1. Subject description

Psychology as a science involves the systematic exploration of human experiences and behaviours. It is based on the notion that humans are biological beings shaped by and subject to the forces of evolution, as well as social and cultural beings who seek meaning and interpret themselves and their situation in the world. Psychology is characterised by this dual perspective on humanity.

Psychology as an academic discipline is now over 100 years old. During this period, both in Sweden and internationally, the subject has developed advanced theoretical and methodological thinking and produced directly applicable knowledge in areas that are important to human well-being and development, such as physical environment, working life, education, mental and physical health, disabilities, ageing, etc.

(From the Swedish National Committee for Psychological Sciences, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, http://sncfp.psychology.su.se/amnet/index.html)

2. Programme objectives

The aim of the programme is to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to independently conduct research in psychology and contribute to the development of knowledge in the field of psychological research through the production of an academic thesis.

The doctoral programme in psychology aims to provide doctoral students with knowledge of how to plan, lead, and complete research projects. In addition, doctoral studies should provide opportunities for international contacts, e.g. in the form of participation in research conferences and/or stays at foreign universities, as well as develop the doctoral students’ communicative and pedagogical skills in expressing themselves in speech and in writing, both within and outside academic contexts.

The specific objectives of the programme, which must be achieved in order to obtain a doctoral degree in psychology, are specified below. Additional requirements relating to doctoral degrees are specified in the Higher Education Ordinance and the System of Qualifications.

Degree of Doctor

For a Degree of Doctor, the doctoral student must:

Knowledge and understanding

  • demonstrate broad knowledge in, and a systematic understanding of, the field of psychological research, together with deep and current specialist knowledge in a defined part of this field;
  • demonstrate familiarity with research methodology in psychology in general and the methods of the specific field of research in particular.

Skills and abilities

  • demonstrate an ability to engage in scholarly analysis and synthesis, as well as in independent, critical review and assessment of new and complex phenomena, issues, and situations;
  • demonstrate an ability to identify and formulate issues critically, independently, creatively, and with scholarly precision; to plan and conduct research and other advanced tasks using appropriate methods within specified time limits; and to review and evaluate such work;
  • demonstrate an ability to make a substantial contribution to the development of knowledge in psychology through their own research in a thesis;
  • demonstrate an ability, in both national and international contexts, orally and in writing, to present and discuss research and research findings authoritatively in dialogue with the scholarly community and society in general;
  • demonstrate an ability to identify needs for further knowledge beyond the results of the thesis;
  • demonstrate the potential to contribute to social development and support the learning of others, both in the fields of research and education and in other qualified professional contexts.

Judgement and approach

  • demonstrate intellectual independence and scholarly integrity, as well as an ability to make ethical assessments relating to research;
  • demonstrate specialised insight into the potential and limitations of research, its role in society, and the responsibility of the individual for how it is used.

Licentiate degree

For a Degree of Licentiate, the doctoral students must demonstrate the following:

Knowledge and understanding

  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding in the field of research, including current specialist knowledge in a limited area of this field, as well as specialised knowledge of research methodology in general and the methods of the specific field of research in particular.

Skills and abilities

  • demonstrate an ability to critically, independently, creatively, and with scholarly precision identify and formulate issues, and to plan and, using appropriate methods, complete a limited research project and other qualified tasks within specified time limits, so as to contribute to the development of knowledge and to evaluate this work;
  • demonstrate an ability to present and discuss research and research findings clearly, in dialogue with the scholarly community and society in general, orally and in writing, in both national and international contexts;
  • demonstrate the skills required to participate independently in research and development and to work independently in other advanced contexts.

Judgement and approach

  • demonstrate an ability to make assessments of ethical aspects of their own research;
  • demonstrate insight into the possibilities and limitations of research, its role in society, and our responsibility for how it is used;
  • demonstrate an ability to identify their own needs for further knowledge and to take responsibility for their own learning.

