SCHOLARLY WRITING & Tips for the Wide-eyed & Mystified Graduate School Student

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/17/15.

Seminary writing, as well as graduate school writing, is a bit different from undergraduate writing and even writing for the regular marketplace.

This is because in graduate school you are seeking to obtain a “Master’s degree.” The “master” designation means you have demonstrated to the Academy (i.e. the faculty) that you have “mastered” the subject manner, e.g. have read widely in it and know how to apply it.  Thus, citations show the Academy that you are becoming a master of the material and its application.

To help my students I like to steer them toward a helpful titled, Surviving and Thriving in Seminary: A Practical Guide for the Wide-eyed and Mystified. It is available as a Kindle download for the amazingly low price of $4.99.

I hope this resource further helps you, the reader, adjust to your new scholarly and practical journey into missional leadership.

Chapter Ten, “Researching and Writing Essays” has some very helpful advice:

I have a simple source rule that I teach my students that if you follow will enable you to produce quality work.  The rule is 1 source per page +1. What this means is that for a 10-page paper, aim for at minimum 11 sources. For a 20-page paper, aim for at minimum 21 resources. Aiming for this number of quality resources and actually making use of them will signal to your professor that you took the time to find an adequate number of resources to research your topic.

In observing this rule for class essays, try and keep this mind: make 1/ 3 of your resources academic journal articles. Although they are not best-sellers nor are they widely read, academic journals is where the latest research first gets published in academia. That research (some, not all) then makes its way into books and book chapters— often many years later. So when you use journal articles for your research, you signal to your professor that you are engaging in the latest discussion on the matter at hand. (Kindle Locations 867-871)

Later in the chapter Zacharias offers some more helpful insights:

If you are researching a particular topic and already have either a book or a book chapter that covers the topic, then the bibliography and footnotes of these resources will provide you with a wealth of possible resources. Like the above methods, you will need to judge for yourself based on the title if the source is worth your time (see the Reading chapter for more on this).

If your bibliography is still thin for your essay, ATLA is the place to go. ATLA was covered in the Skills chapter (including the bonus video). Getting the Resources Getting a list of resources is only half of the battle— you still need to go and actually collect them. This is where your library skills will come into play. If you have not yet followed my advice and received a tutorial from your library, I strongly suggest you do that. You will need to tap into your library’s online catalogue as well as ATLA Serials to determine if your library has the resource, and if not, then how to attain it. (Kindle Location 911)

And, the book includes a helpful video.  I cannot say enough good things about the video.  When you buy the book it includes a link to a video that demonstrates how to do an ATLA search.  Here is how one student described the book:

“This little gem of a book is filled with some great pointers like this one: ‘Remember that as you enter your studies, you are meeting and rubbing shoulders with people that are already on the same team as you. You are not entering a competitive business school where one-upmanship may ensure you securing a limited pool of jobs. You are not in the rat race of private-sector work— you are a fellow builder of God’s kingdom. You and your fellow students are in this together. Their success is your success.’ (Kindle Locations 218-221).

The bonus video and the chapters on reading and writing are helpful for not only any current assignments, but also for the duration of your seminary journey.

Zacharias, D. (2013). Surviving and thriving in seminary: a practical guide for the wide-eyed and mystified. Kindle: Danny Zacharias

FORMATTING & APA Hint: Are Footnotes Necessary? No, not really.

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/17/15.

Oftentimes students are accustomed to utilizing footnotes in their work.  But, in APA footnotes are rare (and this makes it easier and faster for them to write a paper).

Let me paraphrase from the APA Style Guide some insights on when footnotes might be necessary.

Because APA style uses parenthetical citations, you do not need to use footnotes or endnotes to cite your sources. The only reasons you need to use footnotes are for explanatory (content) notes or copyright permission. Content footnotes contain information that supplements the text, but would be distracting or inappropriate to include in the body of the paper. In other words, content footnotes provide important information that is a tangent to what you are discussing in your paper.

And, the footnote should only express one idea. If it is longer than a few sentences, then you should consider putting this information in an appendix.

Most authors do not use footnotes because they tend to be distracting to the readers. If the information is important, authors find a way to incorporate it into the text itself or put it in an appendix.

And, if you are including a quote that is longer than 500 words or a table or figure in your paper that was originally published elsewhere, then you need to include a footnote that acknowledges that you have permission from the owner of the copyright to use the material.

Format of footnotes

In the text, place a superscript numeral immediately after the text about which you would like to include more information (e.g., Scientists examined the fossilized remains of the wooly-wooly yak. – followed by a superscript 1).  Number the notes consecutively in the order they appear in your paper.

At the end of the paper, create a separate page labeled Notes (title centered at the top of the page) and add the note text. Technically, you write these footnotes as endnotes, but they will appear as footnotes in the published paper.

Below are examples of content notes.

1. See Blackmur (1995), especially chapters three and four, for an insightful analysis of this extraordinary animal.

2. On the problems related to yaks, see Wollens (1989, pp. 120-135); for a contrasting view, see Pyle (1992).

3. In a recent interview, she (Weller, 1998) reiterated this point even more strongly: “I am an artist, not a yak!” (p. 124).