Mendive. Revista de Educación, october-december 2020; 18(4):940-953

Translated from the original in Spanish

The thesis workshop in the doctoral training process


El taller de tesis en el proceso de formación doctoral


O workshop de tese no processo de formação de doutoramento


Maricela María González Pérez, Tomás Castillo Estrella

Universidad de Pinar del Río "Hermanos saiz Montes de Oca". Cuba. ORCID:, Correo electrónico:,


Received: August 31st, 2020
Approved: November 12th, 2020



In the process of doctoral training, the formation of research skills is essential; one of the ways in which doctoral committees can influence this is through thesis workshops, hence the objective of this article is to propose actions to improve the performance of these in terms of their training function. To fulfill this objective, from the theoretical point of view, the historical-logical and systemic method, as well as the technique of documentary analysis were used, while from the empirical point of view, the measurement method and the techniques of documentary analysis, survey and interview were used. The main results are, from the theory point of view, the skills to be trained, as well as the characteristics of the thesis workshops, and from the practice point of view, the difficulties of the workshops at the University of Pinar del Río, among which are the insufficient visibility of the publications of the doctoral students, the little use of info-technological tools, the diversity of methodologies to develop the workshops in the different programs, the insufficient discussion and argumentation on the part of the doctoral students, among others, so it is concluded with a proposal to normalize the realization of the thesis workshops in the university in order to increase their quality and impact.

Key words: thesis workshops; doctoral training.


En el proceso de formación doctoral, la formación de habilidades investigativas es esencial; una de las vías que pueden emplear los comités de doctorado para incidir en ello son los talleres de tesis, de aquí que el objetivo del presente artículo sea proponer acciones para perfeccionar la realización de los mismos en lo que a su función formativa se refiere. Para cumplir con dicho objetivo se emplearon, desde el punto de vista teórico, el método histórico-lógico y el sistémico y la técnica de análisis documental, mientras que desde el punto de vista empírico se empleó el método de medición y las técnicas de análisis documental, encuesta y entrevista. Como resultados principales desde la teoría fueron, las habilidades a formar, así como las características de los talleres de tesis y desde la práctica, las dificultades de los talleres en la Universidad de Pinar del Río, entre las que se encuentran: la insuficiente visibilidad de las publicaciones de los doctorandos, el poco uso de herramientas infotecnológicas, la diversidad de metodologías para desarrollar los talleres en los diferentes programas, la insuficiente discusión y argumentación por parte de los doctorandos, entre otras, por lo que se concluye con una propuesta para normalizar la realización de los talleres de tesis en la universidad de manera que se eleve la calidad e impacto de los mismos.

Palabras clave: talleres de tesis; formación doctoral.


No processo de formação para doutoramento, a formação de competências de investigação é essencial; uma das formas em que os comités de doutoramento podem influenciar, isto é, através dos workshops de tese, daí que o objetivo deste artigo seja propor ações para melhorar o desempenho destas em termos da sua função de formação. A fim de cumprir este objetivo, foram utilizados, de um ponto de vista teórico. O método histórico-lógico e o método sistémico e a técnica de análise documental foram utilizados, enquanto do ponto de vista empírico, o método de medição e as técnicas de análise documental, inquérito e entrevista foram utilizados. Os principais resultados são, a partir da teoria, as competências a formar, bem como as características dos workshops de tese e da prática, as dificuldades dos workshops da Universidade de Pinar del Río, entre as quais se destacam a insuficiente visibilidade das publicações dos doutorandos, a pouca utilização de ferramentas informáticas, a diversidade de metodologias para desenvolver os workshops nos diferentes programas, a insuficiente discussão e argumentação por parte dos doutorandos, entre outros, pelo que se conclui com uma proposta de normalização da realização dos workshops de tese na universidade a fim de aumentar a sua qualidade e impacto.

Palavras-chave: workshops de tese; formação de doutoramento.



Since the incorporation of research into the university by the Humbolt brothers in Germany in the 19th century, doctoral training has been one of the main tasks in this process, both for oneself and for society. Throughout these years, the ways of doing research and teaching have changed and with it the ways in which PhDs are formed, hence the union between these processes, far from weakening, has been strengthened.

The strengthening of the preparation of PhDs in Cuba is an urgent need that demands changes and transformations that take into account the national and international experiences. In the institutional order, the Decree Law 372/2019 recovers the national experiences and updates the regulations according to the best international practices, decentralizing to the authorized institutions a group of activities that give them a greater autonomy for the decision making, at the same time that they acquire a greater responsibility in the processes of admission, formation and exit of doctorate students.

