What is a thesis defense?
What is a thesis defense?
A thesis defense has two parts: a thesis and a defense. The second mistake many students make is not knowing what their thesis is. The third mistake is not knowing how to defend it. (The first mistake is describe later.)
What is a thesis?
Your thesis is not your dissertation. Neither is it a one liner about what you are doing. Your thesis is "a position or proposition that a person (as a candidate for scholastic honors) advances and offers to maintain by argument." [Webster's 7th New Collegiate Dictionary]. "I looked at how people play chess" is not a thesis; " people adapt memories of old games to play new games" is. Similarly, "I wrote a program to play chess" is not a thesis; "playing chess requires a database of actual games" is. A thesis has to claim something.
There are many kinds of theses, especially in computer science, but most of them can be lumped into one of the following classes:
- process X is a feasible way to do task Y
- process X is a better way to do task Y than any previously known method
- task Y requires process X
- people use process X to do task Y
- process X is a terrible way to do Y
- people don't use process X
Feel free to substitute "process X" with "memory organization X" or what ever else might make one theory different from another. Make sure you clearly specify the class of tasks Y to which your thesis applies.
Besides being a proposition, a thesis has to have another property: it must say something new. "Understanding natural language requires context" is not a thesis (except maybe in a linguistics department); "process X is a feasible mechanism for adding context sensitivity to natural language understanders" is, as is "context is not required for visual understanding.
What is a defense?
A defense presents evidence for a thesis. What kind of evidence is apprpropriate depends on what kind of thesis is being defended.
Thesis: process X is a feasible way to do task Y
One defense for this kind of claim is an analysis of the complexity, or completeness, or whatever, of the theoretical algorithm. In computer science, the more common defense is based on empirical results from running an experiment. A good defense here means more than one example, and answers to questions such as the following. What are the capabilities and limits of your experiment? How often do the things that your experiment does come up in the real world? What's involved in extending it? If it's easy to extend, why haven't you? If your example is a piece of a larger system, how realistic are your assumptions about input and output?
Thesis: process X is a better way to do task Y than any previously known method
The same kind of defense applies here as in the previous case, but now serious comparisons with previous systems are required. Can your result do the same examples the previous results did, or can you make them do yours? Can you prove they couldn't do your examples? If you claim to be more efficient, what are you measuring?
Thesis: task Y requires process X
This is usually defended by a logical argument. It is usually very tough to do, even if the argument doesn't have to be formalized.
Thesis: people use process X to do task Y
Many students make the mistake of picking this kind of thesis to defend. It requires serious experimental evidence to defend, unless your real thesis is of the previous form, i.e., only process X is possible. Selected excerpts from protocols and surveys of your officemates are not psychological evidence, no matter how much they might have inspired your work.
Thesis: process X is a terrible way to do Y, or people don't use process X
This is a reasonable thesis if process X is a serious contender. The defense would be an analysis of the limits of process X, i.e., things it can't do, or things it does wrong, along with evidence that those things matter.
I have lots of theses in my dissertation. Which one should I pick for my defense?
Defending a real thesis is hard. If you think you have a lot of theses, you probably just have a bunch of undefended claims. One good thesis, or two so-so theses, with adequate description and defense, is more than enough to fill up a dissertation.
I have the opposite problem. I don't think I have any thesis by these standards.
Highly unlikely. If you're bright, educated, and have worked hard on a topic for more than a year, you must have learned something no one else knew before. The first mistake that students make is to think that a thesis has to be grander than the theory of relativity. A thesis should be new and interesting, but it doesn't have to change the foundations of all we believe and hold dear.
Don't try to come up with a thesis first, and then investigate it. Start by exploring some task domain. Take some initial ideas and push them hard for a year or so. Now, stop and think about what you've done and what you've learned. Among your accomplishments and experience, there will be several good candidate theses. Pick one. Test it out on your advisor and other faculty members. Test it out on other students. Is it a claim that you can describe clearly and briefly? Is it a claim that anyone cares about? Is it a claim that people don't find perfectly obvious, or if they do find it obvious, can you convince them that it could easily be false.
Once you've refined your claim into a good thesis, now you can determine what kind of defense is appropriate for it and what more you need to do. This is where the hard part comes, psychologically, because to create a defense for your thesis, you're going to have to attack it harder than anyone else. What happens if the thesis fails? Negate it and defend that! In a year or so of focused research, you should be ready for a real thesis defense.
See how easy it is, once you know how?
For other uses, see Doctor (disambiguation).
A doctorate (from Latindocere, "to teach") or doctor's degree (from Latin doctor, "teacher") or doctoral degree (from the ancient formalism licentia docendi) is an academic degree awarded by universities that is, in most countries, a research degree that qualifies the holder to teach at the university level in the degree's field, or to work in a specific profession. There are a variety of doctoral degrees, with the most common being the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), which is awarded in many different fields, ranging from the humanities to the scientific disciplines.
In the United States and some other countries, there are also some types of vocational, technical, or professional degrees that are referred to as doctorates in their home countries, though they are not technically doctoral level as they are not research degrees and no defense of any dissertation or thesis is performed. Internationally, however, the use of doctor to refer to these degrees is not universally accepted. Many universities also award honorary doctorates to individuals who have been deemed worthy of special recognition, either for scholarly work or for other contributions to the university or to society.
The term doctor derives from the Latindocere meaning "to teach". The doctorate (Latin: doctum, "[that which is] taught") appeared in medieval Europe as a license to teach Latin (licentia docendi) at a university. Its roots can be traced to the early church in which the term "doctor" referred to the Apostles, church fathers, and other Christian authorities who taught and interpreted the Bible.
