What is a lectio praecursoria?
A lectio praecursoria is a short presentation given by the doctoral candidate about the background and most interesting points of the research. A good lectio praecursoria is understandable also to those who have not familiarised themselves with the doctoral dissertation earlier.
The purpose of the presentation is not to discuss matters that will be examined in any case, such as theoretical choices and methodological details. Do not correct typing errors of the dissertation or use the presentation for thanking funding sources or persons who have supported along the doctoral path – an opportunity to that will certainly arise later. Instead, a lectio praecursoria is a forum for the candidate to take an expert role in the academic discussion around the research topic and to explain the practical and societal connections of the research. Adding a personal touch or using light humour is allowed.
A lectio praecursoria should not take longer than 20 minutes. A speech of 10,000–16,000 letters in writing is usually recommended, depending on the pace at which you speak. It is advisable to read the speech aloud several times to practice and edit the text to suit your style and pace.
It is customary to read the lectio praecursoria from paper in the public examination. Even though this is the custom, remember to pay attention to your audience by taking eye contact from time to time. Lift your eyes from the paper and look at the audience as you move from discussing one topic to another, for example. Practice connecting with your audience beforehand.
The audience should be able to follow your lectio praecursoria without a slide show, but a picture that takes their attention to the topic can be a good way to enhance your presentation.
Formal ways of addressing
The doctoral candidate will stand up to deliver the lectio praecursoria. You begin it by addressing the custos, the opponent and the audience:
“Mr/Madam custos, honoured opponent, ladies and gentlemen”.
At the end of the lectio praecursoria, the candidate will say:
“Mr/Madam Opponent/Professor/Dr NN, I now call upon you to present your critical comments on my dissertation.”
As you can deduce from its Latin name, a lectio praecursoria has been a part of public examinations for long before the University of Lapland was even established. Some disciplines have their own traditions about its content and you can find more advice in your faculty’s doctoral study guide. You can also ask your supervisor or other members of the academic community about traditions and how they have been brought to practice.