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Assessment criteria and grading scale

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 dissertation must present well-founded, new knowledge, demonstrate innovative approaches and it can also open up an entirely new branch of research. The dissertation 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 and insightful application of the research methods is considered a merit.

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 dissertation 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 is also taken into consideration in its assessment.

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


Pass The dissertation has no major weaknesses with regard to the assessment criteria. Weaknesses in some areas are compensated by merits in others. The dissertation contributes new knowledge to the field in question. Where formalities are concerned, the dissertation is primarily without flaws and the examinee can be deemed as having a mastery of their subject.
Pass with honours
The dissertation has been completed to the highest standard in every aspect. It clearly demonstrates the examinee’s independence and confidence, and contributes essential new knowledge on the research front of the field in question. The dissertation must clearly be of the highest international standard to be given a grade of Pass with honours.


Updated 10.2.2022