The right to grant a licentia docendi (i.e. the doctorate) was originally reserved to the Catholic church, which required the applicant to pass a test, to take an oath of allegiance and pay a fee. The Third Council of the Lateran of 1179 guaranteed the access—at that time largely free of charge—of all able applicants. Applicants were tested for aptitude. This right remained a bone of contention between the church authorities and universities that were slowly distancing themselves from the Church. The right was granted by the pope to the University of Paris in 1213 where it became a universal license to teach (licentia ubiquie docendi). However, while the licentia continued to hold a higher prestige than the bachelor's degreebaccalaureus, the latter was ultimately reduced to an intermediate step to the magister and doctorate, both of which now became the exclusive teaching qualification. According to Keith Allan Noble (1994), the first doctoral degree was awarded in medieval Paris around 1150.
The so-called "professional, vocational, or technical curriculum" (in contrast to liberal arts) of the Middle Ages included only theology, law, and medicine.[not in citation given]
The doctorate of philosophy developed in Germany in the 17th century (likely c. 1652). The term "philosophy" does not refer solely to the field or academic discipline of philosophy, but is used in a broader sense in accordance with its original Greek meaning, which is "love of wisdom". In most of Europe, all fields (history, philosophy, social sciences, mathematics, and natural philosophy/natural sciences) were traditionally known as philosophy, and in Germany and elsewhere in Europe the basic faculty of liberal arts was known as the "faculty of philosophy". The doctorate of philosophy adheres to this historic convention, even though the degrees are not always for the study of philosophy. Chris Park explains that it was not until formal education and degree programs were standardized in the early 19th century that the doctorate of philosophy was reintroduced in Germany as a research degree, abbreviated as Dr. phil. (similar to Ph.D. in angloamerican countries). Germany, however, differentiated then in more detail between doctorates in philosophy and doctorates in the natural sciences, abbreviated as Dr. rer. nat., and also doctorates in the social/ political sciences, abbreviated as Dr. rer. pol., similar to the other traditional doctorates in medicine (Dr. med.) and law (Dr. jur.).
University doctoral training was a form of apprenticeship to a guild. The traditional term of study before new teachers were admitted to the guild of "Masters of Arts" was seven years, matching the apprenticeship term for other occupations. Originally the terms "master" and "doctor" were synonymous, but over time the doctorate came to be regarded as a higher qualification than the master's degree. Makdisi's revised hypothesis that the doctorate originated in the Islamic ijazah, a reversal of his earlier view that saw both systems as of "the most fundamental difference", was rejected by Huff as unsubstantiated.
University degrees, including doctorates, were originally restricted to men. The first women to be granted doctorates were Juliana Morell in 1608 at Lyons,Elena Cornaro Piscopia in 1678 at the University of Padua, Laura Bassi in 1732 at Bologna University, Dorothea Erxleben in 1754 at Halle University and María Isidra de Guzmán y de la Cerda in 1785 at Complutense University, Madrid.
The use and meaning of the doctorate has changed over time, and is subject to regional variations. For instance, until the early 20th century few academic staff or professors in English-speaking universities held doctorates, except for very senior scholars and those in holy orders. After that time the German practice of requiring lecturers to have completed a research doctorate spread. Universities' shift to research-oriented (based upon the scientific method, inquiry, and observation) education increased the doctorates importance. Today, a research doctorate (PhD) or its equivalent (as defined in the USA by the NSF) is generally a prerequisite for an academic career, although many recipients do not work in academia.
Professional doctorates developed in the United States from the 19th century onward. The first professional doctorate to be offered in the United States was the M.D. at Kings College (now Columbia University) after the medical school's founding in 1767, although this was not a professional doctorate in the modern American sense as it was awarded for further study after the qualifying Bachelor of Medicine (M.B.) rather than being a qualifying degree. The MD became the standard first degree in medicine during the 19th century, but as a three-year undergraduate degree; it did not become established as a graduate degree until 1930. The MD, as the standard qualifying degree in medicine, gave that profession the ability (through the American Medical Association, established in 1847 for this purpose) to set and raise standards for entry into professional practice.
The modern research degree, in the shape of the German-style Ph.D. was first awarded in the U.S. in 1861, at Yale University. This differed from the MD in that the latter was, a vocational "professional degree" that trained students to apply or practice knowledge, rather than generate it, similar to other students in vocational schools or institutes. In the UK, research doctorates initially took the form of higher doctorates, first introduced at Durham University in 1882. The PhD spread to the UK from the US via Canada, and was instituted at all British universities from 1917, with the first (titled a DPhil) being awarded at the University of Oxford.
Following the MD, the next professional doctorate, the Juris Doctor (J.D.), was established by the University of Chicago in 1902. However it took a long time to be accepted, not replacing the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) until the 1960s, by which time the LLB was generally taken as a graduate degree. Notably, the curriculum for the JD and LLB were identical, with the degree being renamed as a doctorate, and it (like the MD) was not equivalent to the PhD, raising criticism that it was "not a 'true Doctorate'". When professional doctorates were established in the UK in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they did not follow the US model but were instead set up as research degrees at the same level as PhDs but with some taught components and a professional concentration for the research work.
The older-style doctorates, now usually called higher doctorates in the United Kingdom, take much longer to complete, since candidates must show themselves to be leading experts in their subjects. These doctorates are now less common in some countries and are often awarded honoris causa. The habilitation is still used for academic recruitment purposes in many countries within the EU, and involves either a new long thesis (a second book) or a portfolio of research publications. The habilitation (highest available degree) demonstrates independent and thorough research, experience in teaching and lecturing, and, more recently, the ability to generate supportive funding. The habilitation follows the research doctorate, and in Germany it can be a requirement for appointment as a Privatdozent or professor.
