Doctoral Studies - structure and timing

PhD thesis and structure of the degree

As a rule of thumb, a PhD thesis based on journal articles consists of an introduction and 4 scientific articles, two of which have already been published or accepted for publication. The most​ important criterion is not the number of papers, however, but the overall scientific quality of the PhD thesis. If the papers are lighter than average in a scientific sense, more papers may be needed. This may also be the case if the own contribution of the defendant to coauthored papers has been limited, e.g. the defendant has more than one paper where she/he is not the first author.​
A PhD thesis can also be a monograph, i.e. written as a coherent book. ​This format is rarely used in the natural sciences, however, because scientific merit is mostly judged by publications in scientific journals. Your chances of succeeding in a scientific career are therefore better if you have published in scientific journals already before graduating.
The research director is responsible for assessing that the thesis fulfils the requirements before proposing to the faculty that the pre­-examiners be nominated.
All research has to be carried out such that it conforms with good scientific practice and research ethics. Guidelines are available both at the European level and nationally​.


Apart from writing a PhD thesis, doctoral students are required to attend courses and carry out other studies that together give a total of 60 ECTS. Each doctoral student makes a personal study plan, which is meant to ensure that the student obtains the knowledge and skills that are needed to successfully carry out the research on which the PhD thesis is based.
The studies can include, apart from courses specifically tailored for doctoral students, also intermediate to advanced level courses targeted at BSc or MSc students. Basic courses meant for BSc students cannot be included in a doctoral degree. Courses given at any recognised university in Finland or abroad are eligible.
The PhD thesis cannot be sent for pre-­examination until enough studies have been completed and registered, and the research director has approved them.​ 

Recommended contents of the study plan

  • 8-12 ECTS Literature examination (Obligatory. Contact your supervisor or research director to agree on the books or other scientific literature.)
    2 ECTS scientific ethics (Obligatory, course offered by UTUGS)
  • 10 ECTS Literature review (An essay based on recent journal articles related to your research topic. Cannot be included in your thesis.)
    •10-20 ECTS University courses in the major subject
    •10-20 ECTS University courses in supporting subjects
    •4-8 ECTS PhD seminar (highly recommended for students in ecology and biodiversity)
    •4-8 ECTS transferable skills courses (e.g. those offered by UTUGS)
    •4-8 ECTS Participation and presentation (oral or poster) in international conferences (4 or 3 ECTS / conference)
    •0-4 ECTS Teaching in university courses (1 ECTS for each 1 ECTS taught)
    •0-4 ECTS Public outreach (e.g. school visits, popular articles on scientific topics, scientific blogging)
    •0-4 ECTS Scientific publications that do not form a part of the thesis (2 ECTS/publication)
    •0-4 ECTS Research visits to a foreign research institution (2 ECTS/month)


How to register your credits

Credits from courses you take at the University of Turku are registered routinely by the course teacher. Other credits are registered via email: (titled BGG_Surname). You need to present the appropriate course certificate or other proof of having completed the activity in question. Please, note that credits from conferences, research visits etc. need to be endorsed by your supervisor or research director.


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