Completion of doctoral studies

Doctoral studies are centered around one’s doctoral thesis and scientific research. Doctoral studies are regulated by the University of Tartu’s Regulations for Doctoral Studies, which include general requirements for supervision, individual planning, and application for a doctoral degree. Doctoral students should also get acquainted with good practices of the University of Tartu, especially good practices of doctoral studies.

Read more about the rules and regulations governing doctoral studies at the University of Tartu

This page compiles faculty guidelines and recommendations for planning your studies, for putting together and completing your individual plan, for progress reviews, as well as for writing the introductory chapter and the defence procedure.  

Planning your studies

In planning their studies, the doctoral student makes individual and purposeful choices about specific activities in cooperation with their supervisor(s), and provides a detailed timeline of planned activities in their individual study plan. Activities necessary for professional development and for the completion of the doctoral thesis can be pursued through university courses, events organised by the doctoral schools or the centre for doctoral studies, and through external events – both local and international. Courses related to a specific specialty varie and each specialty has provided a list of cumpolsory and/or optional courses. 

The following guidelines offer recommendations on which transferable skills to focus on at different stages of the doctoral studies, in addition to some activites supporting general development. The guidelines are based on the learning outcomes of the doctoral programs in the faculty, which must be achieved in order to complete the program. The recommendations are exactly that: suggestions aimed at easing the planning of the studies. Based on the specificities of each thesis project, and the needs of each doctoral student, alternative sequencing of these activities is also possible. However, the compulsory course "Introduction to doctoral studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences" should be taken during the first semester of studies, as it offers a broad insight into the most important topics related to doctoral studies. See also recommendations for transferable skills training opportunities

  • Data management and processing, data protection  
  • Teaching and/or supervising (can also be done during the third year, based on specific needs of the student)  
  • Writing retreat  
  • Academic oral presentation skills
  • Research communication/popularisation  
  • Teaching and/or supervising (can also be done during the second year, based on specific needs of the student) 
  • Writing retreat
  • Writing a funding proposal (not necessary, if you are not planning a future in the academia) 
  • Writing camp
  • Intellectual property   
  • Leadership, management 
  • Teamwork, cooperation 

Individual plan

Doctoral studies are carried out according to the doctoral student's individual plan, in which the study and research plan for the entire study period is agreed upon, based on the learning outcomes of the doctoral program. 

The individual plan is therefore a central document in doctoral studies, which the doctoral student prepares in cooperation with the supervisor.

The individual plan consists of several parts:

  1. after the doctoral student has been matriculated, the individual plan is compiled for the whole period of doctoral studies; this is a general plan of action;
  2. together with the progress report, the doctoral student submits the individual plan for the next semester/academic year; this is a more detailed action plan.


The doctoral student's/external student´s progress in teaching and research is assessed during progress reviews based on how they have been able to progress based on their individual plan.

Depending on how one has been able to progress based on one´s individual plan,

1) the doctoral student/external student is reviewed positively or negatively and
2) the doctoral student will be assigned to full-time or part-time studies (applies only to those admitted before the 2022/23 academic year)

Read more from the Regulations for Doctoral Studies

  • The individual plan must meet the requirements set in the Procedure of Doctoral Students’ Progress Review. When compiling the individual plan, consider how your research during the academic year will be assessed at the progress review. Of course, unexpected situations might arise, and not everything might go according to plan, but when less research has been (planned and) done than the Procedure of Doctoral Students’ Progress Review requires, it might lead to repeat progress review or, in extreme cases, to exmatriculation. 
     
  • Your individual plan is your plan of action – consider carefully which activities you plan for the next semester/academic year;
    • How the courses and research-related tasks contribute to your development during yout studies.
    • Plan enough activities for the semester to get a positive assessment but try to avoid overexertion and potential burnout.
    • Consult your supervisor and, if necessary, the programme director. Particularly at the beginning of your studies, they can help you decide how to combine studies and research and how to divide your workload.
       
  • The individual plan is an instrument of time management – four years is a long period of time and the individual plan enables you to divide it into different work phases and set yourself realistic deadlines. At the same time, it is essential to consider the progress of your studies as a whole, relying on the Procedure of Doctoral Students’ Progress Review and the individual plan that has been compiled after matriculation for the whole period of study. Because of the length of doctoral studies, skilful and consistent time management is essential. Skilful time management is centred on dividing larger work tasks into smaller parts and setting concrete deadlines for them.
     
  • The individual plan forms the basis for the progress report – the doctoral student has to compare these two documents, and the review committee does the same. If the doctoral student’s activities do not correspond to the individual plan, this has to be explained and substantiated in the progress report. Research is generally not a linear process; therefore, it may be necessary to change, adjust or supplement the initial research plan.
     
