Getting a PhD at IDI: a checklist

Reidar Conradi and Finn Olav Bjørnson (Eds.)
Getting a PhD at IDI: an informal guide and checklist
2 Dec. 2007,
(as wiki later??)
IDI, NTNU, v1.2
Several pieces of official information on how to conduct a PhD study are available from official
web-sources, such as rules a)..g) below. This particular guide is written to assemble formal
procedures, tacit rules, and lessons-learned – all based on concrete experiences from many PhD
students and their advisors.
– Send comments to:
Some background information from the web:
FOR 2003-05-22 nr 655: Forskrift for graden philosophiae doctor (PhD) ved Norges
teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet (NTNU) (.html),
Generelle regler pluss skjemaer for PhD-studier ved IME-fakultetet,
Lokale regler for nytt PhD-program i IKT ved IME-fakultetet, fra 17 Nov. 2003, rev. i
2004 (.html),
Lokale tilleggsregler ved IDI for IMEs PhD-program, endelig vedtatt 23. mars 2004,
Presisering av PhD-regler for IDI, per 30 nov. 2004,
Til info: Regler for omregning fra tallkarakter til bokstavkarakter,
Guide to registration of scientific publications in the national FRIDA database,
see also
stands, mostly written by ex-“kontorsjef” Bård Kjos.
Process steps to obtain a PhD at IDI; please hang on:
1. Student, early: be motivated and prepared for some hectic 3-4 years of your life.
2. Student/faculty/advisor, before you start: (Maybe you can skip this point no 2, if you
already are a PhD fellow). Write a job application to the IME faculty for a PhD
fellowship and get accepted. Some points to observe (see rules a)..f) above):
The general qualification rules for the PhD study is described elsewhere, e.g. at
least grade B for the last two years and grade C for the first three years of a
previous master degree in informatics or a closely related topic.
A part of this application process is to clarify whether you want an additional 4th
year as a Teaching Assistant. There is also a negotiation about salary, especially if
you have had previous jobs after your master study.
Another part of the job application is a preliminary research plan (1-3 pages) that
identifies a committed and well-defined research topic, e.g. not only “databases”
but rather like “aspect-xxx in object-oriented databases applied for cartography in
context-yyy”. Regardless of your PhD fellowship being part of an externally
financed R&D project or is an internally-financed PhD position, such a focussing
research plan must be written before start of the PhD study. It serves as a mutual
“work contract” – guaranteeing continued and dedicated assistance from the main
advisor and effective inclusion in a research group. Further, it seeks to prevent that
the first 1-2 years in a PhD study is spent on a frustrating “hunt” for a suitable
research topic, and enables the advisor to be responsible for strategic planning of
his/her research areas. But the world is not static – the work focus will always
evolve, hopefully as a part of a fruitful, respectful and mutual dialog, and executed
as part of a dynamic researcher collective. The plan should therefore be written in
cooperation with the proposed main advisor at IDI, see below.
3. Student/IDI-adm., Day 1: Start as a paid PhD fellow, get a combined ID and access
card to the university premises. NB: the ID card may give you discounts with airlines
and similar. Get an office (usually shared) and a key. Get a nameplate and picture for
your door. Order a computer. Get a university user account, email address etc.
4. Student/Advisor, Week 0-3: Write a PhD-study application to the IME-Faculty – on a
special form – to be accepted as a PhD student at IDI. This PhD-study application
comes in addition to the job application, and is written in cooperation with your main
advisor. The important points are to:
For the “Fagstudiet” (or qualifier) part of your PhD study, select four PhD qualifier
courses (30 Sp, corresponding to half a year of study), plus the method course
DT8108 – Topics in Information Technology (“IT-emner”, additional 7.5 Sp). Try
to combine depth with breath, and not be too concerned about thesis relevance. You
can easily substitute a selected course with another one (except DT8101), if you
change your mind later.
Confirm your main advisor, and use him/her to find two additional co-advisors.
