I am (as for now) a PhD student at KTH. A Licentiate degree, in Sweden and Finland, is a middle-way (optional) step for doctoral studies. This page reports some personal views, and tips, about the journey towards this degree at the KTH EECS school, without any claim of completeness or correctness or “to give a lesson”.

After all, I did it only one time… This is a kind of “diary” on the steps, hoping that someone could find them useful.

The official guidelines are available in KTH website, and I’m sure they provide many more details about the process.

Getting your thesis ready

Ok, you arrive at that moment in which you have to “write”.

My suggestion is to start simple, and build-up over multiple passes. Don’t try to write the entire thesis straight from scratch, and don’t try to write it expecting it already “in the final form”. Rather, start with titles, sections, and notes on what you want to add to each of them. Would you have figures, prepare some sketches (I like to draw them on my drawing tablet), and fill them in. Do you have preliminary plots? Add them as mere screenshots, it would help to build the “here is what I want to have”, and it will help to structure the final document better.

LaTeX, Overleaf, and git

Whether you are preparing a “compilation” thesis, or a “monograph”, it’s strongly suggested (read: do that!) to write it using LaTeX.

git integration

Overleaf premium (as we have at KTH) allows you to directly sync with git. This means you can git pull from a Overleaf URL, and git push your changes.

Unfortunately, you don’t have a direct correspondence between Overleaf labels or “history snapshots” and commits, but rather a commit is generated every time you pull. But better than nothing.

Get in the habit to periodically sync with your local computer (e.g. eveyday), it is also fun (or insightful) later to see the statistics on when and how much you have written everyday.

You can even automate this with a cronjob, or with some automatic tools (shameless plug). I use the latter as an automatic way to backup my documents, between Overleaf and GitHub. It is not the perfect workflows, but it is better than nothing.

And it’s better than the manual built-in GitHub synchronization of Overleaf.

Maybe you would never compile locally, but it is good to have a almost compilable version of your document somewhere else than Overleaf, in my decentralized-oriented opinion.

More tips on your thesis LaTex document

There are many little tips sparse around the web. Some random ones are collected here.


There is no official template at KTH. Formally, enforcing a template would require changing some rules - for what we have understood as PhD representatives. You can start from the regular template provided for undergraduate thesis (unofficially on Overleaf), or directly from some book classes.

There is also an unofficial third-cycle-oriented template. Other (or the same?) templates on the internal GitHub: alba/kththesis and giampi/kththesis. Ask your peers what they used, and take good inspiration (don’t blindly copy-paste!).

Some people (uhm… me) used a forked version of the above, prepared by Prof. Em. Maguire. I am not sure if I am allowed to redistribute it, and apparently is not published anywhere. Get in touch in case (if you are reading this, likely you know how to contact me…).

Regularly save the files!

In general, you would have a final document, in G5 format, with black links (otherwise you’ll pay more!). This is what you will later send to the print service, and before that to the other parties involved in the process. Tip: when you compile a file, save it as PDF (don’t assume “I can download it tomorrow”) with a date in your local machine. This would allow to version the files “the old way”. It won’t hurt to sometimes download the document sources as .zip. Better safe than sorry!

The bureaucratic process

So you are stressed, working extra hours, and lost in a complex process, in which everyone experience is “I did it one time and I don’t remember”. Don’t hesitate to ask your peers that have done this for “their documents”, they may help a lot!

Ideally, you should be reading this early in your journey, to understand the hard time limits.

Step 1: get familiar with the process

Current guidelines for a licentiate seminar are here.

Print them, and start to count backward the dates from when you intend to defend. Also, prepare a folder (your choice if you want to keep it local or sync with some cloud service, like KTH OneDrive) and start saving all documents related to this process in it.

You’ll most of them in the guidelines page, and they probably have a cryptic 4-letters name. My suggestion is to visit all the links sequentially and save them with a progressive number in front (e.g. 01-FO-FOGR.pdf). For most of them you will have to fill the document, forward to someone, getting a signature, then send it to another party, getting another signature and so on.

My way of doing this is to add another level of redirection in the file name prefixes. For instance:

  • 01-FO-FOGR.pdf is the template downloaded from the page above
  • 01-01-FO-FOGR.pdf is the document filled by you
  • 01-02-FO-FOGR.pdf is signed by your supervisor
  • 01-03-FO-FOGR.pdf is signed by the Director of Studies (FA).

