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Research and Method
Developing a Proposal  
Presenting the Proposal  
STL Thesis  
STD Dissertation  
Time Limit for Completion

With a degree in theology the student will be expected to be familiar not only with the area of specialization in Marian Studies, but also with the current literature in all the branches of theology: systematics, historical studies, Scripture, etc. Familiarity with the wide range of theological literature is an absolute requirement.

The subject of a research project should be original, a contribution to the field. The topic's ultimate justification is not primarily that it is relevant to today's questions, but that it provides interested persons with information not previously available in that way.

A research project must include both a text and a context, that is, it must both have a specific focus, but also be situated within a larger background.

Good research projects are focused and limited in scope.

  1. DEVELOPING A PROPOSAL (STL thesis; STD dissertation)

    Developing the proposal is a major step in writing a thesis (STL) or dissertation (STD). The proposal must be clear, precise, and specific. The proposal indicates that the student has a grasp of the overall direction of the project, the principal divisions of the work, the method which will be followed, and the bibliography. By outlining as clearly as possible the entire project (either by principal divisions or chapters), one can avoid repeating the same material in different places.

    Before submitting the proposal, the student should be able to give thorough and complete answers to the following questions:

    1. What is the general field of inquiry and the special focus of the study?

    2. What articles and books have been already written on the topic? What is your work going to add to the previously existing body of literature? This is sometimes known as the status quaestionis. The student should show that he/she is aware of and has studied the strengths and limitations of what has already been written on a topic. The fact that a topic has been written about previously does not preclude further investigation, provided that the student can demonstrate the shortcomings or incomplete nature of what has already been published or what a new investigation might reveal.

    3. What are the original or primary materials which will furnish the basis for the study? Careful distinction between original materials and secondary materials (articles containing interpretations or commentaries on primary materials) is of importance. The main body of research should be limited to an investigation of the original materials. For example, the primary materials contain the interpretations which you may or may not judge to be pertinent and accurate. A danger to be avoided is allowing the secondary materials to form too large a part of the evaluation.

    4. How will the original materials be analyzed or studied? A body of materials requires some heuristic device to bring out its full meaning. There are many methods of studying a text. But it is important that the method arise from the text, and not be imposed in such a way as to distort the meaning of the text. An external critique would involve a study of all the influences which may have influenced the text. An internal critique would examine a text from a point of view of consistency, accuracy, and development. Various methods of textual or literary criticism are also possible.

    5. What are the hypotheses which will furnish the direction of the study? As you sift through large amounts of materials, questions or "hunches" or suppositions will arise which direct the efforts of the researcher. Generally speaking, with the exception of a serendipitous discovery, the researcher only finds what he/she is looking for. Without questions or hypotheses, research lacks aim or direction. During the course of the research, hypotheses may be modified, but it is those hypotheses which shape the study and eventually furnish the conclusions for the study.


    The thesis or dissertation proposal for the Licentiate or Doctorate, elaborated with the help of the moderator or thesis director, must be presented to the director of the IMRI and approved by his council. It should include the following:

    1. a title indicating both the general field and the specific topic of investigation;

    2. a review of the research on the topic indicating the strengths and omissions of what has been previously written;

    3. an explanation of the specific contribution which this study will make to the field of knowledge;

    4. a preliminary outline giving the principal divisions or chapters;

    5. the method of analysis or way of treating original material;

    6. a bibliography of primary and secondary materials with occasional annotations on the usefulness of a book or article.

    All of the above are offered as suggestions for the proposal; the outline need not be slavishly followed. The methods of investigation are myriad. Generally speaking, the researcher should not impose categories on the material, but rather follow the directions which the material indicates. It is the material itself which indicates or provides the method.

    In writing the thesis or dissertation, for example the Turabian or the MLA style manual may be followed. For footnotes and bibliography, consistency in the form used is what is important.


