USML | S.T.D. Dissertation

Doctorate in Sacred Theology (S.T.D.)

S.T.D. Dissertation

  • Dissertation Standards and Schedule

 i. The dissertation must conform to the standards established by the Pontifical Faculty. It must demonstrate: 

a. The candidate’s erudition, judgment, and knowledge of Catholic doctrine;

b. Proficiency in positive and speculative theology;

c. The ability to articulate and synthesize scientific research in a unique manner that advances theological scholarship and promotes engagement with issues encountered by contemporary Christians; 

d. It must be of sufficient length to constitute a truly scientific study, normally 150 to 400 pages. Exceptions must have the approval of the President of the Pontifical Faculty. 

ii. Dissertations will be written in English. Exceptions require the approval of the dissertation director and the President of the Pontifical Faculty. 

iii. Conformity to the USML Writers’ Manual and the formatting of the dissertation must be reviewed and approved by the Library Director. Please consult the USML Doctor of Sacred Theology Dissertation Handbook for specific details on the preparation of a dissertation. 

iv. The President, in consultation with the dissertation director, will appoint as second reader another expert in the field. The dissertation director and the second reader must verify that the manuscript conforms to the dissertation standards of the Pontifical Faculty. 

v. A third reader, appointed by the president, will then receive and read the entire manuscript. 

vi. After all three readers have approved the manuscript, five identical copies must be submitted to the Registrar for the public defense. 

vii. The defense date will be not be guaranteed any earlier than two months after the third reader has received the dissertation.    

  • Time Limits

The doctoral dissertation must be completed within five years after registering for “Dissertation Guidance.” Doctoral candidates must register for “Ongoing Dissertation Guidance” each semester until the dissertation is complete.  After five years guidance will no longer be assured.

  • Public Defense 

The candidate must pass an examination on his or her dissertation given by three professors appointed by the President of the Pontifical Faculty, including the dissertation director and two other readers. The examination will be public, at least 90 minutes in duration. 

The Chancellor of the University or his delegate will preside. 

The candidate will begin the defense with a twenty-minute presentation of the dissertation. Questions will then follow, addressed to the candidate by each member of the board (twenty minutes each). Then questions will be permitted ex corona for twenty minutes.

  • Final Grade

At the end of the defense, each examiner will give a grade for both the dissertation and for the defense.  Successful completion of the Doctorate requires a minimum average of 86% in each. 

A candidate who fails the dissertation defense must consult with the President of the Pontifical Faculty to determine the conditions under which a second defense would be permissible. A second failure would disqualify the candidate from receiving the doctorate. 

  • Publication 

Once the defense is successful, and the readers have approved any required corrections, and the President has obtained the nihil obstat, the candidate will submit a final dissertation manuscript online through ProQuest. Consult the Library Director for more details. 

The candidate is also to deposit five unbound copies of the dissertation, printed on the required paper, with the Registrar. The dissertation director and the President of the Pontifical Faculty will then sign the copies. The Library will arrange for hardcover binding of these copies and bill the candidate.  Two copies will be deposited with the USML Library. The rest will be sent to the Congregation for Catholic Education, the dissertation director, and the office of the Vice Rector for Academic Affairs.

  •  University Convocation 

In order to participate in the University Convocation at the end of the academic year, a student must have completed all work for the S.T.D. thirty (30) days before the Convocation.


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