PhD Dissertation and Graduation Process

Ph.D. Dissertation Process

Dissertation Defense Draft & the External Reader

-The defense draft has two submission dates: September 1 and February 1

-A completed Ph.D. dissertation must be between 50,000 and 80,000 words (footnotes not included).

-All students are encouraged to use an external reader, although only School of Theology students are required to do so.

-The external reader is an expert in your field who reviews your dissertation and offers feedback.

-The student and his or her supervisor will decide on an external reader, then the supervisor will send the potential reader an informal request prior to defense draft submission.

-If the external reader agrees, the RDS office will send a formal request with the dissertation draft, at which point the external reader has four weeks to return their comments.

-The oral defense can only be scheduled after the external reader has been contacted.

-The student’s account will be charged an external reader fee upon completion of the external reader’s review.

Submitting the Defense Draft

-Students must submit a PDF of their defense draft, with the signed Defense Submission Form, to the dissertation portal on Canvas course 81910.

  • School of Theology students indicate the external reader’s name and contact email on the form.
  • Regardless of school, all students must complete the form and have it signed by their supervisors to proceed to the defense stage.

-Students must also submit a PDF to the style reading submission portal.

-When the PDFs are submitted, the student must send one (1) hard copy, double-sided to the RDS office.  They may personally deliver the copies, mail them in to RDS for delivery, or use the Print Shop.

-The student should receive their style reading before the defense and the external reader’s comments at the defense.

-Students should consult the Canvas course 81910 for detailed instructions on each step of the submission process.

Oral Defense

-The Research Doctoral Studies office coordinates the oral defense, notifying the student once the date is set.  It generally takes a few weeks to determine the defense date, which will be done once the RDS office has received both the electronic and hard copies of the dissertation defense and completed approval sheet.

-As per SBTS policy, all students, regardless of location, are required to defend in person, on campus.

-At the oral defense, the RDS office will provide the dissertation’s approval sheet, grading rubric, and external reader report.

-At the end of the defense, the committee shall sign the approval sheet and grading rubric, returning it to the RDS office.

-After the defense, the student should make any necessary revisions based on the committee’s feedback and external reader comments.

Final Dissertation Submission

-Students must submit 2 copies of their final dissertation, using the Dissertation Page Order Guidelines:

  • One PDF to Proquest/UMI to be placed in the seminary’s institutional repository. (Students must submit to UMI’s publishing agreement.)
  • One bound copy to deposit in the library.  This purchase occurs during the electronic submission process in Proquest and costs about $150.
  • If the student would like additional bound copies, they should be purchased at the same time as the library copy.  Additional copies are about $50 each.

-Dissertations are bound as received from the student, so any mistakes in page ordering, grammar, etc. will persist in the electronic and bound forms of the dissertation.

-Students must also fill out the online Survey of Earned Doctorates Questionnaire, which aggregates data about the history and future plans of doctoral graduates.  The emailed completion confirmation should be forwarded to to notify the RDS office that the student has fulfilled this requirement.

-In order to graduate, students must pay all fees associated with their dissertation or any other part of the Ph.D. process prior to graduation.

-Note: Failure to complete any of the above steps will prevent the RDS office from processing your final dissertation.

Professors walking to the convocation


Students must notify the Academic Records office by completing the

Intention to Graduate Form on by the established deadline.

More details about graduation dates and requirements are available here.

Pay close attention to the deadlines as regalia cannot be ordered after the deadline.

Outside of Norton Hall in summer

Continuation Fee Waiver

Students who fail to meet graduation deadlines in time might have their tuition waived for the following semester if they meet certain criteria.

  • Students must submit a signed Continuation Fee Waiver Request Form electronically with their completed defense draft before July 31 for fall and December 31 for spring.
  • Students must complete the oral defense and submit their final dissertation in accordance with the deadlines in the following semester.  Submitting the draft by the early deadlines still results in defense the following semester (that of graduation).

Students should never assume that they qualify for a fee waiver until the RDS office approves their signed tuition approval form.

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