These guidelines are based on the Regulations of Tallinn University of Technology for Doctoral Studies. The guidelines specify the procedure of the defence of doctoral theses of PhD students studying in the study programmes of the School of Science.
A doctoral thesis must be prepared in accordance with the requirements set out in the Regulations for Doctoral Studies (§ 21, § 22) and formalised on the template, which is available on the university’s intranet and on the website of TalTech Press House together with user manuals.
If a doctoral thesis contains data that requires protection from disclosure and communication to third parties, the author of the doctoral thesis shall make the corresponding notations when commencing preparation and writing of the doctoral thesis, if necessary, by consulting the coordinator for personal data and state secret protection at the university. The author of a doctoral thesis shall make sure that the persons involved are informed of the restrictions on access to the thesis at all stages of preparation, processing and publication of the thesis.
1. Submitting a doctoral thesis for defence
1.1 Preliminary reviewing
A degree candidate shall submit the doctoral thesis he or she wishes to defend to the head of the department, who shall appoint a pre-reviewer of the doctoral thesis. As a rule, the structural unit where the supervisor of the PhD student is employed is deemed to be the department where the PhD student carries out his or her research (depending on the thesis topic, the Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology or the Department of Cybernetics is deemed to be the structural unit of PhD students whose supervisor is employed in the National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics). In other cases, when the PhD student’s supervisor is from outside the School, the pre-reviewer is appointed by the vice-dean for research and development.
A pre-reviewer shall be an independent expert in the field of the doctoral thesis (as a rule, an employee of the department or a cooperation partner, who is not a member of the of the same research group as the PhD student or supervisor). The pre-reviewer’s task is to determine whether the content, volume and level of the thesis complies with the requirements for a doctoral thesis. A preliminary review is submitted in free format and it shall be signed digitally.
1.2 Submitting an application for defence
A degree candidate shall submit a defence application in the study information system ÕIS and shall inform the supervisor of the need to approve it. In the case of more than one supervisors, the principal supervisor of the doctoral thesis shall, in addition to approving the application, determine the percentages of the supervision load of the supervisors.
1.3 Submitting documents to the dean
A degree candidate shall submit to the dean the following documents (the documents shall be sent to the secretary of the school council by e-mail: email@example.com):
– the doctoral thesis ready for publication in pdf-format i.e. the body part of the thesis and the articles in separate attachments (the candidate must inform the council secretary of any restrictions on publication);
– the written opinion of the supervisor(s) (in case of more than one supervisors, the supervisors can prepare a joint opinion, but the opinion of only the principal supervisor is also accepted);
– the preliminary review;
– confirmation of the head of the department regarding receipt of the doctoral thesis and appointment of a pre-reviewer;
– if necessary, an application for closed defence of the doctoral thesis and/or for establishing restricted access to the doctoral thesis.
1.4 Plagiarism check
All the doctoral theses submitted for defence shall be checked for plagiarism. A plagiarism check shall be carried out by the council secretary, who shall submit the report of plagiarism check to the vice-dean for research and development for opinion. If there is suspicion of plagiarism, the vice-dean shall inform the dean and the supervisor of the doctoral thesis thereof.
2. Allowing a doctoral thesis to defence, forming a defence committee and appointing opponents
2.1 Allowing a doctoral thesis to defence
The dean shall, within two months as of receipt of all the documents at the latest, decide whether to allow the doctoral thesis to defence, to return a thesis that fails to meet the requirements or to require that the doctoral thesis be supplemented/rewritten. As a rule, the dean refers the doctoral thesis to the school council for discussion. The director of the respective study programme shall participate in the meeting of the school council. If it is not possible for the programme director to participate in the discussion, the programme director shall submit his/her opinion to the school council in writing.
2.2 Forming a defence committee and appointing opponents
At least 1.5 months before the defence, the head of the department shall, on the basis of the supervisor’s proposal, submit an application to the dean for forming a defence committee and appointing at least two opponents.
A defence committee shall include at least five members with a doctoral degree or an equivalent qualification. A defence committee may include the opponent(s), but not the supervisor(s). At least two members of the defence committee shall come from outside the university, and one of these two from outside the Republic of Estonia.