According to Saborido 2018:

     The key aspect in this analysis is the structuring of doctoral programs, conceived in deep integration to research. This implies solid research groups working on relevant R+D+i projects, according to national or territorial priorities, with bold strategies in the lines of research and with the capacity to attract and train young integral talents willing to accept the arduous challenge of becoming PhDs (p.8).

In order to reach a consensus on the changes reflected in the new regulations, there was a long process of analysis, discussion and decision making at the national level among the CNGC (In Spanish), the permanent courts and the authorized institutions, which, although it was difficult due to the introduction of new ways to manage the programs, has changes that are mainly oriented to the management of doctoral training.

As a result of this process, other changes must take place, some ones in the order of administration of the programs at the level of authorized institutions and doctoral programs, but the most important ones must take place in the mentality of the faculty of PhDs who intervene in the formation process that takes place within each program, in order to change the methods and forms used mainly in their content.

The MES (Ministry of Higher Education) and the country need an increase in the number of PhDs to be trained so that they can be incorporated with all the skills trained into the development of the universities and the country. Increasing the number of PhDs involves, among other things, increasing the academic efficiency of the doctoral training process and reducing the number of extensions. In both cases, the quality of the training process developed by the program is essential.

In the analysis of doctoral training, the emphasis has historically been placed on the exit indicator, but the changes that are to be achieved require that the entry and process indicators be worked on with the same exigency and depth, methodologically in the procedures and good practices that can guarantee the quality of the same to ensure the exits as planned.

In the current context, the accelerated training of PhDs is developed by working increasingly with younger professionals, with limited professional experience and scarce development of research skills, which is a major challenge for each program, which should enable them to achieve the knowledge and scientific results that lead them to the successful development and defense of the doctoral thesis adjusted to the time periods recognized in the legislation.

According to Alvarez and Difabio 2018, pedagogy at this level must overcome the mistaken assumption that candidates are "already and always" autonomous academics at the beginning of their application (Johnson, Lee & Green, 2000); they are again students who must incorporate the knowledge, skills, and intellectual habits of a specific field of study, in a process that will allow them to investigate a relevant topic from a high level of professional competence.

Increasing the number of trained doctoral students means increasing the number of tutors in a context where, according to the data of the MES, although more than half of the PhDs form PhDs, the necessary indicators are not reached.

Scientific leaders are essential and more and better incentives should be given to PhDs who know, can and want to train others. It is appropriate to work, in general, on the basis of a research-formative pyramid, with scientific leaders at the top as heads of large projects, as supervisors, followed by other experienced PhDs as tutors of doctoral students in training within a project research area, up to a base of undergraduate students in training within the research project.

In this context, the systematic work of the program's doctoral staff, under the leadership of its doctoral committee, is essential to achieve the development and/or formation of the skills that doctoral students must demonstrate in the final exercise of defending their thesis results.

One of the ways in which the doctoral program can work on these skills is through the so-called thesis workshops. These are the intermediary step between the development of each of the research tasks that should lead to the results that will be presented in the form of scientific articles, presentations for events and finally the thesis and its oral communication, whose characteristics are very particular and typical of this type of event.

According to Alvarez and Difabio 2018, feedback (which should be given in the framework of thesis workshops) is especially important for the learning experiences of PhD students, since the comments of the supervisors (or reviewers) are usually the main form of instruction. On the other hand, feedback can enhance learning as long as it integrates an appreciation of the student's work and an explanation of the criteria used for this weighting, as well as student action based on what they have learned.

The observation of the development of thesis workshops, pre-defenses and thesis defenses in all the doctoral programs of the university has allowed the identification of failures in the formative function of the thesis workshops manifested in the performance of the doctoral programs.

Hence, the objective of this article is to propose actions to improve the performance of thesis workshops in terms of their formative function.



The results that are exposed were supported in the use of a group of methods of investigation of the theoretical and empirical levels, all from a Marxist-Leninist approach, taking as a main method the dialectic-materialist one. Among the methods on the theoretical level are systematization and modeling, and among the methods on the empirical level were applied documentary analysis, observation, the interview, the survey, and the procedure of methodological triangulation.

