Dissertation Process in the Faculty of Humanities

A doctoral dissertation is a consistent scholarly work on a subject which lies within the Faculty of Humanities’ field of research and can be studied there as a major subject. The dissertation should be based on independent research that makes an original contribution to scientific knowledge.


The disseration process in the Faculty of Humanities is described on the UGIS portal and in the instructions below. Please get acquanted with these instructions as well as the Guidelines for Dissertation Defence in the University of Turku.

NB! Special instructions concerning the dissesrtation defence organised using remote connections from 1 June 2020 onwards available in the intranet -> Dissertation defence will be organized via remote connections

A Monograph or a Compilation Thesis?

A doctoral dissertation is either a monograph or a compilation of several separate scholarly articles. The extent of the dissertation required for a doctoral degree is 200 ECTS credits.

Monograph dissertation

A monograph dissertation is a previously unpublished research that is written by the postgraduate student and is published as a consistent work. The recommended length of a monograph dissertation is approximately 250 pages, appendices not included.

Article-based dissertation

An article-based dissertation is a consistent scholarly work composed of articles.
Article-based dissertation
- must form a coherent whole,
- includes 4 articles, of which
- at least 3 articles must be published or accepted for publication,
- articles must be published or accepted for publication in a refereed publication

See also -> The Faculty of Humanities’ Guidelines for an Article-Based Doctoral Dissertation


The Schedule for Processing the Dissertation

The Faculty Board grants the permission to defend the dissertation at a public examination and accepts the doctoral dissertation and licentiate thesis (University of Turku Rules of Procedure, section 21). However, at the Faculty of Humanities, the Faculty Board has delegated to the Dean the task of granting permission to defend and approving or rejecting the dissertation. This affects the timetable of the doctoral defence process so that the doctoral candidate, when planning the schedule for the public examination, does not have to consider the Faculty Board meeting schedule.

Nevertheless, it is important that the disputant allows enough time for the examination process of the dissertation and considers, amongst other things, the time needed for the preparation of decisions, submitting the statements, publishing the dissertation and organising the public examination. The disputant should also bear in mind that the public examination cannot take place until 10 days after the release of the dissertation at the earliest.

Administrative decisions that affect the schedule of the doctoral defence process:

  • pre-examiners (Dean decides, the Head of the department makes a proposal)
  • permission to defend the dissertation at a public examination (Dean decides if the pre-examination statements are favourable)
  • Opponent(s) (Dean decides, the Head of the department makes a proposal)
  • Grading Committee (Dean decides, the Head of the department makes a proposal)
  • grading of the dissertation (Dean decides, or if the decision is not unanimous the Faculty Board decides)
  • awarding the degree (Dean decides after the approval of the dissertation without a separate application).

The time limit for the pre-examiners’ statements is three months, and for the Opponent’s (or Opponents’) and Grading Committee’s statements is one month.

The public examination can be held, at the earliest, one month after the permission for defence has been granted, since the practical arrangements (e.g. press releases) alone will take a considerable amount of time.

After permission to defend has been granted, the disputant and the Custos should agree on an examination date without delay. The Custos makes sure that the date suits the disputant and the members of the Grading Committee alike.

Submitting the Doctoral Dissertation to the Pre-examiners

The doctoral candidate must be currently enrolled as an attending postgraduate student at the University when the manuscript of the dissertation is submitted for preliminary examination. Furthermore, the required postgraduate studies for the doctoral degree (40-60 ECTS) must be completed and entered into the student register. It is the student’s duty to attend to the above-mentioned matters before submitting the manuscript. The completed courses are entered into the register by the student’s department.

The manuscript of the doctoral dissertation should be delivered to the Faculty Office primarily via UGIS-system. Pdf should be sent via UGIS or emailed to humpostgraduate@utu.fi. An electronic copy (pdf) is sufficient for the Faculty.  If the pre-examiner(s) had wished to have a paper copy then 1-2 unbound copies in a cardboard file folder or similar and one pdf are to be delivered to the Faculty (Signum Service Point, Signum, 2nd floor. Please note that the doors are likely to be closed during the Christmas week.)

