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University of Tampere’s guideline on theses

NB: This is an unofficial translation. In the event of any discrepancies between the Finnish and English versions, the original Finnish version shall prevail.

Guideline on theses in pdf-format

This guideline describes the aims, processes and practices related to theses and maturity tests at the University of Tampere. The guideline on theses is applied to all theses that form a part of the Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and, where relevant, to doctoral dissertations. There are also separate guidelines on doctoral dissertations. For the present, the guidelines on the electronic originality checking of theses manuscripts do not apply to Bachelor’s theses.

This guideline enters into force on 1 October 2015 and concerns all theses that are started on or after that date. If stipulated by a faculty, this guideline may also be applied to theses that have been started prior to that date. The faculties may issue further instructions on the application of this guideline. The guidelines issued by the faculties provide a more detailed description of theses and thesis-related practices, such as reference techniques. The faculties ensure that their guidelines are up-to-date and useful for both students and thesis supervisors. The main principles, actions and responsibilities of supervision are described in supervisory plans.

The objectives and place of theses in degrees

During their studies, students gradually learn the skills they need for writing their theses. In order for the students to graduate, they must fulfil the objectives that have been set for the thesis. The objectives of the Bachelor’s thesis are that the student

  •  is familiar with the basic aspects of his or her field and has the potential to follow up on the developments in that field.
  •  has the potential to apply scientific thinking and working methods in practice, or possesses the knowledge and skills required by artistic work.
  •  possesses sufficient communication and language skills needed for working in one’s own field.

The objectives of the Master’s thesis are that the student

  • is well familiar with his or her own field and especially the field of his or her thesis.
  • has the potential to apply scientific knowledge and methods in practical work, or the potential to engage in independent and serious artistic work.
  •  possesses good communication and language skills needed for working in one’s own or a related field.

As a rule, the Bachelor’s thesis is written in the third year of degree studies as a part the intermediate studies, and the Master’s thesis in the second year of degree studies as a part of the advanced studies.

The objectives of the theses are based on learning outcomes. The most essential skills the students must learn are research skills, knowledge of the substance in the field of the thesis, academic language and communication skills, and the skills needed in scientific debate, which are learned through peer learning and supervision and in relation to the previous research in the field.

Working on the thesis means training in independent research and in applying the principles of sound scientific practice. Discussing the student’s goals is important during the thesis process and supervision, especially in view of how those goals are related to the evaluation criteria of the thesis. Only some students will write theses that show exceptional scientific knowledge, but all students can have a good thesis process.

The quality of the theses is ascertained on the one hand by using unambiguous evaluation criteria and scales; not by demanding that the students attain the highest grades possible. On the other, sound scientific practice is applied in the writing, supervision and evaluation of the theses, and reliability and transparency are also ensured throughout the thesis process.

The phases of the thesis process

The thesis process usually consists of the following rough phases:

1. The student thinks about the topic of his or her thesis during the studies. When the student starts to come up with a topic, it is useful to discuss the idea in HOPS
supervision so that the other studies the student still needs to complete for the degree can be planned to support the thesis process.

2. The student completes study modules that support learning about sound scientific practice and research skills. Scientific writing, learning research skills and methods, theoretical studies and information retrieval are examples of such studies.

3. An agreement on the student’s supervisor/s is made. The student agrees about the thesis topic with the supervisor. The instructor of the thesis seminar often acts as the supervisor and, when this is the case, no separate agreement about the supervisor needs to be made. The student and supervisor may make an agreement on supervision.

4. The student drafts a research outline for the thesis. This is often done in the thesis seminar.

5. The student participates in the thesis seminar during which, as a rule, the thesis should be completed.

6. The student reads research literature, learns about research data, conducts the research and writes the thesis, gets feedback on the thesis manuscript from the
supervisor and other students and continues the writing process. The student and supervisor use the plagiarism detection software Turnitin as a supervisory tool during
the writing process.

7. The student submits the thesis manuscript to the electronic originality checking after agreeing to do so with the supervisor. The supervisor conducts the checking.

8. The student and supervisor agree on the schedule for the review and evaluation of the thesis. The student submits the thesis to evaluation after he or she is granted
permission to do so by the supervisor.

