Content of the thesis

The most common type of thesis at KI is the compilation thesis, which consists of a comprehensive summary (“kappa”) and separate constituent papers.

Below is information regarding compilation theses. For information on monograph theses, see Rules for doctoral education at Karolinska Institutet, section 7.2.2.

The procured printing company for theses has produced a template for theses based on instructions from KI. The printing company needs to be contacted to get access to the template and for printing of the thesis. Information about templates and printing.

The constituent papers

Number of papers

The number of papers in a doctoral thesis may vary, but in total they must have a scope corresponding to four years of full-time studies in doctoral education (two years of full-time studies for licentiate theses). 

Publication requirements

At least two original papers (at least one in licentiate theses) must be published, or accepted for publication, in a peer-reviewed journal. It is part of the doctoral education to take an active part in the publication process. 

Order of authorship

At least one of the original papers, published or in manuscript, shall have the doctoral student as first author (does not apply to licentiate theses). Shared first authorship is accepted. Please note that the requirement for first authorship only applies to those admitted to doctoral education from 1 March 2024.

Type of papers 

In addition to original papers, published or manuscript, a thesis may also include other scientific papers accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Examples of such publications are case reports, non-systematic review articles, method descriptions and study protocols.

Original papers means results from empirical research studies presented for the first time and structured according to IMRaD (i.e. Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion). Note that systematic review articles that include a meta-analysis or other comprehensive qualitative or quantitative synthesis and where established reporting guidelines have been followed are original work.

Comprehensive summary/"Kappa"

There is some flexibility in the headings, but the following headings in the kappa (comprehensive summary) need to be included if not something else is indicated below:

    • It is strongly recommended that the thesis contains a popular science summary in English
    • It is permitted for anyone who so wishes to additionally write a popular science summary in Swedish or in another optional language. 
  • ABSTRACT (maximal 1000 words)
  • INTRODUCTION (recommended)
  • BACKGROUND (includes a literature review)
    • It is strongly recommended to include ”Ethical considerations
    • e.g. for future research, clinical implications, or health policy
    • The following AI assisted tools…….specify name and version……were used in writing the “kappa”/comprehensive summary of the thesis, for …….. purpose ….. .  Describe also how/in what way AI assisted tools have been used in the writing process. Tools/services used for language support and reference management do not need to be declared and the declaration is not mandatory if AI assisted tools only have been used for these purposes.
    • I take full responsibility for the content of the “kappa”/comprehensive summary of the thesis.

The original papers numbered I, II, III etc. are put in the end after the references. 

To have in mind when composing the kappa

The purpose of the kappa (comprehensive summary of the thesis) can be summarised as following:

  • To demonstrate depth and breadth of knowledge and understanding of the research field, and ability to identify a need for further knowledge in the field
  • To encapsulate the aim of the research project and the hypotheses/points of enquiry that have been addressed
  • To demonstrate familiarity with the methods applied in the research field
  • To demonstrate an ability to place their own research in a wider context of the latest research in the field

The kappa should be weighted towards a reflective discussion and contextualisation of the student’s own research results. 

The text of the kappa must be the student’s own original work without the extensive reproduction of extracts from the constituent papers. Failing to acknowledge sources when quoting from the work of others constitutes plagiarism. 

AI tools should be handled responsibly when writing the kappa and the doctoral student needs to declare in the kappa which generative AI tool(s)/service(s) have been used, and for what purpose(s) and how they have been used. The use of generative AI in the writing of the kappa may be discussed at the thesis defence/licentiate seminar.

Composing the kappa contributes to achieving the intended learning outcomes (ILOs) for doctoral education set out by the Higher Education Ordinance and is a possibility for the doctoral student to show that the objectives for degree have been achieved (see also below).

The kappa is a public document and is published digitally. It may be used to present preliminary (unpublished) results, but its public nature should be borne in mind if, for example, the research group is considering patenting any aspect of their work. Including preliminary results in the kappa might also cause difficulties for the group should they wish to have their results published in certain journals at a later date.

Support for writing the thesis

Additional support to write a good thesis/kappa:

  1. The document Support for writing the thesis 
  2. Workshops and seminars organised by KI University Library (KIB). Keep your eyes open for additional educational opportunities regarding writing of the kappa, for example organised by your department or a doctoral programme. 
  3. The webpage Using generative AI when writing the comprehensive summary for your doctoral thesis
  4. Text matching system iThenticate

Intended learning outcomes and the kappa

The kappa (comprehensive summary of the thesis) is part of the examination and is included in the assessment of whether the ILOs set out by the Higher Education Ordinance for doctoral education have been achieved.

The doctoral student can show achievement of the ILOs for doctoral degree according to the Higher Education Ordinance (and in a corresponding way for ILOs for Licentiate degree) in the different sections of the kappa indicated below each ILO:

ILOs for the Degree of Doctor, sections of the kappa

A1. demonstrate broad knowledge and systematic understanding of his/her research field as well as deep and current specialist knowledge in a particular aspect of this field; and

Sections of the kappa

  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions

A2. demonstrate familiarity with scientific methodology in general and with the methods of his/her specific field of research in particular.

Sections of the kappa

  • Materials and methods
  • Discussion
  • "Points of perspective", e.g. regarding future research with revised or new methodology

B1. demonstrate a capacity for scientific analysis and synthesis and the independent critical review and assessment of new and complex phenomena, issues and situations;

Sections of the kappa

  • Literature review
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions

B2. demonstrate an ability to identify and formulate research questions critically, independently, creatively and with scientific rigour, and to plan and conduct research and other advanced tasks using appropriate methods and within given time frames as well as to review and evaluate such work;

Sections of the kappa

  • Literature review
  • Research aims
  • Material and methods

B3. demonstrate through the writing of a thesis the ability to make a significant contribution to the development of knowledge through his/her own research;

Sections of the kappa

  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions

B4. demonstrate an ability to present and discuss research and research results, orally and in writing and with authority, both in national and international contexts and in dialogue with the scientific community and society in general;

Sections of the kappa

  • The kappa in its enterity (the scientific community)
  • Popular science summary of the thesis (society in general)
  • Declaration of the use of generative AI tools/AI-assisted technologies

B5. demonstrate an ability to identify the need for further knowledge; and

Sections of the kappa

  • Discussion (both regarding methods and results)
  • "Points of perspective", e.g. regarding future research and implementation of research results

B6. demonstrate an ability to contribute to the development of society and to support the learning of others in research, education and other advanced professional contexts.

Sections of the kappa

  • Popular science summary of the thesis
  • ”Points of perspective” e.g. by describing (future) implications


C1. demonstrate intellectual independence and scientific integrity as well as an ability to make ethical judgements in research; and

Sections of the kappa

  • By having composed the kappa independently with minimal text overlap with the papers you are a co-author for and no plagiarism
  • By solely responsible use of generative AI in writing and having described this in the Declaration for the use of AI tools/AI assisted-technologies
  • Ethical reflections

C2. demonstrate deeper insight into the possibilities and limitations of science, its role in society and the responsibility of the individual in its application.

Sections of the kappa

  • Popular science summary of the thesis
  • Discussion
  • “Points of perspective” e.g. by reflecting on the researchers’ responsibility to draw the right conclusions based on existing scientific evidence, on future interventions and their possible risks