Dissertation Structure Overview
The overall structure of a typical six-chapter dissertation is outlined below. A more detailed checklist for each chapter is included at the end of this document, and specific requirements for each chapter will be discussed thoroughly in the research methodology class and in the dissertation workshops held during each residency.
Chapter One: Purpose of the Study
The opening chapter introduces the study by clearly answering the “reporter’s questions” of what, who, when, where, why, and how. Included in this chapter should be a compelling description of the subject or problem to be researched, the rationale for selecting it, and a comprehensive overview of how the researcher will answer the research question.
Chapter Two: Literature Review
This chapter places the study in the context of other literature and research in the field. The student should demonstrate a thorough understanding of what has already been written about the research area, and clearly articulate how this research project fits into that larger theoretical context. This chapter is not a mere description of the present literature, but rather an analysis and evaluation of that literature that identifies major themes and demonstrates the present study’s relevance and connection.
Chapter Three: Biblical and Theological Context
Chapter 3 builds the biblical/theological foundation for the study. This chapter should reflect the student’s ability to understand and interact with Scripture and theology, think theologically about the practice of ministry, and identify particular ecclesiological issues that are relevant to the research.
Chapter Four: Design of the Study
If Chapter 1 is an architectural overview of the study, Chapter 4 is a set of detailed blueprints. Here the student describes in clear and precise detail every aspect of the research methodology. The requirement of this chapter is to describe the study with such thoroughness that another researcher would be able to replicate the study.
Chapter Five: Results of the Study
Chapter 5 reports in a non-evaluative manner the results of the study. The answers to the research questions are reported, including both positive and negative results. The supporting data and statistical analysis of that data are clearly described. The results of the study are thoroughly evaluated.
Chapter Six: Conclusions and Implications
The final chapter of the dissertation gives the researcher the opportunity to discuss and evaluate further the findings of the study. What are the implications of this research? What are its limitations? What unexpected findings emerged? What suggestions arise for potential further research? How did this study contribute to the church’s knowledge and understanding of Christian ministry?
How long should the completed dissertation be? Most D. Min. dissertations tend to be in the range of 110—160 pages. However, length is not Northeastern Seminary’s primary concern, but rather the quality of the research and writing. The finished dissertation should be long enough to present the study and its findings with thoroughness, thoughtfulness, precision, and excellence. When this is accomplished to the satisfaction of the faculty advisor and dissertation committee, the project should be concluded without additional wordiness.