PhD thesis and defence

Writing your PhD thesis - content

The thesis should present the results of the PhD project and document the PhD student’s ability to carry out research and communicate research skills (theoretical and experimental skills). Essentially, the PhD student must demonstrate that he/she

  • possess knowledge at the highest international level within the research field.
  • have made a significant contribution to the development of new knowledge and understanding within the research field, based on scientific studies.
  • master the scientific methodologies and tools as well as master other skills related to research and development tasks within the field.
  • is able to analyse, evaluate and develop new ideas, including designing and developing new techniques and skills within the subject area.

The thesis is normally written in English, and should be max 200 pages excluding appendices.

A template in LaTeX and Word is available by contacting Mette Stig Hansen 

The thesis usually contains at least:

  • Title page with title (adequately describing the research project), name of author and AU logo.
  • Abstract in English (mandatory).
  • Resumé in Danish (mandatory).
  • Thesis details page detailing supervisor information, where the research was carried out, etc.
  • Preface (a guide for the reader outlining the organisation of the thesis. A list of all publications can be included as well as a list of abbreviations, figures, equations, etc.).
  • Introduction to the research area and main research questions.
  • Main text (see description of different forms below). Please notice that the PhD student must state explicitly in the thesis how the research is contributing to the research field.
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography (see section on plagiarism screening below).
  • Appendices for supplementary material.

Please notice that details relating to how the thesis should be organised should be discussed with the supervisor.

The thesis can have one of the two following formats

Article-compilation - collection of manuscripts or papers related to the PhD project.

The thesis must include a section with the following elements:

  • A brief description of the proposed research questions in the papers.
  • A short presentation of the results and a brief assessment of the applied methods.
  • A critical review in which the PhD student relate his or her own work to the state-of-the-art work within the field. The PhD student must also demonstrate knowledge about the state-of-art and the ability to put this knowledge into a broader perspective. The review section may resemble a major review article.

The PhD student’s contribution to the work must be clearly specified in the thesis for each paper/manuscript.

The manuscripts can be organised chronologically, thematically or in any other manner that enhances readability and results in a coherent thesis. The PhD student can directly copy in pdf versions of published papers (the PhD student must confirm this with the publisher first due to copyright issues) or paraphrase/expand the content as long as the source is clearly indicated (see note below on plagiarism screening).

Supporting information to already published papers or drafts can be included in an appendix or included in the thesis itself, if relevant. 

Unpublished and preliminary results can be described and incorporated, if relevant (see also the description of a Monograph). 

A co-author statement must be submitted (through the PhD planner) for each jointly authored manuscript as well as for unpublished or draft manuscripts, etc. included in the PhD thesis.

Regarding the number of publications: It is recommended that PhD students make sure to publish their work during their PhD study. It is recommended that at least one of the papers produced during the PhD study is targeted a venue that gives credit to the university (typically an international journal).

The number of expected publications varies for the different research areas but for most research areas in ENG, a minimum of three publications during the PhD study is expected. You can include all publications that you have authored. With respect to the PhD study, different traditions in authorship are not so important as, for all co-authored publications, a written statement needs to be signed by all co-authors indicating the importance of the contribution of the PhD student.


The monograph is written as a coherent, synoptic text. This format is not commonly used in the hard sciences and engineering. The monograph may have the following format for the main text:

  • Introduction
  • A description of hypotheses, including a summary of relevant literature.
  • A description of and reflection on the choice of method(s).
  • A presentation of the research carried out and the results.
  • A discussion of the results.
  • A discussion of future aspects.
  • A statement of your contribution to the work mentioning contributions by others.

You can also indicate how the monograph is expected to be published as a scientific work.

Handing in the thesis

  • The PhD student and supervisor will receive an email from GSST 3 months prior to the planned deadline for thesis submission.
  • In case of patenting/confidentiality issues, the PhD student should contact the PhD partner at GSST as soon as possible.
  • When handing in, the PhD student should submit a PDF version of the PhD thesis to the PhD partner by e-mail, and it will then be distributed to other relevant parties. Note also the plagiarism screening procedure described in the section below. 
  • The PhD student will receive a signed recommendation letter at least two weeks prior to the defence stating whether or not the thesis has been approved. If the PhD student is required to hand in a revised version, the deadline for doing this will be stated in the letter.
  • Extending the date: If the PhD student requires an extension to finish his or her project, the PhD student must send a motivated request of extension to the head of programme. The motivated request of extension must be sent to the head of programme no later than one month prior to the planned thesis submission date.
  • Early hand-in: The PhD fellowship is formally ended on the date scheduled in the PhD student’s Letter of Employment. However, if the PhD student hands in the PhD thesis before this date, the PhD fellowship will be formally ended by the end of the month in which the thesis is submitted

The thesis submitted to GSST for assessment is also basis for the defence. However, the PhD student is allowed to incorporate small corrections and changes provided that a detailed description of these corrections and changes is included as well; this also applies to corrections and changes incorporated after the defence.

See also the Graduate School of Science and Technology's quick guide "Procedures for PhD thesis and defence" that includes a lot of relevant information.


