Guidelines for evaluation of PhD dissertations at the Faculty of Social Sciences, UiO
These guidelines serve as a supplement to the Guidelines for evaluation of Norwegian doctoral degrees
The evaluation committee
The evaluation committee consists of three experts. These three are all ordinary members of the committee. The third member of the committee is additionally appointed as committee administrator.
- The recommendation shall be available no later than three months after the committee has received the dissertation.
- The recommendation shall be available no later than five weeks before the date of the disputation. Delays will result in the postponement of the disputation.
- The dates for the trial lecture and disputation are agreed when the committee is appointed.
The evaluation process - Three possible outcomes
* The candidate may submit comments to the recommendation within 10 days.
- The dissertation is approved for public defence in a disputation (unanimously positive recommendation).
- The dissertation is not approved for public defence in a disputation (unanimously negative recommendation). A revised dissertation can be evaluated no earlier than six months after the Faculty has decided to reject the dissertation. Only one new evaluation may be made.
- The dissertation is not approved for public defence in its present form. The candidate will be requested in writing to revise the dissertation before the committee makes its final decision regarding approval for public defence in a disputation (“guided evaluation”). A suggestion that the dissertation be revised does not count as an evaluation of the dissertation.
The members of the committee may have differing opinions regarding whether the dissertation should be approved for public defence. In this case, the recommendation should present the various arguments presented by the members of the committee.
Dissertations consiting of several individual Works/"article-based dissertations":
If the dissertation has been compiled from several individual works, a documented assessment must be made of whether these constitute a coherent whole in terms of their content. In such cases, the candidate in a separate chapter must not only summarize, but also synthesize the research questions and conclusions presented in the constituent parts in a unified perspective, and in this manner document the coherence of the dissertation (referred to as the introductory chapter). If the individual works include no discussion of key concepts in the dissertation as a whole, the introductory chapter must also include such conceptual clarifications.
The introductory chapter of the dissertation shall be prepared by the candidate alone. The Faculty has prepared guidelines for article-based dissertations.
About the committee's recommendation
Preparation of the recommendation:
The recommendation shall formally:
- be dated
- be addressed to the Faculty
- have a headline/introduction that refers to the candidate and degree in question
- include the title of the dissertation and the individual works of which it is composed, if any
- provide a description of and factual information about the dissertation (maximum 1 page):
- format and scope, the articles it includes, if any
- the type of dissertation (for example theoretical/empirical study)
- its topic and objectives; the dissertation’s academic significance
- key elements in terms of theory, hypotheses, material and methodology
- the dissertation’s findings and main conclusions
- be signed by all members of the evaluation committee on the day of the disputation
- if the dissertation has been submitted for a second time, make reference in the introduction to the fact that the dissertation has been submitted for a second time, or has been submitted with revisions as suggested by the committee, if applicable.
The committee is required to make a recommendation as to whether the dissertation is "worthy of being defended" for the doctoral degree.
The statement should provide a unified presentation of the work. The committee’s report should indicate whether the candidate’s own contribution in and of itself fulfils international standards for a PhD, with regards to scientific standards (including ethically and methodologically) and scope.
The concluding section of the recommendation should provide an assessment and balanced account of the dissertation’s strengths and weaknesses. This leads into a conclusion regarding whether the committee recommends a disputation or not. The committee should ensure that there is concurrence between the premises and the conclusion, in order that the recommendation can serve as a satisfactory basis for deliberation in the Faculty’s institutions.
However: The phrase "worthy of being defended" may be somewhat misleading. The oral examination by tradition serve a ceremonial and formal purpose. If the committee is divided or is in serious doubt, it is not the practice in Norway to permit a disputation and reserve final judgment. It would indeed be a sensation if a dissertation, which by the committee unanimously and without doubt has been found worthy of being defended, is rejected after the disputation. In its report the committee shall judge whether the dissertation fulfills the requirements for the doctoral degree. If the committee don't think the dissertation meet the requirements, the committee should recommend that it be rejected. If the committee is in doubt, and the committee finds that after revision the dissertation may be deemed worthy of defence but that minor changes must be made, the doctoral candidate may be given a time limit within which to work such changes into the final dissertation.