Perhaps revise the preliminary research plan from the job application into a more
elaborate and initial research plan (say 8-10 pages), depending on how complete the
former one was. If the initial research plan still is shorter than 8-10 pages, you may
be asked to submit a more complete research plan to the IME faculty within 6
information. So, after about two months of actually doing a PhD study, you may
officially be accepted as a PhD student at the IME Faculty. 
5. Student, 1 week: Apply for a Norwegian course, if you are non-Scandinavian.
Recommended if you intend to work in Scandinavia later or just want to be socialized
with the “natives”. IDI can also benefit more of your work as teaching assistant, if you
are familiar with Norwegian. Alas, courses are often full, so apply early.
6. Student, 1 month: You should have your own web page at IDI, containing your CV,
publication list and current research plan. (mandatory)
7. Student/Advisor, 6 months: You may need to resubmit your research plan of 8-10
pages to the IME faculty. Please include pictures and tables, use a layout with bullet
points etc., in order to make an appealing and readable presentation that can be reused
in your final thesis.
8. Student/”All scientific staff”, every year and at least before Christmas: register all
your publications in the national FRIDA database, see guidelines in rule g) above.
9. Student/Advisor, ca. by February: submit your annual progress report to the IME
faculty, using a 1p form. You will be notified separately about this.
10. Student, first 9 months: All PhD students have to take IDI’s method course DT8108
IT-emner, which covers maybe many issues and thus may overwhelm the students. As
part of this course, you must update and present your PhD research plan/proposal to the
other students on a final “IDI PhD conference” (1-2 days).
11. Student, ca. two years: Take the five PhD qualifier courses including DT8108, as
specified in your research plan, i.e. achieve a passing grade for each course (A, B or
Passed) – you have three attempts.
12. Student/advisors, 2 years or midway: Submit midterm evaluation research proposal,
and discuss it with all your three advisors present. More information at rule e) above
13. Student, first 3 – 3.5 years: Do your teaching assistant duties, and try to spread them
over the 3-3.5 first years so you have your final semester(s) free to concentrate on your
research and thesis. If you go abroad for a research stay of 6-8 months, your teaching
duties for this period will be forgiven.
14. Student(s)/Advisor, entire PhD study: have regular, scheduled meetings every 1-2
weeks, and with new written material to discuss. In periods there may be less frequent
meetings, and inversely: in the final phase perhaps 2-3 meetings per week. In addition
comes project-related, common work and discussions – all times and places. Maybe the
coffee machine is the best research tool? 
15. Student, entire PhD study: All papers and the thesis should be written in high-quality,
technical English. Seek advice in a small textbook on technical writing?
16. Student, entire PhD study: A bit of practical advice - When you read literature, make
precise entries “then and there” for a future reference list of relevant and cited papers,
book chapters etc. Avoid spending the last nights before thesis delivery in correcting
and supplementing such trivia!
17. Student/Research team, entire PhD study: Do enough empirical studies or other
original research, and publish enough papers to warrant an article thesis, see proposed
thesis template elsewhere. (warning: this step may take some time)
18. Student, D – 6 months (or 4 months before your PhD fellowship expires): Write an
abstract and introduction for your thesis (the thesis doesn’t need to be finished yet) and
assemble a publication list with paper abstracts (if you are writing an article thesis, that
is). This is called V0 of your thesis.
19. Advisor, D – 6 months: Use this thesis V0 to possibly recruit two external opponents to
serve in an evaluation committee, and one of these must be from a foreign institution. In
addition comes one IDI-internal administrator of the evaluation committee. The
committee must be composed of both genders. Do not delay establishing a committee
until thesis V1 or V2 has been made, see next two points below!
20. Student/Advisor/Eval.committee, D – 4 months: Your first complete draft of the
thesis is ready, as V1. This first version may informally(!) be sent to the opponents for
some initial comments and a “go/no-go” decision, anticipating further progress during
the next two months.  
21. Student, D – 2 months, i.e. end of PhD fellowship: Final delivery to the Faculty of your
thesis via IDI, as V2.