The manuscript of a monograph dissertation must include a title page, a table of contents and a list of references at the end. One should use 1.5 line spacing and 12-point font. The manuscript of an article-based dissertation must include a summarising section and the content of the articles must be identical to the original publications. When the article-based dissertation is submitted to the pre-examiners prior to the public examination, it should be accompanied by a list of the journals or edited volumes in which the articles have been published or accepted for publication. Furthermore, when co-authored publications are included, the postgraduate student must submit a written statement explaining the nature of their independent contribution to these publications.

Originality check

An originality check (with a plagiarism detection programme Turnitin) must be performed to doctoral dissertation manuscripts prior to submitting them for preliminary examination. The supervisor of the student will perform the plagiarism check. A plagiarism check certificate must be signed and returned to the Faculty.

The final version of the dissertation must include the following note stating that the originality check has been performed: “The originality of this thesis has been checked in accordance with the University of Turku quality assurance system using the Turnitin OriginalityCheck service.”

Language Revision of the Dissertation

It is the doctoral candidate’s responsibility to ensure that the language of a dissertation written in a non-native language is revised to a publishable standard. The final revisions should take place after the pre-examination, at the latest, when the work otherwise has reached its final form. Already during the stage of pre-examination, it is necessary to pay attention to the grammatical correctness of the language used and to its fluent linguistic form. In order to achieve a publishable standard, hiring a professional, native-speaking language reviser is nearly always necessary. The costs of the revision are undertaken by the doctoral candidate but the Faculty offers support for the costs.

If the dissertation is written in a non-native language, the permission will be granted only after the candidate has submitted this statement. In order to obtain permission to defend the dissertation at a public examination, the language reviser’s statement must be delivered to the Faculty (Signum Service Point, humpostgraduate@utu.fi).

Language revision support

The doctoral candidate can apply for a language revision grant (1500 € max.) from the Faculty for language revision of a dissertation written in a non-native language. The doctoral candidate pays the language revision first themself and only afterwards applies for the language revision support. 
In the case of a monograph dissertation, the language revision can be applied when the dissertation has been submitted to pre-examination. In case of the article that is part of article-based dissertation the language revision support can be applied already before the pre-examination. In order to be eligible to apply for Faculty of Humanities language revision support the doctoral candidate has to in case of English-language article use for one article the FALCS service provided by the UTUGS (See >FALCS ). When applying for the language revision support the doctoral candidate must include the statement of their supervisor noting that the article is part of candidate’s article-based dissertation and that it is ready to be submitted to a journal/book.

The language revision support can be applied by sending a free-form application to humpostgraduate@utu.fi The application should include the title of the dissertation / article, the name of the supervisor and doctoral programme, the number of pages that have been revised and other grounds for the sum to be applied. In case of an article the application should also include the statement of the supervisor and in case of a monograph dissertation or the summary section of an article-based monograph a copy of the language reviser’s statement.  

More information on the language revision support can be obtained from humpostgraduate@utu.fi.


Pre-examination of the Doctoral Dissertation

Doctoral dissertations are examined in two stages: the preliminary examination and the public defence of a doctoral dissertation.
Well before submitting the manuscript for examination, the doctoral candidate must contact the Head of the department, who can thus start preparing their proposal for the pre-examiners for the Dean. After the doctoral candidate has left the manuscript in accordance with an agreed timetable to the Head of department he/she must in 4-6 weeks propose the pre-examiners if the supervisors of the doctoral candidate have supported the submitting of doctoral dissertation to the pre-examination. If the head of department does not consider the dissertation ready for pre-examination he/she must inform the doctoral candidate and the supervisors within the same time and justify his/her decision. 
The doctoral dissertation must have a minimum of two pre-examiners, appointed by the Dean. When possible, the pre-examiners should be docents or have equivalent scientific qualifications. The proposal for the pre-examiners is made by the Head of the doctoral candidate’s department after hearing the postgraduate student and their supervisor.
The pre-examiners must be chosen from outside the Faculty and the dissertation supervisor may not act as a pre-examiner. The pre-examiner must not be anyone who has had joint publications or research projects with the student during the time of the student's postgraduate studies. The author of the dissertation is given the possibility to object to the Dean about the choice of the pre-examiners.
While the pre-examination is in progress, neither the author of the dissertation nor their supervisor is allowed to contact the pre-examiners. When necessary, the persons responsible for postgraduate studies at the Faculty Office will take care of the communication with the pre-examiners.
The pre-examiners must submit their statements within three months of receiving the dissertation manuscript for examination. The deadline is calculated from the date of the pre-examination decision.