9. The student takes the maturity test. The maturity test can be an essay or a synopsis of the thesis.

10. The thesis is evaluated and graded and the evaluation statement is sent to the student. No statement is necessary for Bachelor’s theses, but all students should receive some form of written feedback. The student is also informed about his or her right to seek rectification to the evaluation.

11. The grade and other information on the thesis are saved in the student information system.

The thesis process begins when the student makes an agreement about the topic of the thesis
with the supervisor.

Supervising a thesis

All students have one or two thesis supervisors who support both the content and the research process at the different points of writing the thesis. A supervisor may be a person who is a member of the academic staff of the University or another institution. Doctoral students may act as thesis supervisors. At least one supervisor must be well acquainted with the field of the thesis. The supervisor must be familiar with the evaluation criteria of theses and discuss them with the student. The supervisor of a Bachelor’s thesis is usually the instructor of the thesis seminar so no separate agreement on the supervisor is necessary. If the supervisor/s are not named specifically, the faculty issues a description of the process of appointing a supervisor.

The supervisor and the student may draft a supervisory agreement detailing the rights, responsibilities and duties of the parties, including what will be done in case changes, conflicts or problems occur. A template for the supervisory agreement is enclosed with this guideline (Appendix 1).

The core of the supervisory process is the student’s own work, i.e. the accumulation of academic expertise, which the supervision supports. The supervisory relationship is a pedagogical relationship resembling a partnership, in which the supervisor is in the service of the student’s learning process. The student is responsible for his or her own motivation, working and the progress of the whole thesis process. Each student has the right to a sensible amount of supervision. The reasonable number of students one supervisor can supervise is defined by the faculty and defining this number is a part of formulating the supervisor’s work plan.

When the supervisory process begins, the student and the supervisor agree on the goals and timetable of the process. They match the goals of the thesis with the evaluation criteria and the student’s own objectives, opportunities and goals, which is done in order to ensure that there is a shared understanding of the goals and evaluation of the thesis. In addition, a shared understanding will be formed on the requirements of academic work in the thesis context, sound scientific practice and the criteria of authorship. The rhythm of working and supervising and the phases and timetable of the thesis process will also be agreed. At the start of the process, the
language of the thesis will also be decided as will be matters related to data use and storage. These issues will be jointly agreed in the thesis seminar and more closely during the supervision sessions.

Sound scientific practice will be followed and ensured throughout the supervision process and any problems that may occur will be promptly addressed. All parties prepare in an adequate manner for the supervisory sessions – i.e. for seminars, supervision in a smaller group of students or one-on-one supervision – and a specific time is set for the sessions. The supervision sessions provide an arena for giving and receiving constructive feedback, and the student’s possibilities to train the academic discourse are also ensured. In addition, working on the thesis and supervision are proactively assessed so that any problems that may occur during the thesis work or supervision can be addressed in a timely manner.

If the instructor who has been appointed to supervise the student’s thesis is prevented from doing so or if there are irreconcilable problems in the supervision process, a new supervisor will be appointed for the student. If the student is unable to complete the thesis within the time specified in the supervision agreement or if there are other problems in the thesis work, a new agreement on the thesis process will be made according to the instructions of the faculty in question.

The thesis seminar

The thesis seminar is usually an important arena for supervision and training for research work. Because the students evaluate and comment each other’s texts, the seminars especially encourage learning the skills related to peer supervision and peer learning. In addition, the seminar supports learning research skills and the skills related to engaging in an academic discourse. The seminars are also a place for talking about the goals of the thesis and evaluation criteria. As a rule, the aim is that the students complete their theses during the seminar or at least achieve such a phase in their thesis process that they will be able to complete the thesis during the regular supervision process.

Adhering to sound scientific practice

Sound scientific practice should be adhered to throughout the thesis process as specified by the Responsible Research Conduct and Procedures for Handling Allegations of Misconduct issued by the Rector. The guideline also details the procedure to be followed in cases of suspected misconduct. The Turnitin Originality Check software is used in order to promote and ensure learning sound scientific practice during the thesis process and to check the originality of the thesis manuscript. More information on responsible research conduct and using the Turnitin software is available on the Academic Ethics page.

