As the name suggests, the public examination of a dissertation is an event which is open to the general public. The event is also a visible and festive way to publish research results. The public examination is usually held in approximately one month of the faculty's permission to defend the dissertation. This gives enough time to print and publish the dissertation and to inform the media about the upcoming public examination.
Preparations for the public examinationDress code
Men wear a tail coat or a dark suit. The doctoral candidate decides the dress code and informs the custos and the opponent about it. Women wear a dark dress or suit with long sleeves.
Find out if your department has a habit to offer the opponent a dinner in the night before the public defence. Agree with the custos and supervisors on when and where you are going to meet before the public defence.
Progression of the public examination
The public examination begins 15 minutes past the hour, by which time the audience will have arrived in the room. The doctoral candidate is the first to enter the room, followed by the custos and finally the opponent. The audience will stand up when they enter the room.
The public examination includes the following sections:
• opening of the public examination
• the candidate's introductory lecture, lectio praecursoria
• the opponent's opening statement
• public examination of the doctoral dissertation
• the opponent's final statement
• the candidate's concluding words
• closing of the public examination.
Opening of the public examination
When everyone has taken their seats (the candidate on the left of the custos), the custos will open the public examination by saying: "As the custos appointed by the Faculty of xx of the University of Eastern Finland, I declare this public examination open." After this, the custos and the opponent get seated.
The candidate's introductory lecture, lectio praecursoria
After the public examination has been opened, the candidate stands up to give a short introductory lecture, lectio praecursoria, in which he or she introduces the background of the dissertation and its connections to scientific or practical problems. The lectio praecursoria may not last more than 20 minutes. The candidate should begin the introductory lecture with the following words: "Mr/Madam custos, Mr/Madam opponent, ladies and gentlemen." The introductory lecture is usually given in the language of the dissertation. After the introductory lecture, the candidate says: "I now call upon you, Mr/Madam opponent/Professor/Adjunct Professor/Dr NN as the opponent appointed by the Faculty of xx to present your critical comments on my doctoral dissertation."
The opponent's opening statement
The opponent stands up to give his or her opening statement on the dissertation under examination. The opponent then concludes the opening statement and begins to examine the dissertation in detail. After the opponent has given the opening statement, the opponent and the candidate sit down. If there is more than one opponent, the opponents will have to agree on a division of tasks and announce this in their opening statement.
Public examination of the doctoral dissertation
In the actual examination of the dissertation, the opponent first makes a general overview by discussing the choice of the topic, methods and data, and then moves on to a more detailed examination. At the end of the examination, the opponent makes a summary of the results of the dissertation to the discipline in question. The opponent may use approximately four hours for the examination so as to leave time for possible questions from the audience. If the examination seems to take long, the custos may announce a break.
The opponent's final statement
After having examined the dissertation, the opponent stands up to deliver the final statement. The candidate also stands up to listen. The opponent then takes his or her seat.
The candidate's concluding words
The candidate thanks the opponent and then faces the audience and says: "If anyone present wishes to make any comments concerning my dissertation, please ask the custos for the floor."
Conclusion of the public examination
Finally, the custos stands up to announce that the public examination is completed. The public examination of a dissertation may not last more than six hours.
The custos and opponent hold their doctoral hats in their hand when they leave the room in the same order as they entered: first the candidate, followed by the custos and finally the opponent. The audience should not applaud or cheer during the public examination. Congratulations should be extended to the candidate only after he or she has left the room and has had the opportunity to thank the opponent and the custos.