The Faculty Office delivers copies of the statements to the doctoral candidate and to the professor of the student’s department who made the proposal regarding pre-examination. The doctoral candidate has the right to make remarks on the pre-examiners’ statements before the decision about granting permission to defend the dissertation is made. The statements will be attached to the decision about granting permission, after which they will become public documents. The recommended length for the statements is between two and five pages. The pre-examiners can also issue a joint statement.
The principal duties of the pre-examiners are to assess whether the manuscript can be accepted as a dissertation in its present state or not, and to provide a reasoned written statement on the matter. In other words, the pre-examination is essentially a process which leads to an approval or rejection of the dissertation. The statements of the pre-examiners may contain suggestions for corrections and improvements, but they cannot be conditional.
The criteria used in assessment of the dissertation manuscript is presented in Assessment and Grading.

A negative statement by the pre-examiners means that the pre-examination is discontinued. Usually it is the student who asks for the discontinuation and starts correcting the dissertation. Should the Head of the doctoral candidate’s department recommend that the pre-examination procedure should be restarted after the dissertation has been revised, the Dean re-appoints pre-examiners for the dissertation. It is possible to appoint the same or new pre-examiners to complete the task

During the pre-examination it has been preliminarily asserted that the manuscript fulfils the minimum requirements for a doctoral dissertation, but the final decision on the approval or rejection of the dissertation and on its grading will be made only after the public examination. A rejection of a dissertation at this later stage of the examination process is possible, but very uncommon.

Permission to Defend the Dissertation at a Public Examination

The Faculty Council has assigned to the Dean the right to grant permission to defend the dissertation at a public examination (Decree of the Faculty Board 22/8/2013). If both of the pre-examiners recommend that the doctoral candidate be granted permission to defend the dissertation at a public examination, the Dean will grant the permission. A prerequisite for obtaining the permission is also that the postgraduate studies (40 - 60 ECTS credits) have been completed and registered.

The decision will be sent to the doctoral candidate, to the professor who made the pre-examination decision to the University library and to the University Communications. After this, the candidate may begin to finalise the dissertation for publication and to start the practical arrangements for the public examination of the dissertation.

The dissertation may be published only after the Dean has granted permission to defend the dissertation.

After being granted the permission, the doctoral candidate must see to it that the doctoral dissertation is released no later than 10 days before the date of the public examination.

Doctoral candidate must inform the University Communications about the coming public defence and write a press release on their dissertation.


Usually, the doctoral candidates decide how they publish their dissertation. Most often, the dissertation is published both electronically and as a printed version.

Online publishing promotes open science and access to scientific information and it is therefore recommended. The dissertation does not have to be printed as a book if the doctoral candidate publishes it electronically.

An electronically published dissertation can be a part of the University of Turku Annales series, in which case the publishing contract is made with the University of Turku Library Feeniks. If the dissertation is not published as a part of the Annales series, the publishing contract is made at the Faculty.

