All George Fox Evangelical Seminary Doctor of Ministry programs include the design and completion of a dissertation during the third year of the program. The DMin dissertation addresses both the nature and the practice of ministry. As such, the goal of the dissertation is not to offer a unique contribution to ministry in general, but to apply theological research skills to a significant real-world ministry problem.
Process for Completing the Dissertation
The research courses are designed to enable students to advance their dissertations, equipping them with the necessary skills to complete their work during the third year:
- DMIN 713: Students are introduced to the tools used for study and research.
- DMIN 723: Students develop a topic proposal for their dissertations.
- DMIN 733: Students develop a design proposal for their dissertations.
- DMIN 743: Students explore the process of research, writing and mapping out how to complete their dissertations.
At the end the first year of course work, during the Summer 01 Module, students declare which track they wish to pursue and state their choice of topic and dissertation. At this juncture, students are matched up with a dissertation advisor and, later, an expert advisor (Track 02 only) who will oversee their dissertations and provide appropriate guidance.
- Dissertation Advisor: The dissertation advisor for the students' Track 2 dissertations, he or she is responsible to oversee student progress in the conception, development and implementation of their dissertations.
- Expert Advisor (Track 02 only): A person selected on the basis of his or her technical experience and expertise relative to the student’s chosen media venue. He or she is responsible to ensure that students adequately address the appropriate technical and design considerations when developing their artifacts.
During the third year, students turn in successive portions of their dissertation to their dissertation advisor for review and comment. Students who plan to graduate in the spring alert the Doctor of Ministry office by completing a "Declaration of Intent to Graduate" survey by early December. By January of the third year, the evaluation draft of the dissertation is due. Students are to send it first sent to their dissertation and expert (Track 02 only) advisors for review before being passed along to their secondary advisor and Len Sweet for evaluation. The dissertation is evaluated on an "as is" basis and a formal pass/no pass evaluation is returned to the student. If they pass, students move on to their oral defense in March. The oral defense is attended by the dissertation, secondary and expert (Track 02 only) advisors, and Len Sweet. An archival copy of the the dissertation is due by April 1. Students graduate in April/May.
Students who are unable to complete their dissertation by January or who have to make substantial revisions to the evaluation draft of their dissertation must consult with their dissertation advisor to determine the best course of action to expedite the completion of the dissertation.
Students are given two options for completing their dissertations:
Track 01: This approach allows students to write a traditional-style "dissertation," comprised of 6-7 chapters and 40,000-50,000 words in length. It includes an abstract, addresses a ministry problem in depth, interacts with relevant data and literature concerning the nature of the problem and other proposed solutions, delineates the biblical, theological and theoretical framework that underpins the proposed solution, and offers closing reflections concerning potential future developments of the ministry problem and proposed solution. The dissertation includes three essential components:
- Identifying an issue: The student focuses on a problem or issue in the practice of ministry.
- Formulating a theoretical stance: Although the dissertation is practical in nature, the student must formulate a comprehensive theoretical framework as a foundation for critical analysis of a problem or issue.
- Choosing appropriate research methods: The student appropriates an analytical approach that corresponds to the problem or issue at the heart of the project.
Track 02: This approach allows students (individually or in teams) to pursue the development of a real-world solution to a ministry problem. The Track 02 Dissertation includes two elements:
Track 02 Artifact: Students develop and implement an artifact utilizing one or more various media forms as a practical solution to the stated ministry problem. Possible media forms may include:
Written Statement: The Written Statements is 20,000-25,000 words in length. While shorter than a traditional dissertation, in order to allow the student the time and energy to develop the Track 02 Artifact, it still requires rigorous investigation, must be written with clarity and coherence of thought, and it must delineate the biblical, theological and theoretical framework that underpins the artifact.
Track options: a quick comparison