Doctoral Dissertations on Mission: Ten-Year Update, 1992-2001

By Skreslet, Stanley H. | International Bulletin of Missionary Research, July 2003 | Go to article overview

Doctoral Dissertations on Mission: Ten-Year Update, 1992-2001


Skreslet, Stanley H., International Bulletin of Missionary Research


For a third time in twenty years, the INTERNATIONAL BULLETIN OF MISSIONARY RESEARCH has commissioned a survey of doctoral dissertations on mission. (1) As was the case in 1993, the present effort is a decennial review of English-language dissertations related to mission studies, broadly understood. No geographic restrictions were imposed with respect to the institutions surveyed, a departure from the procedure employed previously, when only North American dissertations were considered. What follows is thus a truly global sample of recent doctoral work in the field of missiology, completed between 1992 and 2001 and written in English.

Several key criteria were developed at the outset of this endeavor to guide in the selection of dissertations. One was a decision by the editors to limit the search to research doctorates, which meant that final projects submitted in connection with D.Min. and D.Miss. degrees (and their equivalents) were not considered. The compiler was given the freedom to define which dissertations undertaken at the Ph.D./Th.D. level might qualify as missiology. These were identified by applying one or more of the following tests:

* Did the author of the dissertation indicate in the title or published abstract an intention to engage in missiological research?

* Has the dissertation been publicly recognized in some way as a contribution to mission studies (e.g., by being reviewed as such or by being cited in the "Dissertation Notices" of the IBMR or by virtue of its having been submitted to a school or faculty that specializes in missionary research)?

* In the judgment of the compiler, does the dissertation represent the kind of scholarly work professional missiologists should be consulting directly when pursuing their own investigations into the basis, methodology, history, and theology of Christian mission?

Obviously, the third category allowed for a wide net to be cast across a broad variety of academic disciplines that overlap with mission studies. In borderline cases, a subjective decision whether or not to include a given thesis had to be made on the basis of the work's potential relevance to the field of missiology as that discipline might develop in the next ten years.

Table 1 shows the sources used in the compilation of the registry. Each of these bibliographic resources yielded dissertation titles and other basic information. In addition, three of them furnished abstracts: Dissertation Abstracts International (DAI), Index to Theses in Great Britain and Ireland, and the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies Web site. When no published abstract was available, the library catalog of the degree-granting institution was searched electronically in order to gather additional data about the subject(s) covered in the dissertation and, if possible, the methodology employed by the researcher. By far, the most crucial source of information for this project was DAI, an increasingly comprehensive and globally oriented database of abstracts and titles that can be searched electronically by keyword. From this point forward, administrators of both long-established programs and new initiatives in doctoral-level missiological research located outside of North America may want to consider submit ting their graduate-degree information to DAI in order to ensure that the work of their students is not overlooked if and when this exercise is conducted again, perhaps in 2013. (2)

Analyzing the Dissertations

Having explained briefly the methodology used to conduct this latest review of dissertation work in missiology, we may now turn to consider the results. The first observation to be made concerns the geographic range represented by this group of theses, as reflected in the provenance of the degree-granting institutions. Overall, students enrolled in seminaries, divinity schools, and universities located in the United States produced an overwhelming majority of the dissertations on the list (618). …

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