Further information: Doctor (title)
Since the Middle Ages, the number and types of doctorates awarded by universities has proliferated throughout the world. Practice varies from one country to another. While a doctorate usually entitles one to be addressed as "doctor", use of the title varies widely, depending on the type and the associated occupation.
Research doctorates are awarded in recognition of academic research that is publishable, at least in principle, in a peer-reviewedacademic journal. The best-known research degree title, in the English-speaking world, is Doctor of Philosophy (abbreviated Ph.D., PhD or, at some British universities, DPhil) awarded in many countries throughout the world. Other research doctorates include the Doctor of Education (Ed.D. or EdD), Doctor of Arts (D.A.), Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.), Doctor of Professional Studies/Professional Doctorate (ProfDoc or DProf),Doctor of Public Health (Dr.P.H.), Doctor of Social Science (D.S.Sc. or DSocSci), Doctor of Management (D.M. or D.Mgt.),Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A. or DBA), the UK Doctor of Management (DMan), various doctorates in engineering, such as the US Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng., D.E.Sc. or D.E.S.) (also awarded in Japan and South Korea), the UK Engineering Doctorate (EngD), the Dutch Professional Doctorate in Engineering (PDEng), the German engineering doctorate Doktoringenieur (Dr.-Ing.) and the German natural science doctorate Doctor rerum naturalium (Dr.rer.nat.). The UK Doctor of Medicine (MD or MD (Res)) and Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) can be research doctorates. The Doctor of Theology (Th.D., D.Th. or ThD), Doctor of Practical Theology (DPT) and the Doctor of Sacred Theology (S.T.D., or D.S.Th.) are research doctorates in theology.
Criteria for research doctorates vary, but typically require completion of a substantial body of original research, which may be presented as a single thesis or dissertation, or as a portfolio of shorter project reports (thesis by publication). The submitted dissertation is assessed by a committee of examiners, and is then typically defended by the candidate during an oral examination (viva in the UK and India) by the committee. Candidates may also be required to complete graduate-level courses in their field, as well as study research methodology.
Criteria for admission to doctoral programs varies. In the U.S. and the U.K., students may be admitted with a bachelor's degree, while elsewhere, e.g. in Finland, a master's degree is required. The time required to complete a research doctorate varies from three years, excluding undergraduate study, to six years or more.
Main article: Licentiate
Licentiate degrees vary widely in their meaning, and in a few countries are doctoral level qualifications. Sweden awards the licentiate degree as a two-year qualification at doctoral level and the doctoral degree (PhD) as a four-year qualification. Sweden originally abolished the Licentiate in 1969 but reintroduced it in response to demands from business. Finland also has a two-year doctoral level licentiate degree, similar to Sweden's. Outside of Scandinavia, the licentiate is normally a lower level qualification. In Belgium, the licentiate was the basic university degree prior to the Bologna Process and was approximately equivalent to a bachelor's degree, while in France and other countries it is the bachelor's-level qualification in the Bologna process. In the Pontifical system, the Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) is equivalent to an advanced master's degree, or the post-master's coursework required in preparation for a doctorate (i.e. similar in level to the Swedish/Finnish licentiate degree), while other licences (such as the Licence in Canon Law) are at the level of master's degrees.
Higher doctorate and post-doctoral degrees 
See also: Postdoctoral researcher
A higher tier of research doctorates may be awarded on the basis of a formally submitted portfolio of published research of a particularly high standard. Examples include the Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) and Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.) degrees found in the UK, Ireland and some Commonwealth countries, and the traditional doctorates in Scandinavia.
The École Saint-Thomas-d'Aquin of the Université catholique de Louvain, for instance, has offered the opportunity for students who had already earned a doctorate to earn the degree of Maître Agrégé (Magister Aggregatus).
The habilitation teaching qualification (facultas docendi or "faculty to teach") under a university procedure with a thesis and an exam is commonly regarded as belonging to this category in Germany, Austria, France, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Poland, etc. The degree developed in Germany in the 19th century "when holding a doctorate seemed no longer sufficient to guarantee a proficient transfer of knowledge to the next generation." The habilitation results in an award of a formal "Dr. habil." degree or the holder of the degree may add "habil." to their research doctorate such as "Dr. phil. habil." or "Dr. rer. nat. habil." In some European universities, especially in German-speaking countries, the degree is insufficient to have teaching duties without professor supervision (or to teach and supervise Ph.D. students independently) without an additional instructor/teaching certificate/license, such as Privatdozent. In many countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the degree gives the venia legendi, Latin for "permission for lecturing," or the ius docendi, "right of teaching" a specific academic subject at universities for a lifetime. The French academic system used to have a higher doctorate, called "State doctorate" (doctorat d'État), but it was superseded by the habilitation (Habilitation à diriger des recherches, "accreditation to supervise research", abbreviated HDR) in 1984.
Higher doctorates are often also awarded honoris causa when a university wishes to formally recognize an individual's achievements and contributions to a particular field.
See also: Professional degree and List of doctoral degrees in the US
Depending on the country, professional doctorates may either be research degrees at the same level as PhDs or professional degrees with little or no research content. Many professional doctorates are named "Doctor of [subject name] and abbreviated using the form "D[subject abbreviation]" or "[subject abbreviation]D", or may use the more generic titles "Professional Doctorate", abbreviated "ProfDoc" or "DProf", "Doctor of Professional Studies" (DPS) or "Doctor of Professional Practice" (DPP).
In the US, professional doctorates (formally "doctor's degree – professional practice" in government classifications) are degrees that require a minimum of six years of university-level study (including any pre-professional bachelor's or associate degree) and meet the academic requirements for professional licensure. Unlike research doctorates ("doctor's degree – research/scholarship"), they do not require a dissertation or study beyond master's level. There is also a category of "doctor's degree – other" for doctorates that do not fall into either research or professional categories. All of these are considered doctoral degrees.
In contrast to the US, many countries reserve the term "doctorate" for research degrees and if, as in Canada and Australia, professional degrees bear the name "Doctor of …", etc., it is made clear that these are not doctorates.Examples of this include Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD), Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), and Juris Doctor (JD). Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), Doctor of Education (EdD) and Doctor of Social Science (DSS) for example qualify as full academic doctorates in Canada though normally incorporate aspects of professional practice in addition to a full dissertation.
In the UK and Ireland, all doctorates are third cycle qualifications in the Bologna Process, comparable to US research doctorates. Although all doctorates are research degrees, professional doctorates normally include taught components while the name PhD/DPhil is normally used for doctorates purely by thesis. Professional and practice-based doctorates such as the EdD, DClinPsy, MD, DHSc, DBA and EngD are full doctorates at the same level as the PhD in the national qualifications frameworks; they are not first professional degrees but are "often post-experience qualifications". In 2009 there were 308 professional doctorate programs in the UK, up from 109 in 1998, with the most popular being the EdD (38 institutions), DBA (33), EngD/DEng (22), MD/DM (21), and DClinPsy/DClinPsych/ClinPsyD (17). Similarly in Australia, the term "professional doctorate" is sometimes applied to the Scientiae Juridicae Doctor (SJD), which, like the UK professional doctorates, is a research degree.
Main article: Honorary degree
When a university wishes to formally recognize an individual's contributions to a particular field or philanthropic efforts, it may choose to grant a doctoral degree honoris causa (i.e. "for the sake of the honor"), waiving the usual requirements for granting the degree. Some universities do not award honorary degrees, for example, Cornell University, the University of Virginia, the California Institute of Technology, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Main article: List of doctoral degrees awarded by country
See also: Doctor (title) § Worldwide usage, and Doctor of Philosophy § Degrees around the globe
In Argentina the doctorate (doctorado) is the highest academic degree. The intention is that candidates produce original contributions in their field knowledge within a frame of academic excellence. A dissertation or thesis is prepared under the supervision of a tutor or director. It is reviewed by a Doctoral Committee composed of examiners external to the program and at least one examiner external to the institution. The degree is conferred after a successful dissertation defence. Currently, there are approximately 2,151 postgraduate careers in the country, of which 14% were doctoral degrees. Doctoral programs in Argentina are overseen by the National Commission for University Evaluation and Accreditation, an agency in Argentina's Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
Doctoral candidates are normally required to have a Master's degree in a related field. Exceptions are based on their individual academic merit. A second and a third foreign language are other common requirements, although the requirements regarding proficiency commonly are not strict. The admissions process varies by institution. Some require candidates to take tests while others base admissions on a research proposal application and interview only. In both instances however, a faculty member must agree prior to admission to supervise the applicant.
Requirements usually include satisfactory performance in advanced graduate courses, passing an oral qualifying exam and submitting a thesis that must represent an original and relevant contribution to existing knowledge. The thesis is examined in a final public oral exam administered by at least five faculty members, two of whom must be external. After completion, which normally consumes 4 years, the candidate is commonly awarded the degree of Doutor (Doctor) followed by the main area of specialization, e.g. Doutor em Direito (Doctor of Laws), Doutor em Ciências da Computação (Doctor of Computer Sciences), Doutor em Filosofia (Doctor of Philosophy), Doutor em Economia (Doctor of Economics), Doutor em Engenharia (Doctor of Engineering) or Doutor em Medicina (Doctor of Medicine). The generic title of Doutor em Ciências (Doctor of Sciences) is normally used to refer collectively to doctorates in the natural sciences (i.e. Physics, Chemistry, Biological and Life Sciences, etc.)
All graduate programs in Brazilian public universities are tuition-free (mandated by the Brazilian constitution). Some graduate students are additionally supported by institutional scholarships granted by federal government agencies like CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico) and CAPES (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento do Pessoal de Ensino Superior). Personal scholarships are provided by the various FAP's (Fundações de Amparo à Pesquisa) at the state level, especially FAPESP in the state of São Paulo, FAPERJ in the state of Rio de Janeiro and FAPEMIG in the state of Minas Gerais. Competition for graduate financial aid is intense and most scholarships support at most 2 years of Master's studies and 4 years of doctoral studies. The normal monthly stipend for doctoral students in Brazil is between 500 and 1000 USD.
A degree of Doutor usually enables an individual to apply for a junior faculty position equivalent to a US Assistant Professor. Progression to full professorship known as Professor Titular requires that the candidate be successful in a competitive public exam and normally takes additional years. In the federal university system, doctors who are admitted as junior faculty members may progress (usually by seniority) to the rank of Associate Professor then become eligible to take the competitive exam for vacant full professorships. In São Paulo state universities, Associate Professorships and subsequent eligibility to apply for a full professorship are conditioned on the qualification of Livre-docente and requires, in addition to a doctorate, a second thesis or cumulative portfolio of peer-reviewed publications, a public lecture before a panel of experts (including external members from other universities), and a written exam.
In recent years somme initiatives as jointly supervised doctorates (e.g. "cotutelles") have become increasingly common in the country, as part of the country's efforts to open its universities to international students.
Denmark offers four levels of degrees: 1) a three-year bachelor's degree (e.g. Bachelor of Arts degree); 2) a five-year candidate's degree (e.g. Candidatus/Candidata Magisterii), generally compared to a master's degree; 3) a ph.d. degree, which replaced the licentiate in 1988; 4) a doctor's degree (e.g. Doctor Philosophiae), which is the higher doctorate. (A three-year extended research program, leading to the magister's degree was phased out to meet the international standards of the Bologna Process.)
For the Ph.D. degree, the candidate writes a thesis and defends it orally at a formal disputation. In the disputation, the candidate defends their thesis against three official opponents as well as opponents from the auditorium(ex auditorio).
For the higher doctorate, the candidate writes a major thesis and has to defend it orally in which the candidate (called præces) defends this thesis against two official opponents as well as opponents from the auditorium (ex auditorio).
In Egypt, the highest degree doctorate is awarded by Al-Azhar University est. 970, which grants ( العالمية Ālimiyya\ Habilitation).
The Medical doctorate (abbreviated as M.D.) is equivalent to the Ph.D. degree. To earn an M.D. in a science specialty, one must have a master's degree (M.Sc.) (or two diplomas before the introduction of M.Sc. degree in Egypt) before applying. The M.D. degree involves courses in the field and defending a dissertation. It takes on average three to five years.
Many postgraduate medical and surgical specialties students earn a Doctorate. After finishing a 6-year medical school and one-year internship (house officer), physicians and surgeons earn the M.B. B.Ch. degree, which is equivalent to a US MD degree. They can then apply to earn a master's degree or a speciality diploma, then an MD degree in a specialty.
The Egyptian M.D. degree is written using the name of one's specialty. For example, M.D. (Geriatrics) means a doctorate in Geriatrics, which is equivalent to a Ph.D. in Geriatrics.
The Finnish requirement for the entrance into doctoral studies is a master's degree or equivalent. All universities have the right to award doctorates. The ammattikorkeakoulu institutes (institutes of higher vocational education that are not universities but often called "Universities of Applied Sciences" in English) do not award doctoral or other academic degrees. The student must:
- Demonstrate understanding of their field and its meaning, while preparing to use scientific or scholarly study in their field, creating new knowledge.
- Obtain a good understanding of development, basic problems and research methods
- Obtain such understanding of the general theory of science and letters and such knowledge of neighbouring research fields that they are able to follow the development of these fields.
The way to show that these general requirements have been met is:
- Complete graduate coursework.
- Demonstrate critical and independent thought
- Prepare and publicly defend a dissertation (a monograph or a compilation thesis of peer-reviewed articles). In fine arts, the dissertation may be substituted by works and/or performances as accepted by the faculty.
Entrance to a doctoral program is available only for holders of a master's degree; there is no honors procedure for recruiting Bachelors. Entrance is not as controlled as in undergraduate studies, where a strict numerus clausus is applied. Usually, a prospective student discusses their plans with a professor. If the professor agrees to accept the student, the student applies for admission. The professor may recruit students to their group. Formal acceptance does not imply funding. The student must obtain funding either by working in a research unit or through private scholarships. Funding is more available for natural and engineering sciences than in letters. Sometimes, normal work and research activity are combined.
Prior to introduction of the Bologna process, Finland required at least 42 credit weeks (1,800 hours) of formal coursework. The requirement was removed in 2005, leaving the decision to individual universities, which may delegate the authority to faculties or individual professors. In Engineering and Science, required coursework varies between 40 and 70 ECTS.
The duration of graduate studies varies. It is possible to graduate three years after the master's degree, while much longer periods are not uncommon. The study ends with a dissertation, which must present substantial new scientific/scholarly knowledge. The dissertation can either be a monograph or it an edited collection of 3 to 7 journal articles. Students unable or unwilling to write a dissertation may qualify for a licentiate degree by completing the coursework requirement and writing a shorter thesis, usually summarizing one year of research.
When the dissertation is ready, the faculty names two expert pre-examiners with doctoral degrees from the outside the university. During the pre-examination process, the student may receive comments on the work and respond with modifications. After the pre-examiners approve, the doctoral candidate applies the faculty for permission to print the thesis. When granting this permission, the faculty names the opponent for the thesis defence, who must also be an outside expert, with at least a doctorate. In all Finnish universities, long tradition requires that the printed dissertation hang on a chord by a public university noticeboard for at least ten days prior to for the dissertation defence.
The doctoral dissertation takes place in public. The opponent and the candidate conduct a formal debate, usually wearing white tie, under the supervision of the thesis supervisor. Family, friends, colleagues and the members of the research community customarily attend the defence. After a formal entrance, the candidate begins with an approximately 20-minute popular lecture (lectio praecursoria), that is meant to introduce laymen to the thesis topic. The opponent follows with a short talk on the topic, after which the pair critically discuss the dissertation. The proceedings take two to three hours. At the end the opponent presents their final statement and reveals whether he/she will recommend that the faculty accept it. Any member of the public then has an opportunity to raise questions, although this is rare. Immediately after the defence, the supervisor, the opponent and the candidate drink coffee with the public. Usually, the attendees of the defence are given the printed dissertation. In the evening, the passed candidate hosts a dinner (Finnish: karonkka) in honour of the opponent. Usually, the candidate invites their family, colleagues and collaborators.
Doctoral graduates are often Doctors of Philosophy (filosofian tohtori), but many fields retain their traditional titles: Doctor of Medicine (lääketieteen tohtori), Doctor of Science in Technology (tekniikan tohtori), Doctor of Science in Arts (Art and Design), etc.
The doctorate is a formal requirement for a docenture or professor's position, although these in practice require postdoctoral research and further experience. Exceptions may be granted by the university governing board, but this is uncommon, and usually due to other work and expertise considered equivalent.
Before 1984 three research doctorates existed in France: the State doctorate (doctorat d'État, "DrE", the old doctorate introduced in 1808), the third cycle doctorate (Doctorat de troisième cycle, also called doctorate of specialty, Doctorat de spécialité, created in 1954 and shorter than the State doctorate) and the diploma of doctor-engineer (diplôme de docteur-ingénieur created in 1923), for technical research.
During the first half of the 20th century, following the submission of two theses (primary thesis, thèse principale, and secondary thesis, thèse complémentaire) to the Faculty of Letters (in France, "letters" is equivalent to "humanities") at the University of Paris, the doctoral candidate was awarded the Doctorat ès lettres. There was also the less prestigious "university doctorate" Doctorat d'université which could be received for the submission of a single thesis.
In the 1950s, the Doctorat ès lettres was renamed to Doctorat d'État. In 1954 (for the sciences) and 1958 (for letters and human sciences), the less demanding Doctorat de troisième cycle degree was created on the model of the American Ph.D. with the purpose to lessen what had become an increasingly long period of time between the typical students' completion of their Diplôme d'études supérieures, roughly equivalent to a Master of Arts) and their Doctorat d'État.
After 1984, only one type of doctoral degree remained: the "doctorate" (Doctorat). A special diploma was created called the "accreditation to supervise research" (Habilitation à diriger des recherches), a professional qualification to supervise doctoral work. (This diploma is similar in spirit to the older State doctorate, and the requirements for obtaining it are similar to those necessary to obtain tenure in other systems.) Before only professors or senior full researchers of similar rank were normally authorized to supervise a doctoral candidate's work. Now habilitation is a prerequisite to the title of professor in university (Professeur des universités) and to the title of Research Director (Directeur de recherche) in national public research agency such as CNRS, INRIA, or INRA.
Today, the doctorate (doctorat) is a research-only degree. It is a national degree and its requirements are fixed by the minister of higher education and research. Only public institutions award the doctorate. It can be awarded in any field of study. The master's degree is a prerequisite. The normal duration is three years. The redaction of a comprehensive thesis constitutes the bulk of the doctoral work. While the length of the thesis varies according to the discipline, it is rarely less than 150 pages, and often substantially more. Some 15,000 new doctoral matriculations occur every year and ~10,000 doctorates are awarded.
Doctoral candidates can apply for a three-year fellowship. The most well known is the Contrat Doctoral (4,000 granted every year with a gross salary of 1758 euros per months as of September 2016).
Since 2002 candidates follow in-service training, but there is no written examination for the doctorate. The candidate has to write a thesis that is read by two external reviewers. The head of the institution decides whether the candidate can defend the thesis, after considering the external reviews. The jury members are designated by the head of the institution. The candidate's supervisor and the external reviewers are generally jury members. The maximum number of jury members is 8. The defense generally lasts 45 minutes in scientific fields, followed by 1 – 2 and a half hours of questions from the jury or other doctors present. The defense and questions are public. The jury then deliberates in private and then declares the candidate admitted or "postponed". The latter is rare. New regulations were set in 2016 and do not award distinctions.
The title of doctor (docteur) can also be used by medical and pharmaceutical practitioners who hold a doctor's State diploma (diplôme d'État de docteur). The diploma is a first-degree.
Doctorate degrees in Germany are research doctorates and are awarded via a process called Promotion ("promotion"). The concept of a US-style professional doctorate as an entry-level professional qualification does not exist. The duration of the doctorate depends on the field: a doctorate in medicine may take less than a full-time year to complete, other fields take two to six. Most doctorates are awarded with specific Latin designations for the field of research (except for engineering, where the designation is German) instead of a general degree for all fields (e.g., the Ph.D.). The most important degrees are:
- Dr. rer. nat. (rerum naturalium; natural and formal sciences, i.e. physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, computer science and information technology);
- Dr. phil. (philosophiae; humanities such as philosophy, philology, history, and social sciences such as sociology, political science, or psychology);
- Dr. iur. (iuris; law);
- Dr. oec. (oeconomiae; economics);
- Dr. rer. pol. (rerum politicarum; economics, business administration, political science);
- Dr. theol. (theologiae; theology);
- Dr. med. (medicinae; medicine);
- Dr. med. dent. (medicinae dentariae; dentistry);
- Dr. med. vet. (medicinae veterinariae; veterinary medicine);
- Dr.-Ing. (engineering).
Over fifty such designations are available, many of them rare or no longer in use. For addressing, the degree is commonly written in front of the name in abbreviated form, e.g., Dr. rer. nat. Max Mustermann or Dr. Max Mustermann, dropping the designation entirely. However leaving out the designation is only allowed, when the doctorate degree is not an honorary doctorate, which has to be indicated by Dr. h.c. (from Latin honoris causa). Although the honorific does not become part of the name, holders can demand that the title appear in official documents. The title is not mandatory. The honorific is commonly used in formal letters. For holders of other titles, only the highest title is mentioned. Multiple holders of doctorate degrees can be addressed as Dres. (from Latin doctores). Professional doctorates obtained in other countries, not requiring a thesis or not being third cycle qualifications under the Bologna process, can only be used postnominally, e.g., "Max Mustermann, MD", and do not allow the use of the title Dr.
In the German university system it is common to write two doctoral theses, the inaugural thesis (Inauguraldissertation), completing a course of study, and the habilitation thesis (Habilitationsschrift), which opens the road to a professorship. Upon completion of the habilitation thesis, a Habilitation is awarded, which is indicated by appending habil. (habilitata/habilitatus) to the doctorate, e.g., Dr. rer. nat. habil. Max Mustermann. It is considered as an additional academic qualification rather than an academic degree formally. It qualifies the owner to teach at German universities (facultas docendi). The holder of a Habilitation receives the authorization to teach a certain subject (venia legendi). This has been the traditional prerequisite for attaining Privatdozent (PD) and employment as a full university Professor. With the introduction of Juniorprofessuren—around 2005—as an alternative track towards becoming a professor at universities (with tenure), Habilitation is no longer the only university career track.
In India, doctorates are offered by universities. Entry requirements include master's degree. Some universities consider undergraduate degrees in professional areas such as engineering, medicine or law as qualifications for pursuing doctorate level degrees. Entrance examinations are held for almost all programs. In most North Indian universities, coursework duration and thesis is 2 years and in most South Indian universities is 3 years.
