Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


The degree of Doctor of Philosophy is the universally accepted terminal academic degree.  The degree taken through the GTF allows students to specialize in several fields, including Islam, Judaism, psychology, biblical studies, historical studies, and theological studies. The GTF’s program seeks to address concerns in the context of overarching perspectives.  Specialties are removed from potential isolation and located in the large-scale dynamics of religious traditions and their ministries. Candidates for GTF degree thus seek a two-fold academic identification: as specialists in various fields and as those who undertake to relate such fields to the multiple dimensions of religion, religious experience, and religious traditions.

This degree is a 36-42 credit program that may be completed in no less than two years and no more than four years.

Would you like to hear from an alumnus? Click here

Admission Requirements
  1. Baccalaureate degree or equivalent validated by a transcript.
  2. Graduate degree or equivalent training in an appropriate field validated by documentation.
  3. Five years of accumulated experience in a cognate field of ministry.
  4. Completion of the Application Procedure.

Program Requirements

  1. Students are expected to thoroughly familiarize themselves with the Student Handbook of the year of their acceptance with particular focus on their particular degree program.  Students are bound by the academic and financial requirements of the Handbook in use at the time of their acceptance.  The current Student Handbook as well as past years’ Handbooks can be viewed here.
  2. Completion of ten Units of Study:  five required from the Graduate Theological Foundation, and five completed through the GTF, through other approved educational institutions, or through the use of transfer credit
  3. Completion of the non-credit course, Research Methodology. This course is a prerequisite to beginning the doctoral thesis.
  4. Fulfillment of language requirements if such have been determined by the Thesis Supervisor.
  5. Nomination and approval of Thesis Supervisor.
  6. Submission of an electronic copy of a doctoral thesis of 45,000-60,000 words and required forms (abstract, personal biography, cover sheet, Thesis Supervisor Report Form).
  7. Successful defense of the doctoral thesis.    

Study Options 

This program requires the completion of ten Units of Study. A Unit of Study is defined as 40 contact hours of instruction, and is equivalent to a 3-credit graduate-level course, one Unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, or 4 Continuing Education Units.

Units of Study may be completed through the GTF, from other approved venues, or by using transfer credit.

The Study Options button on the GTF’s website under the heading Academics lists the course offerings of the GTF and provides information about the various methods of earning Units of Study for your degree.

NOTE: For Paper Guidelines, please Click Here.

Research Methodology
Research Methodology is a required course for all students completing a thesis.  The Research Methodology course requirement is explained here.
Transfer Credit
Any student wishing to have previously completed academic work evaluated for possible transfer credit or wishing to complete coursework through a venue other than the Graduate Theological Foundation for use as transfer credit toward a degree, must contact the Office of the Registrar for approval. Students may use transfer credit to fulfill a maximum 50% of their Unit of Study requirements for this degree program.  Accepted transfer credit has the potential to decrease the total tuition paid by the student. Requests for acceptance of transfer credit are reviewed on a case by case basis. GTF transfer credit policy allows for a $600 tuition reduction per Unit of Study (3 graduate credits) fulfilled by transfer credit.
Language Requirement
In instances where the doctoral thesis topic requires competency in one or more languages as determined by the Thesis Supervisor, the student must produce either a transcript of two academic semesters of language courses or some other means of demonstrated competency to the satisfaction of the Thesis Supervisor and the Office of the President.
Thesis Proposal
The candidate will submit a thesis proposal during the Research Methodology Course. This will be the first working document generated for 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.
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 GTF has a rather large international student body, the GTF 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.
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.
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 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 Supervisor Roster

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. 
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 will be scheduled no sooner than 90 days and no longer than 180 days from the time that all academic and financial obligations have been met. 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 (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 

Defense deadlines can be found here:  Doctoral Defense Scheduling

Scroll to Top