3. Prerequisites and entry requirements

3.1. General entry requirements

Pursuant to the Higher Education Ordinance (Chapter 7, Section 39), a person meets the general entry requirement if they have:

  1. been awarded a degree at the master’s level,
  2. satisfied the requirements for courses comprising at least 240 credits, of which at least 60 credits were awarded at the master’s level, or
  3. otherwise acquired substantially equivalent knowledge in Sweden or elsewhere.

The Department Board may grant an exemption from the general entry requirements for an individual applicant under special circumstances, pursuant to the Higher Education Ordinance (Chapter 7, Section 39).

3.2. Specific entry requirements

Admission to doctoral studies in psychology requires that the applicant meet the following criteria:

  1. at least 150 higher education credits in psychology at the bachelor’s or master’s level, or equivalent, of which at least 15 credits constitute a thesis project, or
  2. otherwise acquired equivalent knowledge in Sweden or elsewhere, and
  3. sufficient English proficiency to study technical literature in English.

4. Admission

Opportunities to apply for doctoral studies in psychology are given in the spring (deadline for applications: 1 April) and autumn (deadline for applications: 1 November), resources permitting. Vacancies are advertised at least one month before the deadline for applications. Information will be available on the Department’s website (www.psychology.su.se). By the deadline, applicants must submit a research proposal, previous theses/publications, and any other qualifications from studies or work experience. The supervisor must be contacted in advance.

5. Selection

Pursuant to the Higher Education Ordinance (Chapter 7), the selection among candidates will be based on their capacity to complete the training. This assessment will be made on the basis of the thesis proposal that should be enclosed with the application, as well as previous scholarly work and other qualifications (e.g. research, study, or work experience). The assessment will be made by three unbiased experts at the Department.

1. In the thesis proposal, the applicant should describe their thesis project. The proposal will be assessed on a quantitative scale (from unacceptable to exceptional), mainly based on the following criteria:

a) if the proposal demonstrates familiarity with previous and current research in the field;
b) if the research questions are based on current research;
c) if the methods described for data collection and analysis are adequate;
d) if the proposal is deemed realistic in terms of viability in the context of doctoral studies.

2. Degree project in psychology or other scholarly work. The attached work will primarily be assessed based on the following criteria:

a) problem definition and cogency;
b) methodological and scholarly ability;
c) theoretical/conceptual foundation.

3. Other qualifications (e.g. education, work experience, quality and scope of other scholarly productions) and grades/recommendations. References must be provided. These will be contacted for the purpose of assessing, for example, the candidate’s ability to communicate and collaborate.

6. Programme content and structure

6.1. Programme content

Doctoral studies in psychology will be concluded with a doctoral or licentiate degree. The programme must include 240 higher education credits for a doctoral degree. The thesis is worth 165 credits and the course component 75 credits. The course component includes both obligatory and optional courses. At least 30 credits should constitute method courses, and at least 30 credits subject courses. The courses are selected in consultation with the supervisor. The courses should be specified in the individual study plan.

It is possible to take a licentiate degree after completing 120 credits, where the course component constitutes 50% of that of a doctoral degree. The doctoral programme comprises courses, which are examined continuously, and an individual research project that will result in an academic thesis. In addition, the doctoral student is expected to participate in seminar activities and, unless there are special reasons to the contrary, contribute to the Department’s joint activities. An obligatory half-time review seminar will be held by the doctoral student two years after admission, with adjustments for departmental duties and any deviations from full-time work.

6.2. Supervision and study and career guidance

Each doctoral student should be assigned a principal supervisor and at least one assistant supervisor. The principal supervisor should be employed at the Department and hold the rank of associate professor (docent) or higher. At least one of the supervisors should have received training in supervision or be considered by the faculty board to have corresponding qualifications.

Doctoral students are entitled to supervision as specified in the individual study plan (see below). Doctoral students are entitled to change supervisors upon request.

