Interested in improving your research or writing project?
The following categories offer resources aimed at improving every step of a writing project, from initial research to putting the final touches on the completed project. Most categories include general resources as well as resources specific to the field of theological research.
- English Grammar & Usage
- Research Skills & Resources
- Writing Process & Craft
- Writing Style Guides
- Writing a Master’s Thesis or Doctoral Dissertation
★ = highly recommended
English Grammar & Usage
These resources assist writers in proper grammar and sentence mechanics, as well as correct vocabulary usage.
- The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar, 2nd ed., by Bas Aarts (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014)
- This manageable guide to grammar and usage includes over 1600 definitions of grammatical terms. Many entries include example sentences and quotations, making this a useful and usable tool for even beginning students.
- Common Errors in English Usage, by Paul Brians (Wilsonville, OR: William, James & Co., 2003)
- An easy-to-use reference, Common Errors is a compendium of hundreds of commonly misused words, including rules for discerning the correct usage.
- The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English, by Roy Peter Clark (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2010)
- This series of short essays on important grammatical questions entertains as it educates. It clarifies grammar’s practical benefits in profound yet readable snippets. Purposeful communication is elevated above convention as the tools of the English language are given their real world value. These clear and witty articles make difficult grammatical concepts fun and accessible.
- Gwynne’s Grammar: The Ultimate Introduction to Grammar and the Writing of Good English, by N.M. Gwynne (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014)
- N.M. Gwynne’s handbook on English grammar can be divided into two parts: reference companion on the one hand and diatribe on the state of writing in English on the other. The part that is reference companion is certainly beneficial—reviewing parts of speech, syntax, and punctuation rules. The appendices include such helps as a glossary of grammatical terms and a list of irregular verbs. The handbook also contains Strunk’s classic Elements of Style (albeit with some modifications). The diatribe portion (from the Preface through Chapter 5) goes beyond a harmless prescriptivism one is always sure to find in grammar handbooks, and in many places enters into misinformation that should be avoided.
- The Cambridge Guide to English Usage, by Pam Peters (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2004)
- With over 4,000 entries, The Cambridge Guide to English Usage offers writers an exhaustive resource for discerning the proper use of vocabulary. Whether looking for the correct usage of confusing words or identifying the correct prefix, this guide is essential for students worried about a misused word.
Research Skills & Resources
For students interested in improving research skills, these resources detail the general research process as well guiding specialized theological research. Each book offers direction for locating and analyzing both print and electronic resources.
- An Introduction to Theological Research: A Guide for College and Seminary Students, 2nd ed., by Cyril J. Barber and Robert M. Krauss Jr. (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc., 2000)
- This book offers students a comprehensive and analytical guide to the resources necessary for in-depth theological research. Readers will be well equipped for research ranging from general topical studies to in-depth word studies and doctoral dissertations. The authors offer a structure for completing a thorough word study (special consideration is given to both Old and New Testaments) and develop a list of research tools necessary for each step, along with a critique of each resource. Also of interest is a comprehensive section discussing electronic research and resources. The 2nd edition has been updated to include electronic resources and journal databases.
- The Elements of Library Research: What Every Student Needs to Know, by Mary W. George (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008)
- This practical guide to research as inquiry demystifies the process of gaining information. It lays the essential foundation for all future academic investigation. Novice researchers will find the “tools, rules, and techniques” to navigate these murky waters. The appendix alone (packed full of sensible solutions to common queries) makes this book well worth the read.
- Student Guide to Research in the Digital Age: How to Locate and Evaluate Information Sources, by Leslie F. Stebbins (Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006)
- Leslie F. Stebbins of Brandeis University Library approaches the task of finding accurate and useful research using the technology available today. Students gain help accessing and critically evaluating current resources such as websites, books, and journal articles. Students needing help using journal databases and evaluating books, websites, or articles will find this book very helpful.
Writing Process & Craft
For students interested in improving writing skills, these resources move from the research process to the writing process, demonstrating effective outlining, vigorous writing, persuasive arguing and clear editing. The resources help students to improve writing, making good communication into great writing.
- Writing Theologically, edited by Eric D. Barreto (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015)
- Writing Theologically is a compilation of essays on writing with seminary students as the intended audience. Some of the chapter topics (written by ten different authors) include writing persuasively, writing briefly, writing creatively, and writing digitally. The book is helpful to read through in its entirety to grasp larger themes like gospel contextualization and God’s call, but can also be read as stand-alone essays on a given writing topic in question. It provides a wide variety of advice on style, organization, finding your voice, and practical ways to get started.
- The Craft of Research, 3rd ed., by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory C. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2008)
- Booth, Colomb, and Williams, three distinguished English professors, have written a seminal book on research. While covering the standard areas of research projects, such as finding a topic or obtaining accurate resources, this book is devoted to the development of the entire research project, from beginning to end. Considerable time is devoted to the writing process, taking into account such topics as argumentation and revision. Although this book is written for research in general studies, the lessons learned here are of vital importance for theological research. The 3rd edition includes an expanded discussion of discerning the trustworthiness of sources.
- Research and Writing in the Seminary: Practical Strategies and Tools, by Diane Capitani and Melanie Baffes (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2014)
- Capitani and Baffes provide a practical, readable guide for writing in seminary. Including sample papers for the most common types of writing assingments, this book walks a student through the writing process from research to revision.
- Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, by Roy Peter Clark (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2006)
- Famed writing scholar, Roy Peter Clark, offers a treasure chest of invaluable tools to enhance your writing prowess. He condenses a lifetime of experience into 50 tools that will revolutionize your writing. These are not the typical rules of grammar but the practical skills that make writers great. To Clark, excellent writing is not a talent reserved for the few but a craft to be learned by all.