    1. The thesis must be an original scholarly work that has not been presented at another academic institution.

    2. The topic should be chosen and the proposal presented by the end of the second summer of the student's studies.

    3. The moderator is a professor of IMRI. Experts in the field may be invited for advice and guidance.

    4. Thirty days before the defense, five typed copies must be presented to the director of the IMRI with the nihil obstat of the thesis moderator.

    5. The defense takes place before the director of the IMRI, the moderator of the thesis, and one examiner designated by the director. The defense includes a discussion of the principal theological themes related to the candidate's thesis.

    6. The candidate explains for forty minutes why this topic was chosen; what methods were followed, difficulties met, results attained; and what is original in the conclusions.

    7. Each examiner who reviewed the thesis has fifteen minutes to ask questions and explains his/her appraisal of the thesis. At the end, the moderator of the thesis may intervene.

    8. The evaluation is based on the following scale:

      • summa cum laude = 29-30 points

      • magna cum laude = 27-28 points

      • cum laude = 24-26 points

      • bene probatus = 21-23 points

      • probatus = 18-20 points.

      The written thesis and the oral defense each receive 50%.

    9. Based on the observations made by the examiner and the director of the thesis, the candidate prepares a corrected and final copy of his/her thesis, and submits it for approval to the director of the IMRI and his council.

    10. The final evaluation of a candidate is based on the results of the comprehensive examination (30%) and the written thesis as defended and corrected (70%).

    11. For the licentiate, six copies of the revised thesis will be given to the director of the IMRI. One copy will be sent to the Marianum.

    12. The diploma, signed by the director of the IMRI, by the president, the Grand Chancellor and secretary of the Marianum, will be awarded the student.


      1. The topic of the dissertation will be chosen during the first semester. At the beginning of the second semester, the candidate must present an outline of his/her dissertation.

      2. The proposal is evaluated by the moderator of the dissertation and by a second professor of the IMRI. It is then submitted to the director's council for approval.

      3. The dissertation must conform to the Norms established by the Marianum:

        • The work must be original and be a genuine contribution to the development of knowledge.

        • It must not have been previously published nor presented to another institution. An STL thesis presented at the IMRI or at the Marianum can be the basis for doctoral research.

        • A dissertation of at least 150 pages is expected wherein the personal work of the candidate and its scholarly value can be appraised.

        • Three months before the defense of the dissertation eight copies must be given to the Institute. The dissertation must have the written approval of the thesis director and of the director's council. Two copies are sent to the Marianum.

      4. To be admitted for the defense, the dissertation must be approved by a commission (of two reviewers) and the president of the Marianum.

      5. For the defense, the same procedures as given above for the STL thesis are followed with these differences:

        • There are three examiners.

        • In the evaluation, 50% is given for the written dissertation, 20% for the defense, and 30% for studies and scholarly activities of the candidate (publications, comprehensive exams, etc.)

      6. After the defense, the candidate submits to the director of the IMRI a summary of the dissertation (350 word abstract) and receives a copy of the observations submitted by the three examiners.

      7. To obtain the diploma of the STD the candidate must publish his/her dissertation in whole or in part, taking into consideration the observations and directions of the board of examiners. A copy of the complete revised text must be given to the director of the IMRI. The nihil obstat of the director of IMRI, the director of the dissertation, and the examiners is necessary for the publication. The text may be published in offset. Click here for guidelines on preparation of the final draft. Other specific questions regarding format may be directed to the thesis director or to the Coordinator of IMRI's Academic Program as they arise.

      8. At this point six copies are sent to the Marianum by the candidate along with one CD containing a digital copy in PDF or MS Word format. The IMRI also receives six hard copies and one digital copy on CD. A copy is sent to the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education by the Marianum.

      9. The complete work (ready to be photocopied) and a 350-word abstract should be sent to Dissertation Abstracts International.


      1. Research paper for certificates: present within one year after completion of course work

      2. STL Thesis: present within three years after completion of course work.

      3. STD dissertation: present within five years after completion of course work.

      4. Publication of STD dissertation: complete within one year after defense.

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