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Best Doctoral Dissertation

The Börje Langefors Award (‘Börje Langeforspriset’ in Swedish) is an academic prize awarded each year by the Swedish Information Systems Academy (Svenska informationssystemakademin or SISA) for the best doctoral dissertation in Sweden in the subject areas - informatics, information systems, data and information science or equivalent. The prize aims to reward and encourage development of high standard research in Sweden, and to demonstrate exemplary research in informatics.

Origin[edit]

The award has been named after Professor Börje Langefors (1915–2009), one of those who made systems development a science. professor Börje was a Swedish engineer and computer scientist, and emeritus professor of business information systems at the Department of Computer and Systems Science, Stockholm University and Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm. Börje Langefors was a pioneer of IT and one of the initiators of "informatics" as an academic area of study. He was the first IT professor in Sweden and one of the first in the world. Börje contributed strongly to put Sweden on the international IT map and brought into a focus in particular to the user's role in data processing. Börje Langefors brought more than 20 graduate students to degree most of which today are professors who in turn have brought their students to graduates.

Award criteria[edit]

The following quality criteria are applied for the evaluation of individual doctoral thesis:

  • Relevance: Articulate, well-defined and well-motivated research question(s)
  • Articulate and well-reflected research design
  • Comprehensiveness: Chosen and used well described theory base
  • Well described empirical base
  • Validity of knowledge (empirically and theoretically well-grounded)
  • Contribution validity and durability (abstraction) to further research
  • Innovative value in knowledge contributions
  • Independence (of author's own contribution)
  • Communicability: Clarity, transparency and conceptual clarity
  • Internal coherence: holistic and coherent argument
  • Subject (IS field) congruency
  • Ability to serve as a "Role model"
  • International exposure /review

Prize committee[edit]

Every year in spring (usually in May), a prize committee assesses the theses submitted by the universities/institutions in Sweden and nominates the best dissertation, which is finally announced in connection with SISA's annual conference. Information about this conference can be found here. The members of Committee for Börje Langefors Award in 2016 are:

Börje Langefors Awards during the period 2011-2015 was sponsored by Nethouse and Sitevision

The recipients[edit]

2015[edit]

First prize

Johan Sandberg, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Umeå University awarded the first best for his doctoral dissertation entitled "Digital Capability: Investigating Coevolution of IT and Business Strategies"

2014[edit]

First prize

Mathias Hatakka, Senior Lecturer at the Örebro University awarded the first best for his doctoral dissertation entitled "The capability approach in ict4d research".

2013[edit]

First prize

Anders Olof Larsson at the Department of Informatics and Media of Uppsala University for his thesis "Doing Things in Relation to Machines – Studies on Online Interactivity". The motivation for the award as described by the SISA Börje Langefors Prize Committee : "The thesis is based on a socially relevant contemporary topic, well-designed and well-defined subject area with contrasting perspectives based on exceptional and interesting empirical material. The thesis is easy to read and well structured with well linked articles. It has a very good international exposure". Thesis download link is here.

2012[edit]

First best

Henrik Wimelius, Assistant professor at the Umeå University awarded the first best for his doctoral dissertation entitled “Duplicate Systems: Investigating Unintended Consequences of Information Technology in Organizations”. The motivation for selected him as the first is, as stated by SISA is “Henrik Wimelius dissertation is well written and clearly positioned against existing literature. The question that is addressed both theoretically and practically interesting. Methodologically the research is based on a rigorous process, presented in a reflexive manner. Furthermore, logic and structure of the thesis is well thought. The existence of parallel, competing IT systems in organizations and activities tend to help Henrik with valuable insights and lessons learned. His thesis is an excellent knowledge base which can advantageously be further exploited.” Thesis download link is here.

Second best

M. Sirajul Islam, Assistant Professor at the School of Business (Informatics) of Örebro University received the second best award for his dissertation – “Creating Opportunity by Connecting the Unconnected: Deploying Mobile Phone based Agriculture Market Information Service for Farmers in Bangladesh” . The motivation for the award conferred to Sirajul as stated: “Sirajul Islam‘s dissertation reports a design-oriented action research project that sought to create sustainable societal effects by facilitating mobile technology adoption. One interesting aspect of this change effort is that it nicely illustrates how informatics research can help underprivileged groups to strengthen their positions through innovative IT use. The research project was executed through a well-designed process that is presented in a comprehensive yet detailed way. In particular, it reveals how and why certain practical and theoretical issues were tackled to push the project forward. Constituting the core of the thesis, the set of articles suggests that the result produced were not only locally relevant but also globally impactful.” Thesis download link is here. A brief interview with Sirajul about this Award is available here (in Swedish).

2011[edit]

First prize

Annika Andersson at the Informatics department of Örebro University for her thesis " Learning to learn in e-Learning: constructive practices for development ". The motivation for the award as described by the SISA Börje Langefors Prize Committee : "Annika Andersson is awarded the prize for best dissertation for the following reasons: socially relevant subject matter, well formulated and relevant theoretical basis, proper research design with appropriate method triangulation and sequencing of sub-studies, comprehensive and interesting empirical work, good incremental cumulative knowledge, clear and well-structured presentation, good design of compilation thesis with a well-developed cover paper, a good international exposure.". Thesis download link is here.

