General thesis criteria
According to University law (794/2004) 5 22§, “a doctoral dissertation may also be approved with a number of scientific publications, or manuscripts vetted for publication and deemed sufficient by the university, which deal with the same set of problems, and a paper summarizing the findings or some other work which meets similar scientific criteria”. In line with this, the University of Oulu Graduate School has defined that the doctoral thesis should show evidence that the doctoral student can independently and critically apply scientific research methods and generate new scientific knowledge. A doctoral thesis can be a compilation of published research articles and manuscripts, and a summary based on these, or it can be a monograph. A compilation-based thesis may include multiple published articles, accepted manuscripts or other manuscripts, but a single article published, or accepted for publication, in a high-quality scientific journal can be sufficient. The doctoral thesis may contain joint publications, or manuscripts, if the independent contribution of the doctoral student can be clearly demonstrated. The doctoral training should be defined in a way that the doctoral degree can be completed within a time equivalent to four years of full-time studies.
The doctoral thesis experts evaluate the contribution and its sufficiency for a doctoral dissertation based on the scientific contents of the work. The DTC will make the final decision on the permission to defend the thesis and thesis acceptance based on the evaluations.
The format and the structure of a doctoral thesis can be a unified treatment, which follows the field-specific structure and internal
organization of a scientific writing or book. Such a format is called a monograph thesis or simply a monograph. A monograph thesis may be based on partially or completely published scientific articles authored by the doctoral candidate. If those publications have multiple authors, the
monograph will include the contribution by the doctoral candidate only, or it must be clearly indicated.
A compilation thesis is per se based on international peer reviewed scientific publications, which have appeared or been accepted for publication. Due to the field-specific reasons, the publication series can be also national. The typical number of articles in a compilation varies across the disciplines and depends primarily on their scientific contents, novelty and significance together with the doctoral candidate’s contribution to those.
Research articles in compilation thesis
At least half of the research articles of a compilation thesis must have appeared or be unconditionally accepted for publication in peer reviewed scientific series, when the thesis is submitted to pre-examination; if the number of research articles is one or two, the articles must be accepted. The other articles must be submitted to peer review. If the number of research articles is four or more and if there are particularly well justified and strong reasons, one article may be an almost ready manuscript, the format and scope of which qualifies submission to a scientific series. If the relative portion of accepted manuscripts is less than half, the right solution is typically to prepare a monograph.
- As to the joint publications and manuscripts, it is important that the author has had an independent contribution. The doctoral candidate is typically the first or main author, whose contribution to the article is the most significant; this is usually the case at least for half of the articles. Being the second or secondary author is often well justified. In some cases, there may be a need to include also further articles with a smaller contribution from the doctoral candidate. In such cases, the total number of articles is usually larger than the possible field-specific minimum, but the primary criterion is the evaluation of the overall contribution performed by the doctoral thesis experts.
- If the number of articles is smaller than typical in the field, they shall be of high scientific quality and accepted for publication or be in a peer review processed (passed the possible pre-screening) in series of highest third of the field. The quality can be estimated based on bibliometric criteria (such as the impact factor) or The Federation of Finnish Learned Societies (TSV) Publication Forum (JUFO) rankings.
- If the number of research articles is less than the common practice in the field, the defence permission application must be appended with a written justification of the sufficiency of the contribution by the doctoral student and the principal supervisor. Those must also be presented to the follow-up-group in its last meeting.
- The manuscript must go through an appropriate peer review process. Articles published in series with no indexing or predatory journals will not be accepted as research articles in a thesis. Typical for predatory journals are suspicious background of the publisher, no real peer review and aggressive email campaigning for academics, no JUFO or IF grading, no Scopus or Directory of Open Access Journals indexing. A journal is to be considered suspicious if it is listed in List of Predatory Journals (https://predatoryjournals.com/journals)
- In case a DTC wants to do so, it is entitled to give field-specific guidelines on the usual range of numbers or research articles in a typical compilation based thesis.
Generally, a research article may be used only as a part of one compilation thesis or reported in one monograph only. The following additional guidelines are given:
- If the contribution of two doctoral student in the research is significant, a thesis can include – with well-justified reasons –research articles, which have been or will be used also as original articles of another dissertation. The same research article can be used in a maximum of two dissertations, unless it is an exceptionally significant publication with a large working group cooperation. The cooperation and the reasoning for the usage of the publication in two disserations must be detailed by the student and the principal supervisor as an appendix to the permission to defend.
- The first (or primary) author has the priority to use the article in his or her dissertation. If someone else wishes to use the research article in question as a part of his or her dissertation, he or she must have a written permission from all the authors and supervisor of the research. (In case of an international multicenter study or other similar large set of authors, only signatures for the first author, last author (if he/she is not the supervisor) and corresponding author are needed.)
- The number of such joint publications, which are used in multiple theses, may comprise no more than a half of the number of research articles of a dissertation.
- In all cases in which the same publication is used in multiple theses, all University of Oulu students must report the plan to their DTC as soon as the plan is known and latest as an appendix to the permission to defend application. A natural times include the research plan approval and follow-up-group meeting report. DTC Chair can give a permission to special arrangements.
- The defence permission application must be appended with a written justification of the sufficiency of the contribution by the doctoral student and the principal supervisor. Those must also be presented to the follow-up-group in its last meeting.
- The doctoral candidate must submit a written statement on his or her contribution in each of the research articles. The statement and the other appendices are appended to the permission to defend application.
Field-specific additional guidelines
In addition to the above, the following DTC or degree program specific guidelines are given.
DTC for Health and Biosciences
- The typical number of research articles in a compilation based thesis is at least three (3) (in particular in the field of clinical medicine and dentistry) but there may be variations with good reasons.
- One of the research articles in a compilation thesis with at least three research articles may be a systematic review or equivalent review comparable with an original article generating new scientific knowledge.
- The doctoral student must be the first (primary) author in one retained research article. In another research article, the doctoral student must be the first author alone or co-author with equal contribution. In all other research articles, the doctoral student may be one of the authors without the first position if his or her contribution is sufficient considering the entirety of the thesis work.
- If a thesis comprises only one article, it shall be of outstanding scientific quality and be published or accepted for publication in a highest quality JUFO-3-level journal (such as New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, JAMA, Nature, Science or Cell). Additionally, the doctoral candidate must have a central role (usually the primary author) in the publication.
Detailed guidelines and instructions supplementing these requirements can be downloaded from here.
Last updated: 9.6.2020