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The Pillars of Formation

Doctorate Degree Program

Doctorate Degree Program (Course Descriptions)

Union Bible Theological Seminary offers the opportunity to individuals interested in Theological Studies to earn a Doctorate in Theology (Th.D.) for pastors in ministry who have established themselves in their chosen clerical area and have completed Master’s level study in their major field or endeavor. They should also have significant experience within the parameters of their clerical life. UTS considers the completion of a Master’s Degree program appropriate academic preparation for admission to the Doctorate by Dissertation program. We follow the British educational model in this respect. At Union Bible Theological Seminary we believe the individual has “jumped through enough hoops” in the academic arena prior to this point and is now fully prepared to develop a cohesive and comprehensive dissertation. The primary objective of the program is to provide the opportunity for qualified candidates to produce quality dissertations in an academic environment, working independently, while using the theological school as one of many possible resources. No transfer credit shall be applicable toward this degree, neither shall there be any credit for “work experience” or “life experience.” This is an earned degree and the development of a doctoral dissertation is a major and significant life effort.

Admission to the Providence Theological School’s Doctorate by Dissertation program is based upon the following criteria:

• Individual participants will have completed a recognized Masters level degree. It is appropriate that this degree be in one of the traditional areas of Christian Religious Studies.

• Participants should have several years of meaningful professional ministerial experience (i.e., pastoral, chaplaincy, religious education).

• The dissertation topic must be religious in nature, appropriate to fundamental Christian Doctrine. Areas of focus may include but are not limited to: Theology, Systematic Theology, Biblical Theology, Theory and Practice of Ministry, Biblical Studies, Christian Ethics, Church History, Christian Music, Pastoral Care, Art & Theology, and Christian Spirituality. All, however, must have a firm theological premise upon which they are based.

• Topics concerning metaphysics, parapsychology, psychical research, hypnotism, E.S.P., eastern-types of meditation, so-called new-age religious concepts, neo-paganism, humanistic, occultist, and ancient mysticism are not appropriate areas of consideration at UTS.

• Participants are expected to be proficient in English language skills. Where English is a second language, it is expected that the participant, at their own expense, shall retain such assistance as to allow them to submit well written and prepared materials as long as the original work and thoughts are of their own creation.

• Participants must have access to a computer, appropriate software, email and Internet, and academic library resources. Typically, all work is expected to be submitted and exchanged on-line via the internet.

• This program is intended for students who are self-motivated and can work independently. As with all programs at Providence Theological School, Th.D. students work with the Dean of Studies and the Dean of the Theological School who serve as their advisors. There is no direct contact with individual UTS faculty members. All of our faculty at UTS are active clergy and this is a part-time ministry for them. They serve mostly as readers of student submissions, and unless they choose otherwise, they remain anonymous to the individual student. Thus there is no particular mentor for a Th.D. candidate outside of the Deans. Students work independently, communicating with the Deans throughout the process.

There is no time limit to complete the Th.D. program. However, at each phase of the doctoral process, prior to progressing to the next element, approval from the Theological School is necessary. In order to remain in good standing as an active student, participating degree candidates must demonstrate effective progress toward achieving quality standards at each phase. Being in ongoing contact with the Theological School and the Deans on a regular basis is fundamental to this process.

Application to the United Theological Seminary Doctorate in Theology program is an on-line process at There is no application fee. Once the student has been admitted to the degree program, a registration fee of $100.00 is required for students that have not previously studied at UTS. Payment of this fee will be acknowledgement by the student as accepting the Providence Theological School’s admission of them to the Doctorate by Dissertation Program which will culminate at its completion with the award of a Doctorate in Theology (Th.D.) degree once all work has been accomplished, and all fees and tuition are paid. There is no graduation fee at UTS for any degree. The diploma is included in the tuition payments. Academic hoods, however, are available at an additional cost.

Once the candidate has been accepted, and has acknowledged that acceptance by paying the registration fee (unless waived for former students), they will be categorized as a Candidate for the Doctor of Theology degree.

Manuscript guidelines for preparation and presentation of the dissertation will be provided to the student when the student has registered as a Doctoral Candidate by payment of the $100.00 registration fee.

Participants pursuing the doctorate degree by dissertation shall complete a ten-phase process equivalent to typical work beyond the Master’s degree in a traditional doctoral program which shall include —

1. Determination of the Dissertation Topic. In conjunction with the theological school, develop a dissertation topic appropriate for this level of academic achievement. All materials throughout this process should be transmitted to the Director of Studies at

2. Approval. The student will receive official UTS approval of the dissertation topic. At this time the student may begin developing the research methods philosophy upon which the development of their dissertation with be based.

