USML | Licentiate Thesis

Licentiate of Sacred Theology (S.T.L.)

Licentiate Thesis

  • The licentiate thesis is written in the area of specialization and may be compared to a substantial scholarly essay, its length is sixty to eighty typewritten pages. The thesis demonstrates the student’s ability to do theological research, to present it in a coherent way, and concludes with a personal assessment of the findings. 

  • The topic of the research paper is to be approved by the Graduate Board, and the paper itself is to be approved by a Director and by one other reader. 

  • Schedule for Research and Writing 

i. During the second semester of the S.T.L. program, the student will enroll in Thesis Guidance during which he or she will choose a director who will agree to meet with the student on a regular basis (approximately every 3-4 weeks). The student will work with the thesis director to develop a proposal for the licentiate thesis. With the approval of the thesis director, the student will submit the proposal to the President of the Pontifical Faculty who asks another professor to review and accept the proposal.  The outline for this proposal is as follows: 

-Working Title
-Working Thesis Statement
-Working list of up to 10 primary sources
-Working list of up to 20 secondary and tertiary sources
-A minimum of five questions that will guide the student’s “conversation” with the chosen sources.

Once approved by another faculty member, the student may begin the process of research and writing.

ii. In the third and fourth semesters of the program, the student will enroll in Thesis Writing.  By the middle of the fourth semester of the program the student will submit a working draft of the S.T.L. thesis to the director. (Bishops of ordained students will be informed of this requirement. If a student is assigned to full-time responsibilities in a parish, the writing schedule can be negotiated with the President.) 

iii. By the end of the fourth semester of the program the student will submit the final draft of the thesis to be graded by the director.  Once graded, the student will request from the President a date for the Presentation and Defense of the Thesis. 

  • Presentation and Defense of S.T.L. Thesis

i. The candidate for the S.T.L. degree will give a 20-minute presentation of his or her thesis before a board appointed by the President of the Pontifical Faculty and constituted by the director of the thesis and two other professors. After the presentation, each member of the board will ask questions and discuss the presentation with the candidate for 20 minutes apiece. 

ii. Successful completion of the student’s defense of their thesis requires at least a “B” (87%) average of the grades given by the three members of the board. This grade is a separate grade from the grade given the Thesis by the thesis director. 

  • Time Limits 

i. The Licentiate paper is completed in the final term of study. By exception, students may extend the work for up to three years, during which time they must register for “Ongoing Thesis Writing” each semester until the project is complete. 

ii. After three years, guidance will no longer be provided and a diploma will not be granted. Students still wishing to be awarded the degree must reapply to the program.

  • In order to participate in the University Convocation at the end of the academic year, a student must have completed all work for the S.T.L. thirty (30) days before the Convocation.


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