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Guidance on Doctoral Theses at the Faculty of Medicine

Guidance on Doctoral Theses at the Faculty of Medicine

Adopted by the Programme Board for the PhD programme on 05.09.2016. Last revised on 20.11.2019

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Definition of terms used in this document:

Thesis refers to the complete written PhD work, and includes the synopsis, the articles and any appendixes, or a monograph.
Synopsis refers to the candidate’s general presentation and discussion of the work that forms the basis for the PhD.
Summary or abstract - refers to a brief introductory presentation of the thesis, and normally include the thesis’ purpose, methods, main findings and conclusions. The summary is usually less than one page.

General information about the doctoral thesis

1.1 Other Regulations and guidelines
The formal requirements of the doctoral degree PhD at the University of Bergen are found in Regulations for the degree of Philosophiae Doctor (PhD) at the University of Bergen, adopted on 29.11.2018 and in the Faculty of Medicine’s supplementary regulations, which can be found in the Programme description.

In addition, the Faculty of Medicine has adopted Guidelines for the evaluation process of the doctoral degree at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Bergen.

The degree of Dr. philos. has its own regulations. This document is written with the degree of PhD in mind, but may nevertheless provide some guidance for dr.philos.

1.2 Scientific quality
A PhD thesis should contain new observations of scientific value within the field of the Faculty. The thesis must be an independent academic work that meets international standards, and be at an advanced scientific level with respect to the formulation of the research topic, conceptual clarification and methodical, theoretical and empirical rationale, as well as in respect of the documentation of sources and formal presentation. The thesis must contribute to the development of new knowledge within its field and must qualify for publication as a part of the academic literature in the field.

The requirement for scientific quality is absolute. The problems addressed should be clearly and precisely expressed. The materials and methodology employed must be adequate and appropriate. The results must provide good, verifiable documentation. The use of figures/illustrations should improve the quality of the text and make it more interesting. It is recommended that the candidates use their own figures/illustrations. If part of a previously published figure or a figure in its entirety is used in the thesis, the candidate must seek approval of use according to established practice. Tables, figures and other illustrations must be appropriately presented. The conclusions drawn must be justifiable. The treatment of the literature must be adequate with regard to critical selection and evaluation. The references must be correct. The presentation of the text must be clear, precise and linguistically satisfactory.

All departments and sections have authorized English names and these should be applied to ensure that the origin of all publications is clearly and correctly indicated and reported.

1.3 The synopsis
An article based doctoral thesis should, in addition to the individual scientific articles published in or prepared for peer-reviewed international journals, include a synopsis with a presentation of the results and a thorough scientific discussion. This synopsis should be a scientific document where the candidate can extend, criticize, or correct aspects of the individual articles. The synopsis should showcase a scientific overview and maturity, and the candidate’s ability to penetrate specialized scientific problems. Please see Part 3 for further details about the structure and requirements of the synopsis.        

1.4 Correction of formal errors and changes after submission
The thesis will be evaluated exactly in the form in which it has been submitted. However, the candidate may apply for permission to correct formal errors in the thesis after submission. The application must include a complete overview of the errors (errata) which the candidate wishes to correct. The deadline for applying for correction of formal errors is one week after the candidate has received the recommendation. If the application is approved, the errata list can be added as an insert to the thesis which is available during the public defence. Neither the corrected version of the thesis nor the errata list shall be submitted to the assessment committee.

1.5 Joint work
A complete thesis may, on exception, be the joint effort of two doctoral candidates. In such cases, the thesis should be equivalent in scope to two normal doctoral theses. The independent efforts of each individual candidate must also be clearly defined and should be equivalent to about half of the scientific work involved. This also applies to the synopsis.

Publications and manuscripts in doctoral theses

2.1 Introduction
Most theses at the Faculty of Medicine consist of multiple papers published or prepared for publication in international peer-reviewed journals, and in addition, a synopsis for the thesis. The synopsis should document the relationship between the individual parts of the thesis (please see part 3).

Monographs are also accepted for assessment to the PhD degree. The requirements on scientific quality and scope are identical for monographs and article-based theses.

