Doctoral education

Instructions for pre-examiners (School of Science)

Guidelines for pre-examiners of doctoral theses in the School of Science

General quality requirements for theses at Aalto University

Aalto University aims at the highest possible quality of its theses.

  • A doctoral thesis shall contain new scientific knowledge in the field it represents.
  • The doctoral thesis must present the new results clearly and in a manner meeting the criteria set for scientific texts.
  • The independent contribution to the research shall be sufficient and clearly demonstrable.
  • The research methods used shall fulfil the criteria set for scientific research.
  • A doctoral thesis shall conform to the principles of responsible conduct of research and adhere to ethically sustainable principles.

The manuscript of the thesis submitted for pre-examination must be complete and its language must be faultless.

Forms of theses

An approved doctoral thesis may be:

  1. Monograph
  2. Article-based doctoral thesis
  3. Essay-based doctoral thesis
  4. Other work which meets corresponding scientific criteria

1. Monograph

 A monograph is a coherent writing based on the work of the doctoral candidate and written by the candidate. The monograph may contain references to previous works by the doctoral candidate on the same topic. The independent contribution of the candidate must be described.

The doctoral thesis describes the research problem, the research goals, the used methods and results, and presents a summary of the key findings. The summary shall assess the significance of the study for the discipline.

Examination: Examining a monograph requires particular precision and carefulness, since the content is examined as something new.

2. Article-based doctoral thesis

An article-based doctoral thesis consists of a set of publications on a related set of problems, and a summary of the findings. 

The articles included in the doctoral thesis are published or submitted for publication in an high level acknowledged peer-reviewed forum in the discipline (for example a scientific publication series, conference proceedings or other work). Articles not yet accepted for publication can also be included in the doctoral thesis. The number of publications required for the thesis depends on their extent, scientific significance and quality as well as on the weight of the independent contribution of the doctoral candidate to the publications.

The articles may also include co-authored publications if the author's independent contribution to them can be demonstrated. An article can be included in several theses if the separate contribution of the doctoral candidate can be demonstrated.  

The summary of the article-based doctoral thesis is an independent entity, which provides an overview of the thesis contents. The summary shall describe the research problem, research goals and methods, and presents a summary of the key findings. The summary shall assess the significance of the study for the discipline. The summary shall contain a list of the publications included in the thesis and describe the independent contribution of the candidate in each publication separately.

Examination: In an article-based thesis, all or some of the articles have already undergone peer review. The examination is thus directed with particular precision and carefulness on the unpublished manuscript and on the summary.

3. Essay-based doctoral thesis

An essay-based doctoral thesis consists of scientific essays and a summary. The essays and the summary shall deal with a single research problem or set of problems. 

Each of the essays shall contain new results and viewpoints, and shall primarily be based on independent research by the author, but also collaboratively written essays may be accepted as part of the doctoral thesis.  

The number of essays required depends on their extent, scientific significance and quality as well as on the weight of the independent contribution of the author to the essays.

The summary describes the research problem, research goals and methods, and presents a summary of the key findings.  The summary shall assess the significance of the study for the discipline. The summary contains a description of the independent contribution of the author in each of the essays.

Examination: In an essay-based thesis, the examination is directed with particular precision and carefulness on the unpublished essays and on the summary.

Statement of the pre-examiner

The purpose of the pre-examination is to establish whether the manuscript fulfills general quality requirements and whether the thesis is ready for publication. Therefore, particular attention should be paid to the following aspects:

  1. The scientific correctness of the thesis, and the clarity of the hypotheses or the objectives of the research, particularly when examining parts that have not been peer-reviewed yet
  2. The sufficiency of the doctoral candidate’s own research input (particularly if the thesis includes co-authored publications)
  3. The significance and status of the thesis in the field
  4. The scope of the thesis and the sufficiency of the material
  5. The doctoral candidate’s ability to obtain results from the material examined in the thesis
  6. The logic of the thesis’s structure
  7. The knowledge and use of literature in the field and the ability to use references correctly
  8. Language

In your statement, you should give a summation of the most important results and merits of the thesis along with discovered shortcomings. You should not embark on an actual supervision of the research or go too deep into giving suggestions for improvement. If necessary, you may discuss the thesis with the doctoral candidate or with the supervising professor in order to confirm some details in the thesis. However, you shall not improve the thesis together with the doctoral candidate before writing your statement. Necessary corrections and suggestions for improvement are mentioned in the pre-examination statement.

As a pre-examiner, you are also asked to evaluate whether the manuscript can be accepted for publication as a doctoral thesis as it is or after making some required necessary corrections. If there are no required necessary corrections, a sufficient length for the statement is 1-2 pages. If you additionally wish to present some comments or suggestions concerning the further development of the research (e.g., to support the publication of unpublished papers), you should clearly indicate in the statement that these comments do not require any changes in the manuscript before it can be accepted for publication as a doctoral thesis.

Editorial comments to the manuscript can either be included in the statement, or sent directly to the doctoral candidate. If you send them directly to the candidate, you should mention this in your statement. Please note that it is the supervising professor’s responsibility to check that the editorial corrections are addressed. You should write your statement on the version that was sent to you from the Doctoral Programme in Science. If you require major corrections to the manuscript, you should also state if a re-examination of the manuscript is necessary before it can be published. In case a re-examination is needed, please indicate if you would be available as a re-examiner. 

Towards the end of your statement, you should clearly state whether or not permission to publish the thesis should be granted after the candidate has implemented the necessary corrections (if any).

Thesis award

In the School of Science about 10% of the theses are awarded annually. If the examiner considers the thesis to be of exceptionally high quality on international level and should be recommended for a thesis award, the examiner is asked to indicate this in his/her statement.

Delivering the statement

The pre-examiner is requested to present his/her statement within six weeks from the initial receipt of the official request, so that the examination process of the thesis can be completed within the time set by the regulations of the school. The statement is sent to the Doctoral Programme Committee.

After receiving the statements, the decision on permission for public defence will be made by the Doctoral Programme Committee. The Doctoral Programme Committee committee will take into account the pre-examination statements and a possible written reply from the doctoral candidate before the decision is made. The Doctoral Programme Committee may, at its discretion, ask that the doctoral candidate makes an account of the corrections that have been made, verified by the supervising professor. The Doctoral Programme Committee may also see that the corrected manuscript is pre-examined again.

Publishing of the thesis

Please note that once the permission to publish (called permission for public defence in Aalto University) has been granted by the Doctoral Programme Committee, the thesis will be published already before the public defence:

  • Published:
  • Updated: