One of the objectives of a doctoral degree is that the doctoral student shall, by writing a thesis, demonstrate his or her ability to contribute to knowledge development and research development through his or her own research. There are two main types of thesis: monographs and compilation theses.

A doctoral thesis presents research results and is also proof of the doctoral student’s ability to formulate and process scientific problems as an autonomous researcher. It is most common that doctoral students work individually on their theses.

There are two types of doctoral thesis: monographs and compilation theses.


Monographs are theses that are written as single coherent work. It is the most common form of thesis within the non-practical subjects. Almost without exception, students in the humanities, theology, and law write monographs.

Compilation theses

Compilation theses consist of a number of articles. Around two-thirds of theses are of this type. In laboratory and clinical faculties almost all theses are compilation theses.

Some of the articles that are included in a thesis may have been authored by several people, but the doctoral student should normally be the lead author of a significant part of the thesis. In most cases the summary is written autonomously and should be formulated so that it is accessible for people who are not specialists in the field of the thesis.

Three to six articles

In order for a compilation thesis to be presented it should normally contain three to six articles. Six articles is regarded as a lot. It is also a greater merit to have a thesis with four articles and to have additionally published two articles elsewhere. Critics believe that there should be more emphasis on the content of what is published than on the number of articles.

Refereeing and peer review

The articles are published in refereed journals and are thus peer reviewed. Referee review means that one or more experts review the text. Peer review means that one or more researchers review another researcher’s work. These continual quality checks mean that the public defence of the thesis is not as decisive as when a monograph thesis is presented.

The importance of the thesis

Is a doctoral thesis a life’s work or part of an education and the first major piece of research? This discussion has moved from one point of view to another, but the latter approach has become increasingly dominant. The doctoral reform of 1998 emphasises that it is an education that should not take too many years. A doctoral degree is a form of proof of the doctoral student’s capacity to complete third-cycle education.

It is now increasingly said that the most important result of third-cycle education is an autonomous researcher, rather than a doctoral thesis. Third-cycle education should provide the doctoral student with skills that can be used inside and outside academia.

Page last updated 2015-07-02