To ensure that all published scientific work from the Faculty of Science and Technology adheres to the international standards for research integrity, including proper citation and quotation practice, it has been decided to screen all PhD theses submitted to GSST after 1 December 2016 for text copying/plagiarism. GSST use a specific software for this purpose. Should potential problems occur during the screening of a thesis, the PhD student will be notified. If the PhD student has not received notification within three weeks after submission, the screening has not resulted in comments or questions.

Be aware of the following: Results, data, figures and ideas taken from other sources should always be indicated by detailed references to the original source, even if you were the author yourself. Text copied (or paraphrased) from other sources should be clearly marked and the original source indicated. This includes text copied (or paraphrased) from your own previous work. For smaller excerpts, give explicit references where the re-used text appears. When re-using larger sections (e.g. if a published or submitted paper is incorporated as a thesis chapter, perhaps with some rephrasing to fit into a coherent thesis set-up, indicate this explicitly with a reference to the source at the beginning of the re-used material and/or in the thesis introduction (e.g. “Chapters 4 and 5 are largely identical to my paper published in Ref. so-and-so”). Re-use of material from a qualifying examination progress report is permitted but remember to make a reference. Re-use of material from a Master’s thesis written before entering PhD studies does not count as “new results” towards obtaining the PhD degree, but you may quote a Master’s thesis like you would quote any other reference.

Publishing and printing the thesis

ENG PhD students are encouraged to publish their PhD thesis as an Open Access publication through the AU Library Scholarly Publishing Services E-Book platform.

It is free of charge and the PhD student does not sign over any rights to the manuscript by publishing it here. However, the PhD student must get approval from the publishers of papers, articles, etc. before publishing the thesis if it includes any of these. The thesis will get an ISBN and a DOI which will increase its visibility on the Internet. After the defence, the PhD student can upload his or her manuscript by registering at the website.

Regarding printing:
PhD students who wish to get printed copies of the thesis must make the necessary arrangements themselves. Notice that the PhD student or supervisor must cover the costs related to the printing.

General guidelines for the PhD defence

The PhD defence is a public event and should be held in English.

All PhD defences at ENG start at 13:00 CET.

The PhD defence
The chairman of the assessment committee chairs the defence by explaining the procedures, informing about time schedule, the order of opponents and the possibility of asking questions. Members of the audience who would like to ask questions should notify the chairman during the break after the presentation by the PhD student. The defence should not exceed three hours including breaks.

The PhD student is given 45 minutes to present his/her work. The presentation should represent the content of the PhD study (hypothesis, material and methods/experimental design and results) including a general introduction to the research area and a general discussion accounting for further research perspectives. After the presentation, there is a short break before the examination.

Following the presentation, the PhD student will be examined based on the content of the presentation and the PhD thesis. The aim of the examination is to give the student the opportunity to prove thorough knowledge of the topic covered, and to create a constructive and fruitful discussion. The external opponents are given approx. 30 minutes each. The chairman may ask some supplementary questions about the content of the PhD thesis and then close the examination by posing a few overall questions, allowing the PhD student the possibility to put the conducted research into a broader perspective. At last, the audience can ask questions as agreed with the chairman beforehand.

The chairman of the assessment committee concludes the defence by thanking the PhD student and the participants. Then the assessment committee leaves the lecture hall to make their final recommendation. The assessment committee enters the reception and the chairman of the committee announces their recommendation. The recommendation is submitted to the Graduate School of Science and Technology.

Quick guide
The Graduate School of Science and Technology has prepared a quick guide "Procedures for PhD thesis and defence" that includes relevant information.

Who does what


Three months prior to submission of the PhD thesis, GSST sends out an email with relevant deadlines and instructions.

Main supervisor

The main supervisor is responsible for finding the two external opponents and contact a member of the ENG PhD committee to serve as chair for the assessment committee.

The main supervisor must then find a date for the defence that all members of the assessment committee have agreed to.


When the PhD thesis has been submitted, GSST sends the thesis to the assessment committee, supervisor and PhD student with instructions on deadlines etc. This email also includes the form for payment of censor fee and the travel reimbursement form.


Immediately after GSST has sent the thesis to the assessment committee, the chairman must contact the committee and coordinate the completion of the written assessment which must be sent to GSST at least two months after the thesis has been submitted but no later than two weeks before the defence.

The chairman should follow up on this about two weeks before the deadline.


When the chairman has sent the written assessment (with a positive outcome) to GSST, the chairman prepares and sends the programme for the PhD defence to the assessment committee, the PhD student and supervisors.



PhD secretary

GSST and the PhD secretary announce the defence on the GSST and ENG websites when GSST has received the written assessment.

PhD secretary

The PhD secretary orders lunch for the assessment committee and supervisor.

The PhD secretary organises a reception after the defence in cooperation with the PhD student. The research section, the head of department and the assessment committee are invited. The PhD student invites partners, family and friends.

Information for assessment committees

Please notice that if the assessment committee members have any questions in relation to travel or hotel bookings or need assistance with other practicalities, they are most welcome to contact the main supervisor.

Comments on content: 
Revised 16.08.2017