Study and career guidance will be included as part of the training.

6.3. Individual study plan

An individual study plan will be drawn up for each doctoral student in connection with admission. The study plan will be adopted after consultation with the doctoral student and their supervisors.

The individual study plan should be reviewed at least once a year. The review will be carried out in such a way that it is clear how the studies are progressing. The doctoral student, the supervisor, and the head of department should confirm in writing that they have read the study plan and any changes that have been made to it.

Funding for the entire study period (equivalent to four years of full-time studies) must be secured prior to admission. The funding will be documented in a financial plan.

7. Courses and credits

The range of courses includes both obligatory courses (e.g. method courses) and optional courses. Individual examinations, both oral and written, are organised in connection with each course.  The results are assessed using the grades Pass or Fail.

The individual study plan specifies which courses the doctoral student, in consultation with the supervisor, intends to take. If the doctoral student wishes to transfer credits from previous studies, this must be specified in the individual study plan.

8. Thesis and public defence

8.1. Thesis

The key component of the studies is the writing of an academic thesis, in which the doctoral will advance the knowledge in the field of research. The doctoral student is expected to report on the progress of the thesis project at seminars within and/or outside the Department.

Pursuant to the regulations for doctoral degrees specified in the Higher Education Ordinance, the thesis should be defended at a public defence seminar. The thesis, and the defence thereof, will be awarded a grade of Pass or Fail by an examining committee.

A doctoral thesis in psychology is typically:

  • a compilation thesis with a cohesive summary of its constituent parts.
  • written in English, according to guidelines that allow it to be published internationally (in full or in parts); however, the thesis may be written in Swedish.

The thesis can also be written as a monograph.

Compilation theses are also subject to the following requirements for a doctoral degree:

  1. The thesis should include an introductory chapter (“kappa”) and at least three articles that give a total of at least 2 points in The Norwegian Register for Scientific Journals, Series and Publishers.
  2. The doctoral student should be the first author of at least two articles, including at least one point-giving publication.
  3. Since the Norwegian journal ranking system is updated regularly, which may result in a journal being ranked differently at the time of the public defence than when an article was submitted to the journal, it is the points given at the time of submission that count. If the journal is ranked higher after publication, but before the public defence, the doctoral student can use the higher number of points.

Under special circumstances, the head of department, in consultation with the director of graduate studies, may make an exception from the above criteria.

Licentiate thesis

The licentiate thesis, which should correspond to approximately half of the work required for a doctoral thesis, may constitute a monograph or academic papers with a cohesive summary. A licentiate thesis written as a compilation thesis should include an introductory chapter and at least two articles in publishable condition.

8.2. Public defence seminar

The doctoral thesis should be defended orally at a public defence seminar, after which it will be awarded a grade of Pass or Fail. The grading process will consider both the content and the defence of the thesis. The external reviewer and the members of the examining committee will be appointed by the Faculty Board. Provisions regarding the examining committee, etc., can be found in Chapter 6 of the Higher Education Ordinance, as well as in instructions issued by the Board of the Faculty of Social Sciences.

All course credits must be completed before the public defence takes place.

8.3 Licentiate seminar

Please refer to the current guidelines for licentiate seminars.

9. Degree requirements

A doctoral student who has fulfilled the requirements for a doctoral degree or a licentiate degree will receive a degree certificate upon request.

10. Miscellaneous

10.1 Transition arrangements in relation to previous syllabi

Doctoral students who began their doctoral studies according to a previous general syllabus are entitled to follow either the new syllabus or the one that was in effect when they were admitted. If a doctoral student transitions to this general syllabus, they must also revise their individual study plan.

10.2 Additional information

For additional information, please refer to current legislation, guidelines at Stockholm University and the Faculty of Social Sciences, as well as local regulations at the Department of Psychology. Information about current regulations is available at www.samfak.su.se; local implementation regulations can be found at www.psychology.su.se.