Writing a Thesis

Each sprithesis_overloadng, the Registrar and the Library get lots of questions from students about preparing one’s dissertation or thesis. This can be an anxious time, but that’s not necessary! You’ve done great work to get to this point – you’ll finish the thesis and you will graduate. Here are some frequently asked questions and their answers. Do you have others? Post them in the comments and we’ll try and calm any leftover anxieties!

How do I begin? Start your work by meeting with your academic advisor early in the term. Your advisor will coach you on your topic, how to start your work and who your readers should be. Plan to meet with the reference librarian, too, to learn about the resources available in the Keller Library and in the greater NYC area. Find out more about the academic component here.

What’s the difference between a thesis and a summative project? Theses, summative papers, and projects are opportunities for M.Div. and M.A. students to focus their attention in a particular area at the culmination of their studies. Theses are distinctive in making a scholarly contribution to a field of study. Students writing theses should bear in mind that their work will become a permanent part of The Christoph Keller, Jr. Library, available for consultation by future students, faculty, and other scholars.

For M.Div. students, undertaking a thesis represents a decision to study a particular area in what is otherwise a general professional degree. For M.A. students, the thesis is the culmination of study in the concentration that has characterized the student’s entire program.

A project is a piece of work that combines scholarly research with application to a ministry setting, either hypothetical or real. In the case of an actual ministry setting, a project may describe the outcomes of the implementation of the project’s proposals. Projects are placed in The Christoph Keller, Jr. Library.

A summative paper is a piece of work in which a student integrates and sums up the learning of one’s degree program in a paper on a particular topic. The emphasis of a summative paper is on the student’s integration of learning rather then a scholarly contribution. These papers tend to be shorter than theses. A summative paper is not normally placed in The Christoph Keller, Jr. Library.

When can I turn in my thesis? Your paper is considered to be finished once you’ve made all the suggested edits and the signature page is attached and signed by all readers. You’ll print two copies of the document, formatted according to the thesis guidelines, on 100 percent rag bond paper, single-sided and double-spaced, and submit those and the signature page to the Registrar. Be sure to make an appointment with the Registrar to review your thesis. The Registrar will not accept work that is not formatted correctly, so be sure that you’ve followed the thesis guidelines!

How many copies? What about a personal copy? The thesis guidelines state that you’ll submit two copies of your thesis for the library. These both will be bound over the summer after your graduation. One will be placed lovingly in the Archives and kept for posterity along with hundreds of other GTS graduates’ work. The other will be placed lovingly in the Library’s circulating collections, so that students in the future can read your deep thoughts for inspiration.

If you’d like to have us bind a personal copy of your thesis, bring those extras to the Registrar during your thesis appointment, along with $30 for each additional copy. Be sure that we have your permanent address so that we can send these to you once they’re back in the fall.

Why the bond paper and the formatting requirements? This is a lot of extra trouble! We require you to print your thesis copies on 100 percent rag bond paper, single-sided, double-spaced, and using the required format set out in the guidelines. These guidelines give us uniformity in submissions, which means that the reader in future years won’t be distracted by unusual or idiosyncratic formatting, and that the paper on which your thesis is printed will hold up to the ages. If someone needs to photocopy some pages, the spine of the volume is less likely to be damaged if the thesis is single-sided. In short, these requirements ensure that your hard work will hold up to posterity!

Congratulations on hitting that home stretch in your academic work! If you have questions that aren’t addressed here, please post them in the comments and we’ll get you the answers!

Edited to add…

Nuances of binding: the title of your thesis versus the title on the spine. You will work out your thesis title with your advisor, and you’ll include this on the title page of your thesis when you turn it in to the Registrar. Bear this in mind: there is limited space on the spine of your bound document for the title, so you may wish to consider your title carefully. Your thesis title page may contain something like this: The Very Deepest Thoughts of Deepak Chopra: How He Reached the Conclusion that Everything’s Better with Anglican Chant – but your spine title will read something like: THE DEEPEST THOUGHTS OF DEEPAK CHOPRA. If you have questions about how this works, please ask your reference librarian!

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