Course of Study
The student and his or her primary advisor present a plan for completion of the course of study for thePh.D. The course of study is designed according to the requirements listed below. The primary advisor presents the proposed course of study to the department, whose members must approve it before the student may begin.


Required for all students:

PTE 891 Research Methodology (Bielfeldt)                 3 credits


A total of 30 credits from a subset of the following seven options:

Teaching Assistant                                                        3 credits (3 credits required, max. 6 credits)
500-level course                                                            3 credits (12 credits required)
Independent reading                                                     3 credits
Presenting a paper at an academic conference           1 credit

Publication                                                                     3 credits


Thesis Proposal                                                             3 credits
Thesis                                                                            9 credits


Total                                                                              45 credits


All work must be in the student’s field of study.

Teaching Assistant: A semester as a teaching assistant to an ILT faculty member involves assisting the faculty member in administering courses and preparing and delivering some class instruction. The faculty member provides mentoring and prepares an evaluation of the student’s work.

600 Level Course: Any ILT course approved by the student’s advisor with a 600-course number. These courses are upper-division Master of Divinity courses and may include students in the M. Div, M.A.R, M.M., or M.M.C. programs. S.T.M. and Ph.D. students in these courses operate under a different syllabus that reflects academic standards appropriate for these degrees.  Students may transfer up to 3 courses (9 credit hours) taken as STM students.

700 Level Course: With the approval of the student’s advisor, a Ph.D. student may register in the Doctor of Ministry courses DM 701, “A Secular World” or DM 702, “Models of Engagement.” Any ILT course approved by the student’s advisor with a 700-course number. These courses are exclusively for S.T.M. and Ph.D. students.

800 Level Course: Any ILT course approved by the student’s advisor with a 800-course number. These courses are exclusively for S.T.M. and Ph.D. students

Independent Reading: The student engages a faculty member to supervise a program of reading in a specific topic or author, culminating in a research paper. 

Presenting a Paper at an Academic Conference: The student is invited to present a paper at an academic conference hosted by an institution of higher education, a learned society, or an agency of a church body. Credit is received only if approved ahead of time by the student’s advisor.

Publication: Students can receive 3 credits for: 1. Publishing an article in a peer reviewed journal. Submission of the article as published to the student’s advisor is required. The article may be based on work done for other courses in this program. 2. Publishing an article in an academic book. This must be a substantive article or introduction in a book produced by a reputable academic publisher (not self published).
3. Publishing a translation of an academic book, when the student has the main responsibility for translating and/or editing a substantive academic work in his or her field.

Comprehensive Examinations

At the conclusion of their course of studies, students are eligible to take comprehensive examinations. These are four closed-book essay exams, with a maximum of one week between them. Students present a proposal for the exams to their department for approval. This proposal follows guidelines established by the department and includes the topics of each exam, suggested questions, and the bibliography for each examination. One of the four comprehensive examinations should be on the student’s thesis area. Upon approval by the department, the examinations are scheduled to occur within 5 months. Students may elect to take the exams in Brookings or arrange for suitable proctoring of the examination sessions elsewhere. Each examination is evaluated by a faculty member designated by the department.


Thesis Proposal

Upon successful completion of the comprehensive examinations, the student becomes a candidate for the Ph.D. and may present a thesis proposal to the faculty. Students should be giving thought to their thesis from the beginning of their studies and design their course of study accordingly. Normally, the thesis is completed within two years of passing the comprehensive examinations. This period can be extended under special circumstances.

In consultation with their thesis advisors, candidates request faculty members to serve on their thesis committee. The thesis committee consists of three members, namely, a chair, the candidate’s thesis advisor, and another member of the faculty. With the permission of the Dean of Academic Affairs, the third member of the committee may be a qualified person who is not a member of ILT’s faculty. In such cases, the Dean will agree with the third committee member on the compensation he or she should receive for serving on the committee and the candidate will be billed by ILT for that amount.


The thesis proposal contains the following:

  • Proposed title

  • Projected outline

  • Thesis statement

  • A brief description of the treatment of the specific issue the thesis addresses in the relevant literature

  • A description of the methodology that will be used.

  • A defense of the importance of the thesis

  • A preliminary bibliography

Candidates write the thesis proposal in consultation with their thesis advisor and submit it to the faculty for approval.


Thesis Defense

Upon approval of the thesis proposal, the candidate presents the completed thesis to the thesis committee within one year. Extensions will be granted in special circumstances with the approval of the department and the Dean of Academic Affairs. The thesis should be sufficient in length to deal adequately with the student’s research topic, follow the Chicago Manual of Style, and include the following elements:

  • Title page

  • Abstract

  • Table of Contents

  • Text

  • Bibliography

The thesis is submitted at least 6 weeks before the scheduled thesis defense to give committee members adequate opportunity to read and evaluate it. At the thesis defense, the candidate appears before the committee to respond orally to be the committee’s questions, for a length of time to be determined by the committee. The thesis defense is public and open to the entire ILT community. 

At the completion of the defense, the committee meets in private to make their decision. The committee has the following choices: pass with distinction, pass, or not accepted. The committee may decide to pass the thesis provided the candidate to make specified changes to the thesis as presented. The candidate is notified immediately of the committee’s decision.


The candidate is responsible for submitting a printed and electronic copy of the thesis to the ILT library to be added to its permanent collection. The thesis must meet the criteria for paper and binding set by the librarian. 

Doctor of Philosophy Ph.D. | The Program

Request Information

NC-SARA Approved Institution logo round.

Institute of Lutheran Theology • Copyright © 2021 • All Rights Reserved 

(605) 692-9337 • 910 4th Street, PO Box 833, Brookings, SD 57006-2173 

  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black Twitter Icon
  • Black Instagram Icon
  • Black YouTube Icon
  • Black LinkedIn Icon