General information Teaching Examinations Structure of degree Study units

Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences

Objectives of education

All doctoral research should aim to push the boundaries of existing knowledge and, whenever possible, to provide the knowledge and concepts that shape the future of their disciplines, which can include the development of new disciplines and merger of existing ones. PhD research within the Doctoral Program in the Social Sciences can range from being entirely qualitative or conceptual to being fully quantitative or descriptive. Yet irrespective of approach or discipline, this programme has the following objectives:

 Programme profile

This program covers the widest areas of social science research in Finland: media and communication studies, social and cultural anthropology, social psychology, social and public policy, social work, sociology, and social statistics.

Doctoral research in these fields can cover empirical, experimental, theoretical, textual, historical, comparative, conceptual, applied, strategic and practice-based approaches towards the study of all parts of social life. This can include research on any aspect of people and their relations, interactions, activities, structures, constructions and concepts, beliefs, communications, aesthetics, and material and environmental conditions.

Methodologies can range from the most empirical to the most conceptual or textual, whichever is most appropriate for the question or problem being addressed.

The doctoral program in the social sciences takes seriously the University of Helsinki’s overall mission, which is to provide: “High-quality research and education as well as active social interaction for a better world.” (Mission statement). This mission fits with one of the core values of the university, which is to enhance “economic, intellectual and social wellbeing by offering research results and educating experts for the service of society.”

The Doctoral Program in Social Sciences has a strong commitment to providing the best conditions for doctoral students to carry out their research in the pursuit of this aim, whether their work is entirely conceptual, academic or scientific, or has more of an applied, professional or even commercial, purpose.

Degree programme structure

The doctoral degree consists of three modules.

Research-specific training (30 credits) + academic competence (10 credits) + doctoral thesis

Module 1: Research-specific training (30 credits)

  1. Regular constructive critique of doctoral candidates’ work: research-theme specific seminars and supervision (minimum of 10 credits and maximum of 20 credits).
  2. Training in research methodologies and theoretical approaches specific to the PhD candidate’s research field (minimum of 5 credits and maximum of 20).
  3. Training in research ethics so as to ensure the highest standards in protecting the privacy, dignity, interests and security of those we research (1-5 credits).
  4. International mobility and conference participation (2-10 credits) 
  5. Training in specialist themes or topics in the social sciences directly relevant to the doctoral research, which can include training from an external expert (no minimum; maximum of 10 credits).

Module 2: Academic Competence and Transferable Skills (10 credits)

  1. Academic and transferable skills and techniques (e.g. publishing articles, writing and communication skills, etc)
  2. Pedagogy in university education, teaching skills
  3. Research management skills and science in society
  4. Career planning and general working skills

Module 3: Doctoral Thesis

The preparation of the doctoral thesis is the core work of any PhD candidate. All modules involve contributions to this, but this third module lies at the heart of the doctoral program. This module depends heavily on the supervisors (usually a minimum of two, with one main supervisor or two equal co-supervisors) and the doctoral candidate, working together throughout the period of the completion of the degree. There are four elements to this module:

  1. Primary and secondary research and data gathering, which will include becoming fully familiar with existing literature and knowledge in the chosen field;
  2. Thorough and rigorous analysis of data, which will include regular academic writing under supervision, and presentation of that work for critical assessment and peer review;
  3. The writing of the final thesis in a coherent, concise, well organized and well-presented manner. The thesis can be monograph or article-based, as agreed by the supervision team. The thesis shall be a maximum of 80 000 words in total, including footnotes, endnotes, diagrams and tables, and appendices, but excluding the bibliography, and excluding open access to primary data.
  4. Submission of the thesis for examination, followed by a public defence of the thesis, in accordance with the regulations of the University of Helsinki.

The thesis can be monograph or article-based. If it is article-based doctoral thesis, the following information should be taken into account:  

    1. The normally expected number of peer-reviewed articles will be no less than three (3) and no more than five (5). The final number must be agreed with the recommendation of the doctoral candidate's main supervisor, and must comply with University regulations. 
    2. The summary and conclusions of an article-based PhD shall not exceed 20 000 words. The contents of the summary, which varies across disciplines and themes, should be agreed with the doctoral candidate's supervisor.
    3. The total word count, including summary, conclusion and articles, shall not exceed 80 000 words. Exceptions can only be agreed by the doctoral program steering committee, and must be both fully justified in academic terms, and supported by a statement from the PhD candidate's main supervisor.