Doctoral thesis defence
How to organise the defence
There are three possible ways to ogranise the defence:
1. Traditional doctoral thesis defence where the doctoral researcher, the opponent, the custos and the public are all present in the doctoral thesis defence hall
- To increase the visibility of research, the event can be streamed unidirectionally (asking questions via remote connection is not possible) OR two-way (asking questions via remote connection is possible).
2. Doctoral researcher, opponent, OR custos attends remotely to the doctoral thesis defence
- Two of the parties and the public are present in the defence hall and the third party attends the event remotely.
- Two-way streaming of the defence is required.
3. All parties, doctoral researcher, opponent, custos, and the public, attend remotely to the doctoral thesis defence
- Hall is not needed.
- Two-way streaming of the defence is required.
General guidelines for the remote doctoral thesis defence
Doctoral thesis defence is always open event and must be accessible to the public.
- The dissertation announcement published in the University’s website and any personal invitations must indicate a video conferencing software (Zoom, Teams, etc.) and a link to access the doctoral thesis defence. The link must be sent to the University’s Communication services together with the dissertation announcement.
- Two-way streaming of the defence requires in advance testing of the remote connection before the thesis defence date.
- The doctoral researcher or the custos may arrange so that there is a person who follows public questions and informs the custos accordingly.
- The doctoral candidate, the custos and the opponent can sit during the whole doctoral thesis defence.
- Potential questions by audience can be posed using chat. Posing questions verbally is not required. Introducer of the question must however present himself / herself (name, tittle). The custos must allow enough time to pose the question in chat.
- The remote connection must be open during doctoral thesis defence. The public must be able to participate at any stage of the defence.
- The custos does not necessarily have to be the supervisor.
- ICT support is only available for doctoral thesis defences in the University premises at office hours. For University Hospital’s lecture halls support must be enquired from IT support of University Hospital.
Preparing for the doctoral thesis defence
As a doctoral candidate, it is strongly recommended that, before defending your own thesis, you attend the defence of your friends and colleagues in your faculty. This helps you to familiarise yourself with how the event proceeds, get some ideas for the content, structure and presentation of your lectio praecursoria and discover the nature of the issues the opponent may raise.
With the help of your close colleagues and supervisor(s), you should also analyse the strengths and weaknesses of your thesis objectively, paying particular attention to issues raised during the pre-examination of the thesis by the reviewers, and prepare any counter-arguments to differing opinions and interpretations of your work. It is recommended to rehearse for the doctoral thesis defence, or at least to practice answering questions. Your supervisors could be very good stand-ins for the opponent during these rehearsals, because they not only know your work well, but also understand its broader context. Some faculties also arrange practice thesis defences for their doctoral candidates, but you could also arrange less formal practice sessions by asking a couple of colleagues to read your thesis and ask you questions about it (be sure to return the favour if they ask you to do the same for them).
You should make a PowerPoint presentation of the most important figures and tables in your thesis for the defence day. You might also add notes, outlining answers to likely questions, to your own copy of the thesis that you will take with you to the defence.
Purpose of a public doctoral thesis defence
A doctoral thesis must always be defended in public (section 22 of the Government Decree on University Degrees). There are three main goals for a public doctoral thesis defence:
- To publicly and as reliably as possible verify that the doctoral candidate has personally written a thesis whose academic value corresponds to the general requirements for doctoral theses.
- To offer the official opponent and any other people interested in the subject matter the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the contents of the doctoral thesis by listening to the author, offering the author their observations, asking questions from the author and discussing the thesis with the author.
- To celebrate the published research results in a visible manner that deviates from the day-to-day routines of the university.
The doctoral thesis defence should be an event where two (or three) academics, who are experts in their field, discuss the subject matter of the doctoral thesis. An enlightened layman should be able to follow the main themes of the discussion and understand the subject matter.
The opponent and the discussion at the doctoral thesis defence do not influence the quality of the doctoral thesis, but they do influence the approval and grade of the thesis. The thesis defence is a way to study how well the author is able to justify their choices and views, and analyse the links between the research presented in the thesis and the discipline in general.
Language of the doctoral thesis defence
The custos will determine the language to be used at the thesis defence after having discussed the issue with the doctoral candidate and the opponent. The language must be Finnish, Swedish, or the language in which the doctoral thesis was written. The doctoral thesis defence may also be held in a language other than these, provided that the doctoral candidate agrees to this. Based on a separate agreement, the opponent and the doctoral candidate may also use different languages at the thesis defence.
If the doctoral candidate’s native language is Finnish, the lectio praecursoria is usually given in Finnish, even if the language of the doctoral thesis defence is not Finnish. In other cases, the presentation is given in the language to be used with the opponent during the doctoral thesis defence.
Progress of the doctoral thesis defence
These instructions are based on the doctoral thesis defence traditions of the University of Oulu, but they have been revised to reflect the current practices. The custos provides instructions to the doctoral candidate and the opponent on what will happen during the thesis defence.
- The thesis defence will start 15 minutes past the hour, unless otherwise determined for a justified reason (such as due to the thesis defence being for a double degree or a degree involving several universities with a video connection to the partner university), at which time the audience will already be seated.
- The doctoral candidate will enter the hall first, followed by the custos and the opponent. The people seated in the lecture hall will stand up to honour them. The custos and the opponent – if their degrees have been conferred by a Finnish university – will hold their doctoral hat in their right hand when entering and exiting the hall. A custos or opponent who has graduated from a university outside of Finland may use their own doctoral outfit and hat. The hats must be placed on a table with the lyre emblem turned towards the audience for the duration of the thesis defence.
- As a general rule, the opponent should be addressed formally, but the opponent may propose a less formal approach, for example at the beginning of the thesis defence.
Doctoral thesis defence party (karonkka)
It is tradition that the doctoral candidate arranges a party to honour the opponent(s) on the evening of the thesis defence day. Please find more information about the defence party below.