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 department’s colloquium.
  • Modular students will defend their prospects before their committee via technology. Please send an email to to request a defense date/time. It may take a couple weeks before a date is determined.
  • After a student’s prospectus has been approved by their supervisor and dissertation committee, they must submit a digital copy of the prospectus to the Research Doctoral Studies Office using the appropriate portal of the Canvas course for 81910 Dissertation Research and Writing for it to be considered for approval at the next faculty meeting.
  • Along with the prospectus, students must submit a Prospectus Approval Form signed by all the required parties.
  • At this time, students must also submit a PDF of the prospectus to the style reading submission portal on the Writing Center website.
  • With the style reading submission to the writing center students must also include the Prospectus Style Submission Checklist.
  • The the prospectus approval process will run simultaneously but separately from the style submission.
  • There are several possible prospectus submission deadlines throughout the semester in conjunction with the timing of faculty meetings. These can be found on the Canvas page for 81910 Dissertation Research and Writing. The prospectus must be approved by the committee and any appropriate revisions must be completed before submitting. The prospectus must contain all the elements below before submitting or it will be returned to the student for resubmission. The approval form with all signatures must be submitted by the due date for the prospectus to be considered for approval at the next faculty meeting.

Because of the administrative process following submission, the deadlines for prospectus submission cannot be moved or extended.

Prospectus Content

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 3,000 words of text, not including footnotes and bibliography.

Students should use the dissertation template to write their prospectus making the sections of the prospectus listed below first-level subheadings.

The prospectus should include the following sections (If any of these sections or elements are missing, the prospectus will be returned to the student for resubmission):

All Front Matter filled out and properly formatted in the Prospectus Template (Copy right page, Title Page, Approval Sheet, Dedication Page, Preface, Table of Contents, Lists of Tables and Figures [if applicable]). This means you will need to complete a short preface for the prospectus that will be expanded once you complete the dissertation.

Text of Prospectus

  1. Thesis: This section should include the research question as well as a clear thesis statement
  2. Methodology: This section should include a summary of the methods you will employ to advance your thesis.
  3. A Summary Research: This section summarizes the history of the research previously completed in the field, showing the state of research prior to the proposed dissertation (900-1000 words).
  4. Significance: This section shows the significance of the research for the field of study, demonstrating the need for the research to be done.
  5. Argument: This section is a detailed explanation in paragraph form of the argument to be made in the dissertation (900-1000 words).
  6. A Timeline for Completion: A very short explanation of the time needed to complete the dissertation and the projected graduation date.

All Back Matter completed and properly formatted (Appendixes [if applicable], Bibliography, Abstract, and Vita). This means you will need to complete an abstract for the prospectus that will be edited and expanded once you complete the dissertation.

Students in the Billy Graham School completing a Empirical Study prospectus should look at the following examples and information below.

Billy Graham School

A student will not be officially cleared by the RDS office to move onto the writing of their dissertation until the prospectus has been approved at a faculty meeting and they have received approval from the style reader. If a student does not meet the style criteria they will have the prospectus returned to them and they will need to make the necessary corrections and resubmit. The student will not be officially approved from the RDS office to continue writing until the style reading is approved.

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. You must complete all these forms and turn them in with the RDS Ethics Checklist:
  • 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:

Intention to Graduate

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

External Reader (Required for School of Theology)

  • 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 informal 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 Research 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 defense draft is the version of the dissertation that will be used for the student’s oral defense.
  • Students will need to submit a 3 hard copies to the RDS Office. Students may personally deliver their copies, mail them in, or use the Print Shop.
  • Students must submit a pdf of their defense draft to the appropriate assignment portal for the class, PhD Research and Dissertation Writing, 81910.
  • Students must also submit a PDF to the style reading submission portal on the writing center’s website.
  • The Defense Submission Form which your supervisor must sign, must accompany the defense draft.
  • For School of Theology Students please indicate your external reader’s name and contact email on the form.
  • 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.
  • The date for the defense will be set once the student has submitted all their drafts to the RDS office and the office will coordinate a time and date that works for the committee. It will take a few weeks after submission before a defense date is determined.
  • Then the RDS office will inform the student of their defense date and time as soon as it is determined.
  • 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.
  • Students are required to defend their dissertation defense in person on campus.

Final Dissertation Submission

  • 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.
  • 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. Students should anticipate paying approximately 150 dollars to copyright and order their dissertation to the library. Additional copies are approximately 50 dollars each.
  • 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. graduates are required to submit to UMI’s publishing agreement as a part of the electronic submission process.
  • SBTS Ph.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 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.
  • Note: Bound Dissertations from ProQuest will cost approximately 50 dollars.

Continuation Fee Waiver

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 before July 31 for the Fall and December 1 for the Spring.
  • Students must submit a signed Continuation Fee Waiver Request Form with their defense draft before July 31 for Fall and December 1 for the Spring.
  • Students must complete their oral defense and submit their final dissertation in accordance with the deadlines in the following semester. Students who submit their drafts by the early deadlines will still defend in the following semester (the semester of graduation).
  • 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 Research Doctoral Studies Office.