Guidelines for the pre-review of PhD thesis in the School of Information Technologies

Responsible department:

Goal: the goal of the PhD thesis pre-review is to improve and unify the quality of PhD theses and to ensure their compliance with the international research practices. The PhD thesis will be sent out to external opponents and are accepted for PhD defense only after the in-house pre-review has confirmed that it complies with the quality requirements.

Review: the goal of the review is to assess if the PhD thesis complies with international standards and Estonian quality criteria for PhD thesis. If the quality of the thesis is not sufficient, the review should give recommendations for improving its quality. The following questions help the reviewer with the assessment:

  1. Is the thesis based on published or accepted papers? According to the quality agreement between Estonian universities, the prerequisite of a PhD degree is at least 3 peer-reviewed papers. However, this is just a prerequisite and does not automatically guarantee awarding a PhD.
  2. Is the author’s contribution in each of the papers clearly declared and is it sufficient?
  3. Does the thesis have a clearly defined novelty, problem statement and significance?
  4. Does the candidate have a good overview of his/her research area and can she clearly define the novelty of her approach with respect to the existing body of literature?
  5. Does the candidate have an understanding of the research methods and does the thesis have a clearly understandable methodological approach (e.g. in terms of experimental plan, validation, verification, etc.)
  6. Does the candidate have a sufficient theoretical background in the research area?
  7. Is the experimental part of the thesis conducted with a sufficient rigor and extent, confirming the theoretical and experimental skills of the candidate?
  8. Does the thesis have clear results and is their extent and level of details sufficient?
  9. Does the thesis have clear conclusions based on the results?
  10. Does the candidate demonstrate sufficient critical thinking (e.g. in defining theproblem, analyzing the results, making conclusions)?
  11. Is the thesis well represented, clearly structured and easy to follow (e.g. partitioning into sections, clear summaries in the end of sections, quality of figures, etc?)
  12. Does the thesis comply with Internationally accepted standards of ethical writing (e.g. in terms of referencing other works, using of figures from other papers, clearly defining individual contribution apart from the results of the whole research group etc.)?
  13. Is the grammar and style of writing of an acceptable quality.

Presenting the pre-review: send the review in a freely chosen format (email or separate fail). The length of the review can vary from few sentences (e.g. if the thesis is of good quality and there are no recommendations) to a more thorough feedback. The more critical is the review, the more important it is to bring out specific recommendations for improving the thesis. As a summary, the reviewer should assess the thesis as:

  1. Requiring major revision (for example if the results are not sufficient, the author’s contribution too insignificant, etc.)
  2. Requiring minor revision (e.g. clarity of writing)
  3. Requiring no revisions and can be submitted for a defense.