In cases where the committee concludes that the dissertation is approved for public defence, the justification may be kept relatively brief. The committee should nevertheless address potential problems in the dissertation that the candidate can expect to be discussed during the disputation. If the committee finds that some details in the dissertation ought to be rectified before it goes to print, a brief list of misprints and recommendations for minor corrections (“list of errata”) may be enclosed with the dissertation.
If the documentation submitted by the candidate is insufficient, the committee may collect further information. In special cases, the committee may request submission of the material used for preparation of the dissertation and additional supplementary or explanatory information.
If the dissertation has been submitted for a second time or has been submitted after a revision suggested by the committee, this should be noted in the introduction. The committee should provide a brief account of whether the candidate has incorporated the suggestions and of what amendments have been made to the dissertation.
If the committee suggest that the dissertation be revised
The adjudication committee submits its written suggestion that the dissertation be revised to the department, which forwards it to the Faculty. The committee’s suggestion is not a formal recommendation and thus not subject to the formal requirements regarding content and a balanced account that apply to recommendations. If the candidate refrains from submitting a revised dissertation according to the deadline set by the Faculty, the committee will be requested to submit its recommendation on the basis of the work already submitted.
In its communication, the committee should propose a schedule for the revision (maximum 6 months). The committee should enclose a memo describing the matters that should be reinforced or rectified in the dissertation to raise it to a satisfactory level, for example methodology, the correspondence between the material and the conclusions, the concepts used and lack of clarity in research questions.
- The Faculty, represented by the Vice-Dean for research, makes a decision on the basis of the committee’s recommendation. The unit follows the matter up with the committee and the candidate, with a copy to the supervisor.
- The committee should provide a suggestion for a revision only if such revision will be able to produce a satisfactory result within a time frame of approximately three months of full-time work.
- A candidate who submits a revised dissertation is recommended to enclose a memo stating the revisions undertaken with the final dissertation.
- The adjudication committee should aim to submit its recommendation within some weeks and a maximum of three months after having received the revised dissertation.
If the recommendation is negative of not unanimous
If the committee finds that fundamental amendments regarding the theory, hypothesis, material and/or methodology are required for the work to be recommended for a disputation, the committee should not suggest a submission of the same dissertation in a revised version for a renewed evaluation. In this case, the committee should conclude that the “dissertation is not approved for public defence in a disputation”.
If the committee concludes that the dissertation is not approved for public defence in a disputation, the committee needs to make a more detailed account of the grounds for its conclusion than is the case where the conclusion is positive. The major weaknesses of the dissertation will be the key issue, and not any details that also could have been successfully rectified.
The Faculty, represented by the Vice-Dean for research, takes the formal decision on whether the dissertation should be approved for public defence in a disputation. The Vice-Dean for research may decide to appoint further experts to assess the dissertation or submit the decision to other agencies, if special circumstances so indicate.
If the committee members are in disagreement, it will normally be desirable that the committee prepares a joint statement, with individual statements enclosed if required. Dissenting views in the adjudication committee must invariably be substantiated. In cases where the committee members agree on the conclusion, but disagree with regard to the premises, it will also be desirable to enclose individual statements.
Processing of any comments submitted by the candidate
When the conclusion from the expert committee is negative or not unanimous, the candidate may occasionally comment upon the recommendation before it is deliberated by the Faculty. This is not a formal appeal; such an appeal may only be submitted once a decision has been made in the matter. The comments will nevertheless be forwarded to the committee. As a rule, the Faculty will request the committee to respond to the comments, thus to provide the best possible basis for a decision. The committee’s response should be available as soon as possible.
Trial lecture and disputation
A Norwegian disputation is a festive arrangement, but also a ceremonial and formal event that follows a strict procedure. The trial lecture and the disputation are chaired by the Dean or a person appointed by the Dean. The entire committee is expected to attend the trial lecture as well as the disputation.
Topic of the trial lecture
The adjudication committee determines the theme for the prescribed topic of the trial lecture and communicates it to the department well ahead of the date when the topic is communicated to the candidate. The candidate receives the topic two weeks (ten working days) before the date that has been set for the trial lecture. The department ensures that the topic determined for the trial lecture is communicated to the candidate.