The most common doctoral degree is Ph.D. Others include D.B.A. (Doctor of Business Administration), DIT (Doctor of Information Technology), LLD (Doctor of Laws) and D. Sc (Doctor of Science). Nationally important schools such as Indian Institute of Management,National Institute of Industrial Engineering call their doctoral programmes fellow programmes. Pharmacy Council of India permits a few colleges to offer Pharm D course (Doctorate in Pharmacy). Entry to professional fields such as medicine, dentistry, occupational therapy and physical therapy is at the bachelor's level. They are usually of longer duration than a regular bachelor's degree (e.g. B.Sc., B.Com., B.A.). The Pharm. D degree (Doctor of Pharmacy) takes 6 years. MBBS is considered a post graduate degree for all practical purposes ; MD/DNB are post graduate medical courses(however considered equivalent to PhD); DM/DNB are post-Doctoral Degrees. Duration: MBBS(5.5 years);MD/DNB(3 Years);DM/DNB( 3 years);FNB(2 years).
Italy uses a three-level degree system. The first-level degree, called a "laurea" (Bachelor's degree), requires three years and a short thesis. The second-level degree, called a "laurea magistrale" (Master's degree), is obtained after two additional years, specializing in a branch of the field. This degree requires more advanced thesis work, usually involving academic research or an internship. The final degree is called a "dottorato di ricerca" (Ph.D.) and is obtained after three years of academic research on the subject and a thesis.
Alternatively, after obtaining the laurea or the laurea magistrale one can complete a "Master's" (first-level Master's after the laurea; second-level Master's after the laurea magistrale) of one or two years, usually including an internship. An Italian "Master's" is not the same as a master's degree; it is intended to be more focused on professional training and practical experience.
Regardless of the field of study, the title for Bachelors Graduate students is Dottore/Dottoressa (abbrev. Dott./Dott.ssa, or as Dr.), not to be confused with the title for the Ph.D., which is instead Dottore/Dottoressa di Ricerca. A laurea magistrale grants instead the title of Dottore/Dottoressa magistrale. Graduates in the fields of Education, Art and Music are also called Dr. Prof. (or simply Professore) or Maestro. Many professional titles, such as ingegnere (engineer) are awarded only upon passing a post-graduation examination (esame di stato), and registration in the relevant professional association.
The first institution in Italy to create a doctoral program (Ph.D.) was Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa in 1927 under the historic name "Diploma di Perfezionamento". Further, the researchdoctorates or Ph.D. (Italian: Dottorato di ricerca) in Italy were introduced with law and Presidential Decree in 1980 (Law of February 21, 1980, No. 28 and the Presidential DecreeNo. 382 of 11 July 1980), referring to the reform of academic teaching, training and experimentation in organisation and teaching methods.
Hence the Superior Graduate Schools in Italy (Grandes écoles) (Italian: Scuola Superiore Universitaria), also called Schools of Excellence (Italian: Scuole di Eccellenza) such as Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa and Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies keep their historical "Diploma di Perfezionamento"Ph.D. title by law and MIURDecree.
Until the 1990s, most natural science and engineering doctorates in Japan were earned by industrial researchers in Japanese companies. These degrees were awarded by the employees' former university, usually after years of research in industrial laboratories. The only requirement is submission of a dissertation, along with articles published in well-known journals. This program is called ronbun hakase(論文博士). It produced the majority of engineering doctoral degrees from national universities. University-based doctoral programs called katei hakase(課程博士), are gradually replacing these degrees. By 1994, more doctoral engineering degrees were earned for research within university laboratories (53%) than industrial research laboratories (47%). Since 1978, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) has provided tutorial and financial support for promising researchers in Asia and Africa. The program is called JSPS RONPAKU.
The only professional doctorate in Japan is the Juris Doctor, known as Hōmu Hakushi (法務博士) The program generally lasts two or three years. This curriculum is professionally oriented, but unlike in the US the program does not provide education sufficient for a law license. All candidates for a bar license must pass the bar exam (Shihou shiken), attend the Legal Training and Research Institute and pass the practical exam (Nikai Shiken or Shihou Shushusei koushi).
Netherlands and Flanders
The traditional academic system of the Netherlands provided basic academic diploma: propaedeuse and three academic degrees: kandidaat (the lowest degree), depending on gender doctorandus or doctoranda (drs.) (with equivalent degrees in engineering - ir. and law - mr.) and doctor (dr.). After successful completion of the first year of university, the student was awarded the propaedeutic diploma (not a degree). In some fields, this diploma was abolished in the 1980s. In physics and mathematics, the student could directly obtain a kandidaats (candidate) diploma in two years. The candidate diploma was all but abolished by 1989. It used to be attained after completion of the majority of courses of the academic study (usually after completion of course requirements of the third year in the program), after which the student was allowed to begin work on their doctorandus thesis. The successful completion of this thesis conveyed the doctoranda/us title, implying that the student's initial studies were finished. In addition to these 'general' degrees, specific titles equivalent to the doctorandus degree were awarded for law: meester (master) (mr.), and for engineering: ingenieur (engineer)(ir.). Following the Bologna protocol the Dutch adopted the Anglo-Saxon system of academic degrees. The old candidate's degree was revived to become the bachelor's degree and the doctorandus' (mr and ir degree) were replaced by master's degrees. Dutch university programmes tend to include advanced subject matter that e.g., at Harvard is taught in Ph.D.-courses (for instance advanced quantum mechanics or general relativity in a Dutch course for the master's degree in theoretical physics).