Runner-up

Jonas Sjöström, Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the Department of Informatics and Media, Uppsala University stood runner-up for the Börje Langefors Award for best Information Systems (IS) thesis in Sweden 2009-2010. The title of his thesis is Designing Information Systems - A Pragmatic Account. The motivation was : “ Topical subject, well grounded in an interesting and well-reflected theoretical perspective that integrate essential national and international theory within as well as outside of the IS discipline, important contributions to the theorization of the IT artifact, solid knowledge contributions as a foundation for future research, and a good international exposure.” Thesis download link is here.

Many PhD students are now in the final throes of writing their thesis. Turning years of research into a single, coherent piece of work can be tough, so we asked for tips from supervisors and recent PhD graduates. We were inundated with tweets and emails and @AcademiaObscura helpfully created a Storify of the tweets. Below is a selection of the best tips.

1) Make sure you meet the PhD requirements for your institution
“PhD students and their supervisors often presume things without checking. One supervisor told his student that a PhD was about 300 pages long so he wrote 300 pages. Unfortunately the supervisor had meant double-spaced, and the student had written single-spaced. Getting rid of 40,000 extra words with two weeks to go is not recommended.” (Hannah Farrimond, lecturer in medical sociology, Exeter University)

2) Keep perspective
“Everyone wants their thesis to be amazing, their magnum opus. But your most important work will come later. Think of your PhD as an apprenticeship. Your peers are unlikely to read your thesis and judge you on it. They are more likely to read any papers (articles, chapters, books) that result from it.” (Dean D’Souza, PhD in cognitive neuroscience, Birkbeck, University of London)

3) Write the introduction last
“Writing the introduction and conclusion together will help to tie up the thesis together, so save it for the end.” (Ashish Jaiswal, PhD in business education, University of Oxford)

4) Use apps
“Trello is a project management tool (available as a smartphone app) which allows you to create ‘boards’ on which to pin all of your outstanding tasks, deadlines, and ideas. It allows you to make checklists too so you know that all of your important stuff is listed and to-hand, meaning you can focus on one thing at a time. It’s satisfying to move notes into the ‘done’ column too.” (Lucy Irving, PhD in psychology, Middlesex University)

5) Address the unanswered questions
“There will always be unanswered questions – don’t try to ignore or, even worse, obfuscate them. On the contrary, actively draw attention to them; identify them in your conclusion as areas for further investigation. Your PhD viva will go badly if you’ve attempted to disregard or evade the unresolved issues that your thesis has inevitably opened up.” (Michael Perfect, PhD in English literature, University of Cambridge)

6) Buy your own laser printer
“A basic monochrome laser printer that can print duplex (two-sided) can be bought online for less than £100, with off-brand replacement toners available for about £30 a pop. Repeatedly reprinting and editing draft thesis chapters has two very helpful functions. Firstly, it takes your work off the screen and onto paper, which is usually easier to proof. Secondly, it gives you a legitimate excuse to get away from your desk.” (James Brown, PhD in architectural education, Queen’s University Belfast)

7) Checking is important
“On days when your brain is too tired to write, check quotations, bibliography etc so you’re still making progress.” (Julia Wright, professor of English at Dalhousie University, Canada)

8) Get feedback on the whole thesis
“We often get feedback on individual chapters but plan to get feedback from your supervisor on the PhD as a whole to make sure it all hangs together nicely.” (Mel Rohse, PhD in peace studies, University of Bradford)

9) Make sure you know when it will end
“Sometimes supervisors use optimistic words such as ‘You are nearly there!’ Ask them to be specific. Are you three months away, or do you have six months’ worth of work? Or is it just a month’s load?” (Rifat Mahbub, PhD in women’s studies, University of York)

10) Prepare for the viva
“Don’t just focus on the thesis – the viva is very important too and examiners’ opinions can change following a successful viva. Remember that you are the expert in your specific field, not the examiners, and ask your supervisor to arrange a mock viva if practically possible.” (Christine Jones, head of school of Welsh and bilingual studies, University of Wales Trinity St David)

11) Develop your own style
“Take into account everything your supervisor has said, attend to their suggestions about revisions to your work but also be true to your own style of writing. What I found constructive was paying attention to the work of novelists I enjoy reading. It may seem that their style has nothing to do with your own field of research, but this does not matter. You can still absorb something of how they write and what makes it effective, compelling and believable.” (Sarah Skyrme, PhD in sociology, Newcastle University)

12) Remember that more is not always better
“A PhD thesis is not a race to the highest page count; don’t waste time padding.” (Francis Woodhouse, PhD in mathematical biology, University of Cambridge)

13) Get a buddy
“Find a colleague, your partner, a friend who is willing to support you. Share with them your milestones and goals, and agree to be accountable to them. This doesn’t mean they get to hassle or nag you, it just means someone else knows what you’re up to, and can help to check if your planning is realistic and achievable.” (Cassandra Steer, PhD in criminology, University of Amsterdam)

14) Don’t pursue perfectionism
“Remember that a PhD doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. Nothing more self-crippling than perfectionism.” (Nathan Waddell, lecturer in modernist literature, Nottingham University)

15) Look after yourself
“Go outside. Work outside if you can. Fresh air, trees and sunshine do wonders for what’s left of your sanity.” (Helen Coverdale, PhD in law, LSE)

• Do you have any tips to add? Share your advice in the comments below.

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