From a population of 127 doctoral students at the moment of the investigation, we worked with a sample of 53 doctoral students belonging to the five doctoral programs approved in the University of Pinar del Rio, formed in the last four years, from 2016 to 2019, at a rate of 25 in the program of Education Sciences; 12 in the program of Economic Sciences; nine in the program of Forest Sciences; five in the program of Agricultural Sciences and two in the program of Geology, following as selection criteria the year of formation and the objective to be evaluated in the workshop.

The performance of the doctoral students selected in the sample was observed in 53 thesis workshops: nine corresponded to initial thesis workshops, where the objective was centered in the quality of the theoretical-methodological design; 11 to thesis workshops dedicated to the presentation and debate of the state of the art; 10 to thesis workshops where the results of the diagnosis of the initial state of the object of investigation were presented; 13 to thesis workshops where the solutions to the scientific problem were presented and 10 to workshops declared from passing to pre-defense with complete theses.

In addition, 47 tutors of the 53 previously selected doctoral students were interviewed, and 32 PhDs who served as coordinators of the 53 thesis workshops conducted and 91 PhDs who were members of the workshops as part of the faculty of the programs were surveyed.

As a result of the application of the research methods, a group of theoretical and practical conclusions were reached that allowed their partial socialization within the programs, the integrated results of which are shown below.



The bibliography consulted for the theoretical diagnosis agrees on the importance of developing research skills, in line with the times, during the process of training doctoral students.

In the Decree Law 372/2019 about the National System of Scientific Degrees of Cuba, it is stated that

Article 5.1. The scientific degree of Doctor in certain area of knowledge is granted to university graduates who contribute significantly to the development of knowledge in their research topic and fully satisfy the requirements and corresponding evaluations of their doctorate programs.

Article 5.2. The training process culminates with the defense before the designated tribunal of an original thesis that demonstrates a degree of scientific maturity, the ability to face and solve complex problems independently, and a profound theoretical and practical mastery of the area of knowledge of the program studied, through the presentation of the result achieved, based on the novel solution of a theoretical or practical scientific problem.

However, sometimes it happens that at the moment of pre-defending or defending their results as doctorate students, publishing in highly recognized magazines or preparing works for events or for opting for awards, difficulties arise due to insufficiencies, sometimes already insurmountable, in the design and execution of the research tasks, in the writing of the documents, in the argumentation and demonstration of the results, among others, which is why we agree with Saborido (2018) about the need of a good research training in doctorate programs to avoid this happening.

The scientific training of doctoral students is currently more important than ever, due to the changes that have been experienced in recent decades in the ways of doing research and producing knowledge. According to Cruz (2014):

   ...the production of knowledge is undergoing a radical transformation that changes the `old' way of doing research, characterized by homogeneity (tendency to solve simple problems) and by the tendency to limit itself to its own discipline, to establish hierarchies, to work on mini-research projects and to set knowledge transfer as the goal of research, by a new form that pays special attention to the solution of complex problems, favors processes of codification of tacit knowledge in macro projects of scientific and applied research, of interdisciplinary character and sets as a goal of research and development, innovation (R+D+i) (p. 650).

Medina (2003) sets forth the challenge of moving from the formation of research skills in doctoral students to the formation of scientific competencies, understanding as such the repertoire of observable behaviors that integrate attitudes, values, aptitudes, appropriate knowledge, skills and personality traits.

According to Manathunga et al. (2006), cited by Cruz (2014), this is a new pedagogy for interdisciplinary doctoral training in four dimensions: the first has to do with the teaching and learning processes through which it is possible to create spaces for dialogue, so that professionals from different disciplines can interact using different methods and tools and so that they can create and exchange new knowledge. The second is like an intercultural experience through which professionals from different disciplines can re-evaluate their own concepts and practices in light of those of other disciplines. The third is the possibility of encouraging professionals from different disciplines to use their capacity for analytical and creative thinking to reorganize knowledge in such a way that they can not only generate innovative solutions to a problem but also evaluate the effectiveness of those solutions. The fourth is the possibility that students can understand how new knowledge is naturally generated in their own discipline (epistemology) and how this new knowledge may relate to or conflict with that generated in other disciplines.

According to Cruz (2014), it is a matter of assuming a new training paradigm whose teaching-learning environments will facilitate the doctoral student to acquire the capacity to:

Thesis workshops have been defined as a scenario to work on these skills. According to Hernández et al. (2009) the thesis workshop is a particular type of scientific-pedagogical activity typical of the process of formation of the doctoral student, directed by a scientific working body in order to develop and prove the achievement of the necessary skills for the successful oral presentation of the essential aspects of the research activity carried out and its defense with the adequate support of scientific means and vocabulary.