22. Advisor, same time: Your main advisor should immediately submit the formal letter
and documents for getting the thesis evaluated, and formally propose the (presumably
already agreed upon) evaluation committee to the IME Faculty via IDI. You must cosign and also provide a proof of your hopefully passed PhD qualifier courses (a certified
23. The committee administrator, just after: This person now takes completely over the
remaining process – e.g. sending the last thesis version V2 to the opponents with
official forms and instructions etc.
24. Evaluation committee (two opponents, one administrator), D – 5 weeks: Each
opponent writes a 1-2 page evaluation (no official form here) which the administrator
co-edits into a joint recommendation to the Faculty about “defense-worthyness”. If the
recommendation is negative or there are irreconcilable arguments, there will be no
immediate defence, and there is one more chance to resubmit an improved version after
6 months. The candidate is given 2 weeks for comments on the recommendation,
normally there are none.
25. Student, D – just after 5 weeks: Get yourself two ISBN numbers (one for printed and
one for electronic version) and a NTNU thesis number, all from Initiate contact with NTNUtrykk for printing your thesis, based on a .pdf-file of V2. More information on This process takes roughly a week including test print.
Remember to spell-check your document before handing it over, and use fontsize 12pt.
The account for paying the printing (“ksted”) is 631005. IDI will support up to 10 000
NOK in printing fees, which covers around 75 copies. How to handle copyrights of
published papers – by saying nothing?
26. IDI attn/ Anne Berit Dahl, D – 2 months or before: Arranges a room for the defence;
booked when the defence or “disputas” date (D) is clear.
27. Student/IDI/FIM, D – 4 weeks: Printed copies of the final thesis must be handed over
to the Faculty, the opponents and the library. This is handled by Anne Berit Dahl at IDI,
so deliver ~10 copies of the printed thesis to her.
28. Student, D – 4 weeks: Prepare a press release about the event, using a special form. IDI
will assist.
29. Student, D – 3 weeks: Book a restaurant for the traditional “doctor dinner”. IDI
sponsors up to 8 persons with 990 NOK per person (as of 25 Oct. 2007). That is 7 920
NOK in total. You are yourself responsible for making all the necessary arrangements
with the restaurant, sending out invitations etc.
30. Student, D – 3 weeks: Start on your own presentation for the defence, make sure to
contact the administrator of your committee to find out how much time you have for the
presentation. This presentation usually takes 30-45 minutes, so make ca. 20 slides –
maybe with extra backup slides showing more details, examples etc.
31. Student/IDI, D – 1 week: Make arrangements for a room at IDI (main lunchroom IT454, IT-364, IT-242, or IT-054) to serve refreshments after the PhD defence is finished
and you are awaiting the result of the final committee negotiation.
32. Evaluation committee, D – 2 weeks: Topic of trial lecture is announced to you.
33. IDI, same time: will advertise the trial lecture and PhD defence in internal fora at IDI
and NTNU (, emails)
34. Student, same time: Start preparing for the trial lecture! Aim for no more than 20
slides. Talk as if the audience were composed of last-year master students. 
35. Student, D – 1 week: Also make sure that the room has a working projector
(“beamer”). If not, and especially for Rådssalen and Total-rommet in the main NTNU
building at Gløshaugen, contact the AV service (phone 95409, in Sentralbygg II??) and
book a temporary projector for the room.
36. Student, D – 1 day: Check if the room of the trial lecture now has a projector, and
check how it works with your PC before the trial lecture starts. Similarly, check how the
speaker and microphone system in the room functions. Make sure you know how to
operate it.
37. Student, D-day: Make sure there is a supply of copies of your slides and the printed
thesis in the room of the defence. The whole defence (“disputas”) – your presentation
and the ensuing dialog with the two opponents – takes about two hours.
38. Student/All, D-day: Stay calm, everybody. You are witnessing a ritual of planned,
“social pain”!
39. Committee administrator, D-day: Will usually chair the trial lecture and PhD defence.
40. Evaluation committee/FIM, D-day – just after the defence: The verdict is decided –
Passed or not-Passed? There is a special form for the committee to fill out, and a
dedicated thesis copy will carry the signatures of all the committee members.  
41. Student with IDI colleagues, friends and family, D-day – in parallel with Evaluation
committee discussion. Enjoy refreshments while awaiting the verdict, organized by IDI
(see point 31 for preparations).
