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The PhD thesis


When talking about PhD thesis, different terminology may occur. Thus, a brief description of the terminology used by the Graduate School can be found here:   

There are two different types of theses:

  • Thesis based on monograph
  • Thesis based on manuscripts/publications The majority of theses handed in at the Faculty of Health Sciences at SDU are based on manuscripts and/or publications.The word manuscript originates from Latin “manu script” meaning handwritten. In this guideline, a manuscript is defined as a nonpublished report, which is based on scientific work. A publication may be defined as a published manuscript.

A thesis based on manuscripts/publications consists of two parts: an overview and the manuscripts/publications. Both parts are important and are evaluated by the assessment committee.

Please note that it is not a requirement that the manuscripts are published as journal articles or have been written for peer-reviewed journals.

The following guideline refers to a thesis based on manuscripts/publications and focuses on the overview.


The aim of the overview is for the PhD student to:

  • Demonstrate the ability to independently communicate the most important research results of the PhD project
  • To discuss these in relation to national and international literature
  • To specify how the scientific knowledge gabs are filled out
  • To discuss the meaning of the results within the given research field.

Furthermore, the overview must reflect the PhD student’s overview of the scientific field as well as the ability to reflect on the applied methods, results, and putting it all into perspective. 

Content and structure

The overview must be understandable when read separately.

The structure is often based on the same elements as in a scientific publication: Resume, introduction, results, discussion, conclusion, perspective, and references.

When dealing with a thesis based on multiple scientific manuscripts/publications, it is important to visualize the overall aim of the project and the scientific coherence among manuscripts/publications (the common thread).

When drawing up the overview it is important to keep in mind that the thesis generally seeks to account for how the PhD project contributes to the scientific field. The following elements in the overview may help to visualize this:

  • Motivation (why is the PhD project relevant/important)
  • Current knowledge (what is already known within the research field – the project’s starting point)
  • Goal/aim (which new knowledge is searched for within the research field)
  • Method (how is knowledge obtained)
  • Main results (what was found – the contribution)
  • Discussion of content (in relation to the existing knowledge within the research field)
  • Conclusion (answers to goal/aim)
  • Perspective (e.g. what is the next step for the contribution within the research field / what is the effect and value for society / what does it take for the knowledge obtained during the PhD project to be implemented)

Regarding the discussion of the results, aim for one combined discussion, rather than separate discussions categorized by each publication. The same goes for the conclusion, which preferably contains one complete conclusion for the entire PhD project.

The overview may contain considerations and intermediate results, which are not part of the manuscripts/publications. Likewise, results/findings which did not fit into the manuscripts/publications may also be presented in the overview. However, it is not a requirement that the overview contains new results.

The extent of the overview is often depending on the research field and the methods used.

Please note that depending on the research field, different traditions for conduction an overview applies. Hence, it is not possible to provide one specific and precise formula which fits all.

The Graduate School expects all theses handed in, to meet the legal requirements of the law and and responsible conduct of research 

This is something to be aware of when completing the overview, as self-plagiarism is against responsible conduct of research.

The fact, that it is not allowed to copy paragraphs and sections from your own manuscripts/publications into the overview may sound unreasonable, as it is one’s own work. Nevertheless, these are the rules. A thorough guideline for the area, as well as explaining the background can be found here

The thesis is usually written in Danish or English, but must always include a summary in both Danish and English.

As there are several different research traditions within health sciences, there are different ways to structure a thesis. Therefore, there are no templates or special requirements from the Graduate School. 

There are also no requitements to font type or size.

SDU's Grafisk Center offers help to set up the thesis for printing, see more here.

The printing of the PhD thesis should take place at the SDU's Print & Sign. Please note that 1 copy should be handed in to the Graduate School.

No changes can be made once the PhD thesis is handed in. However, you are allowed to enclose an erratum.

The Graduate School does not pay for printing. 

More information on writing a thesis can be obtained through PhD courses offered by the Graduate School, e.g. the mandatory course Responsible Conduct of Research or PhD courses offered by KI/IRS or in the book How to write and publish a scientific paper, edition 6, Cambridge by Robert A. Day and Barbara Gastel

Last Updated 28.04.2021