Note: Ed.D. students are encouraged to also read The Doctor of Education Thesis Process as well as the information on this page.

Prospectus Process

  • The initial stage of the dissertation process is the submission of a prospectus, which details the argument and structure of the dissertation.
  • Residential students will defend their prospectus in their departments colloquium.
  • Modular students will defend their before their committee via technology.
  • After a student’s prospectus has been approved by their supervisor and dissertation committee, they can submit it to the Doctoral Studies Office for it to be considered for approval at the next faculty meeting.
  • Students must submit a Prospectus Approval Form with their prospectus, signed by the supervisor and committee.
  • Students must submit a pdf of their prospectus to the appropriate assignment portal for the class, PhD Research and Dissertation Writing, 81910.
  • There are several possible prospectus submission deadlines throughout the semester in conjunction with the timing of faculty meetings. These can be found on the Ph.D. Calendar.

Sample Prospectuses

Detailed information on how to format and structure your prospectus can be found in The Southern Seminary Manual of Style. Style templates for Microsoft Word, Mellel, and LibreOffice can be found here. The prospectus should not be longer than 25 pages.

Broadly, the prospectus should include the following sections:

  1. A Clear Thesis Statement/ Research Question
  2. A Summary of the History of Research
  3. The Significance of the Thesis for the Field of Study
  4. A Detailed Outline of the Dissertation
  5. A Timeline for Completion
  6. Bibliography

For more help developing a prospectus, see below a number of exemplary prospectuses across a range of concentrations that have been approved:

School of Theology
Billy Graham School

Additional Steps for Empirical Study Prospectuses

  • Students who submit a prospectus will be invited (if their prospectus is approved by their supervisor and committee) to participate in a prospectus hearing in which they discuss and defend their prospectus.
  • All students must submit a Research Profile to the Research Doctoral Studies office for approval by their supervisor and the Research Ethics Committee prior to conducting the research project and/or any work with human subjects. Use all documents below in creating the Research Profile. Submit the Research Profile through the Research Doctoral Studies office at any point following final proposal approval and prior to beginning the project. Contact our office with any questions regarding these forms.
  • After a successful prospectus hearing, students must make any revisions indicated by their committee and submit a finalized prospectus for faculty approval. The process for submission is as follows:
    • First, make revisions to the prospectus and prepare an itemized list of all substantial changes to the prospectus with specific page numbers listed where the changes were made.
    • Second, submit electronic copies of both your revised prospectus and itemized list of changes to your supervising professor for approval.
    • Third, submit a hard copy of your approved revised prospectus to the Doctoral Studies Office for faculty approval by the deadline indicated on the Ph.D. Calendar.

Students should also refer to the following documents to in the preparation of both the prospectus and the dissertation:

Style Reading

  • If you plan to defend your dissertation, the first step to initiate the process is to submit a chapter of your work along with your front matter for a style reading. You will need to submit a hard copy to the RDS office (Norton 157). Modular students can submit their style reading to 5th and Broadway for printing.
  • In addition to the hard copy Students must submit a pdf of their style reading to the appropriate assignment portal for the class, PhD Research and Dissertation Writing, 81910.
  • The Style Reading Approval Form and the Style Submission Checklist must be turned in at this time. The Style Reading Approval Form lists what documents you should include with your submission.
  • The style reader reviews these in the order in which the Doctoral Studies Office receives them so you may not get your reviewed chapter back prior to when your defense draft is due, depending on when you submit it.
  • Note: Front matter is usually due 3 months before the start of the semester in which students intend to graduate.

Intention to Graduate

  • Students must notify the Academic Records office of their intention to graduate by completing the Intention to Graduate Form available on my.sbts.edu by the established deadline.
  • More details about graduation dates and requirements are available here.

External Reader (School of Theology Only)

  • The external reader is an expert in your field who reviews your dissertation and offers feedback.
  • Students should discuss who the external reader will be with their supervisor.
  • Then, supervisors should make an initial request with the potential external reader prior to the submission of the dissertation defense draft.
  • If the external reader agrees in principle, then a formal request will be sent from the Doctoral Studies Office in addition to the dissertation draft.
  • External readers are given four weeks to return their comments, and oral defense dates should be scheduled after the external reader’s comments have been received.
  • An external reader fee will be charged to each student’s account upon completion of the external reader’s review.