On the other hand, from the empirical point of view, the methods and techniques applied allowed obtaining a characterization of the current state of the doctoral formation process at the university and in particular how the development of the thesis workshops were reflected in this process, which is exposed through a summary that gathers the main strengths and weaknesses.





Resolution 3/2020 of the Cuban National Commission of Scientific Degrees (CNGC) updates the conception, development and responsibilities in doctoral training in the country in line with what was approved in Decree Law 372. In its Article 25, it defines the functions of the doctoral committee as managing the academic development of the program, executing the admission process, proposing the admission of doctoral students, elaborating and controlling the individual training plan of each one of them and coordinating the activity of the participating institutions and collaborators of the program.

Point 13, Annex 1 of the aforementioned resolution, dedicated to specifying the components of the doctoral programs, states that within them is the:

b) conducting collective and systematic scientific discussions conducted by the scientific leaders of the research lines, project leaders and tutors for the presentation of the results of the scientific tasks performed by the doctoral students in the group and that allow the assessment of their research progress.

It remains then, under the responsibility of each doctoral committee to define the form, structure, typology and content in which these discussions will be developed in order to achieve the expected results in the training of future PhDs, which to some extent explains the results shown in the empirical diagnosis.

Regardless of the fact that in each area of science there can be different ways to carry them out, in the case of the doctorate programs conducted by the University of Pinar del Río "Hermanos Saíz Montes de Oca", which cover the Education, Economic, Geological, Agricultural and Forestry Sciences, the use of the so-called thesis workshops has been generalized, without having a theoretical base on the conception and development of them, not so much in their denomination, since they are declared in the five programs, but inside their execution.

Although thesis workshops can be organized in the different scenarios in which doctoral training must take place, only those organized and conducted by the doctoral committee are of interest here, and their objective is to evaluate the progress of the research process carried out by the doctoral student.

According to Perez (2005), the workshop can be defined as a non-academic form of the postgraduate course that can be identified as a living trial of exposure and collective and individual learning. It is a space where ideas are exchanged, reflections and individual and collective assessments are produced, and consensus is reached. Therefore, it is not only a learning space for doctoral students but also for the group of PhDs who take part in it.

In the Postgraduate Regulation of the Republic of Cuba, RM 140/2019, in its article 20.2, it is recognized the workshop as a secondary organization form within professional improvement.

The workshops can be developed in different moments of the doctoral candidate's formation process, mainly to evaluate the results of the macro tasks of the scientific research process, there is not a pre-established quantity, which should be defined according to the competences that the doctoral candidate is demonstrating.

They are considered a confrontation exercise, which requires the doctoral student to present in oral and written form his or her main results, which allows the evaluation of the development of his or her scientific vocabulary, projection towards the public, argumentation capacity, capacity to listen and interpret in order to respond with solid arguments, self-criticism capacity, capacity to design and handle information technologies, both in the oral presentation and in the written presentation of the document; skills all of which, as previously listed, are essential to achieve good results at the end of the stage.

The training function of the workshops will not be fulfilled if all the participating PhDs are not previously prepared from the material that will be presented by the doctoral candidate to guarantee the realization of scientifically and ethically sound interventions.

Hence, it is ratified that the results of the thesis workshops, as a training scenario, depend on the level of development of the capacities that the doctoral students, the tutors and the rest of the members of the program's faculty wish to form.

The scientific-methodological work within the program's faculty is essential to increase the program's preparation and to propitiate a change of mentality and the development of the competencies that are currently needed to conduct the doctoral training processes. In these activities it is necessary to insist on the conscious and active participation in these workshops, in the study of the material and in the ethical behavior of each one.

On the other hand, through the methodological work, a certain homogeneity must be guaranteed at the level of the program's faculty regarding the characteristics of the methodology of scientific research that must be assumed, avoiding that the PhDs participating in the workshops rely only on their personal experiences, guaranteeing a common scientific language of action.

The thesis workshops cannot be only dedicated to the presentation of the final results of the research, since each one of the advances achieved is susceptible to be questioned and, therefore, defended or rectified and in terms of the preparation of the doctoral student it propitiates valuable and irreplaceable experiences for the future pre-defense and final defense of the thesis report (Hernández et al. 2009).

