Writing for Religious Studies

Length and Format

Religious Studies papers vary in length and in requirements.  Always follow the assignment directions closely; if you have questions, contact your professor.  Try to meet all length requirements and stay within the recommended page range.  Remember, quality is generally better than quantity; a short, clear, well-organized paper is better than a long, wordy paper.

Try to use 12 point Times New Roman Font with 1 inch page margins.  Space according to your professor's instructions. 

Beware:  Microsoft Word 2007 uses 1.15 spacing with 10-point spaces between paragraphs as a default.  This formatting is not generally accepted in formal college-level courses.

Citation

Chicago Style is typically accepted as the default citation style for upper-level religious studies courses.  However, some professors may want more relaxed or class-specific citation styles.  If you do not know what citation style to use, contact your professor with your questions.

To avoid plagiarism, always cite ideas that are not yours.  If you have any questions, please feel free to make an appointment with your professor or with a tutor at the Writing Center.

Critical Thinking

The object of most religious studies papers is not to summarize readings, nor is it to present the themes of a text as absolute truths.  Try to address the questions of an assignment with an open, objective mind, using your own analysis.  Don't just retell the material from the texts and from the lectures.  Instead, use them to formulate your own conclusions.  Use the information in texts and lectures as evidence for your arguments.

Specific Instructions

The study of religions includes the study of a wide variety of philosophies, scriptures, texts, histories, and creeds.  Unlike many disciplines, religious studies classes do not have a "standard" type of paper.  Therefore, when you take a religious studies class, don't try to make a personal standardized checklist for yourself of what should or shouldn't be included in a religious studies paper.

Instead, try to recognize each paper as a unique, individual assignment, completely independent of any other assignments.  Ask yourself, "What does my professor want in this particular paper?"  Begin with the assignment description, and then look to the syllabus or paper guideline sheet for additional help.  If you still feel unsure of what your professor wants you to do in the assignment, don't be afraid to ask him or her about it.