The first and most important rule of any academic paper is that it needs to contribute to a chosen field of knowledge. And when that field is the study of religion, the stakes are unusually high. As an author, you need to employ historical, sociological, hermeneutical, ethnographic, textual, and comparative approaches, but also forgo of your religious beliefs and examine the thesis from a holistic standpoint.
When it comes to writing papers, this field of study is considered the ultimate test of skill.
Here’s how to ace it:
Learn how to write your paper yourself – read below.
What Every Good Paper Needs
We’ve already mentioned that every academic paper needs to add to the existing pool of knowledge on a certain field of study. In order to so, an essay must pose a problem, examine it from different views, and provide a solution that’s original, arguable, and interesting. And it all starts with a question.
- What Makes a Great Question?
- How to Develop a Good Thesis?
- How to Express Your Motive?
- How to Use Your Evidence?
- How to Anticipate Objections?
- How to Conclude Your Paper?
- Writing Papers for Religious Studies
- How to Take a Historical Approach?
- How to Argue the Philosophy of Religion?
- How to Write a Comparative Paper?
Unless your mentor provides one, you’ll need to generate it yourself. Bear in mind that a good question doesn’t ask what, but how and why. Such a question must be linked back to the evidence you and your readers have and must move the field forward by asking something nobody’s asked before.
A thesis, which is typically defined as the main idea or argument of the paper, is nothing but an answer to an examined question. As said before, your thesis should be original, arguable, and interesting. You cannot just copy-paste another’s opinion or provide an answer that’s deemed as common knowledge.
Instead, you must come up with an analysis that’s worthy of consideration. Just like the initial question of your paper, your thesis must draw the readers’ attention, puzzle them, and make them interested in what you have to say. Most importantly, it must shine a brand new light on a religious topic at hand.
In between a question and a thesis is a motive, which justifies the importance of them both. It answers why your paper is worth reading in the first place and offers an overview of the thought you’re arguing against or in support of. The motive establishes that you’ll provide a different interpretation.
Because an academic paper aims to put something that a reader already knows to a test, it must provide evidence that both introduces the argument you’re trying to refute and supports your own interpretation. Every quote must be explained and analyzed, as well as linked back to your argument.
In order to advance a certain field of study, a paper must be arguable. The very point of this discipline is not to give definitive answers, but to open a dialogue. However, an analytic oversight can easily kill your entire thesis, so always think about potential counterarguments and refute them with your own.
A paper conclusion should not be a simple summary of everything stated in the body. Recap your main point, but do that in a way that places your thesis in a larger context or that considers your argument from a slightly new angle. The conclusion should make a great impression on your readers.
The interdisciplinary nature of religious studies requires you to tap into your knowledge about history, sociology, anthropology, and philosophy. But it also enables you to choose from different approaches to arguing a thesis, all of which imply different types of arguments and ways of supporting arguments.
If you choose a historical approach to writing a paper for religious studies, then you need to read and understand as many scholarly interpretations of your topic as you possibly can. While doing so, you should search for weaknesses in these past arguments as well as for questions that remain unasked.
You may argue for a particular interpretation, defend the original one, argue against one (or multiple) authors’ standpoints, or compare their views to examine the relationship between them. In either case, you’ll need to examine the argument you’re arguing against or in support of, and explain why.
In case you’ve decided to take a comparative approach, make sure that the similarities and differences you discover during your research aren’t merely listed in your paper, but actually analyzed. Choose a specific ground for comparison and use it to notice something new about the points you’re comparing.
Finally, watch your language. An academic paper should not read like a mystery novel, where the solution remains hidden until the very end. To loosen up your thoughts, use the freewriting technique. But to keep your thoughts in check, to make them concise and in support of the argument, combine freewriting with outlining. Once you’re done, reread it and delete every marginal thought.