2.2 Scope
A doctoral thesis should be at an international PhD-level, and the scope of the thesis should correspond to 2.5 years of full-time work. Normally, this is interpreted as three papers published in or prepared for international, peer-reviewed journals.

If a publication is not published at the time of submission, the plan for publication should be included in the co-authorship statement. The number of papers depends on the size and quality of the papers, and the candidate’s contribution. Where the candidate has put an unusually large amount of work into a paper and that paper is of a very high quality, the number of papers can be reduced.

Generally, the doctoral candidate should be the principal author of at least two articles. Where the candidate is not the principal author, he or she should have contributed considerably to the collection of data, interpreting of results, and writing of the article.

For the degree of Dr.Philos. there are other requirements on the scope of the thesis. Please refer to the Dr.Philos. regulations section 5-1 and especially note that "The absence of a required educational component shall be compensated by thesis work which is somewhat more extensive than what is required in the organised doctoral programmes". 

 

2.3 Co-authorship/Joint authorship
Joint authorship suggests that the work has been conducted by several researchers jointly, please refer to the PhD regulations section 10-2. It is required that the candidate's contribution represents an independent contribution which can be identified to the extent necessary for assessment.

A statement of co-authorship must be attached to the application for submission. The statement must be given on a separate form by the main supervisor and include a description of the candidate's contribution to each of the individual papers. It should also mention other relevant factors, such as extensive cooperation with other institutions that have resulted in an unusually large number of collaborators, or papers that are included in more than one thesis. The statement of co-authorship will be sent to the evaluation committee along with the thesis, and should be written to help identify the candidate’s contribution. The statement of co-authorship must be written in English.

The faculty follows the Vancouver rules. If a publication has many authors, one should especially ensure that the requirements for authorship have been followed. Particular care must be taken when using data from "service divisions" performing routine analyses for others.

The role of the first author should be such that they naturally can regard the work as their own. This involves having completed the main data collection or experiments, data processing, initial interpretations, drafting the manuscript, and organized the writing until the final publication. The candidate should be the first author of most of the papers in their own thesis. Shared first authorship should be avoided as far as possible. Where the candidate is not first author, this should be addressed in the co-authorship statement. Normally the first author is also corresponding author, but the supervisor may contribute in the beginning.

The supervisor is responsible for the sequence of authors for papers included in a PhD thesis. Preferably, the sequence of authors should be decided as early as possible. Any disagreements should be resolved at the lowest possible level.

2.4 Work that has previously been assessed for an academic degree
It is a basic requirement that a doctoral thesis must contain original research results. This means that work that has previously been evaluated for an academic degree cannot be evaluated for a new degree. This general rule has only a few exceptions:

  • A single paper can be shared by two theses if each candidate's contribution is clearly defined. However, this is not recommended. Both candidates involved must agree beforehand that the article in question can be used in both theses. Also, the co-authorship statement must address that the article is included in another thesis (with the name of the other candidate specified, and it must be clear how both candidates have contributed in a way that qualifies the paper to feature in both theses).

  • Joint work: A “double thesis” where two PhD candidates submit together may be accepted. This could exceptionally be an appropriate solution within a group, but it requires that the two candidates are at a similar scientific level and approximately at the same stage in the PhD programme. It is a requirement that the final thesis has the scope and quality of two full theses.

  • An article that has been evaluated as part of the Medical Student Research Programme can be part of a PhD thesis.

2.5 Work that cannot be assessed
Work that has been assessed for previously completed exams or degrees may not be accepted for assessment unless the work is included as a smaller part of a thesis that consists of multiple interrelated works. Data, analyses or methods from previous degrees may nevertheless be used as the basis for the work on the PhD project.

Published articles may not be accepted as part of the thesis if they at the time of admission are older than five (5) years from the date of publishing. Dispensation from this requirement may be made in very extraordinary circumstances.

Guidelines for the synopsis

3.1 Introduction
The synopsis shall include a presentation of the results and contain an in-depth and up-to-date discussion of the articles as a whole, demonstrating scientific maturity at an international PhD level.

3.2 General format requirements
3.2.1 Scope
The synopsis should be between 50 and 80 pages long, not counting the reference list and actual articles. Extensive use of tables and figures may justify a longer synopsis.

