The DMin Project
Guidelines for Program Participants
The DMin project or dissertation is the culmination of a professional degree in ministry.
Timothy Lincoln, in a recent article in Theological Education describes the DMin project in ATS-approved schools: "Written for an audience of persons engaged in ministry, the project should address an issue arising out of ministerial practice, use an appropriate research model informed by the social sciences, and interpret itself from the point of view of a Christian minister." Further, he notes: "The project is an exercise in phronesis, practical Christian wisdom."
The Doctor of Ministry In-ministry Project blends the theoretical and the practical, theology and ministry. The objective is to provide materials for the benefit of the church and to help pastors grow. The emphasis blends research, academic writing, skill development and personal reflection. After presenting personal spiritual and theological reflection, analysis of the context, a theoretical and theological basis for the project itself, evidence of relevant literature and description of appropriate research methods, the writer narrates and evaluates an intervention implemented over time, usually in a local church. The project report is typically 100 to 120 pages, excluding appendices. Some projects may include fieldwork and/or the use of questionnaires and statistics. (See number 7, Projects.) Criteria used to judge a DMin project are:
- Well chosen problem, clearly stated in introduction
- Reasonable purpose of study
- Demonstration of knowledge of related literature
- Concise summary of findings
- Creative application of theory to pastoral situation
- Careful design of program
- Thorough realization of program
- Precise reporting of program
- Conscientious evaluation of program
- Judicious use of sources
- Clear conclusions reflecting problems and purpose
- Control of personal bias
The Doctor of Ministry program has adopted the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) as the writing style guide for Andrews Seminary Doctor of Ministry projects.
Defining the Doctor of Ministry Project
Each concentration, led by a coordinator, provides a concentration-specific paper for participants guiding them through the project in their DMin program. Those papers are approved by the DMin program committee. Each concentration is to reflect the following shared essentials in the project:
- reflection on the personal spiritual and theological foundations of the participant,
- definition and analysis of the context in which the project will be carried out,
- evidence of significant literature work,
- theological reflection relevant to the project,
- description of the appropriate research methods applied,
- narrative of the doing of the project,
- the outcomes, and
- evaluation and recommendations.
DMin students take GSEM790 DMin Project Seminar for four credits, usually early in their program. Under the guidance of the professor of that class, a student develops a suitable proposal and tentatively selects an advisor. When the advisor agrees, the student goes to the director of the DMin program and asks for that advisor to be appointed as his/her advisor. At that time a second reader is also chosen. Guided by the advisor, the student refines the proposal until it is deemed ready for proposal defense and presented to the chair of the DMin Proposal Sub-committee.
The student submits a copy of the project proposal to the chair of the DMin Proposal Sub-committee one week before the meeting of the committee when the proposal will be considered. This committee analyzes the proposal and determines whether it meets Andrews standards.
In evaluating the proposal, the DMin Proposal Sub-committee will consider the clarity, logic, organization, language, and presentation of the proposal. The DMin Proposal Sub-committee will pay special attention to the method of research proposed. While they recognize that the reference list is preliminary, sub-committee members will consider whether or not there is evidence of familiarity with appropriate sources. The proposal may be accepted as presented, accepted with modifications to be certified by the project coach, or rejected. The revised version of the proposal is approved by the advisor and DMin Proposal Sub-committee, then placed in the student's file. When a proposal is deemed satisfactory and has been officially accepted by the Doctor of Ministry Committee, the student will receive a letter conveying such approval. After this, the student formally begins the project.
Project Research and Writing
With approval of the proposal, the research process begins in earnest. Closely following the approved proposal and under the supervision of the advisor, the student carries out the needed research, both theoretical and field-oriented.
Once the research has been completed, the writing follows. Since the proposal contains most of the elements that will appear in Chapter 1, the student is advised to begin writing from Chapter 3. As soon as a chapter is written, the student submits it to the advisor and second reader for revision and approval. Normally, the advisor requests modifications, which the student must make before resubmitting the chapter. The process usually takes at least three rewrites.
The advisor and reader should consult on the document, determining together when it is ready for assessment. Some of the questions they will ask regarding the project are the following:
- Does the project integrate or weave together theory, theology, and practice?
- Does the writer use information from appropriate and relevant disciplines?
- Are appropriate field research methods applied?
