2016-2017 Student Catalog | Doctor of Ministry Program | Academic Program | Dissertation

Dissertation Process and Schedule

Students are encouraged to begin thinking about possible dissertation topics early in their D. Min. program. This allows the coursework in the D. Min. program to begin informing and enriching the student’s thinking about the possible topic(s).


The following steps outline the formal process of researching, writing, and defending the dissertation:

  1. The student participates in dissertation orientation: This one-day orientation to the dissertation process is offered during the student’s first residential week (the same week as DMIN 852NE: Calling and Vocation). The dissertation process and requirements will be outlined and discussed, and the student will be encouraged to begin preliminary thinking about possible dissertation themes. Attendance is required during the student’s first residential week.
  2. The student takes DMIN 860NE Research Methodology: This course is offered in a hybrid format that combines online and residential instruction, and prepares the student to write the first draft of Chapters 1—4. DMIN 860NE is a 3-credit course that is divided into three 1-credit sections offered over three consecutive semesters (860-A; 860-B; and 860-C). Students should normally register for these one-hour classes in the second, third, and fourth semesters of their D.Min. program. Classroom instruction (Dissertation Seminar) will be offered on Friday afternoon during the week of each required (non-elective) DMIN course (855, 865, 875, and 885NE) each semester, with online instruction occurring in the weeks before and after each residential week.
  3. Preliminary dissertation topic and advisor information form: This form should be completed as soon as possible during DMIN 860NE so that an initial faculty mentor can be assigned and collaboration with that mentor can begin
  4. Topic approved and final faculty mentor assigned: At the conclusion of DMIN 860NE, the student will submit a final dissertation topic approval form. If the topic is approved by the D. Min. office (vice president and dean, and theological librarian), an official faculty mentor will be assigned. If the dissertation topic remains unchanged, the preliminary faculty mentor will typically continue in this role.
  5. Dissertation committee is named: Required members of the committee include the faculty mentor (chair), theological librarian, and the vice president and dean. At the discretion of the faculty mentor and in consultation with the student, other committee members may be added in order to achieve necessary expertise in the field of study.
  6. Writing of Chapters 1—4 (i.e., the proposal): Guided as necessary by the faculty mentor, the student prepares the first four chapters of the dissertation. Upon the mentor’s approval of the proposal, a proposal defense with the dissertation committee is scheduled.   
  7. Proposal defense: Upon completion of the dissertation proposal, the student will be expected to participate in an oral defense and evaluation before his or her dissertation committee. Copies of the four-chapter proposal (in 3-ring binders with tabbed chapter dividers) must be submitted to all committee members at least two weeks prior to the defense. The student functions as recording secretary for the meeting and submits a transcript of the notes to all members of the committee following the meeting. The dissertation committee has three options: a) accept the proposal as is with relatively minor editorial changes; b) accept the proposal with substantive revisions subject to faculty mentor’s approval; or, c) require second proposal defense. If the student does not receive committee approval by a second defense, she or he will not be allowed to continue the dissertation process. The proposal must be approved before the student is permitted to conduct the research and complete writing. The proposal defense must take place at least six months prior to anticipated graduation. Please note that depending on the type of research being conducted, more than six months may be necessary.
  8. Research: The student conducts the research exactly as described in the approved dissertation proposal
  9. Writing of Chapters 5—6: The student reports the results of the study (Chapter 5) and offers an evaluative discussion of the findings (Chapter 6). Upon approval of the faculty mentor for matters of content, form and style, a dissertation defense may be scheduled with the dissertation committee.
  10. Dissertation defense: The student meets with the dissertation committee to defend the completed dissertation. The committee has two possible actions: a) approve the dissertation with minor editorial changes, subject to mentor’s approval; b) require major revisions subject to committee’s approval and/or second defense. The dissertation defense should be held approximately three months prior to anticipated graduation.
  11. Final edits, binding, and publication: Upon approval by the dissertation committee, the student makes final revisions based on committee recommendations, and works with the D. Min. office to make arrangements for binding and publication. A fully edited (copy-ready), final version of the dissertation must be submitted to the D. Min. office no later than March 30for a May graduation.
  12. Graduation: The Doctor of Ministry degree is conferred upon completion of all degree requirements