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Thesis advice

Click here for information on what you need to do in the build up to defending your PhD thesis.

Additional info from someone who has been there

General guidelines can be found here: and in the pdf here:

Start the process by writing your introduction minimum 4 - 5 months before the expected defence date.

Who needs to approve what and when

The procedure is explained here

  • First you need to have been admitted to graduate school (Appendix 1). This should have taken place during your first year. If not, run to the graduate school office.
  • You need to appoint your advisor(s): fill in appendix 2 and send it to the graduate school office.
  • Your advisor approves your manuscript by sending you appendix 3 and send a copy to the graduate school office.
  • Your advisor appoints the reading committee. You send them your manuscript (scientific content, i.e., the chapters) and they have 6 weeks to answer yes or no to the question: “ Is this manuscript PhD thesis material ?”. Most of the committee members will give you comments but it is not compulsory to include them (not ideal for published papers but discuss comments on in prep papers with your advisor).
  • Once your manuscript is approved by the committee (in principle you just need a majority of yes), your advisor needs to send you appendix 5 and send a copy to the Dean. The Dean should send you appendix 6 stating that you are allowed to get a defence date (may take some time depending on the Dean's schedule).
  • Fill in appendix 7 and contact the beadle and propose him a date for your defence. Defences are scheduled on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays at 13:45, 15:00, and 16:15. Discuss this with your advisor(s) beforehand, the beadle wants a proposition for a date, he wont tell you all the availabilities.
  • You need the beadle to approve your title pages. This is the page where you write down your thesis title, your defence date and time, place of birth, name of the Dean… and the one page with your reading committee.
  • The scientific director or his delegate (September 2013: Huub/ Xander) needs to approve your non-scientific content: title pages, summaries, curriculum, publications, and acknowledgements, propositions and your cover. Get in touch with them 2-3 weeks in advance, depending on their schedule.
  • In parallel, contact the printer. Give him the date that your thesis have to be delivered to the beadle (3 weeks before the defence) and he will tell you when he needs the final version of the manuscript.
  • Once you have the approval of the Dean for the title pages and from the director for the non-scientific part of the manuscript, your thesis can be duplicated.
  • Once you get the approval of the scientific director for your proposition, your advisor sends them to the Dean who has to approve them. This is a formality since he relies on the scientific director's judgement. After that, you are allowed to duplicate your propositions.
  • 3 weeks before the defence, deliver your thesis to the beadle (10 copies) and distribute additional copies (opposition committee first!).

Creating your document in LaTeX

Template of Steven Rieder's thesis available here, templates from previous grad students will be available here soon. You can either create an A4 layout that will be downsized to 81% for printing on B5 format or design your LaTeX layout to be B5 format. Make sure your number of pages is a multiple of 16 for binding purposes by the printer. Some people put the references at the end of each chapters but others will have them in a separate chapter. Pay attention to citation keys with natbib if going for the second option. The Dutch summary goes after the chapters, then you can add summaries in other languages after. The manuscript ends with the curriculum, your bibliography (peer-reviewed, proceedings and popular articles), and your acknowledgements. It is not customary to acknowledge directly your advisor(s) since he is (they are) “doing his/their job” but some people found indirect ways to do so!


It takes some time to get a good introduction, usually a month including comments and revisions. Get feedback from both your advisor and the scientific director or his delegate since it should be an introduction for general astronomer audience. Tip: use the same structure than for your PhD colloquium, it helps you getting started.


Make them real propositions. It should be possible to defend them with scientific arguments and they should not be obvious. You need to show that you put some thoughts into them. They could be the occasion for a nice break during your defence since it is easy to think about about an argumentation beforehand, so make them a little provocative. You need at least 4 on your thesis, at least 4 on the field of the thesis and a maximum 4 on the topic of your choice.

Designing your cover

You need it to be at least 300 dpi in CMYK colours. Single colour or 2 colours are cheaper than full colour covers. You can use inDesign, Photoshop (30 day trial or windows license available at computer guys), etc… but printer people like to have them in pdf format. The size of the cover depends on the thickness on your booklet, thus on the kind of paper you will print your thesis on. Most printer's website let you know how to calculate this. Don't forget the bleeding necessary for the printer to cut the paper and to design your invitation on the same document.

Printing process

It should take 2 - 2.5 weeks from the moment you send the final version of the manuscript to the day you receive the booklets. They will send you by mail a printed copy of your thesis + the cover to approve. Once you approve/send corrections, they make the final layout and send you the digital proofs for you to approve again. It is advisable to get in touch with the printer 3-4 weeks in advance since they can be really helpful with the cover design, the layout organization for colour printing of specific figures, and the resolution you need for your figures. Most printing companies will send a booklet with a sample of their kind of papers with colour figures on it. Some companies have special discounts for Leiden university. Also if you can get a good price if you place a group order.

Number of thesis to print

It depends on how large your scientific community is and if you have been collaborating with a lot of people during your PhD. 250 is a good average, but 300 is safer.

Printing costs

Companies will send you a quote for free. Price will vary with respect to the kind of paper, the number of colour pages, and the kind of binding. A good average is €2000. You can get back up to €1900.

  • €500 from the library if you give them the access rights, send them a digital version, and 4 copies.
  • €400 from the observatory if you agree to give a copy of your booklet to all the staff + people from your group
  • €500 if you submit to the printer in your 4th year or €250 if you finish in your 5th year from the Science faculty (to be claimed to the Observatory)
  • max of €500 from LKBF to be claimed through the LKBF system. LKBF will reimburse a max of €500 or less if the sum of all the contribution above exceed the actual printing costs. No profits here!

It is not compulsory but it is advised. Check the 3 possibilities to obtain one in the leidenuniv PhD webpage.

Choice of printers

The most used are ipskamp and gildeprint. Check prices and delivery times.

Sending your booklets

  • 3 weeks before the defence you need to deliver 10 copies to the Beadle.
  • Copies should be made available to your opposition committee.
  • If you are getting money from the library, you need to deliver 4 copies to them (Witte Singel 27)
  • 3 copies should be delivered to the graduate school office. (Gorlaeus, 2nd floor in September 2013)
  • 2 copies for the Kaiser lounge and the Oort room
  • 20 copies to Dutch institutes and professors (list available at the secretariat)
  • Copies for the observatory people
  • Copies to your advisor for future students (15-20 should be enough)
  • Copies to leaders of your field. Your thesis booklet can serve as a nice business card.

For the thesis copies you have to send by mail, ask the secretaries for envelope boxes, Sterrewacht logo stickers and bar codes. You can also provide the secretaries with the delivery addresses in a text file and they will print them on stickers for you.

Digital copies
  • Copies to the library if you want the library financial contribution back
  • Copies to the Sterrewacht (September 2013: Erik Deul) if you want to have the strw financial contribution back
sterrewacht/phd_thesis.txt · Last modified: 2014/12/01 09:55 by carton