Study for the degree of Doctor of Theology extends through four stages: course-work, general examinations, prospectus, and dissertation. Candidates for this degree must fulfill the following:
Two years of doctoral study in residence are required. During those two years, students must register for and complete at least four credit courses per term. A student must have achieved the minimum grade point average of "B" in each academic year and meet all regulations governing enrollment of incompletes.
Student progress will be monitored by the doctoral subcommittee of the Committee on the Study of Religion in cooperation with each student’s advisor. Once the prospectus for the dissertation is approved, the dissertation shall be written under the supervision of one or more advisers approved by the Committee.
All doctoral students must achieve at least intermediate reading competence in two modern languages of secondary scholarship relevant to their course of study (such as French, German, Japanese), in addition to whatever primary source languages are required in their field, either for textual or ethnographic study. The student and advisor shall consult to decide upon the two modern languages. All language requirements must be met before General Examinations are taken
First-year students are required to take the Common Doctoral Seminar (HDS 4599). Its purpose is to introduce major questions and/or problems in the study of religion and to offer an opportunity for critical reflection on the nature and boundaries of religious and theological inquiry. In addition, students must take the graduate seminars required by their field of concentration, as well as other courses and seminars determined in consultation with an academic adviser.
Second Year Review
An oral second year review (one-and-one-half hours) occurs in the third, or at the latest, in the fourth semester of study. The purpose of this review is to consider and clarify the overall design and progress of a student’s academic program and to assess the student’s academic progress in general.
After the satisfactory completion of two years of full-time study, all language requirements, required coursework, and the second year-review, a student prepares for the General Examinations. Th.D. students are normally expected take their General examinations by the end of their third year, except in special cases (e.g., Hebrew Bible and Comparative Religion) where deferment has been previously formally granted. The examination process includes three written exams and one oral exam arranged according to the student’s context of study and specialization. Students in Comparative Religion are required to sit for an additional written examination in Theory and Methods. Students in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament follow the exam rubric required by the Near Eastern Languages and Civilization Department.
Prospectus and Dissertation
Within twelve months of passing the General Examinations, all candidates must submit a written dissertation prospectus of not more than 3000 words (plus bibliography), formulating a project. Upon formal approval of the prospectus, the student commences the writing of the dissertation. The length is limited to 300 pages. Once the dissertation is completed and approved by the adviser, the candidate must pass an oral dissertation defense with a committee of at least three faculty members before the Th.D. degree is awarded
If the thesis is deemed acceptable by the student's advisor and the Director of Th.D. Studies, the Standing Committee will appoint a committee for the oral defense. If the examining committee accepts the thesis and its defense, and the examination is sustained by the Standing Committee, the original and the first copy of the thesis in bound form, together with their abstracts, and an unbound, boxed copy for University Microfilms International, should be submitted to the Registrar, and a short summary, prepared for publication, should be submitted to the Editor of the Harvard Theological Review, prior to the awarding of the degree.
Leaves of Absence
At the discretion of the Doctoral Subcommittee, the calendar of requirements as noted above may be interrupted by a maximum of one year's leave of absence. The candidate must pay a $100 program fee during a year on leave.
A student who has not met degree requirements or an established deadline may with the endorsement of the Director of Th.D. Studies be granted an extension, normally for one year.
Satisfactory Progress Requirements for the Th.D. Program
(Revised May 2008)
Study for Degree of Doctor of Theology extends through four stages: General Examinations, Prospectus, Dissertation, and Dissertation Defense. All students in the Th.D. program at Harvard Divinity School must be making satisfactory progress in order to be eligible for any type of financial aid. [Note: Satisfactory progress includes being on “grace”, or warning, and students may keep their financial aid. Unsatisfactory progress, commonly known as “probation”, would lead to ineligibility for financial aid.] All candidates for this degree must fulfill the following provisions of satisfactory progress to be considered in good standing:
Residence: Two years of doctoral study in residence with payment of full tuition are normally required. During those two years, students are required to register for and complete at least four credit courses per term. A student must have achieved the minimum grade point average of "B" in each academic year and have met the regulations governing enrollment with incompletes. Following payment of full tuition for two years, the student remains in residence but pays reduced tuition for the next two years. A student subsequently will be charged a Guidance and Facilities Fee for the remainder of his or her studies for the degree. During these periods of residence the student will be considered to be a full time enrolled student unless she or he is paying an Active File Fee for residence outside the Boston area. Supervision: During the student's residency up to approval of the Thesis Prospectus, his or her progress will be monitored by the Doctoral Subcommittee of the Standing Committee on the Study of Religion. Once the Prospectus is approved, the Dissertation shall be written under the supervision of one or more advisors approved by the Standing Committee.
Language Requirements: A reading knowledge of two modern languages of scholarship and either Greek, Latin, of Hebrew is required before taking General Examinations. Courses and/or examinations in additional languages may be required by the department of field of concentration or for specific topics of the student's research and thesis. It is possible in some cases, upon petition to the Doctoral Subcommittee, for students to substitute another classical language for one of the above, if it is deemed crucial to the pursuit of their program.
