The local rules can be found in the Regulations for education and summative assessment at third-cycle level. Note that local traditions can also exist regarding theses in a particular PhD subject or at a department.

1. The structure of the thesis

The PhD student in principle has great freedom regarding the structure of the thesis. However, most theses follow the tradition that has been established within the Academic Area. Regarding layout there are also some demands that arise from the production process. The University Library can help with information about these aspects.

Here follows a suggestion of a typical general structure:

  • ”Kappa” (Swedish term for the first part of the thesis, before the publications) 
    • ”Abstract” (must be present, at least on the ”nailing sheet”)
    • ”Svensk sammanfattning” (Swedish summary) (must be present if the thesis is in English, and preferably a more popular summary should also be included, at least 1 page)
    • ”Preface” or ”This thesis” (must, when applicable, contain the following parts)
      • A short description of the overall structure of the thesis (i.e. not the content)
      • “List of included papers” A list of the included articles/manuscripts, with complete journal references for published articles, and list of authors
      • “Author’s contribution” contributions to the articles and other contributions to the project/thesis, see also section 2
      • A description of where (i.e. which chapter, subchapter…) parts from the licentiate thesis were re-used, see section 3
    • ”Acknowledgements” (almost always present)
    • ”List of figures”, see section 4 (optional)
    • ”List of tables” (optional)
    • ”Abbreviations” (optional)
    • ”Chapter 1” etc: Text describing the thesis content, see section 2.
    • “References”
  • Reprint of included publications, see section 4.

2. Own scientific contributions

There are both formal demands and an academic tradition dictating that PhD students should account for their own scientific contributions to the thesis. In this respect the thesis forms a central part of the basis for the “pass or no pass” decision from the committee at the dissertation. For this reason it is important that the thesis is put together in a way that accords with the examination goals for a PhD exam set out in the Higher Education Ordinance, in particular the specific formulation stating that PhD students should show their ability to contribute to the growth of scientific knowledge via their own research.  This is of particular importance in cases when the ”kappa” of the thesis is the only major scientific text that the PhD student has written alone. 

Higher Education Ordinance: Through own research contribute significantly to the development of scientific knowledge. 

According to the Higher Education Ordinance (1993:100) PhD students shall via the thesis display their ability to contribute significantly to the development of scientific knowledge, through their own research.  In order to reach this examination goal the thesis must account for the results of the PhD student’s own research, as well as describing how these results contribute to the development of scientific knowledge. This can for instance be done by reporting several subprojects in the form of a number of scientific articles or manuscripts in the thesis, clearly showing how the own research was an important part of these subprojects. The PhD student must in addition describe how the results of his/her own research significantly contributed to the development of scientific knowledge.

The research results are typically reported in the papers included in the thesis and in the “kappa”. This is complicated by the fact that scientific research is often a group endeavor. When it comes to scientific work with several authors it is for this reason important to clearly account for the PhD student’s own contribution. All types of activities that form part of research in Science and Mathematics should be included, i.e. both intellectual and practical contributions. A clear way of doing this is to summarize in what way the PhD student has contributed to each included work, respectively, and also which aspects the student has not contributed to (see the example below).

Paper I: I was responsible for planning, preparing and conducting the experiment. I was designing parts of the instruments, creating workshop blue-prints and testing the equipment. I performed a full analysis of the obtained data and wrote a major part of the paper.

Paper II: I took part in the data taking during the experiment. I developed a partly separate analysis code for cross-checking the existing code. NN was principal investigator and had the main responsibility for writing the manuscript.

Paper III: I conducted the main part of the analysis of the data that had already been pre-reduced by the instrument, spanning over several years of measurements. I made the necessary changes to the main codes for the fitting processes, provided by NN. I made all the figures and analysis presented in the paper, and I wrote the whole manuscript. Other authors contributed by being part of the measurement campaign either by observations or sup­port for the instrument. MM and NN provided feedback on the manuscript.


The PhD student must also describe how the results of his/her own research significantly contributed to the development of scientific knowledge. Typically this is achieved through an introductory literature review by the PhD student in the ”kappa”, summarizing the current state of knowledge in the research area of the thesis. This overview makes it possible for the PhD student to place the following chapters in a relevant context, so that the contribution to scientific knowledge becomes clear. As a suggestion, the following aspects can be covered, in the included works and in the “kappa”:

a)    What is the scientific question?
b)    What is known about it and what remains to be investigated?
c)    What are the most important results and conclusions?
d)    What type of evidence supports these results and conclusions?
e)    How do the results contribute to the development of scientific knowledge in the field?
f)    How do the results contribute to scientific knowledge more generally?
g)    Are there other significant contributions to knowledge reported in the thesis?


Local SU rule: The ”kappa” in a composite thesis shall be written by the PhD student

Stockholm university interprets the Higher Education Ordinance as demanding that the actual text in the ”kappa” shall be written by the PhD student. ”Ghost writers” are hence not allowed. The fact that the PhD student is the author does not preclude that others can give extensive and detailed feedback on the manuscript. It is also allowed for others to proofread, review the language or translate the manuscript.

Local SU rule: The ”kappa” shall include additions, problematizations and a comprehensive concluding discussion.