  • The individual plan and the progress reports record the doctoral student’s development during the studies. Compile them in a way that they are of use to you later on, for writing different overviews or summaries.

1. Research, development and creative activities 

1.1 Research activities related to the doctoral thesis and compiling the doctoral thesis; publication of the results of research, development and creative activities.

1.2 Participation in and presenting at professional events related to the doctoral thesis; international study and research experience. 

1.3 Other research, development and creative activities.  

Participation in organising research, development and creative acitivities, participation in the planning and imeplementation of a research project, application of the results of research, development and creative activities, cooperation with entrprises and institutions, etc. For a project, please include its main details, incl. the code, eligibility period and title.  

1.4 Acquisition of transferable skills that meet the learning outcomes of the doctoral program.  

Acquisition of teaching and supervisory experience, as well as collaboration and leadership skills, popularisation of the specialisation, etc. Other work that is not directly related to the doctoral thesis may take up to 20% of the total working time of a junior research fellow.  

 

2. Studies

Studies and self-development according to the requirements of the doctoral program. Courses, training and other activities that the doctoral student has selected to develop his/her transferable and professional skills.  

1st-year doctoral student after matriculation:

  • The doctoral student must compile a period plan for the first semester and enter it into the Study Information System within 30 days after matriculation.

1st-year doctoral student before the first progress review:

  • The doctoral student must compile the individual plan for the whole period of study and a period plan for the second semester and submit it to the progress review committee, alongside other documents required and outlined in the Procedure of Doctoral Students’ Progress Review. The documents must be entered into the Study Information System at least 8 working days before the progress review date.

The doctoral student of the 2nd academic year and onwards:

  • Together with the progress review and other documents required by the Procedure of Doctoral Students’ Progress Review, the doctoral student has to submit the period plan for the next review period. The documents must be entered into the Study Information System at least 8 working days before the progress review date.

The external doctoral student:

  • To receive the status of an external student in a doctoral curriculum, an application and, together with it, the draft individual plan have to be submitted. The individual plan has to be compiled for a semester or an academic year, depending on the period for which the status of the external student is applied. The external student compiles the individual plan for the period of being an external student and enters it in the Study Information System within two weeks after registration as an external student. 

  • Together with the progress review and other documents required by the Procedure of Doctoral Students’ Progress Review, the external doctoral student has to submit the period plan for the next review period. The documents must be entered into the Study Information System at least 8 working days before the progress review date.

 

Progress review

Progress review is a process whereby the progression of the doctoral student in their research and coursework is evaluated during the progress review meeting. During the progress review, the review committee assesses the fulfilment of the doctoral studies programme, as well as the individual plan. Passing a progress review is a requirement for continuing in the doctoral studies programme. 

At the faculty of Social Sciences, the progress review procedures are carried out in accordance with the University’s Regulation of the Doctoral Studies, as well as the faculty-level Procedure of Progress Review.

Educational science: 26.01.2023 at 10.00.

Media and communication: 16.01.2023 at 11.00.

Sociology: 25.01.2023 at 14.00.

Law: 26.01.2023 at 10.00 in Zoom.

Economics and business administration: 17.01.2023 at 10 in Zoom.

Political science: 25.01.2023.

Psychology: 30.01.2023. 

The progress report is written by the doctoral student and confirmed by their supervisor. Good Practice of Doctoral Studies recommends the supervisor to support the doctoral student in preparation for the progress review 

The doctoral student/external doctoral student submits the following documents to the progress review committee at least eight working days before the progress review date: 

  1. for the first progress review of the first year, the individual plan (for the entire period of doctoral studies) approved by the learner in doctoral studies and the supervisor(s); later on, the individual plan is submitted only if it needs to be changed; 

  1. the plan for the following progress review period approved by the learner in doctoral studies and the supervisor(s); 

  1. the progress review report of the previous progress review period approved by the learner in doctoral studies and the supervisor(s); 

NB! The period plan and the progress review report are in the same document form. First, you’ll fill in the period plan for the following review period, below you’ll find the progress review report, detailing the previous review period. 

  1. materials proving research according to requirements laid down in clauses 12–15 of the procedure; 

  1. a statement from the editor of the journal or collection meeting the requirements of the doctoral thesis confirming that the research publication has been accepted for peer review or publication if the research publication is part of the research submitted for progress review; 

  1. the feedback of the learner in doctoral studies on supervision, presented on the prescribed template

  1. the supervisor’s reflection on supervision and cooperation with the supervisee, presented on the prescribed template.

For the submission of the documents, please follow the instructions of the  secretary of the progress review committee.

The report covers the fulfilment of the individual study plan during the previous period of study and summarises the progress of doctoral studies as a whole. 