3.2.2 Format
Use font: Times New Roman, font size: 13 and line spacing: 1.5. A template for the PhD thesis can be found at the University’s webpage about printing and public availability. A front page should be added for submission, but this should be removed for printing (for technical reasons).

3.2.3 Language
It is recommended that the thesis is written in English, but Norwegian or another Scandinavian language is accepted. The synopsis should not be in Norwegian if the papers are in English. It is essential to keep all text concise, and the thesis should be proofread before submission. It is recommended to keep the use of abbreviations to a minimum and restrict the use to well-established concepts.

3.3 Structure of the synopsis
3.3.1The title of the thesis
The title of the thesis must be specific, concise, and appropriate. It should contain important keywords. (The title is used for indexing purposes and its format is important for traceability in library databases).

3.3.2 List of abbreviations
The synopsis must include a list of all abbreviations used in the thesis.

3.3.3 Scientific environment
This is where the name of the faculty(-ies)/department(s)/ centre(s) /research group(s) /research school involved in the study should be mentioned.

3.3.4 Acknowledgements
This section is used to acknowledge and thank persons, groups, sources of funding etc. Be generous! (This could also be placed before “References”.)

3.3.5 Summary (abstract)
Maximum 1 page (background, objective/purpose, materials/methods, results, conclusions, and consequences). All theses submitted after 19 April 2022 must include a summary in Norwegian and one in English.

3.3.6 List of papers (Note: Not relevant for monographs)
The synopsis must contain a list of all papers that are included in the thesis. The list must include all authors for each paper, the title, and the publication where the paper has been published (if applicable).

3.3.7 Introduction to the synopsis
The introduction to the synopsis shall describe the background for the PhD project, what the research is based upon, and introduce the fundamental issues discussed in the thesis. The literature review must be detailed and present leading knowledge and research while remaining focused on the subject in question, and with a firm basis in relevant original works/publications. The introduction should have an academic and contemporary context and may mention past studies of importance. It may also contain an evaluation of factors considered to be highly relevant or less relevant, with more detailed information provided on this evaluation in the actual thesis. The date on which the author completed his/her study of literature shall be specified.  

3.3.8 Objective of the study
The overall objective of the study must be presented clearly and concisely with a high degree of linguistic precision, and categorised into main goal and secondary goals.

3.3.9 Materials and methods
The presentation of materials and methods must be clearly described and should include relevant details. It is advantageous to refer to methods which have already been published/documented. A critical evaluation of the choice of methods and techniques (methodological considerations) should be included if they are not mentioned in the discussion. This applies irrespective of whether quantitative or qualitative methods are utilised. Ethical considerations shall comply with international standards and necessary approvals shall also be mentioned (for example, in relation to the Norwegian Health Research Act, GDPR and other relevant legislation and regulations).

3.3.10 Results
The results can be described paper by paper or as a whole. It is advantageous to highlight the description of the most relevant/important finds and observations.

3.3.11 Discussion
The discussion shall contain a critical evaluation of the author’s own academic choices and results. Moreover, the author should describe both strengths and weaknesses of the methods used and the results achieved, while referring to existing knowledge. This section shall also highlight how the individual parts of the thesis are connected to each other. The discussion is the candidate’s opportunity to showcase their academic maturity and development by extending and, if necessary correct, aspects of the papers. Where appropriate, the sections for Results and Discussion may be combined into one chapter.

3.3.12 Conclusion
The conclusion shall summarize the most important results and describe how they highlight and respond to the objectives set in the introduction.

3.3.13 Future perspectives
New knowledge often generates new problems and opportunities. The section on future perspectives must contain a description of how the work on the thesis forms the basis for continued work in the field of research. The author may also state if the results of the thesis promote a change of opinion on a specific issue, be it national or international. Will the findings in the thesis result in new or amended procedures or new concepts?

3.3.14 Literature list/References
The literature list should be complete and the PhD candidate must have read all sources listed. The full title of referenced work must be listed here. Listing the references in the same order as in the text is preferred, meaning that reference number 1 is the first reference mentioned in the text. The list of references should be formatted as in journals. Use of a program for reference management, such as EndNote or Reference Manager is recommended. The reference list must include all sources used for material, including figures.