- The Seminary Student Writes, by Deborah Core (St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2000)
- Deborah Core’s effort to create a writing guide specialized for seminary students is much appreciated. Taking into account the work load of seminary, Core offers tips to maximize reading and writing time without cutting any corners or cheapening the study. This is an excellent and concise guide to reading and writing in the seminary environment.
- Writing with Sources: A Guide for Students, 2nd ed., by Gordon Harvey (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 2008)
- Gordon Harvey offers students practical guidance in assessing the various roles of sources and methods of integrating them into an argument. In addition, this book provides extensive examples of citations—including online and personal correspondence—and addresses common misuses of sources so that students can confidently navigate the relationship between others’ ideas and their own.
- Writing Academic Papers: A Resource Manual for Beginners in Higher-Learning Institutions and Colleges, by Elia Shabani Mligo (Eugene, OR: Resource Publications, 2012)
- This writing guide offers a basic but comprehensive look at writing in an academic setting. Mligo provides helpful step-by-step guidelines for writing book reviews, summaries, and research papers. Mligo also addresses the topic of plagiarism, an offense all too common in higher-education institutions. She demonstrates rather than merely explains what plagiarism looks like through myriad examples of paraphrase and summary. This guide is a must read for those looking for a short, yet thorough, introduction to academic writing.
- Your Guide to Writing Quality Research Papers: For Students of Religion and Theology, 3rd ed., by Nancy Jean Vyhmeister and Terry Dwain Robertson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014)
- Nancy J. Vyhmeister has provided an indispensable guide for seminary students. An excellent guide to writing, the book is tailored to the theological context, covering exegetical writing in addition to thesis writing. This book provides a citation guide with examples, advice on footnoting, steps toward developing the research project, and aids for taking notes. This is an essential resource for students of religion and theology.
- Style: Toward Clarity and Grace, by Joseph M. Williams and Gregory C. Colomb (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1990)
- In Style, Williams and Colomb articulate the necessary principles of well-crafted writing. This versatile work is primarily geared towards nonfiction writers. Style offers an expansive survey of the basic principles of good writing, including in-depth explanation and numerous examples of each principle. Students are shown ways to simplify and invigorate their writing. This book is an aid to those who feel comfortable with a concept, yet struggle to communicate that concept clearly through writing.
Writing Style Guides
For students needing instruction on proper citation and formatting, these resources provide the necessary guidance. Covering both APA and Chicago Style, these resources guide students through the technicalities of citation, style and format.
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2010)
- This is an invaluable guide for students writing in APA format. Thoroughly covering citations, use and presentation of data, and discussion of authorial biases, the APA publication manual is the most comprehensive reference guide for counseling students.
- The SBL Handbook of Style: For Biblical Studies and Related Disciplines, edited by Billie Jean Collins and others (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2014)
- This book is an essential resource for students of Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Early Christian Studies. It includes a comprehensive listing of abbreviations of journals, authors, ancient texts, and other Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical studies literature.
- Pocket Guide to the Chicago Manual of Style, by Robert Perrin (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, Co., 2007)
- The perfect handbook for the busy student, this guide blends information with accessibility. Used in conjunction with the Turabian or Covenant style guide, this book is the ideal guide for students needing fast and precise answers to writing or style questions.
- A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers, 8th ed., by Kate L. Turabian; revised by Wayne C. Booth and others (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2013)
- An indispensable guide to the Chicago-style research project, Kate Turabian’s classic guide offers students a comprehensive treatment of research development. Of special interest to the student is the exhaustive section on citation, covering books, journals, and internet acquisitions, as well as offering numerous examples of each citation formula.
Writing a Master’s Thesis or Doctoral Dissertation
For students writing a thesis or dissertation, these resources either detail the entire research project or focus primarily on thesis/dissertation writing.
- Handbook for Doctor of Ministry Projects: An Approach to Structured Observation of Ministry, by Richard E. Davies (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1984)
- Students working towards a Doctor of Ministry will find this book very helpful. Acting as a primer on empirical research and as a guide geared specifically for the pastor-student, this handbook covers the basics of practical, empirical research in the life of the church. Even though this book is several years old, the specificity of the subject matter will be helpful to most D.Min students.
- Successful Dissertations and Theses: A Guide to Graduate Student Research from Proposal to Completion, 2nd ed., by David Madsen (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1992)
- An aid for students writing theses or dissertations, this book concentrates on the development of the project. Madsen gives advice and structure to the process of research; from the initial choosing of a topic, to developing research strategies, to drafting and revising, to defense, research students will find general advice from this book.
- Guide to the Successful Thesis and Dissertation: A Handbook for Students and Faculty, 4th ed., by James E. Mauch and Jack W. Birch (New York, NY: Marcel Dekker, Inc. 1998)
- A great resource for students pursuing postgraduate education, Guide to the Successful Thesis and Dissertation gives a comprehensive strategy for undertaking this academic challenge. This book is devoted to the entire process of the project, discussing relationships, such as how to develop a good review committee, and well as research strategies. Students wishing to do doctoral work will benefit greatly from this book.
- The Thesis Writer’s Handbook: A Complete One-Source Guide for Writers of Research Papers, by Joan I. Miller and Bruce J. Taylor (West Linn, OR: Alcove Publishing Company, 1987)
- A concise and clear guide to the lengthy research project, this book covers all the necessary areas of project development. Included are guides to the major documentation styles and a brief “punctuation handbook,” which covers basic grammar and is a handy quick-reference.