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Assessment criteria and grading scale

The assessment criteria for a doctoral dissertation (thesis) at Åbo Akademi University are as follows:

Choice of subject and research problem

The doctoral dissertation (thesis) must present well-founded, new knowledge, demonstrate innovative approaches and can also open up an entirely new branch of research. The doctoral dissertation (thesis) must be appropriately defined. Aims, problem-setting, and research questions must be formulated so that they can be answered in a meaningful way.

Conceptual clarity and theoretical mastery of the subject

The work must be conceptually clear and the author must master the underlying theories and be able to conceptualise the research problem. Definitions and conceptualisations must be clearly expressed.

Research methods

The methods must be properly motivated and appropriate, with respect to the research problem. A consistent application of the research methods is considered a merit. A thorough mastery and insightful use of the research methods are considered the rewards of the work.

Material and source criticism

The material must be of a qualitatively high standard and quantitatively adequate with regard to the research problem and the research method. The source material is critically analysed and reliably accounted for by means of correct citations and references.

Presentation of the results

The research results must be presented clearly and logically. The analysis must be consistent and well-founded. The presentation of the results must correspond with the aim and problem-setting.


The conclusions must be systematic, well-founded and drawn from the aim, research problem, material and method.

The work as a whole and linguistic form

The doctoral dissertation (thesis) must be logically organised, the language must be clearly articulated and the graphic layout must be clean and easy to follow. The text must be consistent and logical, focusing on the essential. The argument must be made logically. The author must show proof of critical thinking, originality and independence.


The defence of the doctoral dissertation (thesis) is also taken into consideration in its assessment.

The grading scale for a doctoral dissertation (thesis) at Åbo Akademi University is two-graded:


Pass The doctoral dissertation (thesis) has no major weaknesses with regard to the assessment criteria. Weaknesses in some areas are compensated by merits in others. The doctoral dissertation (thesis) contributes new knowledge to the field in question. Where formalities are concerned, the doctoral dissertation (thesis) is primarily without flaws and the examinee can be deemed as having a mastery of his or her subject.
Pass with honours
The doctoral dissertation (thesis) has been completed to the highest standard in every aspect. It clearly demonstrates the examinee’s independence and confidence, and contributes essential new knowledge to the field in question. The doctoral dissertation (thesis) must be of the highest international standard to receive this grade, which is equivalent to a laudatur on a seven-grade scale.


Updated 21.9.2018