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At the date of your enrolment end, you submit a PhD dissertation. It usually consists of a review and a number of articles based on original data from the PhD project which equals three years of scientific work.

Dissertation requirements

According to the Ministerial Order on the PhD Programme the PhD degree is awarded to students who have successfully completed the PhD programme, and successfully defended their PhD dissertation. The PhD programme is equivalent to three years of full-time employment. The PhD dissertation must document the PhD student’s ability to apply relevant scientific methods and to carry out research meeting the highest international standard for PhD degrees within the field in question.

The dissertation may be written as a

  1. Compilation dissertation, based on a number of original papers combined with a comprehensive summary
  2. Monograph

Ad 1. Compilation dissertation

Constituent papers

The number of constituent papers varies, but they should have a scope that in total is equivalent to three years of full-time doctoral education and a scientific quality allowing publication in peer-reviewed journals. The papers should be in manuscript form and must include published or publishable work or articles in preparation provided it is part of a connected argument. You are expected to be the first author.

One of the constituent papers can be a systematic review, for example a meta-analysis.

First- and last author, and main supervisor must submit a written declaration stating your contribution to the work.

The summary may be written as

  1. a review paper with you as the sole author followed by a number of original papers. In this case a chapter on methodologies used (approx 10 pages) needs to be enclosed. The review paper should be published or ready for publication in an international, peer-reviewed journal or in preparation. 
  2. an independent scientific document of approximately 30-50 pages followed by a number of original papers. The text of the summary must be your own original work and should be weighted towards a reasoned discussion of applied methods and a demonstration of your ability to place your own research in the context of the most important research in the field.
  3. an independent scientific document with embedded original papers. The text of the summary must be your own original work (approx 30-50 pages) and should be weighted towards a reasoned discussion of applied methods and a demonstration of your ability to place your own research in the context of the most important research in the field.


A dissertation usually contains the following:

  • A cover and Page 1 – use the corresponding templates (see right sidebar)
  • Table of contents
  • List of original papers including publication status
  • Introduction, including a summary of relevant literature supporting the issue and the hypotheses
  • Problem definition/hypotheses/aims/assumptions
  • Clarification of considerations in regard to choice of method(s), including 1) a detailed presentation of the methodology used, which should reflect a good understanding of the applied methodology, and 2) a critical evaluation of the choice of method(s)
  • A reflective summary of the results and their relation to international state-of-the-art research within the subject area. What has been added to the current knowledge? Impact?
  • Conclusions
  • A discussion of future aspects
  • References
  • An abstract in Danish and English (each approx one A4 page)
  • The papers on which the dissertation is based (last part of the dissertation or embedded in the summary)
  • Co-authorship declarations for each paper with more than one author – use the form “Declaration of Co-Authorship form”  (see right sidebar)
  • Appendix, if relevant

Ad 2. Monograph

A PhD dissertation may also be submitted as a monograph dissertation. The monograph is typically a minimum of 100 pages long and includes a description of hypotheses, materials, methods, results and discussion. Monographs are assessed according to the same criteria as those used when assessing a collection of published papers, i.e. the minimum standards of scientific quality are the same. Content requirements are described in the section "Monograph" below .

For inspiration, you can look at other PhD students’ dissertations. They are available at the AU Library Health Sciences. You are also welcome to stop by the graduate school office (Katrinebjergvej 89F, bld. 5132, DK-8200 Aarhus N) to find submitted dissertations in hard copy.


The dissertation

The dissertation should be written in English, since at least one of the members of the assessment committee must be from abroad.

In special cases, an exemption may be granted to submit the dissertation in Danish.

English language assistance

The graduate school offers PhD students at Health up to six hours of English language assistance in connection with the submission of a PhD dissertation.

Before you register for this service, we expect you to:

  • Check your work thoroughly in terms of spelling (spell-check), grammatical errors, terminology etc.
  • See the AU English Style Guide to learn about do’s and don’ts when writing in English as a non-native speaker of English

How does it work?
If you wish to use this service, please contact language consultant Edwin Spencer at ess@au.dk to agree on a procedure.

Your dissertation must reach Edwin Spencer no later than one month before you are to submit your dissertation.

If you need more than six hours of English language assistance, please arrange an extended service with Edwin Spencer (self-paid/will not be covered by the graduate school).

If you have any questions, feel free to contact the graduate school administration at graduateschoolhealth@au.dk

Patent applications

Patent applications are similar to articles and can be attached to the dissertation for assessment.

Patent applications should be shortened (approximately 20 - 50 pages), so they only include the following:

  • Relevant text (field of invention, background of invention, brief description of the invention)
  • Claims
  • Abstract
  • References
  • Examples (extract if necessary)
  • Illustrations (extract if necessary).

In addition to the patent application, you need to include the review discussing novelty and inventive steps of the patent as well as relevance regarding target group, objective, side effects, and marketing. 

You also need to provide a link to the full patent application.

As a starting point it is a requirement that the patent application has been processed and published

If a patent applications have not been approved it can still be included. The assessment committee will then assess the applications under a duty of confidentiality.

The defence is assessed on the basis of what is publicly available.

If you have any questions concerning patents, please contact the Technology Transfer Office.


If your research has not resulted in manuscripts or published papers, you submit your PhD dissertation as a monograph.

The monograph should be approximately 100 pages long with the following format:

  • Cover and Page 1 – use the corresponding templates (see sidebar)
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Problem definition and hypotheses, including a summary of relevant literature supporting   the issue and the hypotheses
  • A critical presentation of the methodologies used, their advantages and disadvantage
  • A presentation of the research carried out and the results
  • A comprehensive discussion of the results in the light of a critical evaluation of basic theories and the methodologies used
  • A discussion of future aspects, if relevant
    - headlines and body text in the dissertation must be of different font and size
  • A summary in Danish and English (approximately one A4 page)
  • A statement - prepared in collaboration with your main supervisor - of your share of the work, mentioning any contributions by others. This statement must be signed by both you and your supervisor.
  • In the PhD dissertation it must be indicated how the monograph will be published as a scientific work in the usual international tradition within the specific discipline.