Defense Draft of the Dissertation

  • The length of a completed Ph.D. dissertation must be between 50,000 and 80,000 words (footnotes not included).
  • The length of a completed Ed.D. & D.Miss. thesis must be between 20,000 and 25,000 words (footnotes not included).
  • The defense draft is the version of the dissertation that will be used for the student’s oral defense.
  • Students must submit a pdf of their defense draft to the appropriate assignment portal for the class, PhD Research and Dissertation Writing, 81910.
  • Number of Copies to submit:
    • All students must submit one hard copy for the style reader.
    • School of Theology students must submit one hard copy for the supervisor and one hard copy for each committee member. Students must also email a pdf copy of the dissertation to the RDS Office for the external reader.
    • Billy Graham School students must submit one hard copy for the supervisor and one hard copy for each committee member.
  • The Defense Submission Form which your supervisor must sign, must accompany the defense draft.  If you mail in your dissertation copies, then an email from your supervisor is sufficient for their signature on the submission form.
  • For School of Theology Students please indicate your external reader’s name and contact email on the form.
  • Students must also turn in a signed Style Submission Checklist with the copy of their dissertation for the style reader.
  • After the oral defense, students will update their defense draft with any additional content changes suggested by the committee or external reader and any additional style changes suggested by the style reader.
  • Note: The style reader normally completes the style reading about the time of the oral defense so students should expect to receive it at their oral defense.

Oral Defense

  • The oral defense is the opportunity for students to present and defend their dissertation before their committee.
  • Students should work with their supervisor to determine a suitable date and time to conduct the oral defense. Oral defenses for School of Theology students must allow sufficient time for external readers to read and respond to the defense draft prior to the oral defense date.
  • Once the defense date and time is established, the supervisor should communicate that information to the Doctoral Studies Office.
  • Then, the Doctoral Studies Office will reserve a room for the defense and provide the supervisor with the necessary oral defense evaluation documents.
  • The “Approval Sheet” from their dissertation (printed on cotton bond paper) will be provided by the Doctoral Studies Office at the oral defense so that their committee members may sign it upon successful defense of the dissertation.
  • After the oral defense, supervisors should submit the completed oral defense evaluation documents to the Doctoral Studies Office and students should make any revisions necessary for the completion of the final version of their dissertation.

Final Dissertation Submission

  • SBTS Ph.D. and Ed.D. students must submit an electronic copy of their final dissertation or thesis formatted as a PDF to Proquest/UMI. This electronic copy will also be placed within the seminary’s institutional repository. Details about electronic submission, creating PDFs, pricing and other information are available on the library website.
  • Students must also purchase one bound copy of their dissertation or thesis for deposit within the library. The purchase of this copy takes place automatically as part of the electronic submission process. If students would like to purchase additional bound copies of their dissertation, they may do so when they submit electronically.
  • The Library website has extensive information about the dissertation submission process.
  • Students will pay all fees associated with their dissertation through the Proquest/UMI dissertation submission interface. Final submission and payment of fees must be paid prior to graduation.
  • Students are responsible for ensuring that electronic copies of the final dissertation are properly ordered according to the Dissertation Page Order Guidelines. Dissertations will be bound as received from the student, so any mistakes in page ordering made by the student will persist in the electronic and bound forms of the dissertation.
  • SBTS Ph.D. and Ed.D. graduates are required to submit to UMI’s publishing agreement as a part of the electronic submission process.
  • SBTS Ph.D. and Ed.D. graduates are expected to participate in the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED), which aggregates data about the educational history and future plans of doctoral graduates throughout the country. Students must fill out the online Survey of Earned Doctorates Questionnaire. After registering and completing the survey, students should choose to send the email confirmation of their questionnaire completion to thmphd@sbts.edu to notify the Doctoral Studies Office that they have fulfilled this requirement.
  • Note: Failure to complete the electronic submission process or online SED questionnaire will prevent the Doctoral Studies Office from processing your final dissertation.

Tuition Waiver (for non-program fee students only)

Students who fail to meet graduation deadlines in a given semester can have their tuition waived for the following semester if they meet certain.

  • Students must submit their completed defense draft prior to the first day of the following semester. In other words, if students submit their defense draft prior to the first day of the Spring semester in January, then they could qualify to have their spring tuition waived and graduate in May.
  • Students must submit a signed Tuition Waiver Request Form with their defense draft prior to the last day of the semester.
  • Students must complete their oral defense and submit their final dissertation in accordance with the deadlines in the following semester.
  • Note: Tuition waiver requests are evaluated on a case by case basis, and students should not assume that they qualify until their signed tuition approval form is approved by the Doctoral Studies Office.

Continuation Fee Waiver (for program fee students)

  • Students who have paid the entire program fee and failed to meet graduation deadlines in a given semester can have their continuation fee waived for the following semester if they meet certain requirements.
  • Students must submit their completed defense draft prior to the final day of the semester. In other words, if students submit their defense draft prior to the final day of the fall semester in December, then they could qualify to have their spring tuition waived and graduate in May.
  • Students must submit a signed Continuation Fee Waiver Request Form with their defense draft prior to the last day of the semester.
  • Students must complete their oral defense and submit their final dissertation in accordance with the deadlines in the following semester.
  • Note: Fee waiver requests are evaluated on a case by case basis, and students should not assume that they qualify until their signed tuition approval form is approved by the Doctoral Studies Office.