Recommendations for Thesis Instruction Practice at the University  of Lapland

To succeed in accomplishing a successful doctoral thesis and the associated research work there must be a working relationship between the researcher and the instructor. From the viewpoint of the academic community, instruction is both a right and a duty as regards the person to be instructed, his/her field and the scientific community. Instruction supports the writer of the thesis, binds him/her with the scientific community and maintains the quality of research.

These recommendations are of general nature. Their intention is not to freeze instructional practises, because different fields of research have different research environments. The recommendations outline the principles of instruction. They take into account the viewpoints of the faculty and department, the situation of the postgraduate student, and the progress of the research process.


The Principles of Thesis Work Instruction

1) An instructor, preferably two, is nominated to each thesis worker. One of the instructors must function in the same faculty for which the postgraduate is writing his/her thesis.

The instructors must be doctors or appointed to the post of professor. One of the instructors may come from another faculty or department at the University  of Lapland . The resources of the university permitting, it is also possible to have an instructor from another university or from abroad.

2) It is the duty of the faculty and the department to make sure that the postgraduate student will not remain without an instructor.

This may be accomplished, for example, in such a way that while granting the right for postgraduate studies, an agreement is also made on the party or preferably the professor who will be responsible for the arrangement of the postgraduate student’s instructional issues. This is done in case the instructors have not been nominated already when applying for the right for postgraduate studies.

3) Instructors are nominated and the instructing relations are made official.

The instructional relations are made official by the faculty council. The official status also gives the instructor the right to be heard when selecting the pre-examiner and the opponent. At the same time, the instructional relations are made public.

4) The postgraduate student is entitled to influence the selection of the instructors.

The postgraduate student may propose suitable instructors and the student will be heard when the instructor is being selected.

5) The instructional relations can be checked and amended during the studies.

The instructional relations can be changed officially at the request of the postgraduate student or the instructor if the subject or its focus changes during the research process or if the instructional relationship does not work.

6) In cases of contradiction, the administrations of the faculties and departments have an obligation to assume an active role.

If a strong contradiction emerges between the instructor and the instructed and if the contradiction is not cleared through employment counselling, the relationship can be cancelled. The new instructional relationship is declared official in a similar way as the previous one. In occupational protection conflicts, e.g. distorted relations of power, mental violence or sexual harassment, action is taken according to applicable directions.

7) The postgraduate student is the central actor in his/her research work.

The postgraduate student is not only the object of instruction but also responsible for the progress of the work, and he/she must also provide information to the instructor. The postgraduate has the right to inquire and to receive comments from the instructors, and he/she is responsible for keeping the instructors updated on the progress of the research work.

8) The instructor’s duty is to guide the postgraduate student.

The instructor is committed to further the research work of the postgraduate student and to give guidance on its contents. The instructors also take care of quality assurance and the validity for pre-examination.                                                                            

9) The instructional relationship is part of research work also from the viewpoint of research ethics.

The work of both the instructor and the instructed is governed by research-ethical rules. Consequently, the parties must respect each other’s professionalism and keep all ideas, unfinished papers and comments confidential. Research ethics also call for precision in reference practices and protection of the originality of one’s own text. Further, it includes consideration for those who have contributed to the text and research. Ideas move in both directions in an instructional relationship.


Practical Directions for Thesis Work Instruction

1) The instructors may have different responsibilities regarding the thesis.

A main instructor can be nominated for the research. He or she is responsible for the instruction and postgraduate studies as a whole. It falls naturally on the main instructor to represent the faculty for which the thesis is written. The instructors’ division of duties may become clearer due to different areas of expertise. If the postgraduate’s research subject widens to an extent that exceeds the fields of the professors functioning at the department, it is part of the instruction responsibilities to find, e.g., a suitable network of commentators or another instructor familiar with the subject.

2) Proper instructorship requires that the instructors communicate with each other.

It is good practice that the instructors agree on their division of responsibilities. Instruction cannot always be and it does not even have to be unanimous or based on identical views. Since the thesis is a piece of a researcher’s independent work the decisions are to be made by the researcher him/herself. It helps if the instructors recognize contradictions and leave room for the researcher to make his/her own decisions.

3) Instruction must serve the purposes of research.

Instruction means guidance applicable to the needs of research; it is not a formal instructional relationship. An instructional relationship integrates continuity and the postgraduate’s commitment to research.

4) Proper instructional practice covers continuity of instruction and regularity.

In addition to the continuity of instructional relations, there must be a practical and recurrent form, various regular meetings. It is advisable to register the form of the instruction meetings in the study plan.

5) The instructor assists the researcher in making his/her personal study plan and in its follow-up.

6) The function of the instructional relationship is to forward the construction of the researcher’s expertise.

The instructional relationship must support the researcher’s actorness with regard to his/her own piece of research. The researcher has the right to decide on the communication related to his/her research and on the presentation of the research.