Theological Research Paper

You will complete a Research Paper based on the previously completed Annotated Bibliography and Outline. This paper must be 3,600–4,500 words, excluding the cover page, table of contents, and bibliography, contain at least 20 sources (excluding the Bible and course textbooks), and 8 of the 20 sources must be written within the last 10 years. The Research Paper must be completed in current Turabian format.

The Purpose of a Theological Research Paper

The goal of a research paper is not merely to report about your readings or to list quotations (or paraphrases) related to your topic. Instead, a research paper must be a creative theological reflection on a relevant issue that recognizes the established scholars who helped you in that endeavor. Research papers must attempt to prove a point (thesis). They are not “surveys” of material. They must be thoroughly documented, and this assignment must not include your opinion until the conclusion.

“Creative theological reflection” implies staying away from those academic cardinal sins:

Plagiarism: “[T]o steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own; to use (another’s [work]) without crediting the source” (Webster). To avoid such accidents, you must reference all direct quotes, paraphrases, and original ideas borrowed from someone else.

Recycling: Submitting a paper that was originally written or submitted (even if it is in a different format) for another course without your instructor’s permission.

Excessive direct quotations: A research paper is not intended to be just a collection of direct quotations of works that are not your own (even if they are well documented) with your only contribution to the process being well-formulated transitions between quotes along with an introduction and a conclusion. Only quote when absolutely necessary: when you cannot paraphrase the author’s words without losing the substance of his or her thoughts or when your argument requires the exact wording of the writer.

Further Details

Misspellings, grammatical errors, poor syntax, excessive use of the first person, or failure to comply with all structural and content criteria will count against your grade.

You will find significant resource. The Library can assist you with questions regarding the use of online sources through the library or with ordering resources through interlibrary loan.

The paper must be submitted through Blackboard before the deadline. A recent version of Microsoft Word or other compatible file formats is required (the instructor must be able to open your work in Microsoft Word).

The paper will be screened through software that checks to make sure your composition is original. Be sure that you have properly cited everything that you found in the sources you used in your research and composition of your paper.

Content Comments

The content of this paper must focus on 4 specific areas. First, you must identify a specific theological foundation of the Christian faith using a thesis statement (see list of possible topics in the Research Paper folder within the Assignment Instructions folder). Second, you must summarize the key doctrinal aspects of your chosen topic. Third, you must include an evaluation of this chosen theological foundation as it relates to the ongoing conversation within historic and orthodox Christianity. Finally, you must demonstrate competence in interpreting biblical texts according to historical-critical literary standards as well as integrity in properly representing and documenting theological positions related to your chosen topic.

Formatting Guidelines

You must use current Turabian format, a standard for seminaries, for this research paper.[1] Since this is a graduate-level course, papers must be written to a near-thesis standard. That is, minimum format standards must be met, as defined below. English grammar and spelling must be up to graduate level (you are writing a research paper, not a casual letter). Qualities valued include clarity, succinctness, and precision.

Your paper must include the following (according to current Turabian format):

  • Title Page
  • Thesis Statement: Write 1 sentence that captures the focus of your research, informs your reader about the purpose of the paper, and previews the paper’s main ideas.
  • Table of Contents: Show a clearly-defined outline that will also be visible throughout the paper.
  • Introduction: Introduce your topic with a strong paragraph that clearly reveals what you intend to show to the reader (must include the substance of your thesis statement).
  • Section Headings: Underline or bold your headings, which must follow your table of contents.
  • Body: The body’s structured development must reflect your outline. This is where you prove your point while honestly interacting with opposing views and major objections.
  • Transitional Sentences: Use cleartransitionsto ensure a flow and sense of unity from paragraph to paragraph.
  • Conclusion: Your conclusion must not be a mere restatement of your thesis. Instead, your conclusion must be a synthesis of the information presented in the body. It must bring the reader to the full level of understanding of your topic that you have reached.
  • Footnotes: Use the footnoting tool provided with Microsoft Word.
  • Bibliography: Include at least 20 sources (excluding the Bible and course textbooks), and 8 of the 20 sources must be written within the last 10 years.
  • Page numbers
  • 1-inch margins
  • Double-spacing
  • Times New Roman, 12-point font
  • Indented paragraphs of 5 spaces or 0.6 inches (the thesis standard is 5/8 of an inch)
  • No extra line spacing between paragraphs

A Word about Sources

In order to gather sources for a research paper of this magnitude, one might be tempted to go to an Internet search engine like Google, type a keyword related to one’s topic, and collect sources from the first 20 to 30 results displayed. You must resist such temptation (since we know that temptation is not from God). As a rule, the Internet is not an acceptable resource for research papers (there are very few exceptions). Instead, it is recommended that you primarily use the following types of sources* while making sure that you cite all works used in your research paper and that you include only works cited in your bibliography.

  • Scholarly journal articles: These are useful for their survey of the critical issues related to the subject and their bibliography, which could give you useful leads on the top scholars and works in the field.
  • Primary sources: These must take precedence over secondary sources. A primary source is a firsthand account or direct evidence concerning a subject matter under examination while secondary sources present an assessment or an interpretation of primary sources (e.g., Augustine’s own work City of God is a primary source about Augustine’s view of the struggle between good and evil while Augustine of Hippo: A Biography by Peter Brown is a secondary source).
  • Scholarly works: These include books, monographs, serials, and manuscripts written by experts in the field as opposed to dubious works whose value cannot be ascertained (ask yourself if the critic’s credentials and works suggest that he or she is qualified).

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