination statements have been made and the dissertation is already publicly available.

  • The candidate can correct small technical mistakes such as typing errors by contacting the Open Science Centre/Library’s Publishing Unit. The mistakes will be corrected to the online version of the dissertation which is published in the JYX (Jyväskylä University Digital Archive). So called errata list will be added to the printed book.
  • Serious factual errors can’t be corrected by making an errata. The examination and assessment of doctoral dissertation must be interrupted.

Distribution and expenses

The candidate is responsible for the distribution of the dissertation. The Jyväskylä University Library website has information about the distribution of dissertations published in the university research series or elsewhere.

If the thesis is copied as a handout (that is, not published in a series), the candidate sees to the distribution of copies according to the instructions found on the Jyväskylä University Library website. Note that additionally,

  • an electronic copy of the dissertation must be delivered to the faculty (as an email attachment to Coordinator Heli Niskanen at the Faculty Office);
  • two (2) printed copies should be delivered to Heli Niskanen at the Faculty Office for archiving purposes;
  • the assessment board needs copies (mainly, they receive electronic copies);
  • the candidate may copy the summary or some other suitable part of the dissertation to be available to the public at the public examination.

The candidate must see to the above-mentioned distribution of the dissertation no later than 10 days before the public examination.

The distribution includes placing a public copy at the main library lobby. The dean can grant a permission to shorten the period to a minimum of five days based on a written request presented in advance. (Degree Regulations of the University of Jyväskylä 22 §.)

Expenses

  • As a rule, the departments do not partake in the expenses of the publication. The candidate may contact the head of the department with any inquiries pertaining to the matter.
  • The expenses of the handout dissertation are paid by the department. 

Public examination of the dissertation, post-doctoral party, and further information for the candidate

  • See the Procedure at the public defence of a dissertation at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • See the Instructions for Doctoral Dissertation for detailed information about things to remember before the public examination of a dissertation, instructions for writing a press release, and the procedures and formalities of the examination day.
  • During in the public examination, if somebody from the audience makes a critical comment or remark concerning unethical practices the custos has to take note of it. If the comment is long and complex, custos should ask the commentator to state his/her comment in writing. The comment has to be written down in the same extent and form as it was stated in the public examination. The custos sets also a deadline for sending the comment both to the custos and to the Faculty. Custos has to discuss the comment/remark with the ethics support person of the Faculty (https://www.jyu.fi/hallinto/toimikunnat/eettinentoimikunta/en/Support) who will assess whether the comment or remark gives reason to initiate the RCR process (the process of handling alleged violations of the responsible conduct of research). In addition, the Faculty Council has to be notified of all comments. The Faculty Council can table the decision concerning the evaluation of the doctoral thesis until further clarification. It has to be noted that the process of examination and assessment of doctoral dissertation has to be interrupted for the duration of the RCR process. 

The evaluation of a licentiate thesis

Before the examination

It is the duty of the supervisors to ensure that the dissertation manuscript is eligible for examination. The supervisors also ensure that the manuscript meets all licentiate thesis requirements.

Before the examination, the doctoral student submits the licentiate thesis manuscript to the plagiarism detector (Urkund) by sending it as an email attachment to the address provided by his or her supervisor-in-charge. The supervisor-in-charge is responsible for processing the (Urkund) report and for sending it to the Faculty Office for archiving. The Faculty is responsible for providing the report for the preliminary examiners in case they want to use it in assessing the manuscript. Information and instructions on Urkund can be found here.

At this point, the doctoral student sends the study intended as a licentiate thesis to the Coordinator Heli Niskanen at the Faculty Office as a PDF for distribution to the examiners. A separate one-page abstract of the goals, methods, materials and results of the study must be attached to the file. The summary is written in Finnish, Swedish, or English.

When the licentiate thesis is ready for examination, the main representative of the subject in question proposes examiners for the Faculty. The main representative of the subject uses a specific form to propose examiners for the Faculty. Supervisor cannot act as an examiner.

The Faculty verifies that the doctoral student is registered as a student of the subject in question and enrolled for attendance as a postgraduate student.

The dean nominates at least two examiners for a licentiate thesis. The examiners must hold a doctoral degree. The Faculty Office informs the candidate, the examiners, and the supervisor-in-charge of the nominations.

At this stage, the faculty checks the student registry for the situation of the doctoral student’s postgraduate studies and sends a summary to the doctoral student and the supervisor-in-charge.

The reviewers should receive the study for assessment no later than four weeks before the examination date, which is set by the department.

Public examination

The licentiate thesis must be on public display at a location announced by the department no later than 10 days before the examination, which is also public. Audience handouts are copied for the examination.

The expenses related to the examination (expert fees, travel fees etc.) are paid by the department, which also takes care of the practicalities together with the candidate.