Others like to add as suffix their initials when editing/signing the document. Find your preferred schema. But please, don’t call them “FO-FOGR-Copy 1.pdf”, “FO-FOGR-signed.pdf”, “FO-FOGR-ok.pdf”.

When you have nothing to do, start to fill all documents with obvious information (e.g. your details).

My advice is to start with the process before the thesis is ready, so that you as soon as the draft is “readable” you send it immediately, without waiting for other approvals by the doctoral school office.

Step 2: find an advance reviewer, an opponent, and an examiner

Your supervisor should help with this process, and you can ask help to other people in the area for “someone that they trust”. It’s usually your supervisor that “ask” people.

The role of the advance reviewer is to not embarrass too much the Institution at the defense. The advance reviewer must be a docent, or “equivalent”. You can start this head-hunting well in advance, and as soon as you find someone that agrees on being your advance reviewer, ask permission to Doctoral School. You don’t need any more information beside a tentative title and a preliminary date , which shouldn’t be binding.

Find an examiner. Typically is someone familiar with the subject that is at least Associate Professor. It could be from your division.

Then the tricky part, find an opponent. This should have a PhD and be scientifically competent. Guidelines state docent, but realistically any senior researcher should be fine. Make sure that someone mention that there will be a small honorarium, and if correctly done is usually tax-free (there is a specific document to submit to Skatteverket, HR or Economy should know better). Ask the opponent a curriculum early, this would requested by the doctoral school later and having it can save a day in the process.

There is apparently no hard limit against sending an early draft to your opponent and your advance reviewer early in the process, although you should be sure they would fullfill all requirements.

Once you get the ok for the advance reviewer, you should send a draft, and the form to fill and sign. It’s good to have any grammar check and a first proof-reading pass already done by now, avoiding to waste your reviewer time in typing “you should have a space after a comma!”.

Pick a advance reviewer that can give you the result on time. Especially if you are tight with times. Say upfront if you have unfinished sections, and make sure to agree on a strategy. For instance, you may agree that you deliver the draft in 3 stages, and polish it along the way. Maybe not the most professional way, but it could save some time!

Step 3: getting the ok from the advance reviewer

Great. You have done it! Not quite yet, but the first “green light” is done.

Follow the guidelines and submit what needs to be submitted. While you are waiting for the reviewer, you should focus on fixing any typographic issues, proof reading, moving figures around, and fix citations. This would speed up the following phases.

Now that you get the ok, you need to pick a day. Prepare a form/doodle/strawpoll/pigeon to pick a day where all the parties involved can be present. Send it out early after the ok, perhaps already filled for those that don’t need to be “appointed” further (so, everyone apart from the opponent).

Visit the local service center, and ask for room availability for 1 or 2 weeks around your desired date, typically 6-7 weeks from the day your are doing this. In Kista, we usually use Sal C, but other rooms can be suitable as well.

At this time, start to fill out also the “distribution list”. These should be other departments in related fields, typically in Sweden.

Tip: if you are a Windows user prepare the addresses in an Excel spreadsheet, and use Word’s “Mail Merge” to print the envelopes. If you are a Linux user, LibreOffice should have a similar features, but this one of those times when “an unactivated Windows VM” is useful.

The printers we have in the office can print on KTH’s envelopes when inserted in the “bypass tray” on the right of the machines. Don’t tell IT that you are doing it, they may not be too happy if your envelope get stuck in the machine (I’d immagine).

Step 4: proof printing

When the advance reviewer is fine, and you fixed any further errors or comments, send the thesis for proof printing. This would take 1 day, and it can be started even without the ISBN and TRITA numbers. The latter will can be requested after you fix the date. Just fill the request form with some dummy numbers and make it clear to the printing company.

Send your first print already with “all black links”: every color page will be more expensive (9x!). You can tell that you want only your figure pages colored, that can be easily found in the preface of the thesis.

Most likely you’ll have to fix figure colors, and for this you would need a second print.

Step 5: date fixed

Yep. Pressure start to raise.

Be sure that you are here not later than 5 weeks to the defence date. The steps before this may happen quicker, but everything from here is quite harder to speed-up!

