All But Dissertation (A.B.D.) – Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Degree Completion Program


The GTF has developed an accelerated completion program designed specifically for those individuals who have reached the All But Dissertation (A.B.D.) level at a graduate school of an accredited seminary or university. All But Dissertation (A.B.D.) indicates incompletion. According to statistical reports of the various state and government agencies monitoring higher education in the United States, there is an inordinately high percentage of individuals who fail to complete their Ph.D. work after having successfully sustained the doctoral qualifying examinations, completed language requirements, and fulfilled residency coursework. The phenomenon is particularly and disturbingly high in the cognate fields of theology and religious studies.  The A.B.D. Doctor of Philosophy degree completion program of the GTF is an attempt to address this issue. 

The degree may be completed in no less than twelve months and no more than three years. 
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Admission Requirements

The program is built around the integrity of the graduate work completed up to, but not including, the successful completion of the thesis.  Any All But Dissertation (A.B.D.) applicant must meet the following criteria in order to be accepted into the program and defined as a Ph.D. candidate:
  1. Appropriate undergraduate and graduate degrees which allow for the pursuit of doctoral work.
  2. Completion of all residency requirements for the Ph.D. at a graduate school of religious studies, seminary, or university.
  3. Fulfillment of language requirements, if applicable, in compliance with the
    degree being pursued.
  4. Passing of any and all Ph.D. qualifying examinations in preparation for the writing of the thesis.
  5. Demonstration of good standing at previous All But Dissertation (A.B.D.) institution.
  6. Completion of Application Process. To be included in the application packet is a 3-5 page academic writing sample.

Program Requirements

Individuals designated as All But Dissertation (A.B.D.) who transfer their credits and records into the All But Dissertation (A.B.D.) program of the GTF must fulfill the following requirements:
  1. Completion of the Research Methodology non-credit course
  2. Nomination and approval of a Thesis Supervisor.
  3. Submission and approval of thesis proposal. 
  4. Submission of one electronic copy of the thesis and required forms (abstract, personal biography, cover sheet, Thesis Supervisor Report Form).
  5. Successful defense of the doctoral thesis.
After completing all coursework, candidates undertake the research and writing of a doctoral thesis of 45,000-60,000 words in their field of specialization. It must be clearly a work of original academic scholarship making a contribution to the field of specialty. The thesis must be written in 12 point Times New Roman (or comparable) font, double-spaced and with the appropriate table of contents and bibliography. 
The basic commitment of the Graduate Theological Foundation is to serve the ministries of the various ecclesial traditions through programs of advanced professional education. The thesis, as the culminating work of the highest academic degree, must always relate significantly to some aspect of ministry and be an original and distinct contribution to the knowledge of a specific discipline or area of inquiry.
The thesis is shaped as a written work of original systematic research, which includes the substantive exposition of the theoretical basis and rationale of the subject, together with a demonstration of familiarity with the appropriate scholarly and professional literature. It should be noted that the written form of theses is to be in the style of actual scholarly publications; that is, the thesis as finally submitted is to be suitable for publication without being rewritten.
When the thesis in its final form has been reviewed and approved by the student’s Thesis Supervisor, it must be submitted to the GTF for final review and for forwarding to defense panel members.  One copy of the thesis, abstract, cover sheet and biographical statement must be submitted by email to the Office of the Registrar a minimum of three months prior to the intended date of defense.  Click here to fill out the form to request the email address of The Office of the Registrar.  After receiving both the completed thesis and the Thesis Supervisor Report Form, the GTF will appoint two additional readers, as the thesis is a demonstration of the capacity of the candidate to engage in significant professional scholarship and thus be a peer to other scholars in the field. 
Thesis Style Statement
There are several internationally recognized thesis styles acceptable in the academic community. In light of the fact that the Foundation has a rather large international student body, the Foundation has not adopted a single style form acceptable for thesis writing. The GTF will, rather, accept any of the internationally recognized styles, given that the student consistently employs the same style throughout the writing of the thesis. Those most commonly used but not required include Turabian, MLA, APA, as well as others known and recognized universally.
Thesis Supervision

When degrees first began to be awarded by universities in the twelfth century in Bologna, Paris, and Oxford, the doctor’s degree was recognized as a universal authentication of scholarship. The doctorate was not earned by attending classes but by sustained residency and demonstrated scholarship. The credential was awarded by the faculty of the university on the basis of a thesis which was submitted by the candidate and followed by an oral defense of the document before the gathered academic community.

Times have changed but much of the doctoral process has endured. The Graduate Theological Foundation requires a demonstration of academic research considered by the faculty to be an original work of scholarship and a contribution to the field. After the doctoral candidate has completed residency and language requirements (if required), the development of the thesis is initiated under the direct supervision of the Thesis Supervisor.

The Thesis Supervisor, in this style of learning, is specifically mandated to work closely with the candidate in the development of the thesis topic and through its evolving refinements leading to the finished product. The Thesis Supervisor is nominated by the candidate and approved Academic Affairs Committee, on the basis of academic qualifications at the doctoral level of training and experience.

