Third-cycle education differs from first- and second-cycle education. It is significantly less structured and doctoral students have many opportunities – and significant responsibility – to independently influence what the studies will look like, mainly in consultation with their supervisors. This freedom places demands on the doctoral student to keep track of their own courses, reading and conferences on offer as well as the opportunities available. Therefore, it is always a good idea to talk with fellow doctoral students and researchers at the department (and the faculties) as well as being a member of different networks and email lists (for example, ECREA, AoIR, FSMK, culture studies) to stay up-to-date on what is happening both in their home organisation as well as on the research front.
The general syllabi are the basis for the third-cycle programmes.
All Swedish third-cycle programmes comprise 240 credits. At the Department of Communication and Media they are divided between a thesis component of 180 credits and a course component of 60 credits. Some general syllabi indicate which courses or which course types are compulsory.
There are different kinds of courses: for example, theoretical or methodology-based doctoral courses organised by the department or faculty. There may also be courses taken at other universities, nationally or internationally, or through participation at a summer school, a phenomenon that is becoming increasingly common in the international research community (ECREA’s summer school is one of them). A common course type is the independent study course.
An independent study course is characterised by collaboration with a supervisor who puts together a reading list within a limited area of research in which the student specialises by writing a paper (the form of assessment). What and which courses a student is to take, and in which order, is something that the student discusses and plans with their supervisor. There is also an opportunity to take a short course in teaching and learning in higher education, which is compulsory if the student is also going to teach during their time as a doctoral student.
The thesis comprises the main component of the doctoral programme. It is with the thesis that the doctoral student conclusively demonstrates their autonomy as a researcher: as someone who can formulate an interesting and scholarly issue, design and plan a methodological execution and carry out an independent analysis. The thesis can be written either as a monograph or in the form of a compilation thesis, i.e. 3-5 research articles that are combined with an introductory chapter. You can read about compilation theses in the document ‘Guidelines for compilation theses in Media and Communication Studies (PDF)’ (in Swedish.
Sometimes it can be tough to keep your writing going. The doctoral collective is encouraged to meet up regularly to discuss and support each other. Lund University also has a writing group for doctoral students.
Individual Study Plan
One of the first things a newly appointed doctoral student should do is draw up an individual study plan (ISP) in consultation with their supervisor. This is a kind of schedule for their individual third-cycle education and its different components. It is the principal supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that a plan is drawn up. The ISP includes planned activities by semester, for example, supervision, courses, field work, archive work, chapter writing, conferences and seminar presentations, primarily with the aim to structure the studies. In other words, the writing of an individual study plan should not be viewed as a chore, but as a tool to clarify the work process and, thereby, making it easier. As such, it is a very important document. At the same time, the fact that we all have different ways of working should not be ignored and the structured working process that the ISP document encourages suits some people more than others.
The individual study plan, as mentioned, is the result of consultation between the doctoral student and their supervisor. The value of this dialogue should not be underestimated. Among other things, it plays an important role in harmonising the doctoral student and the supervisor’s expectations in relation to the studies and each other. The individual study plan is a dynamic document that is followed up on and reviewed annually.