9 - Trial lecture and public defence

Program for the defence of the PhD thesis

12:15 The chairman’s introduction
12:20-13:05 Trial lecture (45 min.)
13:05-13:20 Break (15. Min). The evaluation committee come together during the break, to conclude whether the trial lecture has been approved or not.
13:20-13:50 Presentation of the thesis (approximately 25-40 min)
13:50-15:30/16:00 (approx.) The first and second opponent question the candidate

The committee presents their conclusion at the reception that takes place at the cantina afterwards (approx. 30 min).


Procedures for trial lecture and public defence of the PhD thesis at the Faculty of Biosciences

When the required coursework and the doctoral thesis are completed and approved, the PhD candidate must pass the doctoral degree examination before a PhD degree can be conferred upon the candidate.

Preparation for the trial lecture and the public defence

The candidate should in due time visit the room where the trial lecture and the public defence are to be held, to make sure that all the equipment is functioning.

Lunch for the committee and supervisors

The Head of department, or another person chairing the event, gives a lunch for the committee and the supervisors, usually at 11:30h on the day of the defense. During lunch, the opponents are briefed on the formal procedures, including the sequence of the procession when entering and leaving the lecture hall.

The trial lecture

The objective of the trial lecture is to enable the candidate to demonstrate his/her ability to acquire knowledge above and beyond the topic of the thesis, and to communicate this knowledge in a lecture situation. The academic level of the lecture must be suited to master degree students or students in the final phase of a five-year programme of professional study.

The topic of the trial lecture (the assigned topic) is decided by the evaluation committee and is sent to the candidate by email 10 working days before the date of the trial lecture (and public defence).

After receiving the assigned topic, the candidate preferably should discuss the topic with the supervisors or others in the academic community; how the title should be understood and how the lecture should be delimited and organised. This should also be explained at the beginning of the lecture. It is recommended to hold the lecture for an audience beforehand in order to get input on the content and on the performance. The lecture shall be designed to suit a class of master students in animal science or biology, but considering the more general audience, the candidate should consider defining less common scientific concepts.

The trial lecture is held on the same day as the public defence of the thesis, and must last 45 minutes. It is important to keep to this schedule. Not doing so (and this applies if the trial lecture is either too short or too long) may mean that the trial lecture will not be approved. The trial lecture is normally held in English, but if the members of the evaluation committee understand Norwegian, it is possible to deliver the trial lecture in Norwegian. In special cases an application can be put forward to conduct the trial lecture and the public defence in another language than Norwegian or English.

The evaluation committee assesses the trial lecture, which has to be approved (evaluated as passed) before the defence can take place. If the trial lecture is not approved, a new lecture and defence must be arranged. This can take place at the earliest six (6) months later, and if at all possible, it is evaluated by the same committee.

Procedures for the trial lecture

The chair of the defence, the committee members, the candidate and the supervisors (in this sequence) enter the room in a procession while the audience stand up. The chair opens the ceremony and gives some information on the candidate, the committee and the timeplan for the ceremony. The candidate lectures on the assigned topic for 45 minutes. Questions are not usually allowed after the trial lecture. The chair, the committee, the candidate and the supervisors (in this sequence) leaves the room in a procession while the audience stand up. The evaluation committee come together during the break, to conclude whether the trial lecture is approved or not. This break lasts for 15 minutes.

The public defence 

The candidate must defend his/her work in a public disputation and must, to pass the doctoral exam, achieve a pass grade for this.

The defence shall comprise an academic discussion between opponents and the candidate on the formulation of the research questions, the methodological, theoretical and empirical basis, the documentation and form of presentation. The opponents place special emphasis on testing whether important conclusions drawn by the candidate in his/her research work are tenable. The research questions which the opponents choose to pursue need not be limited to those discussed in the committee’s report on the thesis. The candidate may be asked questions on the entire thesis, from both the Introductory chapter (in Norwegian: “sammenfatningen” eller “kappen”) and the various articles.

The opponents usually address different parts of the thesis, for example different articles. However, the division of work between the opponents, and the focus of the opponents, varies. The third member of the committee (the NMBU coordinator) does not usually take an active role in the defence.

The candidate should study the committee’s recommendation concerning the PhD thesis, carefully before the defence. In addition to giving a general statement as to whether they judge the thesis as worthy of defence, the committee normally comments on its strengths and weaknesses. These issues are extremely relevant to the defence.

Procedures for the public defence

The chair of the defence, the committee members, the candidate and the supervisors enter the room in a procession. The chair enters the podium as the others sit down. The chair informs on the evaluation of the trial lecture. If this is passed, the ceremony continues and the chair presents the opponents. The chair gives the floor to the candidate.

The candidate starts with a general introductory presentation of the work behind the thesis, its conclusions and importance. This presentation lasts approximately 30 minutes, usually 25-40 minutes. As soon as the candidate has finished the presentation, the first opponent questions the candidate, usually for 50-60 minutes. Before the second opponent questions the candidate (usually around 45 minutes) there is sometimes a short informal break (5 minutes) without any procession.

Others present who would like to participate in the discussion, oppose ex auditorio, must notify the chair during the disputation, before the second opponent starts the questioning. Each opponent is expected to spend approximately one hour questioning the candidate, but there is quite a large variation in the duration of defence proceedings, and the opponents can agree on another distribution of time between them.

Once the last opponent has sat down, the candidate is given the opportunity to express thanks. The chair closes the ceremony, and the chair, the candidate, the committee and the supervisors (in this changed sequence) then leave the room in a procession.

Published 13. September 2021 - 11:27 - Updated 29. September 2021 - 13:37