Students can only enrol in a doctorate system after completing a research university level master's degree; although dispensation can be granted on a case by case basis after scrutiny of the individual's portfolio. The most common way to conduct doctoral studies is to work as promovendus/assistant in opleiding (aio)/onderzoeker in opleiding (oio) (research assistant with additional courses and supervision), perform extensive research and write a dissertation consisting of published articles (over a period of four or more years, averaging about 5.5 to 6). Research can also be conducted without official research assistant status, for example through a business-sponsored research laboratory.
Every Ph.D. thesis has to be promoted by a full university professor who has the role of principal advisor. The promotor (professor) determines whether the thesis quality suffices and can be submitted to the committee of experts. A committee of experts in the field review the thesis. Failures at this stage are rare because supervisors withhold inadequate work. The supervisors and promotor lose prestige among their colleagues should they allow a substandard thesis to be submitted.
After reviewer approval, the candidate publishes the thesis (generally more than 100 copies) and sends it to colleagues, friends and family with an invitation to the public defense. The degree is awarded in a formal, public, defense session, in which the thesis is defended against critical questions of the "opposition" (the review committee). Failure during this session is possible, but rare. Before the defense there may or may not be a public presentation, lasting 10 minutes (e.g. Eindhoven University) to exactly half hour (e.g. Delft University). The actual defense lasts exactly the assigned time slot (45 minutes to 1 hour exactly depending on the University) after which the defense is stopped by the bedel who closes the process.
The doctor's title is the highest academic degree in the Netherlands. In research doctorates the degree is always Ph.D. with no distinction between disciplines. Three Dutch universities of technology (Eindhoven University of Technology, Delft University of Technology, and University of Twente) also award a (lower ranked) Professional Doctorate in Engineering (PDEng).
Although the title doctor is informally called Ph.D., legally no Ph.D. degree exists. All other university titles (B.Sc./B.Ba./LL.B./B.A. M.Sc./M.B.A./LL.M./M.A.) are protected by law, while Ph.D. is not. Any person thus can adopt the Ph.D. title, but not the doctor title, which is protected. Those who obtained a degree in a foreign country can only use the Dutch title drs. mr. ir. or dr. if approved by the Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs though according to the opportunity principle, little effort monitors such frauds. Dutch doctors may use the letter D behind their name instead of the uncapitalized shortcut dr. before their name.
Those who have multiple doctor (dr.) titles may use the title dr.mult. Those who have received honoris causa doctorates may use dr.h.c. before their own name.
In Belgium's Flemish Community the doctorandus title was only used by those who actually started their doctoral work. Doctorandus is still used as a synonym for a Ph.D. student. The licentiaat (licensee) title was in use for a regular graduate until the Bologna reform changed the licentiaat degree to the master's degree (the Bologna reform abolished the two-year kandidaat degree and introduced a three-year academic bachelor's degree instead).
In the Russian Empire the academic degree "doctor of the sciences" (doktor nauk) marked the highest academic degree that can be achieved by an examination. (The "doctor nauk" degree was introduced in Russia in 1819, abolished in 1917, and revived in the USSR in 1934.) This system was generally adopted by the USSR/Russia and many post-Soviet countries. A lower degree, "candidate [doctor] of the sciences" (kandidat nauk; first introduced in the USSR on January 13, 1934, by a decision of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR), is, roughly, the Russian equivalent to the research doctorate in other countries.
Doctoral degrees are regulated by Royal Decree (R.D. 778/1998),Real Decreto (in Spanish). They are granted by the University on behalf of the King. Its Diploma has the force of a public document. The Ministry of Science keeps a National Registry of theses called TESEO. According to the National Institute of Statistics (INE), less than 5% of M.Sc. degree holders are admitted to Ph.D. programmes.
All doctoral programs are research-oriented. A minimum of 4 years of study is required, divided into 2 stages:
- A 2-year (or longer) period of studies concludes with a public dissertation presented to a panel of 3 Professors. Upon approval from the university, the candidate receives a "Diploma de Estudios Avanzados" (part qualified doctor, equivalent to M.Sc.). From 2008 it is possible to substitute the former diploma by a recognized master program.
- A 2-year (or longer) research period includes extensions for up to 10 years. The student must present a thesis describing a discovery or original contribution. If approved by their thesis director, the study is presented to a panel of 5 distinguished scholars. Any Doctor attending the public defense is allowed to challenge the candidate with questions. If approved, the candidate receives the doctorate. Four marks used to be granted: Unsatisfactory (Suspenso), Pass (Aprobado), Remarkable (Notable), "Cum laude" (Sobresaliente), and "Summa cum laude" (Sobresaliente Cum Laude). Those Doctors granted their degree "Summa Cum Laude" were allowed to apply for an "Extraordinary Award".
Since September 2012 and regulated by Royal Decree (R.D. 99/2011) (in Spanish), three marks can be granted: Unsatisfactory (No apto), Pass (Apto) and "Cum laude" (Apto Cum Laude) as maximum mark. In the public defense the doctor is notified if the thesis has passed or not passed. The Apto Cum Laude mark is awarded after the public defense as the result of a private, anonymous vote. Votes are verified by the University. A unanimous vote of the reviewers nominates Doctors granted "Apto Cum Laude" for an "Extraordinary Award" (Premio Extraordinario de Doctorado).
In the same Royal Decree the initial 3-year study period was replaced by a Research master's degree (one or two years; Professional master's degrees do not grant direct access to Ph.D. Programs) that concludes with a public dissertation called "Trabajo de Fin de Máster" or "Proyecto de Fin de Máster". An approved project earns a master's degree that grants access to a Ph.D. program and initiates the period of research.
A doctorate is required in order to teach at the University.
Only Ph.D. holders, Grandees and Dukes can sit and cover their heads in the presence of the King.
Complutense University was the only one in Spain authorised to confer the doctorate. This law remained in effect until 1954, when the