Modern Languages -- All doctoral students must achieve at least intermediate reading competence in two modern languages of secondary scholarship relevant to their course of study (such as French, German, Japanese), in addition to whatever primary source languages are required in their field. The student and adviser shall consult to decide upon the two modern languages.
Classical Languages -- Candidates are expected to demonstrate their reading proficiency at an intermediate level in one fo the classical languages of scholarship relevant to the student's course of study (normally, Latin, Greek, Hebrew or Arabic). Please refer to the Student Handbook for specific language requirements and detailed information about language examinations.
Second-Year Review: All students must participate in a Second-Year Review with at least two faculty members, to occur either in the third or, at the latest, in the fourth semester of study. The main purposes of the Second-Year Review are to consider and clarify the overall design and progress of a student’s academic program and to assess the student’s academic progress in general. Students participating in the Second-Year Review must submit the following, two weeks in advance, to the faculty participating in the review: 1) a two-page statement of academic purpose, and 2) two major course papers, one of which should be in the student’s major field and the other in a different field or discipline.
Seminars: One graduate seminar in general theological studies (normally DIV 4599: Common
Doctor of Theology Seminar), directed by one or more members of the faculty and focusing on the reading and interpretation of theological literature is required before the General Examinations. In addition, candidates must take the one to three graduate seminars required for their field of concentration, as well as other courses and seminars determined in consultation with an academic advisor.
General Examinations: By the end of the third year a student will ordinarily have passed general examinations or the departmental equivalent. Candidates are required to take General Examinations as follows: 1) Two three-hour written examinations in their field of concentration. 2) One three-hour written examination in a special topic chosen and defined by the candidate in consultation with faculty members. This special topic may lie within the area of concentration or may engage other fields of disciplines of academic studies. 3) An oral examination before a committee consisting normally of at least three members of the faculty. Except in special cases (e.g., Old Testament and Comparative Religion) where deferment has been previously formally granted, a prospective fourth-year student must have passed the General Examinations by the end of the third year. (Students in the field of Comparative Religion are required to take a fourth exam in Theory and Methods. Hebrew Bible students must take their General Exams in the Near Easter Languages and Civilization Department of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. See field guidelines for additional information.)
Prospectus: Each candidate's prospectus must be submitted and approved by the standing committee within one year after passing the general examination. Twenty-five copies of the 3000-word prospectus, stating clearly the argument of the thesis and showing why it gives promise of making a contribution to learning, must be presented to the Standing Committee for its approval. The context of the problem and the student's acquaintance with the literature in the field should be indicated. The Standing Committee may vote to accept the prospectus, it may vote to accept the Prospectus provisional upon certain additions to be submitted to the full Committee, or it may ask to student to resubmit a drastically revised Prospectus. The Committee, unless it has reason to reject the prospectus, will then appoint a Prospectus Subcommittee, which will meet with the student and report back to the Standing Committee.
Dissertation: The degree shall be awarded on the basis of the successful completion of a doctoral dissertation and its defense before a committee of the faculty. The dissertation shall be written under the supervision of an advisor approved by the Doctoral Subcommittee.
Within twelve months of approval of the prospectus and each subsequent year during which a student is allowed to register, she or he must have produced at least one acceptable chapter of the dissertation, or the equivalent. Normally, a thesis should be submitted within two years of approval of the prospectus, but it must be submitted within seven years from the date of admission to the program. After seven years in the program, students may petition the Th.D. director for a one-year extension of time to complete the dissertation. No more than three such petitions for each student will be accepted. The length of the thesis is limited to a maximum of 300 pages, exclusive of bibliography. Three or more unbound copies of the thesis, typed in its final form, must be submitted in spring binders, by August 15 for receipt of the degree in
November, by December 1 for its receipt in March, and by April 1 for its receipt at Commencement. A dissertation abstract, with a maximum length of 350 words, must be submitted with each copy.
Thesis Defense: If the thesis is deemed acceptable by the Advisor and the Director of Th.D.
Studies, the Standing Committee will appoint a Committee for the oral defense. If the examining committee accepts the thesis and its defense, and the examination is sustained by the Standing Committee, the original and first copy of the thesis in bound form should be submitted to the Registrar of Harvard Divinity School, prior to the awarding of the degree. (Please contact the HDS Registrar regarding requirements for electronic submission of a copy to the UMI Dissertation publishing site.)
Leaves of Absence: At the discretion of the Doctoral Subcommittee the calendar of requirements as noted above may be interrupted by a maximum of one year's leave of absence.
The candidate must pay a $100 program fee during a year on leave.
Extensions: A student who has not met degree requirements or an established deadline may with the endorsement of the Director of Th.D. Studies be granted an extension, normally for one year.