3. Research Methods Development. Develop and present a strategy for researching the approved dissertation topic. This will include research methods to be used, materials that will be used in this research and location of these materials to the student. Lists of possible primary and secondary sources should be included in this document, whether or not they are actually used in the final development of the dissertation. The length of this document will be solely driven by the nature of the research. The student should be as comprehensive as possible in this process as it will assist and guide them in the development of the final dissertation itself. This is the first document submission after the approval of the dissertation topic and this research strategy must also be approved before continuing on in the process.

4. Obtain Research Methods Approval. Once the dissertation topic has been approved, and the research methods established, the student may then begin to develop the body of the dissertation. As this writing process continues, the student is encouraged to engage the school through the Offices of the Deans for ongoing reflection, direction and guidance.

5. Submit Initial Dissertation Text for Review. Once the body of thought of the dissertation has been fully developed, it shall then be submitted for evaluation and comment. The submission should only include a Title Page, body of the subject matter, and endnotes (or footnotes). They should be formatted as recommended in the formatting guide. The body of the dissertation manuscript should exceed 100 double spaced typewritten pages (150+ is normal).

6. Dissertation Critique. The dissertation will be critiqued at this point, presenting to the student specific comments, concerns and suggestions for improving the document. These shall be presented in a detailed and identifiable written format for the student’s response.

7. Dissertation Defense. The student shall then “defend” their dissertation, responding in writing to the specifics of the issues raised by the Critique. All items identified in the Critique must be responded to with the student either justifying, in detail, the rationale for the area of concern, or present how they will reconsider the material presented.

8. Rewrite/Modifications to the Initial Dissertation Text. Once the school has conferred with the student on their response and come to agreement on any and all issues presented, the changes/modifications will then be made to the body of the dissertation.

9. Submission of Completed Dissertation, Ready for Publication. The rewritten dissertation is submitted in final form including all front matter as required in the Manuscript Guidelines with proper formatting and including (as appropriate) a summary, conclusions, bibliography and appendices.

10. Final Approval — Degree Award. Once the final dissertation document is submitted, and approved, UTS will award the student the doctoral Degree in Theology. This represents the conclusion of the degree process.

No transfer credit shall be applicable toward this degree; neither shall there be any credit for “work experience” or “life experience.” This is an earned degree and the development of a doctoral dissertation is a major and significant life effort.

1 — Determination of the Dissertation Topic / Proposal Process.
During this phase of the process, participants prepare a formal proposal related to their concept of a dissertation topic. The proposal is completed under the direction of the Director of Studies and the Dean of the Theological School. The dissertation topic should be unique and represent a contribution to the theological area of the student’s choice.

2 — Research Methods Presentation.
The Research Methods presentation is intended to guide the participant in developing the direction and methodology for effectively preparing a written argument in a quality academic pursuit. The student should list specific resources to be considered such as libraries, museums, other academic institutions and scholarly individuals. Additionally, details and examples of texts and manuscripts to be considered in developing the dissertation should be presented, indicating the scope and intention of the writing effort. If statistical research is to be part of the students work, the student should present how this will be done in a professional manner, care being given to the possible confidential nature of the information being obtained. Proper safeguards of confidential information must be presented and maintained at all times.

3 – Conduct of Dissertation Project – Initial Submission of Draft Text.
Following approval of the dissertation topic and the research methodology, participants will begin their research project. The dissertation may take the form of a traditional “research” project or it may be a major scholarly project of the type appropriate to the particular theological discipline. Whichever approach to the dissertation is chosen, the resulting project must demonstrate mastery of a body of knowledge in the field and represent a meaningful and original contribution to the betterment of the theological community.

The dissertation project may be conducted by quantitative, qualitative, or participatory action research. The body of the dissertation manuscript should exceed 100 double spaced typewritten pages (150+ is normal) and be structured according to a set of approved manuscript guidelines provided separately. Dissertations must follow the guidelines provided by the Theological School for such projects. The use of endnotes is preferred to footnotes.

4 — Dissertation Defense.
Once the participant has prepared and delivered the dissertation manuscript, the faculty will conduct a formal review process. When completed, questions, concerns and suggestions will be sent to the student for their consideration.

Following receipt of the research manuscript, it typically takes the faculty four to six weeks to complete the physical review and prepare questions and commentary for student response/defense. The dissertation Critique is intended to allow detailed investigation of the underlying review of the literature, the dissertation methodology, the mechanics of the project, presentation of the findings, and the preliminary conclusions of the doctoral candidate.

The student is required to respond in writing to each of the points raised by the Critique. This is the “defense” portion of the dissertation process.

One outcome of the dissertation review/defense process is a set of final expectations directing the participant through the remaining tasks for completing an acceptable dissertation manuscript.

5 — Submission of Final, Approved Dissertation.
Upon the participant’s completion of the final tasks, submission of the dissertation in publishable form, including completed front matter, abstract, contents, appendices, etc., as well as the receipt of any needed records and documentation, the Theological School will issue a letter of completion to the participant. It will then make preparation for issuance of the transcript of record and diploma certificate once all tuition and fees have been paid.