Writing your PhD thesis - content

The thesis should present the results of the PhD project and document the PhD student’s ability to carry out research and communicate research skills (theoretical and experimental skills). Essentially, the PhD student must demonstrate that he/she:

  • possess knowledge at the highest international level within the research field.
  • have made a significant contribution to the development of new knowledge and understanding within the research field, based on scientific studies.
  • master the scientific methodologies and tools as well as master other skills related to research and development tasks within the field.
  • is able to analyse, evaluate and develop new ideas, including designing and developing new techniques and skills within the subject area.

The thesis is normally written in English, and should be no more than 200 pages excluding appendices.

The thesis usually contains at least:

  • Title page with title (adequately describing the research project), name of author and AU logo.
  • Abstract in English (mandatory).
  • Resumé in Danish (mandatory).
  • Thesis details page detailing supervisor information, where the research was carried out, etc.
  • Preface (a guide for the reader outlining the organisation of the thesis. A list of all publications can be included as well as a list of abbreviations, figures, equations, etc.).
  • Introduction to the research area and main research questions.
  • Main text (see description of different forms below). Please notice that the PhD student must state explicitly in the thesis how the research is contributing to the research field.
  • Conclusion.
  • Bibliography (see section on plagiarism screening below).
  • Appendices for supplementary material.

Please notice! Doubts about the format of your thesis and details relating to how the thesis should be organised, should be discussed with the supervisor.

The thesis can have one of the two following formats:

1) Article-compilation - collection of manuscripts or papers related to the PhD project.

The thesis must include a section with the following elements:

  • A brief description of the proposed research questions in the papers.
  • A short presentation of the results and a brief assessment of the applied methods.
  • A critical review in which the PhD student relate his or her own work to the state-of-the-art work within the field. The PhD student must also demonstrate knowledge about the state-of-art and the ability to put this knowledge into a broader perspective. The review section may resemble a major review article.

The PhD student’s contribution to the work must be clearly specified in the thesis for each paper/manuscript.

The manuscripts can be organised chronologically, thematically or in any other manner that enhances readability and results in a coherent thesis. The PhD student can directly copy in pdf versions of published papers (the PhD student must confirm this with the publisher first due to copyright issues) or paraphrase/expand the content as long as the source is clearly indicated (see note below on plagiarism screening).

Supporting information to already published papers or drafts can be included in an appendix or included in the thesis itself, if relevant. 

Unpublished and preliminary results can be described and incorporated, if relevant (see also the description of a Monograph). 

A co-author statement must be submitted (through the PhD planner) for each jointly authored manuscript as well as for unpublished or draft manuscripts, etc. included in the PhD thesis.

Regarding the number of publications: It is recommended that PhD students make sure to publish their work during their PhD study. It is recommended that at least one of the papers produced during the PhD study is targeted a venue that gives credit to the university (typically an international journal).

The number of expected publications varies for the different research areas but for most research areas in ENG, a minimum of three publications during the PhD study is expected. You can include all publications that you have authored. With respect to the PhD study, different traditions in authorship are not so important as, for all co-authored publications, a written statement needs to be signed by all co-authors indicating the importance of the contribution of the PhD student.

2) Monograph

The monograph is written as a coherent, synoptic text. This format is not commonly used in the hard sciences and engineering. The monograph may have the following format for the main text:

  • Introduction.
  • A description of hypotheses, including a summary of relevant literature.
  • A description of and reflection on the choice of method(s).
  • A presentation of the research carried out and the results.
  • A discussion of the results.
  • A discussion of future aspects.
  • A statement of your contribution to the work mentioning contributions by others.

You can also indicate how the monograph is expected to be published as a scientific work.

Publishing and printing the thesis

PhD students at the Department are encouraged to publish their PhD thesis as an Open Access publication through the AU Library Scholarly Publishing Services E-Book platform.

It is free of charge and the PhD student does not sign over any rights to the manuscript by publishing it here. However, the PhD student must get approval from the publishers of papers, articles, etc. before publishing the thesis if it includes any of these. The thesis will get an ISBN and a DOI which will increase its visibility on the Internet. After the defence, the PhD student can upload his or her manuscript by registering at the website.

Regarding printing:
PhD students who wish to get printed copies of the thesis must make the necessary arrangements themselves. Notice that the PhD student or supervisor must cover the costs related to the printing.