Writing the thesis with a fellow student or in a group

If a student wants to write the thesis together with another student or in a group, an agreement about it must be made with the supervisor. If the thesis is written together with other student(s), a student must be able to show which parts of the thesis are his or her independent contribution so that the work can be evaluated. This is because writing the thesis primarily means getting practice in independent scientific work. The thesis is evaluated for each student separately.

Writing the thesis as commissioned work

Students can also write their theses as work commissioned by a company or other such party. However, students must remember that a thesis is scientific work evaluated on the basis of its academic merits. The evaluation of the thesis is ultimately based on the curriculum and the learning outcomes described in it. The commissioning party must also be aware of the academic nature of the thesis. The topic of the thesis and its timetable, goals and publicity are jointly decided by the student, supervisor and the commissioning party. A university instructor is responsible for the scientific evaluation of the thesis. The commissioning party may appoint a contact person to take care of matters related to the thesis. The commissioning party may also participate in the academic supervision of the thesis. If the student is paid a fee for writing the thesis, a written agreement about the payment should be made.

The publicity of the thesis and managing confidential information

According to Section 32 of University of Tampere’s Regulations on the Assessment of Studies, a thesis is a public document. A thesis becomes public as soon as it has been evaluated. Theses should not contain confidential information. The principle of publicity applies even if the thesis or its parts are published in another arena, for example as an article. All confidential information must be included in the unpublished appendices of the thesis or the research data. If confidential information is used in a thesis, the student makes an advance agreement on its use with the supervisor and, in the case of a commissioned thesis, the party commissioning the thesis.

Questions of copyright are also related to the publicity of the thesis. The author of the thesis is responsible for the contents of the thesis and his or her rights to it. The author of a published thesis should possess full rights to the thesis or to the pictures, tables or other such data that are a part of the thesis or he or she must have the right to publish such data online.

The language of the thesis

According to Section 9 of University of Tampere’s Regulations on the Assessment of Studies, students have the right to use Finnish in written and oral coursework, examinations, etc., unless another language is required in the curriculum. Otherwise the right to use a language other than Finnish in the work to be assessed is decided by the dean of the faculty or the director of the Independent Institute.

The language of the thesis is Finnish, the language required by the curriculum or the main language used in the studies. The dean decides on the use of other languages. When the language of the thesis is chosen, attention should be paid to the fact that in the thesis the student is expected to demonstrate language and communication skills in his or her own field.

A student who is studying in an English-language study programme may write the thesis also in Finnish. However, if the student wishes that the degree certificate states that the degree was completed in English, it may be required that the thesis is written in English.

Other guidance and support during the thesis process

  • Apart from the language and communication studies included in the degree, the Language Centre offers optional studies in the Finnish language and scientific writing. For more information, please visit the Language Centre’s website and curriculum guide.
  • The University Library offers training and guidelines on information retrieval and other instructions to students who write their theses. The Library also provides help on how to save your thesis in NettiOpsu and publishes the theses online as agreed (please visit http://www.uta.fi/kirjasto/en/publishing.html).
  • The Finnish Social Science Data Archive offers guidelines e.g. on data management and a web resource on research methods and offers various services that support research work.
  • IT Services supports the use of information technology.
  • The Studies section of the UTA website contains information on the various counselling services offered to students as well as on special arrangements in studies.
  • The University website also contains links to self-study resources, which students can use to develop their writing skills, for example.

The originality checking of the thesis manuscript

According to Section 29 of University of Tampere’s Regulations on the Assessment of Studies, as a rule, a manuscript of a thesis included in a Master’s and a doctoral degree must be examined for originality within a week of the date on which the student has submitted the text for originality check. After the student asks the supervisor to conduct the originality check, the check will be conducted by using the Turnitin Originality Check plagiarism detection software. Further instructions are available on the Academic Ethics website.

Submitting the thesis to evaluation

When the thesis is nearly completed, the student and supervisor discuss what is still needed to get the manuscript ready. The student and supervisor agree on the preliminary checking of the thesis and on doing the corrections that are still required. After the preliminary check and the ensuing changes, the supervisor grants the student permission to submit the thesis to evaluation. The originality checking of the manuscript should already be conducted before the thesis is submitted to evaluation. A thesis that is a part of the Bachelor’s degree is submitted to evaluation according to the instructions issued by the faculty. A thesis that is a part of the Master’s degree is submitted to evaluation via Graduation in NettiOpsu. When a student submits his or her thesis via NettiOpsu, he or she also confirms that the originality checking has been conducted and that he or she has the supervisor’s permission to submit the thesis to evaluation. In NettiOpsu, the student also gives permission to publish the thesis.