If changes have been made compared to the individual study plan, they have to be explained throughout. See how the Faculty’s Procedure of Doctoral Students’ Progress Review describes the assessment of the doctoral student’s research according to academic years. 

 

I Research, development and creative activities 

I.1 Content and volume of research work and the stage of the doctoral thesis; publishing the results of the research, development, and creative activities.   

I.2 Participation in and presenting at research-field related professional events, international studies and research experience. 

I.3 Other research, development and creative activities 

Participation in the organisation of research, development and creative activities; involvement in planning and carrying out of grant projects; implementation of the results of the research, development and creative activities; cooperation with enterprises and research agencies, etc. If you are involved in any research grants, add their basic information, including project code, eligibility period, and full name. 

  • Here you should report the research projects which you are officially involved in as a research staff, and which are related to your doctoral studies. Specify the tasks related to the project and their connection with your doctoral thesis.   

I.4  Development of transferable skills according to the learning outcomes of the doctoral programme 

Obtaining teaching and supervision competences, developing cooperation and leadership skills, popularisation of the research field/speciality, etc. Here report all the activities that are not directly related to your research or reported under studies, e.g.  

1) participation in projects that are not related to your research (including, e.g., popularisation of research); 
2) supervising and reviewing; 
3) (co-)organising events; 
4) participation in decision-making bodies and attendance of their meetings. 

  • Other tasks not related to the thesis research, should not take up more than 20% of the work time of the junior researcher. Your period plan should show the amount of other work in hours.  

 

II Studies 

Coursework and self-improvement according to the doctoral studies programme. Courses, trainings etc that the student has selected to improve on their transferable and professional skills. Activities should be divided into sub-sections. 

  • The core of doctoral studies is research, and this should be done consistently throughout the years of doctoral studies (including in the first year). Courses that support research should also be divided over several years. At the same time, it is not advisable to leave the courses for the last year when you have to focus on finishing and editing the doctoral thesis. 

  • The progress of the 1st-year doctoral student is reviewed twice: 

1) when one studied semester has passed from matriculation, and 
2) when two studied semesters have passed from matriculation. 

  • From the 2nd year onwards, the progress of the doctoral student is reviewed once in an academic year, when two studied semesters have passed from the last progress review. 

  • The external doctoral student’s progress is reviewed when two studied semesters from the admission have passed. 

  • Doctoral students’ progress is not reviewed during academic leave 

 

Progress reviews are held at least twice in an academic year for each curriculum. The dates of progress reviews are confirmed by 1 November (progress review of the autumn semester) and 1 March (progress review of the spring semester). This means that the progress review of the doctoral student does not take place immediately after they return from academic leave but on the confirmed dates. 

Progress review report should be submitted no later than eight days before the date of the progress review meeting. The secretary of the progress review committee will inform the students about the submission details for their specialty. 

  • consists of at least three members, including one member from outside the institute/college that manages the curriculum or the specialty. 

  • the committee members hold a doctoral degree or an equivalent qualification 

  • if a member of the review committee is the supervisor of a doctoral student to be reviewed, or a connected person for the purposes of the Anti-corruption Act, s/he withdraws from taking the progress review decision on this particular doctoral student. 

The progress review meeting is attended by doctoral students and their supervisors. 

  • If none of the supervisors can participate in the progress review meeting, the supervisor in charge submits their written assessment of the progress of the learner in doctoral studies to the chair of the progress review committee and the supervisee by the beginning of the progress review meeting at the latest. 

  • The progress review meetings might be structured differently for different curricula or specialties. The institute organising the meeting decides on the composition and form of the progress review meeting.

Assessing progress of the learner in doctoral studies based on year of studies: 

Assessing the progress in research of a 1st year doctoral student: 

At the end of the first semester of the first year of study, the research and studies of a learner in doctoral studies are assessed positively if the learner in doctoral studies has completed the individual plan for doctoral studies and the period plan of the second semester that meet the requirements. 

At the end of the first year of study, the research and studies of a learner in doctoral studies are assessed positively if the learner in doctoral studies has presented the results of his/her doctoral thesis to a wider audience at least once during the year of study, for example, at a research colloquium, an extended doctoral seminar, a scientific conference, etc., and has completed one of the following: 

  • an extended doctoral thesis project, incl. an overview of the work done so far; 

  • the first manuscript of a research publication; 

  • the project of the monograph and the manuscript of one chapter (at least 1/5 of the planned volume of the thesis). 

 

Assessing the progress in research of a 2nd year doctoral student: 

At the end of the second year of study, the research and studies of a learner in doctoral studies are assessed positively if the learner in doctoral studies has presented the results of his/her doctoral thesis to a wider audience at least once during the year of study, for example, at a research colloquium, an extended doctoral seminar, a scientific conference, etc., and has completed one of the following: 

  • a research publication qualifying for the defence of a doctoral thesis submitted to a journal or collection, and the manuscript of the second publication ready to be submitted; 

  • at least 1/3 of the monograph and a more detailed project of the monograph, incl. a more detailed structure. 

