Academic Research and Writing Tips

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Christian Alexander | Forum Activity | Posted: Sun, Nov 21 2021 8:37 AM

What are some of the best academic research and writing tips you all have?

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Nov 21 2021 2:32 PM

Be rational -- i.e. check and double check your reasoning

Be accurate -- i.e. be very careful that your information is correct not just a quick reading with your own biases

Don't write like me - i.e. don't be so brief that your work is too dense to be enjoyablle to read.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Allen Browne | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Nov 21 2021 3:50 PM

Christian Alexander:
What are some of the best academic research and writing tips you all have?

Ensure you're including the breadth of views on your subject. If you're Evangelical, can you point to the best perspectives of Catholic scholarship and state their points of view in a way that represents them honestly (something they would agree was an honest summary)? If you're Reformed, could you express an Armenian position honestly and accurately? On Old Testament topics/Scriptures, could you express the views of Judaism? Have you read across time (e.g. church fathers, scholastic, reformation, enlightenment, postmodern) and used that information to inform how our own culture affects our own perspective? And have you read current scholars from other continents, particularly collectivist cultures if you live in the West?

Have you nailed down a very specific question that can be adequately covered in the time/word count you have available, a question of interest and benefit to others? Can you explain why it matters?

Do you have adequate discussion opportunities with others on this question? It's invaluable to float ideas, find our errors, and discover what phrases communicate well with those who see it differently to what we do.

In terms of methodology, have you considered alternative approaches? Academic writing expects well-supported argument, but that doesn't mean you avoid story-telling -- the primary method of Scripture, and a method that works with people of every culture, age, and educational background.

When it comes to writing, you'll structure the broad argument first (a multi-page skeleton outline), and then flesh out the details. Naturally, this changes as you write and as you continue to learn, but at least you have a sense of where the steps will take you before you begin writing paragraphs.

Then it's about dedicated writing time without distractions. Find out what works best for you. For me, it's making it the priority each morning, and locking out distractions (e.g. disabling all notifications from all social media). Ensure you have a good backup routine that keeps copies at each stage of your research (e.g. a copy as it was at the end of each week).

Others will have good tips for you too. All the best for your research/writing.

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DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Nov 21 2021 4:37 PM

Cite your sources and don’t plagiarize! A book or paper can be so good but might be rejected later because of this two things.  People want to know where you got it from and want to read your own thoughts not someone else’s thoughts reworded or verbatim. 👍

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xnman | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 22 2021 4:52 AM

I think, for writers, it would be wise to answer the question which I ask when I look at a (academic) writing or book...   Why should I read this? That may seem self-centered, but I read a lot of things as most in the ministry does... so why should I add your writing to my reading list? I don't have time to read every thing....

And if I choose to read it....then I definitely want to see the if they are plagurizing or are actually trying to develop the idea or topic. Generally when a writer is willing to show where they got the thought they are talking about, then citing your sources is important and gives credence to their honesty. We have toooooo many dishonest writers in the world (in mho).

xn = Christan  man=man -- Acts 11:26 "....and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch".

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1Cor10:31 | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 22 2021 11:12 AM

Academic papers are supposed to add to the knowledge base of the world. Thus, I always start with what I call incremental contribution.

Mathematically, incremental contribution equals

Knowledge after your paper is read


Knowledge before your paper is read.

If incremental contribution is positive, your paper is adding to the knowledge of the world, and it deserves to be published.

Which journal should publish your paper? That depends on how big the positive number is. The bigger the incremental contribution, the more prestigious the journal.

I ask all my PhD students to write down their incremental contribution in one sentence. This allows the readers to judge the size of the contributiob. If you can’t condense your contribution in one sentence, you haven’t thought through it.

To my people at church, I try to simplify what I do in terms of research by saying that all our research papers are trying to add a 3-word sentence to the knowledge base of the world: A causes B. Being a financial economist, "A" and "B" are things of interest to financial economists. In each paper, "A" and "B" are different. Nobody before must have shown the link between "A" and "B" for it to be published. 

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