Science - February 10, 2017

Thesis summary in own language

Roelof Kleis

PhD candidates are once more allowed to write the summary of their thesis in multiple languages. This rolls back the decision that only English was allowed.

Illustration: the start of the summary of the thesis by Thai PhD candidate Kanokwan Saswattecha

English is the main scientific language. PhD theses are therefore written in English. The summary is automatically written in English as well. Until a year ago, an accompanying summary in Dutch was mandatory. An additional summary in the PhD candidate’s own language was also a possibility, albeit only after receiving permission from the Doctorate Board.

The mandatory Dutch summary was scratched a year ago. The reasoning behind this decision was that non-Dutch speaking PhD candidates would not be able to read a part of their own PhD thesis. The same applies to the members of the Doctorate Board: if they do not speak Dutch, they are not able to read nor assess part of the PhD thesis. After just over a year, the measure has been rolled back in the new Doctoral Degree Regulations.

We are willing to take the small risk that it might occasionally go wrong
Richard Visser, Dean of Research

‘After very long consideration’, says Dean of Research Richard Visser. ‘And after insistence on the part of the PhD candidates, who would also like a summary in their own language. That enables parents and family to at least read what the thesis is about.’ The argument about illegibility is subordinate to that. Visser: ‘In 99 percent of the cases, the summary in one’s own language will correspond to the English one. We are willing to take the small risk that it might occasionally go wrong.’

In the new regulations, permission for a summary in a different language is not required from the Doctorate Board. The summary must be at least in English, with one or two additional languages being allowed. The opportunity has been fully seized since the beginning of the year. Take Thai PhD candidate Kanokwan Saswattecha, for example; she will defend her thesis on palm oil production next Friday, to which she has added a Thai summary (see picture above).