 

Assessing the progress in research of a 3rd year doctoral student: 

At the end of the third year of study, the research and studies of a learner in doctoral studies are assessed positively if the learner in doctoral studies has presented the results of his/her doctoral thesis to a wider audience at least once during the year of study, for example, at a research colloquium, an extended doctoral seminar, a scientific conference, etc., a has completed one of the following: 

  • two relevant research articles qualifying for the defence of a doctoral thesis, at least one of which has been accepted for publication, and the second has been submitted to a journal or collection; 

  • three relevant research articles qualifying for the defence of a doctoral thesis submitted to a journal or collection for publication; 

  • at least 3/4 of the monograph and one relevant research article qualifying for the defence of a doctoral thesis submitted for publication; 

  • at least 2/3 of the monograph and one relevant research article qualifying for the defence of a doctoral thesis accepted for publication. 

 

Assessing the progress in research of a 4th year doctoral student: 

At the end of the fourth year of study, the research and studies of a learner in doctoral studies are assessed positively if the learner in doctoral studies has presented the results of his/her doctoral thesis to a wider audience at least once during the year of study, for example, at a research colloquium, an extended doctoral seminar, a scientific conference, etc., and has completed the manuscript of the doctoral thesis to be submitted for defence. 

The review committee makes its decision based on the submitted materials and the results of the progress review meeting. The decision will be made available in the Study Information System within four working days after the progress review meeting. The progress review committee will give the doctoral student recommendations for fulfilling and improving the individual plan and, if deemed necessary based on the submitted materials and the progress review meeting, will initiate activities for improving the progress of the doctoral student. 

Decisions of the progress review committee regarding learners in doctoral studies in doctoral programmes opened from the 2022/2023 academic year 

The progress review committee makes one of the following decisions and provides reasons for that: 

  • to give the learner in doctoral studies a positive assessment; 
  • to give an additional period of up to three months, which the doctoral student is entitled to once during the period of study and which does not extend the standard period of study, to improve performance. The doctoral student must notify the committee of accepting the additional period within seven days of notification of the decision; 
  • to give the learner in doctoral studies a negative assessment. This will result in exmatriculation from the doctoral studies.  
  • not to assess the learner in doctoral studies if the person did not submit the required documents by the deadline or was absent from the progress review meeting without the committee’s permission. 

 

Decisions of the progress review committee regarding learners in doctoral studies in doctoral curricula opened before the 2022/2023 academic year 

The committee assesses the research of the learner in doctoral studies in credit points. 

The progress review committee makes one of the following decisions: 

  • to give the doctoral student a positive assessment if the student has fulfilled the requirements of at least part-time study or submitted the doctoral thesis for defence; 
  • to give the doctoral student a positive assessment after the first semester if the student has fulfilled at least 50% of the first semester’s period plan;  
  • to give the doctoral student a negative assessment if the student has not fulfilled the requirements of part-time study or if the volume of their studies and research in the progress review period falls short of 50% of the volume set out in the period plan; 
  • not to assess the learner in doctoral studies if the person did not submit the required documents by the deadline or was absent from the progress review meeting without the committee’s permission; 
  • to give the external student a positive assessment if the student has fulfilled their period plan at least to the extent of 50% or submitted the doctoral thesis for defence; 
  • to give the external student a negative assessment if the student has completed less than 50% of the period plan. 

In order to receive the doctoral allowance, the learner in doctoral studies must receive a positive assessment (has fulfilled the curriculum at least to the extent of 75%). Additional information here.  

Performance-based stipend will be awarded based on the decision of the progress review committee for those learners in doctoral studies who, based on the progress review, have fulfilled their curriculum 100% cumulatively (fulfilment of the curriculum across all years in studies). More information here:  https://ut.ee/en/content/doctoral-students-performance-stipend  

Guidelines for introductory chapter

When writing a doctoral thesis as an integrated collection of research publications, it usually includes at least three research articles and an introductory chapter. The requirements for the introductory chapter can be found in paragraphs 118 and 121.6 of the Regulations for Doctoral Studies, but we have also compiled faculty level guidelines for writing said chapter.

Introductory chapter is not just a summary of the research articles; instead, it provides framing for the whole thesis, synthesizing new knowledge from the articles. In general, the chapter should follow the structure set out below, and include the following components. From a wider introduction, the author moves to the specific research puzzle, followed by overviews of theory, methodology, and results. The discussion/conclusions section is, once again, wider, touching upon the relevance of the results on the advancement of the discipline and offering the author’s opinion on the future outlook.

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