42. Student=>doctor/IDI, afterwards: Be sure to deposit your thesis in the .pdf archive at
IDI (, attn/, and
register your PhD thesis in FRIDA.
43. All, …: Life goes on; one more doctorate in the protocol. The Danish physicist Niels
Bohr always titulated a researcher over 30 years as “doctor”.
44. Doctor/advisor/IDI, afterwards: Try to find time for a debriefing talk to solicit lessonslearned and get ideas to do things better. Make sure all formalities with press release,
thesis delivery and copies, FRIDA registration, computer accounts, access cards and
keys, … are taken care of.
45. Doctor, afterwards: Try to go abroad for some time. Learn and enjoy. Hint: apply to
some of the many available postdoc positions world-wide; see portals and mailing lists
such as or
Remember that a PhD degree gives you a researcher education, and most PhD
candidates will later work in areas outside the main thesis area. Consider starting a
scientific career, i.e. Publish and/or Perish.
46. All new doctors, months later: “Doctor promotion” ceremony at NTNU. An old rite.
47. Student/FIM, eight years since intake as a PhD student: Sorry, max time abortion!!
Appendix A: Resume of contact meeting with IDI’s PhD students, 31 Oct. 2007
Subject: Preliminary notes from PhD feedback session, Wednesday 31.10, 9:00-12:00
Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2007 14:24:15 +0100 (MET)
From: Reidar Conradi <>
Monica, Reidar, Pauline, Keith,
8 PhD students – Birgit, Renate, Kjersti, Janine, Øyvind, Geir Kjetil Hanssen,
Geir Kjetil Sandve, NN (satt mellom meg og Pauline).
General-part 1:
Please distribute the recent IME-report by Holden committee, regarding efforts to
improve PhD quality and throughput.
General-part 2:
Little IDI "team spirit", IDI seen as is too large and non-caring.
No systematic introduction at IDI of new PhD students.
Include PhD students in the IDI seminars (like in Sept. 2007?)
Include PhD students, being responsible for a course,
at "faglærermøter" and via
Section meetings, e.g. for UBIS: nobody bothers to meet, too big (50+ people).
Group meetings: may be OK, given a serious talk topic – maybe also invite speakers
from other groups?
Clarify their roles: controllers, informal advisors, midterm committee embers?
Almost never used, neither in joint advisor meetings nor separately.
Should be accessible as a second "father" – seek projects with two main responsibles?
Annual follow-up meeting after year 1, 2 (midterm) and 3?
In general positive.
Clarify their function and format better. 10 pages too short?
Downplay the control or “police” function, with implicit threat to abort the study.
The evaluation report should be frank on diagnosed problems, not
"hide" these in order not too blame the main advisor (!).
The PhD course DT8108 IT-emner:
In general positive; need a method course.
Good that a paper is "produced".
But (too) much diverse stuff to cover.
Final PhD conference lacks attendence of students' advisors!
Technical/scientific writing:
Try to hire the responsible person for the previous and now abandoned course
AVS401Scientific Writing (Autumn, 7.5Sp) for talks and workshops – contact
Nancy Lea Eik Nes.
In case of advisor/student disharmony:
Introduce an "ombudsman" – a senior faculty member, p.t. with no teaching
duties, that can be consulted and resolve general "process" problems.
Better training of faculty members as advisors and mentors?
Better social infrastructure:
Glass in the doors, person pictures on the doors (use the ones on the web).
Better coffee machines etc. to encourage "storytelling at the water hole".
Good meeting and constructive tone! Good to let out some “steam”, and to identify
problem issues.
Write a summary so far of relevant issues (superset of issues mentioned here), and
distribute to all at IDI (?).
Discuss issues further at next Research Committee meeting on 6 Nov.
Need a follow-up session soon, and with more than 8 PhD students.
Establish a Wiki page for such comments?
Coordinate with new "PhD process model" and "article thesis template" (by Reidar)?
Cf. Pavel Petrovic's 's last tirade on bad PhD study process and irrelevant research topics.
