Tip of the Week: Not food but the doctoral candidate is grilled at the Barbecue event

The Barbecue practice helps the postgraduate student prepare better for the public examination of the doctoral dissertation.

What is it?

The Barbecue practice helps the postgraduate student prepare better for the public examination of the doctoral dissertation.


About two weeks before the public examination, the members of the research group or department meet in a seminar hall to hear the future doctoral candidate give a presentation on the doctoral dissertation and also introduce the opponent’s field of research. During and after this presentation, the doctoral candidate is asked questions about anything related to the subject. The questions may test the candidate’s basic knowledge of the discipline or they may be related to the results of the doctoral dissertation. The nature of the event is encouraging and its purpose is to spur the doctoral candidate to perform better in the actual public examination. After the Barbecue, the doctoral candidate still has some time to prepare and improve his or her performance for the public examination.

Academician Riitta Hari started this practice in the brain research unit of the Low Temperature Laboratory (later the O.V. Lounasmaa Laboratory), first as a one-to-one preparation of the doctoral candidate, but the practice has gradually spread to the entire research group and unit. At the same time, the nature of the event has changed and, in addition to training and spurring the doctoral candidate, the event now also disseminates information.


What is it suitable for?

In addition to preparing for a public examination, the practice is also suitable for other kinds of preparation. It can be used, for example, when presentations that require careful preparation, such as presentations in conferences, are due.


The practice helps the doctoral candidate prepare for the public examination better. The candidate will learn to answer even surprising questions in a calm manner and anticipate what kind of topics may be discussed in the public examination. At the same time, the candidate may get tips for preparing the lectio precursoria in a sufficiently popular style. The audience, on the other hand, learns about the subject area and foundation of the doctoral dissertation and sees that all research can be discussed in a critical but constructive way.  Most doctoral candidates say they were more nervous about the Barbecue than the actual public examination.

What is required?

The practice does not require extensive preparation, especially if the department has already set up a series of seminars, during which the whole department meets up anyway. It would be a good idea for the audience to consider their questions beforehand, for which reason a link to the summary and partial publications of the dissertation should be shared well in advance.


Further information:

Jaakko Järvinen, Academic Coordinator, Aalto SCI, [email protected]


The Tip of the Week series introduces different good practices that have been used to revise and develop our operation.  Good practices may be operating practices, operating models or working methods. What they have in common is that they make our work more meaningful, improve its quality and make it run more smoothly. Take advantage of the tips in your work!


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