Advice on Papers

The ‘B’ paper–the one you have to do if you want to make a B in the class–is on the topic of “The Old Testament as the Word of God for Christians.”  [That’s the general topic, you may use your own title and develop it in your own way.] My advice is to keep notes, on note cards, in a notebook, or however you do it–or maybe even use this forum as a way of recording and testing ideas.

Anytime your reading of the textbooks or the biblical text, or anything you read here stimulates or challenges you–make a note. The purpose of this assignment is to integrate everything you do in the class. So you don’t really have to do any new assignments, just pull together some ideas from the work that is already assigned. We will talk more about it in class, so don’t panic; but it won’t hurt to start thinking about it.

The book by Peter Enns–and the controversy surrounding it–should give you plenty to start thinking about.

This class involves “research and application.” I assume most of you already value the Bible as the word or God, and find spiritual support and nourishment in it. The purpose of this class is not to weaken that but to strengthen it.

We will, however, deal with some problems in understanding the OT and you will be exposed to ideas that challenge some traditional interpretations and understandings. The paper should reflect how you respond to these challenges and integrate them into your faith. In other words, the paper should should how you integrate research and application.

The ‘A’ paper is a standard research paper, with footnotes and bibliography and all that. Pick a topic that is important enough the be worth the effort but focused enough that you can deal with it in some depth. Read the post below about the difference between graduate and undergraduate study. I am expecting you to have enough curiosity that something will grab your attention, and you will want to explore it further.

Again, we will devote time on campus to the research paper and research methodologies, but it’s never too early to start thinking about it. In fact, why not use the blog to throw out ideas to your classmates? Like, “Hey you all, what do you think about this as a topic: a comparison of Samhat in the Gilgamesh Epic and Eve in the Bible.”

Let me emphasize the “high standards, low anxiety” aspect of the research paper. Some aspect of the paper should be an original contribution on your part. The paper should not just be a report on other people’s ideas. The paper should show a familiarity with what other recognized authorities on the topic have said, but then it should add something–even something small–to the discussion.

Dr. Alterman


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