Written by Jeremy Blackwood
Remember that, by the time you submit a DDO, you have passed your DQEs. In part, this means that the faculty are confident that you CAN do this
Proximate goal: get it accepted
Remote goal: plan the dissertation
Working out the DDO does, in fact, help to plan a dissertation. It organizes your thought, clarifies the problems, gets you (more) familiar with the bibliographic materials, etc. Keep in mind, however, that the immediate goal of filling out a DDO is getting it accepted by the Graduate Committee, and that the planning out a dissertation is a secondary goal. Maintain your focus.
This is, in general, not written in stone
You’re not expected to know the whole path before you take your first step—they know there will be revisions as you progress through the dissertation, so keep that in mind and don’t feel like you can’t put something down until you’re “absolutely certain” that it’ll be that way or this way. No one expects a DDO to be a perfect plan for a perfect dissertation that is perfectly followed.
On specific sections:
C. Statement of the Problem—They want to know that you can identify a viable target for examination and reflection. The faculty want you to show that you’ve identified a problem or need in the theological community or a subset of the theological community (Lonerganians, ecclesiology, Pauline scholarship, etc.)
D. Present Status of the Problem—Here, they want you to make them comfortable with the idea that you know who your interlocutors are, who you need to read, what you need to be familiar with, or at least who else has tried to deal with this issue or related issues. They also want to know that you already know enough about these interlocutors to be able to articulate what each of them has said, at least briefly, and how or why their contribution hasn’t solved the problematic or fulfilled the need you identified in section C, above.
F. Statement of Procedure or Methodology—Look at this section mechanically. “Here’s how I will go about fulfilling this need or addressing this problem. . . .” Mine basically laid out that I would research both published and archival materials from Lonergan, looking at his references to love and to the number of levels, and then arranging the dissertation in three parts, with such and such chapters in each part, etc.
G. Tentative Outline—They want to see control over the material, intelligent arrangement, and they want to be comfortable with the idea that you’re not wandering off and spending undue amounts of time in irrelevant territory. Focus and a clear indication of “where you’re going” are important.
H. Bibliography—You don’t have to list every single thing that you might possibly use even just once. Again, they aren’t going to go back and recheck this to see if everything you DO end up using is in this DDO bibliography. BUT don’t short-change it, either. This is another place where they want to be able to feel comfortable that you know what you’re doing. There needs to be at least enough to show that you’re familiar with the necessary relevant materials, and more is probably better than less.
I. Tentative Timetable—This is tentative. No one thinks you’re going to know exactly how long each chapter will take to write, how long revisions will take, etc. You aren’t expected to commit to handing in each chapter on these dates as though it is written in stone. BUT, again, they want to see that you’ve thought this through, have something of a basic plan at least, and you aren’t going into this, so to speak, “chronologically ignorant.”