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university of tampere: faculty of communication sciences: doctoral studies: doctoral dissertation:
Faculty of Communication SciencesUniversity of Tampere The School of Communication, Media and Theatre

Public Defence of a Doctoral Dissertation

The Nature of the Public Defence

The public defence of a doctoral dissertation is an event at which the doctoral candidate defends his or her dissertation. A public defence is open to everyone. The chair of a public defence is the custos, and it is the custos's duty to ensure that the doctoral candidate and opponents have enough information about how the defence will take place. The public defence of a doctoral dissertation generally follows certain traditional customs and formal requirements. The main participants can negotiate the public defence arrangements beforehand.

Date and Place of the Public Defence

The doctoral candidate, the custos and the opponents agree on the time, date and place (lecture hall) the public defence will be held. Once the doctoral candidate books the lecture hall, he or she notifies the presenting official (Heikki Eilo) of the date and place and ensures that no other public defences are taking place at the same time in the School. The School will pay the lecture room rent.

Public Defence

The public defence of a doctoral dissertation serves three distinct functions:

1. It offers an opportunity to publicly and reliably ensure that the candidate has written the dissertation himself/herself and that the dissertation meets the basic criteria for a dissertation.

2. It offers the opponent(s), people evaluating the dissertation and other people interested in the subject an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the dissertation by listening to, asking questions of and discussing with the candidate.

3. It offers an opportunity to make the research public in a way that deviates from the norm and is more visible to the public.

The public defence of a doctoral dissertation generally follows certain traditional customs and formal requirements. These customs and requirements supplement the official regulations concerning the examination of a dissertation. Formalities and traditional customs naturally change over the course of time, so the main participants in the defence proceedings should always agree on the arrangements beforehand.

Dress Code

It is customary for the candidate, custos and opponent to wear a tailcoat and a black waistcoat (or a uniform without any medals). Women wear black formal wear and no hat. The custos and the opponent(s) must hold their Doctor's caps in their hands when entering and leaving the lecture hall if they hold a doctoral degree. If the opponent and custos consider it appropriate, men may wear a black suit instead of a tailcoat. Alternatively, participants may wear the gown of the University of Tampere. For more information on wearing the University gown, please contact the Secretary to the Rector. If the candidate wears the gown or a black suit, the custos and the opponent must follow suit.

Entrance and Opening the Defence Proceedings

The participants enter the lecture hall in the following order: first, the doctoral candidate; second, the custos; and, last, the opponent(s). When everyone is in place, the custos will open the public defence by saying, "As the custos appointed by the Board of the School of Communication, Media and Theatre, I declare these defence proceedings to be open." The doctoral candidate will remain standing and deliver his/her lectio praecursoria, which may last no longer than 20 minutes. This introductory lecture will be given on a topic related to the dissertation, but not on the actual research itself. The candidate will begin by saying, "Honourable Custos, Honourable Opponent(s), ladies and gentlemen."

The opponent will stand up and give a short response about the dissertation's position and significance in science and other topics of a more general nature. After this, the opponent and the candidate sit down. Even if there are several opponents, only one will give a response.


At the beginning of the examination proper, the opponent generally focuses on the methodology and general questions, followed by a detailed examination. If there are several opponents, they may agree to take turns and decide on a "division of labour" beforehand. They may also discuss a topic one of them brings up during the proceedings. Members of the audience may also participate in the discussion and pose questions on topics that the candidate and opponent(s) are discussing. The custos will give the floor if there are questions or comments in the audience and, if he/she deems it necessary, even encourage the audience to take the floor, always giving first priority to the candidate and opponent(s).

Opponents may take no more than four hours to examine a dissertation; the proceedings as a whole may not exceed six hours. The custos may suspend the defence proceedings for breaks. At the end of the examination, the opponent presents a closing statement. In the end of the closing statement the opponent states whether she/he is going to suggest the dissertation to be accepted or not (but not the grade).  The candidate and the opponent stand for this statement. If there are several opponents, only one will make a closing statement. After that, the candidate will thank the opponent(s).

When the examination is over, topics not touched on previously may be discussed. To initiate the discussion, the candidate will address the audience and say: "Ladies and gentlemen, I ask those of you who have observations to make on the dissertation presented here to please request the floor from the custos." After this opening, the custos will lead the discussion for as long as necessary, but not in excess of the maximum total duration of six hours.

The custos closes the defence proceedings by saying, "I declare these defence proceedings to be closed." The participants then leave the lecture hall in reverse order, i.e. the opponent(s) leave first, the custos second and the candidate last.

The coffee and post-doctoral party (karonkka) are unofficial private events. The candidate may invite people to the coffee before leaving the lecture hall.

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Last update: 7.4.2016 13.01 Muokkaa

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