The opponents shall have a doctoral degree or an equivalent qualification and at least one of the opponents shall come from outside the Republic of Estonia.
Any conflict of interest must be avoided upon selection of the members of the defence committee and opponents. For the purposes of this procedure, a conflict of interest means also:
– co-authoring of a member of the defence committee or an opponent in the publications of the doctoral thesis;
– existence of joint publications of the opponent and the defender or supervisor published in the last five years. In case of mass authorship, the dean may exceptionally consider that a conflict of interest essentially exists.
The head of the department shall indicate the time and place of the defence in the application. In the case of an online defence, the head of the department shall, no later than two weeks before the defence, send the link of the doctoral thesis defence to the secretary of the school council and to the officer of PhD studies of the Research Administration Office to be published on the website.
If the dean allows the thesis to defence and the degree candidate has completed the study programme (except the volume of the doctoral thesis), the allowance to defence is formalised by a dean’s order by which the dean confirms the time and place of the defence, appoints opponents to the doctoral thesis and forms a defence committee.
3. Publishing a doctoral thesis
Not later than one month before the defence of a doctoral thesis, the author of the doctoral thesis shall submit to the Press House via the Help Center on the intranet the manuscript of the doctoral thesis, incl. the publications in separate files and a written order of the head of the department for publishing the doctoral thesis. An author of a doctoral thesis who is not a university employee (an external student, an industrial PhD student, a doctoral student) shall submit the documents to the Press House at the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.
The procedure of publishing a doctoral thesis is laid down in § 23 of the Regulations for Doctoral Studies. Doctoral theses shall be published electronically in the digital collection of the library and in print (the minimum of 10 copies).
After publication of a doctoral thesis in the digital collection, the Research Administration Office shall arrange communication of information on the defence of the doctoral thesis on the university’s websites.
One month before the defence, the chairman of the defence committee shall provide the members of the defence committee with a link to the doctoral thesis published in the digital collection, inform the members of the defence committee (incl. the opponents) of the defence procedure and the opponents of the deadline for submitting written opinions. If restrictions have been established on a doctoral thesis or defence, they must be taken into account when conducting the defence and entering into contracts with the members of the defence committee.
In order to carry out a defence, the following shall be submitted to the chairman of the defence committee no later than a week before the defence:
– the paper version of the doctoral thesis;
– the opponents’ written opinions;
– the supervisor’s opinion on the candidate and the doctoral thesis if the supervisor is not participating in the defence committee meeting.
If necessary, the dean’s decision regarding closed defence of the doctoral thesis and/or establishing restricted access to the doctoral thesis shall be submitted to the chairman of the defence committee, after which the chairman of the defence committee shall declare closed defence and conduct the defence in compliance with the guidelines for closed defence of doctoral theses.
As a rule, a doctoral thesis shall be defended at a public meeting. A doctoral thesis can be defended if the degree candidate, five members of the defence committee, incl. the chairman of the committee, and at least one opponent are present. With the consent of the dean, members of the defence committee and opponents can participate at a defence of a doctoral thesis by using a means of real-time two-way video image and sound communication (e.g. Zoom, Skype, etc.). Any conflict of interest must be avoided upon online defence.
The defence process consists of the following main stages:
– introduction of the documents submitted for defence;
– presentation by the degree candidate (up to 20 minutes);
– an academic discussion between the degree candidate and the opponents (up to 2 hours);
– answering questions of the defence committee;
– a general discussion;
– hearing the supervisor’s opinion;
– making a decision and drawing up a defence record.
5. Awarding a doctoral degree, drawing up and handing over a doctoral diploma
The defence committee shall decide on awarding a doctoral degree in a closed meeting by a secret ballot or online by a secret ballot. Decisions shall be taken by simple majority.
The defence documentation (records of the defence committee, the opponents’ written opinions) and a paper version of the doctoral thesis signed by the author of the thesis shall be submitted to the dean’s office of the school and will be the basis for issuing the graduation documents.
Doctoral diplomas are handed over in September, at the festive anniversary ceremony of Tallinn University of Technology. In extraordinary cases, the dean’s office can, based on the graduate’s application and with the permission of the dean, hand the graduation documents over at another time.