Saturday, September 11, 2010

How (Not) to Write a Seminary Paper . . . or Any Paper

Enjoy the torture that precedes one’s first ever Systematic Theology paper. Can anyone say “trying too hard?”

  1. Read your four sources and all 150 pages in fits and starts; one minute you dig theology and think you should have so read this ten years ago—the next you feel that seminary was a grave mistake and that someone who knows what “teleological” means should be writing this paper.
  2. Tell your mom, friend, spouse, pet, or significant other in the room to stop making breathing, belching or [you-fill-in-the-blank] noises. You can’t think, and dang, thinking is what this paper really needs. Now if only you could quiet the voices inside your head…
  3. Email the professor about formatting your paper and endnotes. Although this has already been spelled out clearly in the syllabus, you are worried that Systematic Theology professors will be especially anal about formatting done…systematically.
  4. Go back to the kitchen when you realize you can’t see anything anymore due to the eye strain and grab your reading glasses. Be sure to also grab two chocolate fudge cookies while you are there for the seritonin boost that could put this paper over the top. Yes, chocolate, that’s what it needs.
  5. When chocolate is not enough, take a study break to run to Starbucks for a Green Tea Frappuccino with whip. Convince yourself the green tea will stimulate brain cells that have been lying dormant for 37 years now.
  6. Contemplate the interesting differences between Bible-followers who claim the Bible is inerrant and infallible and those who believe it is just infallible. Recognize that certain inerrant-infallibles you know may or may not look like they are in pain, or at least constipated.
  7. Although you know it is important to always be asking “What Would Jesus Do?” you suddenly find yourself thinking: What would NT Wright say about this?”
  8. Google NT Wright and quote from him at length.
  9. Read Phillippians 4:13, for pete’s sake. Read it again. Then read Isaiah 40:31 and picture yourself soaring like an eagle as soon as this paper is signed, footnoted, and emailed.
  10. Go over the 1000 word limit by seven, but tell yourself that instead of getting docked, your professor will most likely smile with benevolence and offer you extra credit.

The author may or may not have followed these steps exactly during the formation of her first Systematic Theology paper last week. At least not in order. 


  1. LOL That was hiliarous! Yes, Turabian is my best friend which is much easier than APA. I took a Theological class and a counseling class the same about confusing papers sheesh...oh and you know you've been to seminary when you refer to the books 1 and 2 Thessalonian as 1 and 2 Theologians....

  2. This was frikin' awesome and basically describes my life!

  3. I am now affirmed in my seminary oddness. Thanks all! And please retweet or refacebook to all your seminary friends. :)

  4. This is my first semester in seminary. My first paper is due next Thursday, and I've been scared to death of writing it. This post helped lighten the mood for me. Thank you! :)

  5. Loved it, but am now more scared to death (is that even possible) about entering seminary. I'm reading Phillippians 4:13, over and over again.

  6. Y'all: One of the best things professors told me up front is that it's about learning, not grades. I can still obsess, but I do it less. God has made us to know Him, and I've found that if I earnestly seek Him, even through thousands of pages of text, He can be found. I actually have found life-giving material in my Sys-Theo books. Imagine! Please come back to the blog and we'll keep on encouraging each other. Peace...

  7. Really want to know what NT Wright had to say.