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Upon the Completion of Comprehensive Exams

The journey began in June of 2011. That was the month I began studying for Entrance Exams for the PhD in Congregational Mission and Leadership at Luther Seminary. I had no idea what to expect. Since that day I have read hundreds of books, written countless papers, passed a German exam and a statistics exam, and taken eleven courses.

Yesterday I completed the fourth and final comprehensive exam. Each exam consisted of two questions and lasted for eight hours. Each Thursday in September I sat down at a computer, in a locked room, opened up a piece of paper containing the two questions, and started writing. I’d write until noon, take a lunch break for an hour, then come back and write until five. I wrote thirty-five pages on each of the first three exams and forty pages on yesterday’s exam. That totals 145 pages. I had a bibliography of 94 books that I was supposed to know for these exams.

Here’s where I stand today. I have no idea if I passed the exams. This morning I was reprocessing yesterday’s exam and realized that I completely left out one of the primary authors for that topic. Doh! My readers (there are three) have thirty days to grade the exams.

Let’s suppose that I pass the exams. What next? Now I’m off to the real work: the Dissertation. It will be equally as intense as the last two years, but in a different way. This time I get to set the agenda. I know what my project is. The only things that stand between me and the ability to start my research are (1) passing my comps, (2) getting approval on my Institutional Review Board (IRB) application. This is a process that anyone who studies human beings must go through in order to assure the ethical treatment of the people being studied.

Once those two waypoints are passed I will be able to begin my research. That will take all of next year. I hope to write my theoretical, theological, and contextual chapters while the research is happening. The plan is to submit my draft to the office in January of 2015 and defend it in March or April of that year.

I have been and will continue to chronicle the project at www.deepintheburbs.com

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