From the multitude of advances that can be presented to scientific judgment and defended by the doctoral student, Hernández et al. (2009) identify the following, due to their capacity to enable them to carry out a demonstrative exercise of the theoretical and methodological domain achieved and to propitiate recommendations that turn out to be crucial guarantees for the subsequent research work:

As training scenarios, in these workshops, in addition to those that directly intervene in the program, it is convenient to have the participation of other doctoral students who work in different stages of the program. The thesis workshops are open spaces for the communities where they will take place.

Álvarez and Difabio (2018) demonstrated that when the teacher's feedback includes suggestions and questions, instead of direct corrections, the students respond more constructively: they not only discuss the content of the work, but also produce significant changes in the arguments of the texts they are writing, as well as that the students prefer the feedback embedded in the writing work, which transmits a comment or a question from the teacher.

Based on the precedents discussed above, a group of actions are proposed that will allow the completion of the thesis workshops in the doctoral programs of the University of Pinar del Río "Hermanos Saíz Montes de Oca".

Action 1

To assume as general objectives of the thesis workshops in the doctoral programs of the university the following:

To contribute to ratify the theoretical-methodological design of the research proposed by the doctoral student.

Responsible: PhD committee

Action 2

Consider that in doctoral programs the number of workshops organized by each doctoral student should be flexible, depending on the characteristics of the researcher, the topics covered and the context in which the training is carried out.

Person in charge: doctoral committee

Action 3

Consider that among the main contents that should make up the thesis workshops aimed at training PhDs, there is no lack of aspects such as the following, which can be planned separately or in some cases shared in the same workshop

Present the results of the evaluation of the proposed solution to the problem, mainly from the point of view of social practice, the latter, according to the possibilities of the area of knowledge and demands of each program.

Person in charge: doctoral committee

Action 4

In relation to the evaluation of the doctoral student, at the end of each workshop the coordinator, together with the PhDs designated to participate, must decide whether to approve the results presented or to redo the same given the magnitude of the modifications that must be made. In the case that the decision is that the results should be presented again in another workshop, the doctoral candidate will be specified the period of time he/she has available to do so, so that he/she does not fall behind in his/her plan; furthermore, it should be taken into account that the same composition of PhDs who evaluated the results is maintained.

Person in charge: doctorate committee

Action 5

To value in the thesis workshops, as a space of formation, the development of the following capacities in the doctorate students: communicative, use of the scientific language, argumentation, assimilation of critical judgments, handling of the technologies of the information and the communications, capacity of synthesis, domain of the area of the knowledge in which it works and of other related disciplines and domain of the methodology of the investigation, among others.

Principal Investigator: Doctoral Committee

Action 6

Assume as maximum time of exposure in each workshop between 15 and 30 minutes, attending to the objectives that are drawn, which would help to evaluate the capacity of synthesis of the doctoral students and train the ability to adjust to the time in their exposure.

Responsible: PhD committee

Action 7

To guarantee that the thesis workshops are carried out under the direction of the doctoral committees of each program, foreseeing for their success the following tasks

Person in charge: doctorate committee

Action 8

Determine as responsibilities of the member of the PhD committee conducting the thesis workshop the following

Person in charge: doctorate committee

Action 9

Consider that once the development of the thesis workshop is concluded, the following are the responsibilities of the member of the doctoral committee or in its absence the person designated to perform the function of conducting the same:

Person in charge: doctorate committee

For younger doctoral students with little scientific and professional experience, the thesis workshop is a great help in overcoming academic and social isolation, which is recognized as one of the main problems faced by all doctoral students, by creating a learning environment in which they are gradually introduced to the culture of scientific work, where they can interact with their peers, tutors and other members of the faculty who will provide motivation, support and commitment.

The doctoral committee and its faculty are responsible for ensuring the successful development of the thesis workshops, as an expression of the scientific skills developed by the doctoral student, which are closely related to the scientific skills possessed by the tutors and other members of the faculty.

The thesis workshops, considered non-academic forms of the postgraduate program, are excellent spaces for the doctoral training of scientific students in the framework of doctoral programs, in harmony with other existing forms such as the seminar, the scientific group research session within the project and the systematic advice of the tutor, among other spaces designed to develop skills and research capabilities indispensable in their training as a top-level researcher.



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Conflict of interest:

Authors declares not to have any conflict of interest.


Authors´ Contribution:

Author participated in the writting process of this article and in the analysis of documents.


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