Appendix B: IME-fakultetets prosedyrer ved dr.grad. avslutning, per 25 okt. 2007,
At completion (English version):
The formal content and deadline for the completion of studies will ensure that education
at NTNU is of a recognised international quality. It will also contribute to ensuring that
each individual doctoral student becomes known in general and also within the
international subject environment within the field.
The regulations from before 01.01.2000 apply to those defending their thesis at present.
The routines for completion follow these regulations. New procedures are being drawn
up for those defending their theses who were admitted according to the regulations of
At least 3 months prior to the defence, the doctoral student must submit an application
to have his/her thesis examined to the institute. The application form, with
accompanying letter, must be sent to the faculty, with suggestions for the examining
committee. Nomination should be made in co-operation with your supervisor.
The thesis
The thesis should be sent to the faculty (2 copies) 5 weeks before the defence. At the
same time, the administration/institute will send the thesis directly to the examining
committee members. The faculty will send 1 copy to UBIT.
Printing must be completed at latest 1 month before the defence. Contact your
supervisor for more information on how and where to get your thesis printed. This must
be applied for on the web.
The University Library in Trondheim (UBiT) offers all PhD candidates to publish their
thesis in full on NTNU's web pages. The faculty incourages all candidates to accept this
Frida is a web system for registrating of research documentation. The faculty
recommends you to register you thesis in the Frida system.
NTNU recommends that candidates register their thesis in UMI's international data
base. A separate Agreement Form must be competed, signed and sent to UMI. The form
can be obtained from Solfrid Bergsmyr. UMI Dissertation Services offers other services
which may be of interest, such as tips for writing dissertations.
Practical details which can be dealt with in advance will be handled by administrators
and institutes. The date should be agreed at an early stage with the committee. The room
where the defence will take place (The Total Room in the Main Building or in The
Sciences Building), hotel rooms for visitors etc. should be reserved at the same time.
Recommendations from the examining committee and the title of the test lecture must
be sent to the faculty 5 weeks before the defence using a separate form. The faculty will
tell the candidate the title of the test lecture 14 days before the defence. The candidate
can submit comments on the recommendations 5 days before the defence.If there is a
lack of unity amongst the committee, this may mean that the defence must be
Press announcements regarding the defence are sent out by the candidate at latest 4
weeks before the defence. See the guidelines, which contain the appropriate form.
Posters and announcements are dealt with by the faculty on the basis of practical
information about the defence from the institutes. Practical details for the defence
(location, flowers, lunch) are dealt with by the institutes.
After the defence the administrator must send the forms for the test lecture which has
taken place and the defence and one copy of the thesis (signed) to the faculty. The
candidate must submit 10 copies of the approved thesis (40 copies for the dr.phil.
degree) to the University Library at Kalvskinnet.
Ved Avslutning (norsk versjon):
Formelle forhold og frister ved avslutningen av studiet skal sikre at utdanningen ved NTNU
holder anerkjent internasjonal kvalitet. De skal også bidra til at hvert enkelt doktorgradsarbeid
blir kjent i allmennheten og i det internasjonale fagmiljøet.
Se Forskrift for PhD-studiet, spesielt § 10 til og med §14. Rutinene gjelder også Dr. ing. og
Dr.scient. Hovedpunkt:
Minimum 3 mnd før disputas sender doktorgradsstudenten søknad om å få avhandlingen
bedømt til sitt institutt. Det arbeidet (avhandlingen) som skal bedømmes, vedlegges i utskrevet
og elektronisk utgave.
Instituttet skal anbefale, eventuelt ikke anbefale, søknaden. Hvis søknaden anbefales sender
instituttet forslag til bedømmelseskomité til fakultetet. Se malbrev for oppnevning av
bedømmelseskomite. Følgende punkter må oppfylles:
Det skal være et medlem fra utenlandsk universitet med doktorgradsutdanning.
Medlemmene av komiteen skal være forespurt.
Medlemmene av komiteen skal ikke ha felles publikasjoner med kandidaten.
Det skal være en kvinne i komiteen. Avvik må begrunnes.
Nærmere orientering om sammensetning av komiteen.
