SBTS reading books on patio

Ph.D. Prospectus Process

The first stage of the Ph.D. dissertation process, the prospectus details the argument and structure of the dissertation. The prospectus defense serves as a first line of confirmation of a student’s dissertation topic, providing insight on how to best move forward with his or her project.

Prospectus Defense Process

Residential Students

Residential students defend their prospectuses in their department’s colloquium.  This facilitates discussion with both the faculty and students of the department.  Please ensure that you have delivered a single-sided hard copy of your prospectus to the RDS office (Norton 157) beforehand.

Modular Students

Modular students defend their prospectuses before their department online.  To schedule this meeting, the student must reach out to his or her supervisor and head of department to request a date and time.  This process generally takes a few weeks.  Please ensure that a single-sided hard copy of your prospectus is sent to the RDS office before your hearing takes place.

Once the supervisor and department have approved the prospectus, the student must submit:

  • A digital copy of the prospectus on the Canvas course 81910, Dissertation Research and Writing.
  • The Prospectus Approval Form (please email to have this form sent to you), signed by the supervisor and department head, on 81910.
  • A PDF of the prospectus, along with the completed Prospectus Style Submission Checklist, to the style reading submission portal.

The prospectus approval and style reading processes will progress simultaneously but separately.

Prospectus Deadlines

The Canvas course 81910 will display the possible prospectus submission deadlines each semester.  Due to the administrative process following submission, these deadlines are immovable.

The revised prospectus with completely signed approval form must be submitted by the appropriate due date for it to be considered for approval at the next faculty meeting.

Prospectus Content

The prospectus should include the following sections. If any are missing, the student must resubmit it before the RDS office will submit it to the faculty meeting. Detailed information on formatting and structuring can be found in the Southern Seminary Manual of Style.

  1. Title Page
  2. Text of prospectus (No more than twenty pages or 5000 words)
    • Thesis: This section should include the research question as well as a clear thesis statement.
    • Methodology: This section should include a summary of the methods you will employ to advance your thesis.
    • Survey of scholarly literature: This section surveys the history of significant research previously completed by scholars in the field, showing the state of research prior to the proposed dissertation.
    • Significance: This section shows the significance of the research for the field of study, demonstrating the value of the proposed research.
    • Argument: This section is a detailed explanation in paragraph form of the argument to be made in the dissertation
    • Timeline for completion: A very short explanation of the time needed to complete the dissertation and the projected graduation date.
  3. Table of Contents: The anticipated Table of Contents for the dissertation (1–4 pages).
  4. Bibliography: Dissertation bibliography (10–15 pages). The bibliography should include all works necessary to establish the dissertation’s argument. Ordinarily, it should include two main sections: primary and secondary sources. Additional subdivisions may be appropriate.
    • Primary Sources: Works produced by the subjects of research, by those in dialogue with them, or by those relating to the subject’s relevant milieu.
    • Secondary Sources: Works produced by scholars relating to the subjects and their milieu.
  5. Back matter
    • Abstract (approximately 350 words; no more than 500 words)
    • Curriculum Vitae

The prospectus should be no longer than 5,000 words, not including footnotes and bibliography. Students should use the dissertation template to write their prospectus, making the sections of the prospectus first-level subheadings. Style templates for Microsoft Word, Mellel, and LibreOffice can be found on the Writing Center website.

Additional Steps for Empirical Study Prospectuses

Submit a Research Profile to the RDS office for approval by the supervisor and Research Ethics Committee after the final proposal approval and before conducting the research project and/or any work with human subjects.

Use all the following documents to create the Profile:

Risk Assessment and Informed Consent Guide

Permission to Use Human Subjects in Research

Approvals for Using Human Subjects in Research

Assessment of Risk to Human Subjects in Research

Ethics Checklist

  • After a successful hearing, students must make the revisions indicated by their committee and submit a finalized prospectus for faculty approval.
  • Make revisions to the prospectus, preparing an itemized list of all substantial changes with page numbers.
  • Submit electronic copies of the revised prospectus and change list to the supervisor for approval.
  • Submit a hard copy of the approved, revised prospectus to the RDS office for faculty approval by the deadline listed on Canvas course 81910.
  • Students should refer to the following documents in preparing for the prospectus and dissertation:

Research Evaluation Checklist

Empirical Research Checklist

Billy Graham School students completing an Empirical Study prospectus should view the following examples and information below:

Are you ready to become a pastor, counselor, or church leader who is Trusted for Truth?