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Sibelius Academy Guide for Doctoral Studies in Music: IX Instructions for examiners of doctoral dissertations




The examination of a Doctoral Dissertation takes place in two stages: (1) pre-examination, and, (2) the Public Examination indicating a public discussion about the dissertation.

The purpose of the examination is to establish that the manuscript submitted as the Doctoral Dissertation fulfills the scholarly and formal requirements and that the quality is sufficient. The examination process cannot begin until the manuscript of a Doctoral Dissertation has been corrected and improved according to suggestions given in pre-examination statements.

The number of opponents is usually one, but there can be up to three opponents. A pre-examiner can act as an opponent. The opponent examines the dissertation in a Public Examination, focusing on the scholarly content, internal logic and structure of the dissertation; the choice and justification of methods, research data and source materials; the results; and other issues affecting the scholarly quality of the dissertation. The examination can also take into account the knowledge about and use of relevant literature, mastery of the chosen methods, and the

candidate’s understanding about the applicability of the results. Yet another focus of the

examination is on the candidate’s ability to defend his/her dissertation in the Public Examination.


The opponent (each opponent) delivers the signed examination statement to the Academy Board´s Division for Doctoral Education and Research. The statement should clearly state if the examiner(s) suggest(s) the manuscript to be accepted as a Doctoral Dissertation and the grade, or if they suggest it to be rejected. If there are two opponents, they can also give a joint statement. For legal protection of the doctoral candidate, the opponent(s) cannot give any new critique in the statement; instead, the doctoral candidate must have had an opportunity to respond to all critique in the Public Examination. The signed statement(s) are addressed to the Academy Board´s Division for Doctoral Education and Research and delivered to the presenting official into the office of the doctoral school within a week from the Public Examination.

When evaluating the Doctoral Dissertation, the opponent(s) should pay particular attention to the following aspects:

    • the clarity and appropriateness of the scope, objectives, and research questions
    • the mastery of methodology and research methods
    • the knowledge, use and critical evaluation of relevant literature and research traditions
    • the representativeness of the research data in regard to the scope and research questions
    • the logic of the dissertation’s structure; the clarity and constancy of the connection between the premises, scope, objectives, methods, results, and conclusions
    • adhesion of ethical principles and guidelines for the responsible conduct of research
    • the fluency, coherence and validity of language of the dissertation (e.g. the structure and headlining, references etc.)
    • the significance and status of the results in the research field; the practical relevance of the results if they are applicable
    • the sufficiency of the doctoral candidate’s own research input (particularly if the dissertation includes co-authored publications)
    • the way in which the doctoral candidate has taken into account the suggestions by pre- examiners
    • the candidate’s ability to defend his/her dissertation in the Public Examination

An article-based dissertation can include joint publications, but the contribution of the doctoral candidate must be unanimously distinguishable. It is acceptable that there is some overlap or reiteration in the article-based dissertation. Otherwise, same evaluation criteria are used for both a monograph and an article-based dissertation, and also the article-based dissertation must form a coherent whole. The opponent(s) of an article-based dissertation evaluate(s) the scholarly quality of the whole regardless of whether all of the articles are published.


The grades used for a Doctoral Dissertation are “not approved”, approved” or “passed with distinction”. Only a truly high-standard Doctoral Dissertation can be passed with distinction; if there are two opponents, they both must suggest the highest grade.

The grade “passed with distinction” provides that the Doctoral Dissertation is creditable with regard to all evaluation criteria. This indicates that

    • the scholarly quality of the dissertation is exceptionally praiseworthy
    • the results are exceptionally significant for the field in question
    • the dissertation shows that the doctoral candidate is very acquainted with the research field, it’s theory and methodological issues, and it shows the candidate’s ability to evaluate the significance and status of the results in the research field
    • the doctoral candidate proves him/herself to be critical and creative throughout the project
    • the candidate shows his/her ability to structure extensive complexes of issues and problems
    • the dissertation is written in excellent style, has a clear and coherent structure
    • the candidate defended his/her project at the Public Examination in an excellent manner.

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