The maturity test

The purpose of the maturity test

In the maturity test, the student demonstrates his or her familiarity with the field of the thesis. The students must also demonstrate their command of Finnish, English or some other language once during the studies.

The maturity test is a part of the process of writing the thesis, but it is an independent essay separate from the thesis. With the maturity test the students demonstrate the level of their language skills in the field of the thesis. The maturity essay is written in the Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees as stipulated by Section 10, paragraph 2 and Section 16, paragraph 2 of the Government Decree on University Degrees and Specialist Education:

The student must demonstrate that he/she has attained the objectives set for the degree, studies and thesis and the language proficiency referred to in Section 6. The student must write a maturity essay which demonstrates conversance with the topic of the thesis and skills in the use of Finnish or Swedish.

The student need not demonstrate command of the Finnish or Swedish language in the maturity essay included in the higher university degree if he/she has demonstrated his/her command of the language in a maturity essay included in a lower university degree studied in the same language. (Section 16, paragraph 3)

The Finnish or Swedish language skills demonstrated by a maturity exam written for a University of Applied Science degree correspond to the language skills required in a Bachelor’s degree.

The language of the maturity test

In accordance with sections 6 and 10 of the Government Decree on University Degrees and Specialist Education, maturity essays are written in Finnish or Swedish when a student has been educated in Finnish or Swedish. When a student has been educated in a language other than Finnish or Swedish, the maturity essay is written in English or in the primary language of instruction in the degree programme in question.

The language of the maturity test is the language of the student’s school education. At the University of Tampere, the maturity test is most often written in Finnish except when the student’s school education has been in some other language. Section 9 of University of Tampere’s Regulations on the Assessment of Studies contains regulations on the language of the maturity test. How the language of school education and the language of the maturity test are defined is explained in more detail in Appendix 2.

The practices and text type of the maturity test

According to Section 29 of University of Tampere’s Regulations on the Assessment of Studies, a maturity test is either an essay or a summary of the thesis. The student’s ability to write the maturity essay in the appropriate text type is taken into consideration in the evaluation. When both the content and language of the maturity test are evaluated, the student should write a factual essay based on the thesis. When the maturity essay is written only to show familiarity in the field of the thesis and only the contents of the essay are evaluated, the summary of the thesis is in the main considered as the maturity essay. In those cases the essay is written in the language of school education and in cases when the thesis has been written in another language, in the language of the thesis.

In addition to the cases defined in the decree, the language of the maturity test is evaluated at the University of Tampere when the student has not previously demonstrated his or her language skills by a maturity test. The maturity test may be written as an essay also when the student demonstrates his or her familiarity with the field of study of the thesis. When the maturity test is written as an essay, the maturity test cannot be taken until after the thesis has been
submitted to evaluation.

When the student takes the maturity test in order to show both familiarity with the field of study of the thesis and skills in Finnish, Swedish or another language, the test is written in the form of an essay. Students sign up for the maturity test electronically or in another reliable way defined by the faculty, and the essay is written in a monitored exam or, when possible, taken as an electronic exam. The faculties issue instructions on the types of assignment that are suitable for a maturity essay, more detailed practices than the ones outlined in this guideline and on the principles of evaluating the content of the maturity test.

The assignment in a maturity essay

The aim of the assignment in a maturity essay is to get the student to write a reflective and factual essay based on his or her thesis. Thus the assignment should not be of the type “please answer one question”. Instead, the student can be guided to write a suitable type of text by using such verbs as: reflect, compare, estimate, deduce, define, analyse and specify in the assignment. The person who writes the assignment may also provide some background information. It is worthwhile to give the student numbered assignments (2–3). It is also recommended that the assignment contains instructions on how the essay should be titled.