- The theme for the prescribed topic shall not be derived from key research questions in the doctoral dissertation.
- The (main) title of the trial lecture must not exceed two lines of text, since it will be entered on the diploma.
The objective of the trial lecture is to permit candidates to document their ability to communicate research-based knowledge.
Distribution of the work as opponents
Prior to the disputation, the adjudication committee decides on how the opposition should be organized. As a rule, internal members of the adjudication committee will not act as opponents. In consultation with the other committee members, the committee’s coordinator identifies those who will act as first and second opponent.
The first opponent presents the objectives and results of the scientific inquiry, preferably placing the dissertation in a wider academic context before turning to the specific items for discussion and objection in the dissertation, to which the candidate must respond.
Should an opponent be prevented from attending the disputation (because of acute, serious illness or similar), the committee’s coordinator must contact the department and assume the role of opponent on short notice. The second opponent advances to the role of first opponent, and the committee’s coordinator enters as second opponent.
Procedures for the disputation
A disputation shall normally be concluded within a time frame of three hours. The disputation shall constitute an academic discussion between the opponents and the candidate with regard to research questions, methodological and theoretical basis, documentation and form of presentation. Special emphasis should be placed on testing whether key conclusions in the dissertation are tenable. The issues that the opponents choose to pursue need not be restricted to those described in the committee’s recommendation. In their opposition, it is essential that the opponents also emphasize the positive aspects of the dissertation. The form of the discussion should as far as possible be of a nature that permits those who have not read the dissertation or are not intimately familiar with the academic field in question to follow the argumentation.
If the dissertation has been submitted in its entirety as a collaborative effort, the committee, in consultation with the chair of the disputation, decides how the disputation should be held. If the candidates are permitted to defend their dissertation in a joint disputation, the opponents must ensure that each of the candidates is subjected to individual assessment to a reasonable extent.
Schedule for the disputation:
- The procession enters the auditorium. Order of entry: The chair of the disputation, the candidate, the first opponent, the second opponent, with the third member of the committee entering last.
- The chair of the disputation holds a brief introductory address.
- The first opponent presents the dissertation and provides an account of the objectives and results of the scientific inquiry (approximately 15 minutes).
- The first opponent introduces the specific items for discussion and objections to the dissertation, to which the candidate responds (approximately 60 minutes).
- Intermission (approximately 10–15 minutes).
- The second opponent presents his/her opposition (approximately 60 minutes).
- Any other opponents ex auditorio present their oppositions (maximum 10 minutes each).
If the disputation reveals that the main conclusions of the dissertation are untenable, the adjudication committee must deem the disputation to be unapproved. The same applies in cases where objectionable issues of material importance for the assessment of the work come to light, such as clear violations of ethical norms or proper academic conduct in general.
Optional doctoral dinner
The optional doctoral dinner is arranged on the day of the disputation. The candidate is free to decide how this event should be arranged, from highly formal to informal, or no doctoral dinner at all.
The chair of the disputation, the committee members and the supervisor(s) are invited for the dinner. The chair of the disputation, as the representative of the University of Oslo, as well as the third opponent, on behalf of the committee, should be prepared to make a short Speech.
Practical information on travel, accommodation and fee for external committee members
The department will contact the members of the committee to make arrangements for travel and accommodation.
The adjudication is stipulated to amount to 30 hours of work, with an additional 15 hours for an adjudication of the same dissertation in revised form, if applicable. The first opponent is remunerated for 20 hours of work associated with the disputation, while the second opponent is remunerated for 15 hours of work. External members of the committee are remunerated according to fixed rates. The department sends out contracts that the committee members are requested to sign and return without delay.
After the stay in Oslo, a form for reimbursement of travel costs must be sent to the department in question. The following must be enclosed with the form:
- Receipt (for example print-outs of electronic tickets) for payment of airline tickets.
- Receipts/original tickets for travel by bus, train, taxi etc. associated with participation in the doctoral examinations
- A completed bank account information form for payments to be made to other countries, for committee members who are resident outside Norway.
The tickets must clearly identify the cost of each journey and the time when it was undertaken.