- Does the project give a clear description of the process followed?
- Are appropriate components of analysis, evaluation, reflection, and conclusions evident?
- Is there proper documentation of all sources used?
- Is the writing correct, clear, and done according to Andrews University standards?
When advisor and second reader agree that the project is ready for assessment, the advisor informs the administrative assistant for learning, who chooses a third reader and sets a date for the assessment event.
The student supplies a copy of the project document to the administrative assistant for learning, for technical editing. See the "completion deadlines" on this website for more details.
The purpose of the assessment is to evaluate the candidate's ability to integrate what he/she has learned into improved ministerial practice and to provide an opportunity for the candidate to explain the research accomplished. The assessment event is open to the public. The DMin director, advisor, second reader, and third reader constitute the assessment committee.
After the candidate presents his/her research, the examiners take turns asking questions. In an executive session, the four examiners decide the results of the examination, which can be acceptance, acceptance with revisions, or rejection.
When revisions are requested (as normally happens), the committee usually empowers the advisor to supervise the changes and provide certification that they have been accomplished. The advisor will meet with the student and communicate the needed changes. The student will make the revisions and then submit a revised copy to the advisor. If the advisor approves of the revisions, a copy will be sent to the administrative assistant for learning for approval and editing. A student may not receive a diploma until the revisions are completed.
The DMin Project Coach
The DMin Project Coach should:
- Ascertain from the advisor whether or not the proposal is ready for presentation to the DMin Proposal Sub-committee and discuss with the advisor the steps that need to be taken to make it ready.
- Call meetings of the DMin Proposal Sub-committee.
- Notify the student and the advisor regarding the date of the meeting when the project proposal will be evaluated.
- Approve the final version of the proposal and recommend it to the DMin Committee.
The role of the advisor regarding the proposal and the project is as follows:
- Be available to the student for consultation and guarantee a turn-around time of no more than 21 days for each item submitted by the student. Conversations regarding the proposal and each subsequent chapter are generally no longer than 20 minutes. A student should anticipate one conversation regarding the proposal and one for each chapter.
- Guide in the development and preparation of the project proposal by ascertaining that the project proposal is in finalized form.
- Provide counsel with respect to methodology and resources for the project.
- Monitor each stage of the project to ensure professional relevance and academic discipline according to the standards of doctoral study at Andrews University.
- Make certain, when the nature of the project requires it, that appropriate components of data gathering, analysis, and evaluation are included; monitor the in-ministry project as needed.
- Make certain that the candidate writes well and follows regulations governing format according to Andrews University Standards For Written Work.
- The advisor is not to do the work of the student. He/she is to ask the student to revise or edit when appropriate.
- See that the candidate confines the written project document to the appropriate length.
- Inform the administrative assistant for learning when the project is ready for final assessment.
The responsibilities of the DMIN student are the following:
- Enroll in GSEM790 and prepare an acceptable proposal in that class.
- Contact the prospective advisor, secure his/her approval of the research topic and willingness to serve as advisor, and make arrangements for the DMin Director to appoint the advisor and second reader.
- Refine the proposal as needed and present a copy to the DMin Project Coach.
- Implement the modifications requested by the DMin Proposal Sub-committee under the guidance of the advisor; submit a revised version for final approval and filing.
- Work closely with the advisor on a strategy for research and a timetable agreeable to student and advisor.
- Submit each chapter of the project at the agreed-upon time; make corrections as requested and resubmit.
- Prepare the final version of the document with all its parts.
- Work closely with the administrative assistant for learning after the advisor considers that the work is in its final state.
- Participate in the oral assessment.
- Make all requested corrections and present the final copy to the administrative assistant for learning in time for the final certification.
Students come from varied backgrounds. Patterns of thinking vary with culture; sometimes that complicates the research/writing mode of a doctoral program. Language difficulties often hinder progress.
Many students find it difficult to approach faculty members and advisors requesting help. In some cultures it may be considered too "bold." Students should remember that teachers expect them to initiate contact.
Professors do not correct typographical errors or edit. The appropriate response from an advisor when grammar, spelling, or format are unacceptable is to return the paper after correcting the first three pages (and scanning the whole) with instructions for rewriting it. These instructions might include directions for reorganizing, advice on cutting or lengthening sections, and even a mandate to find an editor.