Fakultetet oppnevner bedømmelseskomiteen. Det vil være gjort ca 2 ½ mnd før disputas.
Administrator eller instituttet sender avhandlingen til komiteen når den er oppnevnt. Foreløpige
utgaver har normalt vært forelagt komiteens medlemmer når de forespørres om å delta i
Bedømmelse og innlevering av trykket avhandling
Administrator skal sende eget skjema for innstillingen fra bedømmelseskomiteen og tittel på
prøveforelesning til fakultetet minimum 5 uker før disputas. Forsinkelse vil normalt medføre at
disputas utsettes.
Innstillingen sendes kandidaten uten opphold. Dersom det foreligger dissens fra komiteen tar
administrator kontakt med fakultetet. Det kan medføre at disputasen må utsettes Trykket
eksemplar avhandlingen skal sendes Fakultetet (2 eks.) umiddelbart og senest 4 uker før
disputas. Forsinkelse vil normalt medføre at disputas utsettes. Samtidig sender
administrator/institutt avhandlingen direkte til bedømmelseskomiteens medlemmer. Fakultetet
sender 1 eks. til UBIT.
Antall eksemplarer ut over dette, distribusjon og økonomiske betingelser bestemmes av institutt
eller veileder/faggruppe. Avhandlingen skal være allment tilgjengelig. Vi anbefaler NTNU-
trykk til trykkingen. Tapir trykkeri er et alternativ. Den trykte avhandlingen skal ha et ISBNnummer. Det henter kandidaten selv via nettet: Tildeling ISBN
Fakultetet ønsker at alle doktorander publiserer doktoravhandlingen elektronisk. Dette er den
viktigste distribusjonskanalen. Universitetsbiblioteket i Trondheim (UBiT) forestår mottak,
lagring og tilgjengeliggjøring. Innlevering foretas her. Hvis du ikke har brukernavn og passord
ved NTNU kan avhandlingen sendes elektronisk til Spørsmål sendes samme
Sammen med avhandlingen sender kandidaten et kortfattet sammendrag på norsk og engelsk i
elektronisk PDF-format. Sammendraget legges ut på fakultetets nettsider og tjener som
informasjon til presse.
Avhandlingen, alle publikasjoner som inngår i avhandlingen, og andre publikasjoner du er med
på skal registreres i Frida som er et system for registrering av forskningsdokumentasjon.
NTNU anbefaler kandidater å registrere sin avhandling i UMIs internasjonale database. Et eget
Agreement Form må fylles ut, signeres og sendes til IME-fakultetet. Skjema sendes sammen
med skjema for pressemelding eller fåes ved henvendelse til Solfrid Bergsmyr eller Anne Eide.
UMI Dissertation Services har også andre tjenester som kan være av interesse, for eksempel tips
for skriving av avhandlinger.
Tidlige praktiske forberedelser ivaretas av administrator og instituttene. Tidspunkt for disputas
bør avtales tidlig med komiteen. Rom for disputasen, hotell for tilreisende, o.l. reserveres
samtidig av instituttet.
Fakultetet informerer kandidaten om prøveforelesningens tittel 14 kalenderdager før disputas.
Kandidaten kan fremme merknader til innstillingen innen 5 dager før disputas. Pressemelding
om disputasen sendes ut av kandidaten senest 4 uker før disputasen. Se veiledningen som
inneholder egnet skjema.
Oppslag og annonsering bl.a. i Nettopp ivaretas av fakultetet ut fra praktisk informasjon om
disputasen fra instituttene. Gjennomføring av disputasen (lokaler, blomster, lunsj, mm) ivaretas
av instituttene.
Etter disputasen skal administrator sende sensurskjema og et eksemplar av avhandlingen
i underskrevet stand til fakultetet. Kandidaten eller instituttet sender 5 eks. av
avhandlingen til Nasjonalbiblioteket i Mo i Rana. (2 eks. sendes av trykkeriet til
Nasjonalbiblioteket i Mo i Rana.) Biblioteket ønsker ikke trykte eksemplarer av
avhandlingen når den er innsendt elektronisk.