The examiners, of which at least one must participate in the public examination, present their statement of the work assessed at the public examination. If the work consists of several scientific publications or manuscripts, the examination should focus on the ensemble. The examiners should clearly state in their statements whether the publications and the conclusive and evaluative part form a solid and coherent research ensemble.

After the public examination

After the public examination, the main representative of the subject, having discussed with the examiners, will present the Faculty with a proposal for a grade for the study.

The Faculty will decide on the approval of the thesis after having received the examiners’ written statements and the proposal for a grade from the main representative of the subject. 

The candidate sees that the thesis is saved in the digital archive of the University Library (JYX). 

The evaluation of postgraduate theses and the appeal procedure 

Grade scale and criteria

Licentiate theses and doctoral dissertations are assessed on a five-level scale: PASS – SATISFACTORY – GOOD – VERY GOOD – EXCELLENT (1–5). Evaluation criteria as a downloadable PDF

The evaluation of a doctoral dissertation and the appeal procedure

The Faculty Council grades the dissertation after receiving all three statements: 

  • the statement of the assessment board;
  • the statement of the opponent; and
  • the statement of the Custos.

The assessment board will propose the grade for the dissertation. The assessment board meets after the public examination of the dissertation to discuss the grade of the dissertation. The chair of the assessment board will convey the board’s statement regarding the grade to the Faculty.

Within two weeks of the public examination, the opponent must give a substantiated written statement of evaluation on the dissertation to the Faculty Council. The proposal must take into consideration the candidate’s ability to defend the dissertation in the public examination. The statement can include a proposal for the grade but it is not obligatory. If there is more than one opponent, they can write the statement jointly if they wish to do so.

The Faculty sends the candidate the statements for a possible response. If the candidate informs the Faculty Office that he or she wishes to file a comment on the opponent’s report, the candidate should deliver the comment to the Faculty Council (Faculty Office) within ten days of receiving the statements.

The Faculty Council grades the dissertation. The Faculty informs the candidate on the decision and the supervisor-in-chief, and the main representative of the subject of the approval. An appeal against the evaluation of the thesis can be made to the Appeal Committee of the University within 14 days after the information has been received. The appeal is submitted to the University registry office.

The evaluation of a licentiate thesis and the appeal procedure

The main representative of the subject presents the Faculty Council with a proposal for a grade. The Faculty Council decides on the approval and grade of the licentiate thesis. The examiners are also asked to include a proposal for a grade in their statements. The main representative of the subject must take the proposals into account, but he makes his own proposal independently.

The examiners’ statements are delivered to the faculty, which delivers them to the doctoral student. If the candidate informs the Faculty Office that he or she wishes to file a comment on the examiners’ or opponents’ reports, as per the Degree Regulations of the University of Jyväskylä (22 §), the candidate should deliver his or her statement to the Faculty Council (Faculty Office) within ten days of receiving the statements. An appeal against the evaluation of the thesis can be made to the Appeal Committee of the University within 14 days after the information has been received (60 §). 

Conferring of the licentiate and doctoral degrees

The candidate can apply for a licentiate’s or a doctoral degree when the postgraduate studies stated in the syllabus have been completed and taken into the student register.

The doctoral dissertation must have been approved by the Faculty before a doctoral degree can be applied for. Accordingly, the applying of a licentiate degree requires that the licentiate thesis has been approved by the Faculty.

Once the Faculty has approved the thesis or the dissertation and the doctoral student has completed all the other required postgraduate studies, he or she may apply for a licentiate’s or a doctoral degree. An application form can be found on the Faculty website. The form is to be delivered to the Faculty Office (Coordinator Salla Kujala).

The dean provides a certificate of a degree completed at the Faculty.

The Faculty Office informs the relevant parties of the approval of the application and the certificate can be collected from the Faculty Office or it can be posted to the applicant on request.

Joint doctoral degree between two or more faculties: applying for compensation

At the final stage of the dissertation work, the supervisors evaluate the relative amount of supervision provided by supervisors representing two or more faculties or independent institutes.
A faculty or an independent institute offering doctoral education that has not granted the student the right to pursue postgraduate studies but has provided the doctoral student with supervision and wants compensation for the contribution should contact the faculty awarding the degree at the time of the application for the degree, using a form found on this website (in Finnish). 

Diploma conferment ceremony and degree ceremony

Students who have completed a doctoral degree may be granted, in a conferment ceremony (“promootio”) or without it, the right to use the associated symbols that the faculty council has confirmed for the degree (University of Jyväskylä Regulations 54 §). In practice, “to grant” means to grant a permission to carry the emblems, the sword and the silk hat, which the doctor needs to acquire independently. The emblems can be carried after the degree has been obtained, even if the doctor plans to attend a conferment ceremony in the future.

The Faculty also holds smaller graduation ceremonies (“publiikki”) annually (in general). All masters, licentiates and doctors who have graduated after the previous ceremonies are invited.