This paper is designed to help graduate and postgraduate students to design and complete papers and projects for theological seminary using the academic voice. The academic voice in theological seminary has nuances that make it slightly different from the academic voice used in other graduate or professional programs.
Here is the working definition of “the academic voice:”
The academic voice is a unique stle of writing, particularly, research papers, that demonstrates critical thinking, theological reflection, and pastoral application. Such writing is formal but friendly, passionate and purposeful without becoming overly personal, and with an authority born of rigorous research of both Scripture, and quality sources, and appropriately cited with scholarly sources to support an assertion in one’s argument.
Marks of such academic writing in seminary include:
- Use of the preferred formatting style for Theology and Religious Studies: Turabian 9th edition;
- Use of the active voice when at all possible; for example, Passive voice sentence: “The year 2020 was made difficult because of COVID-19.” COVID-19 made the year 2020 a difficult one.”
- A scholarly pastoral voice is added to the typical grad-school academic voice by interacting Scripture and Theology, Pastoral Practise, and Pastoral Contexts
- A typical scholary research paper will be a creative and personal expression of a standard framework:
The Paper’s Divisions
Research paper should follow an introduction, and thesis, an argument, and a conclusion. The following represents steps within these major headings.
- Introduce by addressing the question. Isolate issues within the question, demonstrating critical thinking The Biblical and theological meaning of the question which demonstrates theological reflection.Interaction with texts.
- A thesis proposed.
- a transition sentence and key word (e.g., “This can be seen in three areas of concern.”
- In this example the keyword is really a key phrase: “areas of concern.“ The transition sentence and keyword will now serve to tether the headings of the argument to the thesis, for example: the first area of concern is… The second area of concern is… The third area of concern is…
- A conclusion that summarizes, advances a closing argument (much like an attorney’s closing argument in a court room: what do you want the reader to remember that is important to your case?”).
A Final Word
Your cultivated academic voice does not replace your own voice. It should be your voice arguing the case but doing so with citations and a general approach that denotes seriousness in scholarship (well-placed humor can demonstrate a confident virtuoso in scholarly writing, but is attempted with danger) and a demonstrated ability to use critical thinking and theological reflection to arrive at pastoral conclusions. Those added lozenges produces a distinctive resonance in your voice: a professional voice, an academic voice.