Stockholms university demands that the ”kappa” shall include additions, problematizations and a comprehensive concluding discussion. This is in order to fulfil the examination goals in the Higher education Ordinance. This demand should be interpreted as stating that there should be contributions from the PhD student in the ”kappa” other than a litterature review and a brief summary of the included works. In the case of a composite thesis the included works are a natural starting point, with additions, problematizations and a concluding discussion, i.e. a synthesis summarizing the thesis as a whole. This can for instance be done through dedicated chapters reporting the results of the thesis, discussing them and placing them in a context of the broader development of scientific knowledge. See above regarding aspects that should normally be covered in the “kappa”.

3. Re-use of own material

Local SU rule: In order to avoid accusations of plagiarism, including self-plagiarism, a PhD student who cites the research of others or re-uses own material published earlier shall clearly refer to the cited material.

Local SU rule: If the PhD student in the thesis reproduces material and formulations from own earlier publications or essays, this shall be clearly marked with a reference and, when appropriate, with quotation marks. This applies to both monographies and composite theses (the ”kappa” and included publications).

Any re-use of own published material in the “kappa” must be clearly referenced. If you make use of figures from your own publications the reference must be given. In addition you need permission from any copyright owners other than yourself, the journal is for instance often a copyright owner in the case of published material, see also section 4. If you re-use a text or formulation from your own publications it must be presented with quotation marks and have a reference (text from your own licentiate thesis is an exception, see below).

Local SU rule: Material from your own licentiate thesis can be used in the PhD thesis if a clear reference is given to the earlier work.

The term ”material” here alludes principally to text and figures. Such material can be re-used in the PhD thesis if a clear reference is given. Normally this does not mean simply re-publishing the material. Instead some processing of the material is typically expected before inclusion in the PhD thesis, for instance an update to fit better in the new context.

”Material” can also allude to scientific intellectual material, such as data, analyses, interpretations or ideas. Such intellectual material that has been published in the own licentiate thesis can also be used in the PhD thesis with a clear reference to the earlier work.

A clear reference can for instance look like this:

“This thesis builds partly upon the author’s licentiate thesis (defended on March 1, 2019). The literature review and the analytical description of XX have been updated (in Chapters 1 and 2). Of the papers included in this thesis, only Paper I was part of the licentiate. By chapters, the contribution from the licentiate thesis is as follows:

Chapter 1: This chapter was included in the licentiate; for this thesis it has been reviewed and updated, and around 10% of the text and references are new.

Chapter 2: The description of the experimental setup in Chapter 2.1 was present in the licentiate. The text in Chapter 2.2 - 2.5 is new.

Chapter 3: ….etc”

Local SU rule: A thesis authored as part of studies at a lower level can be cited but not re-used for examination at the PhD level.

Text- and figure material from your earlier own Master’s thesis should not be re-used in the PhD thesis. You cite the Master’s thesis just like any other publication. Scientific intellectual material (see above) from such a Master’s thesis can form part of the PhD thesis for instance if it functions as a foundation for the further investigations reported in the PhD thesis, but in this case the manuscript in the PhD thesis should also include new data and/or test other hypotheses, besides being re-formulated. As a guideline, the new manuscript should be novel and different enough to be accepted by a scientific journal as a new publication, in a hypothetical situation where the Master’s thesis is already published in its original form.

Local SU rule: Published articles included in the thesis cannot be changed in the thesis (a list of errors, so called errata, can be added).

If you discover errors (of any significance) in the thesis (or the included works) after the thesis has been printed, write a document listing these errors. This document should be available at the dissertation. What is judged at the dissertation will then be the thesis plus this document. Significant errors in publications should of course also be reported to the journal.

4. Use of material from others

Acknowledging the work of others

When material from others are used in the thesis it is of central importance that it is clearly stated where the material comes from and that the work of others are hereby acknowledged. This pertains to for instance the text or figure material of others but also to intellectual material such as an idea. Using another person’s material with the intent to pass it off as your own work amounts to plagiarism. Plagiarism is of course not permitted. Many departments use tools such as Urkund in order to check for text plagiarism before the thesis is printed. It should however be noted that such tools will find text plagiarism, whereas intellectual plagiarism can be harder to detect but is at least as serious a problem. Regardless of the nature of the material that is used it is thus necessary to give clear and correct references in order to acknowledge the work of others.

When the contents of a figure or text that you have produced yourself describes or is clearly inspired by the ideas of others a source should be given. In the figure legend you can for instance write “After NN” or “adapted from NN”. Note that if the graphical likeness with a figure for which others hold the copyright is large you may need permission to republish the figure (see below).

In a larger context the scientific work of others with relevance to the thesis should be acknowledged. This is typically done in the ”kappa” when the own work is put in the context of the earlier scientific literature in the field. This is an important part of the thesis and shows how the PhD student has significantly contributed to the development of scientific knowledge, a demand according to the Higher education Ordinance (see above regarding own contributions). Such references should be specific, and thus encyclopedias such as Wikipedia are irrelevant as references.  The use of reviews as main references is for the same reason usually not sufficient.


Pictures and text of others are normally protected by copyright. In order to re-publish pictures and text it is thus necessary to ask for permission from the copyright holder. Such permission should preferably be obtained in written form. In the case of scientific journals the publisher is often the copyright holder for its contents. They often demand that you have permission to re-publish articles and figures, meaning that you may need permission to publish even your own articles in the thesis. Some publishers in this case want you to in the thesis list them as copyright holder and for instance the DOI-number leading to the publication. In principle the same considerations apply to figures, graphs and diagrams; the fact that a picture is available online does not mean that you have permission to print it in the thesis. It is important to always consider copyright and intellectual properties. Note that ideas are not protected by copyright, neither are works that do not demand much creative input, such as simple lists.