Publishing a Doctoral Dissertation 

University's instructions on the minimum printing requirement and distribution of doctoral dissertations

Faculty's more specific quidelines for distribution:
Distribution of doctoral dissertation - Guidelines for doctoral candidates

It is possible to receive printing support for the publication of a doctoral dissertation from the University of Turku. The maximum support for printing a doctoral dissertation is 600 euros (+ value-added tax 24 %) from 1 October 2019 onwards. Doctoral candidates use printing houses tendered by the university. If the dissertation is published only digitally as an electronic publication, the support for printing can be used for layout services. The printing house delivers an electronic invoice based on true costs directly to the university. In order to receive the printing support the doctoral candidate must use the printing houses tendered by the University. When the dissertation is in print the doctoral candidate should inform the Faculty of Humanities (humpostgraduate@utu.fi)  about the forth coming invoice. 

The Opponent, Custos and Grading Committee

After granting permission to defend the dissertation, the Dean appoints an Opponent (or Opponents), a Custos and a Grading Committee for the public examination of the dissertation.

The proposal for the Opponent(s) and for the members of the Grading Committee is made by the Head of the doctoral candidate’s department in UGIS portal. Before the Opponent(s) is/are appointed, the author of the dissertation is given the possibility to object to the proposal. Similarly, the candidate will have an opportunity to express their view on the composition of the Grading Committee.

The Opponent(s)

The Opponent should, if possible, be a docent or have equivalent qualifications. The Opponent must come from outside the University of Turku. If there is more than one Opponent, at least one of them must come from outside the University of Turku. The supervisor of the dissertation cannot act as an Opponent.

Each Opponent submits a statement to the Faculty concerning the scientific value of the dissertation. The statement can also be given jointly. The reasoned, written statement must be delivered within one month of the public examination. It must include a grade proposal.

The Custos

When appointing the members of the Grading Committee, the Dean also appoints the Custos for the public examination. The Custos opens and concludes the public examination and presides over it. The Custos can be a professor of the disputant’s department, a professor in a related discipline or a docent of the disputant’s department, having an employment relationship to the University of Turku. The Custos can also be an emeritus, who has acted as the supervisor of the dissertation and who holds an emeritus agreement with the University of Turku.

The Custos informs the Opponent(s) about the practices and progression of the public examination at the University of Turku. The Custos also acts as a host to the Opponent(s) while they are visiting the University (unless other agreements have been made).

The Custos introduces the Opponent(s) and the members of the Grading Committee to the Faculty’s grading practices, grading scale and other regulations, and acts as the chair and secretary of the Grading Committee that gathers after the public examination.

If the Custos has acted as the supervisor, they can participate in the committee meeting, but they are not allowed to participate in evaluating the scientific value of the dissertation and proposing a grade. Then the Custos asks the third member appointed by the Faculty to act as the chair and secretary of the Grading Committee.

The Grading Committee

The Custos acts as the chair of the Grading Committee. Other members of the committee include the Opponent(s) and one or a maximum of two docents, who usually represent one of the related disciplines at the University of Turku, and who have not participated in the supervision of the dissertation.

Pre-examiner of the dissertation or a representative of related disciplines from other universities can be the member of the Grading Committee.

The members of the Grading Committee – except the Custos – cannot be supervisors of the dissertation which is being graded. Since the grade proposal must take into account not only the scientific value of the dissertation, but also the doctoral candidate’s public defence, all members of the Grading Committee must be present at the public examination and at the committee meeting after it. If the Custos has acted as the supervisor, they can participate in the committee meeting as the chair, but they are not allowed to participate in evaluating the scientific value of the dissertation and proposing a grade.

The Grading Committee delivers a written statement to the Faculty, in which it briefly mentions the merits and shortcomings of the dissertation, assesses the disputant’s performance in defending the dissertation and makes a reasoned proposal for approving or failing the dissertation and for the dissertation’s grade. However, a description of the contents of the dissertation need not be included in the statement.

For grading the doctoral dissertation see Assessment and Grading.

The grade proposal must be based on consultation between the members of the Grading Committee. Proposal of the grade of the Grading Committee does not need to be unanimous. Then each member of the Grading Committee must give reasoned written statement. The statement must be submitted within one month of the public examination and it must be signed by all members of the Committee. A one-page statement will suffice.