Visit service center, and book the room. Better if there isn’t a 90 students bachelor course the hour before! Defense must happen in regular business hours. Book for at least 3 hours, just to be safe.

Send the application form for the seminar, together with all other attachments. You can already add the “opponent’s curriculum”, would save an email round-trip.

Ask for TRITA and ISBN numbers.

Step 6: getting the ok from the doctoral school

Second green light!

Hopefully by know you have the thesis already printed a couple of times, and you are happy with it. Just fix numbers, title and the other info in the form, if changed. Bring it to the printing company (physically or by post), and approve it for printing. This will take 5 days, so take it into account. Ideally you should be reading this at least 4 weeks before your defense.

Letting environmental concerns in the corner, you should print the thesis in “enough” copies. 30 is the suggested number:

  • 7 copies will be kept by the printing company (apparently). Or maybe is just to inflate the price?
  • 2 are to sent to the doctoral education support
  • 1 to the Library
  • 1 to the opponent
  • at least 7 for the “external distribution list”
  • 2 for your supervisors (1 each)
  • it’s probably good to give 1 to everyone that helped significantly in your journey

Step 7: mechanics

Your supervisor is likely to be your “master of ceremonies” or formally “seminar chair”. This means that it would introduce you, maintain the order, and prevent fights between people.

All seminars, at time of writing, should be hybrid. So make sure the chair would create a webinar (or a Zoom link in general). Perhaps IT-support will help to create that, and would provide a Webinar license about one week before the defense.

Service center would start to arrange for celebrations (typically in faculty lounge for Kista) and for all other logistic problems. Get familiar with the room and the equipment, it would be bad if the day of the defense you would discover that your 90’ looking 4:3 presentation looks tiny on the projectors.

Step 8: posting on DiVA

Follow the guidelines on how to post your thesis. Ideally, you do this while waiting for the final proof printing to happen, or while you wait for the final one. You cannot do this before you know your date and TRITA/ISBN numbers, and it won’t be published before you get all the documents sent in, which must get to the library 3 weeks before the defense!

Follow the guidelines on the library website for the process. You will have to physically send the signed paper and a thesis copy to the library. You can do this with internal post or deliver it personally, if you don’t visit the main campus only once a month.

A librarian would check your submission, and make it available in 1-2 days. When this happen, things are officially public!

You’ll get an automatic email from the system with the DiVA url that get assigned to your publication.

Step 9: getting ready

Unless you want to be the “hipster in town” you’ll prepare a presentation. Keep it short - 15-20 minutes are ok. Aim for the “broad audience”, avoid complicate details and make sure that everyone in the room would grasp what you are saying. In general, use a 16:9 template, and try to use either vector images or high-resolution raster images.

About one week before, it’s a good idea to send a PDF of your slides to the opponent so that her/his presentation won’t repeat too many concepts. The examiner may enjoy to be in CC as well.

Book a 1-hour slot through Service Center to test your presentation and the equipment. The idea is to have everything setup as it would be at the actual discussion. Typically, booking the room at 15:00 or 16:00 would allow you to practice multiple times (if needed), and test all the mechanics (e.g. how would you do when you need to show the remote opponent presentation?, how does the audio-to-zoom work?).

Step 10: the day

Quickly: the chair introduce the mechanics, the opponent introduces your work, you present, and then you have a discussion. It’s a good idea to have a small break between the presentation and the discussion. After the opponent is satisfied (or not) with your questions, the examiner can ask some questions, and also the audience will be given the opportunity to ask something (although usually everyone is too shy :)).

This concludes the first “public” part, and it usually lasts around 2 hours.

The examiner, chair, opponent, and supervisors then move to a separate room, or a different Zoom link, and discuss about the result. It’s important that remote participants know how to sign the certificate digitally, e.g. via Acrobat Reader. This would be later printed and shipped to the Doctoral School (by the Chair - typically).

At this point, everyone is back in the public Webinar, or in the physical room, and the result is announced.

Celebration then follows, typically in the Faculty Lounge (for Kista) or equivalent spaces.

Step 11: certificate

Follow the instructions on KTH website for the certificate, which is requested on Ladok.

Step 12: relax

You are done. Enjoy.