Evaluating the maturity test

Stipulations on the timetable of evaluating the maturity test for content and language are included in Section 29 of University of Tampere’s Regulations on the Assessment of Studies. The examiner of the maturity test examines the test for content. After the content has been examined and when a language examination is needed, the Language Centre conducts an examination of the language. A maturity test is evaluated on the scale of pass/fail. The author of a failed maturity test will receive feedback and supervision before retaking the test. The author of a maturity test has the opportunity to get feedback on the test.

The tasks of the examiner of content

The instructor who examines the maturity test for content makes the decision on passing or failing the test based on the evaluation criteria used by the faculty. The examiner first ensures that the test is adequate content-wise. When the language of the maturity test is also checked, the examiner sends the maturity test, whose contents have already been accepted, to the office of the Language Centre along with the assignment. The assignment includes both the topic and the title of the maturity essay or a request to the student to give the essay a title of his or her own choosing.

The tasks of the language examiner

The language examiner examines the language of the maturity test. The content and structure of the essay are also interwoven with the language, which means, for example, that if there is no introduction or conclusion, the student may fail the maturity essay because of the lack of language skills. If the student fails the language part of the test, he or she will write a new test on the same topic as the failed test. A retaken maturity test is sent directly to the language examiner. The Network of Finnish University Language Centres has published a guideline on the evaluation of the language of a maturity test, which is available in Finnish.

Evaluating and grading a thesis

Theses are evaluated according to the stipulations of University of Tampere’s Regulations on the Assessment of Studies (especially Sections 27-29) and the evaluation criteria used by the faculty. At least one examiner is appointed to evaluate the thesis. The examiner must hold a degree on the same level or higher as the degree of the thesis. The supervisor may act as the examiner. The examiner must be familiar with the evaluation practices and criteria and have a good command of the field of study of the thesis.

Those parts of the thesis the student has submitted for examination are examined. If a onceonly event is a part of the thesis, the examiner should at the very least be given the opportunity to acquaint him or herself with the related documentation, which should be included in the thesis submitted for evaluation. It is the student’s responsibility to produce sufficient documentation so that the thesis can be evaluated.

According to Section 28 of University of Tampere’s Regulations on the Assessment of Studies, theses included in a Bachelor’s or Master's degree are assessed on a pass/fail basis, and passed theses are awarded a grade according to the evaluation criteria. A thesis can be failed if it does not fulfil the requirements for a thesis or if the student has not observed sound scientific practice. If a thesis is failed, the instructions of the faculty will be followed. If the student has failed to comply with the principles of sound scientific practice, the procedure is laid down in the Rector’s decision on Responsible Research Conduct and Procedures for Handling Allegations of Misconduct.

The student should receive the decision on the evaluation of the thesis and a written statement on the grading within the time stipulated by Section 29 of the Regulations on the Assessment of Studies. It is not necessary to issue a statement on a Bachelor’s thesis. If the student is unsatisfied with the grade or the evaluation, he or she should first discuss the matter with the supervisor.

Requests for rectification

A student who is unsatisfied with the evaluation of a thesis can seek rectification in writing in ways presented in the Universities Act (Sections 44 and 82-84), the Regulations of the University of Tampere (Section 13) and University of Tampere’s Regulations on the Assessment of Studies (Sections 26-27).

The request for rectification should include the following:

  • the student’s name and contact details
  • the date the student received information about the decision on evaluating the thesis
  • the decision on evaluating the thesis
  • the rectification the student is requesting
  • the grounds for the rectification

More information on the rectification process can be obtained from the Head of Study Affairs at the student’s faculty.

Publicity, archiving and electronic archiving of theses

According to University of Tampere’s Regulations on the Assessment of Studies, Bachelor’s theses are archived for five years and Master’s theses and doctoral dissertations are archived permanently. The original copy of a Bachelor’s thesis is kept in the office of the faculty and the original copies of Master’s theses are kept at the University Library. The results of the evaluation must be kept at the office of the faculty for ten years.

A thesis is public and it can be read at the faculty, the University Library or – when the student has granted permission – via the electronic TamPub database, which is the open institutional repository of the University of Tampere.

The theses that are electronically published and archived in TamPub will be added to the comparative data of the Turnitin Originality Check plagiarism detection software, which makes it easier to protect the thesis from plagiarism.

 
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