The Public Examination

At the public examination, the disputant defends their dissertation against the Opponent’s (or Opponents’) criticism. The public examination begins with an introductory lecture (lectio praecursoria) by the doctoral candidate, followed by the Opponent’s comments on the dissertation. The maximum length of the Opponent’s examination is four hours. After that, the floor will be given to the audience who may present their criticisms of the dissertation. The total length of the public examination of a dissertation may not exceed six hours.
The Custos presides over the public examination and takes care of other duties commissioned to them by the University.
Guidelines for the Dissertation Defence given by the University

Assessment and Grading

The dissertation is approved and the decision upon the grade is made by the Dean or the Faculty Board based on the Opponent’s (or Opponents’) and the Grading Committee’s statements. If the statements are unanimous, the decision is made by the Dean. If they are not unanimous, the decision upon the grade is made by the Faculty Board. In this case, only those members or deputy members of the Faculty Board, who hold a degree of the same level (in practice, holders of a doctoral degree), may participate in the grading of the dissertation.
Doctoral dissertations are graded on a scale Fail, Pass, Pass with Distinction As a rule, dissertations are approved with the grade Pass. Only when a doctoral dissertation is of exceptionally high academic quality and merit it may be graded with Pass with Distinction.

When proposing the grade Pass with Distinction the above mentioned criteria must be met most explicitly. A clarification sheet of the exceptional academic quality and merits of the dissertation must be appended. The exceptional innovative merits of the dissertation in comparison to dissertations of the discipline in general, must be stated explicitly. When proposing the grade Pass with Distinction the dissertation should represent the highest 10% quality of it’s field.

The assessment criteria for doctoral dissertation are:  

  • Choice of topic, research problem, outlining the research topic and research questions: The topic should have significant information value and yet the research task should be appropriately defined. (The Faculty recommends that the length of a monograph dissertation should not exceed ca. 250 pages, appendices not included.)
  • Acknowledgement of previous research: The work must serve as an appropriate continuation of a previous debate or introduce a completely new initiative. Previous research must thus be acknowledged, but not repeated as such.
  • Conceptual clarity, definitions and theoretical knowledge: The reader must be able to fathom what the research is about.
  • Methods: The methods used must be presented and justified.
  • Material: The material must be qualitatively relevant in relation to the topic and quantitatively sufficient.
  • Results and conclusions: The scientific significance of the results and conclusions should be neither exaggerated nor underestimated. The analysis must be logical and include different points of view. Interesting prospects for follow-up research and social relevance of the research can be considered as extra merits
  • Format: The structure of the dissertation must be logical and the language clear. The basic idea must not be overwhelmed by a superfluity of information.
  • Critical approach: The writer should demonstrate a critical attitude towards previous research, theories, methods, materials, sources and the scientific significance of their own work. In other words, good research is original and independent.
  • Consistency: If the doctoral dissertation is a compilation of several publications or manuscripts accepted for publication, in their statements the pre-examiners must evaluate, whether these focus on the same topic and thus form a consistent scholarly work.
Approval and Degree Certificate

Before the dissertation is approved and graded, the disputant is given the possibility to object to the statements made by the Opponent(s) and the Grading Committee. The Faculty Office delivers copies of these statements to the disputant.
The dissertation can be graded after the required documents (the statements written by the Opponent(s) and the Grading Committee, and the possible objection of the disputant) have arrived at the Faculty Office. After the grade has been decided, the documents become public.
A doctoral candidate, who is unsatisfied with the evaluation of their doctoral dissertation, may appeal in writing to the Dean within 14 days of the decision being sent.

The decision on granting the Doctorate and on issuing the degree certificate is made by the Dean. When the dissertation has been accepted, a degree certificate will be written by the Faculty Office without a separate application.
When the dissertation has been accepted the Doctor will add the dissertation to the University of Turku Research Portal.

In a festive promotion ceremony, the Faculty awards those who have completed their doctoral degree the insignia associated with this status. The new Doctors of Philosophy can attend the ceremony personally or participate in absentia.