Selection of Faculty Thesis Supervisor and Nomination Procedure

Students select a faculty member of the GTF to serve as Thesis Supervisor. This enables the student to receive helpful and pragmatic evaluative feedback from a member of the faculty in the developmental process of producing the doctoral thesis. The role of the faculty Thesis Supervisor is responsive and suggestive. The faculty person is encouraged to limit feedback to pragmatically helpful hints and suggestions and not to attempt any censorship of the thesis. The exercise of discretion with respect to time demands is very important for both the student and faculty member. The faculty Thesis Supervisor must give final approval of the student’s work by submitting the Thesis Supervisor Report Form.

  • The student peruses the Faculty Details page and makes a selection.
  • The student completes the Faculty Thesis Supervisor Nomination Form (Forms).
  • Academic Affairs provides the nominated faculty member with the Faculty Thesis Supervisor Nomination Form.
  • The selected faculty member notifies Academic Affairs of acceptance of student nomination.
  • Academic Affairs informs the student and faculty member of relationship approval and contact information is provided. 
Thesis Proposal
The candidate will submit a thesis proposal to the GTF. This will be the first working document generated from the relationship between the candidate and the Thesis Supervisor. The proposal will include a brief description of the proposed thesis, a working title, and an exemplary bibliography. A form for this proposal is provided by the GTF.
Doctoral Abstract
The Ph.D. candidate must submit a 750-1,250 word (3-5 page) overview of the Ph.D. thesis at least three months prior to sitting for the oral defense. A one-page biographical statement should accompany the abstract.
Doctoral Committee
Every student admitted into an academic doctoral program, either the Ph.D. or the Th. D., will be assigned a Doctoral Committee prior to the scheduling of the doctoral defense.  The members of the committee are as follows
  • Thesis Supervisor
  • Two Defense Panel members
  • Defense Chair
These four individuals are not asked to agree with the observations or conclusions drawn by the doctoral candidate in the thesis, but the committee must finally concur that the thesis is worthy of scholarly recognition based on traditional standards of scholarship, research and presentation. 
To read a full description of the Academic Doctoral Committee, members, roles, procedures, etc., please click here.
Doctoral Defense Options
With the advent of video conference technology, face to face conversations are now possible without the need and cost of physical travel. Here at GTF, we believe that students benefit from having conversations with faculty members in a live, give and take format. For this reason, we do require students to attend live defense meetings, either in person or through video conferencing. In special circumstances, approved by the Academic Affairs Committee, a written disputation process will be offered. This is only offered when health issues or lack of technology issues make video conferencing difficult. The two main ways in which a defense is offered is through video conferencing or on-site defenses, as presented below:
1.       The Oral Doctoral Defense through video conferencing 
The GTF now offers an online video option for an oral defense. In this option, the faculty defense committee will assemble in the conference room of our Oklahoma City offices, and the student will join us through video conferencing technology. The defense will then proceed as a traditional oral defense. Once the student has answered the questions of the defense panel, the video feed will be temporarily suspended while the panel makes its judgments. When ready, the video feed will be reopened, and the doctoral student will be informed of the panel’s decisions concerning the approval of the defense and the eligibility for graduation.
2.       On Site Oral Doctoral Defense 
Students can elect to travel to the Oklahoma City Offices of the GTF for an on site oral defense. The defense panel will meet with the student in the conference room and proceed with a traditional oral defense. In this case, students are responsible for their own travel costs. GTF has an arrangement with several hotels near our Oklahoma City offices that will offer reduced rates for hotel rooms.
Doctoral Defense Scheduling
The doctoral defense is scheduled no sooner than 90 days and no longer than 180 days from the time that all academic and financial obligations have been met. Various defense dates are offered throughout the year, and are listed here
You will be notified by the Office of the Registrar of your eligibility to schedule a defense after the following have been received by our offices:
  • Thesis Proposal
  • Thesis Cover Sheet
  • Abstract and Biographical Statement
  • Thesis Supervisor Report Form answering the six key points within the thesis (this form is mailed directly to our offices by the Thesis Supervisor)
  • One electronic copy of the thesis (PDF or MS Word format)
  • Payment of all tuition and fees 
All But Dissertation Transfers
Current students in, and graduates of, the GTF All But Dissertation (A.B.D.) program have transferred from the following institutions:
  • American University
  • The Angelicum (The Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas)
  • Argosy University
  • California Institute of Integral Studies
  • Capella University
  • City University of New York
  • Columbia University
  • Drew University
  • Duke University
  • Duquesne University
  • Fordham University
  • George Mason University
  • Hebrew Union College
  • Iliff School of Theology/University of Denver
  • Loyola College
  • Loyola University Chicago
  • Michigan State University
  • Northcentral University
  • Nova Southeastern University
  • The Ohio State University
  • Seton Hall University
  • St. Louis University
  • Touro University
  • University of Bridgeport
  • University of Denver
  • University of Malta
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Oklahoma
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Saint Thomas, Rome, Italy
  • University of San Francisco
  • University of Wyoming
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • Walden University
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