A Taxonomy of Sources for Citations For Research Papers in Graduate Theological Higher Education

by Dr. Michael A. Milton, James Ragsdale Chair of Missions and Evangelism, Erskine Theological Seminary, Due West, South Carolina

The study of theology and religious studies is a journey filled with many detours and even surprises. And a lot of work. Part of that necessary work is the research and writing of (often) weekly research papers. A good research paper in graduate theological education should contain an assortment of references that demonstrate the student's research, as well as trusted authorities for assertions, quotations, and ideas.

In this little review we will seek to present the basics of citations. Whether APA, Turabian, or MLA; whether theology or medicine, English literature, or Microbiology, our assertions, quotations, and ideas or concepts borrowed, must be cited. The pool of references must be evaluated for trustworthiness. Some are authoritative. Others are not, Wikipedia, for example, is never, ever a candidate for being a reference (although reading the sources can help create a "footnote trail" that leads to valid references).

So, what are the best references?

"Peer-review, schmere-review: What does it really mean?" We will provide definitions of a few references.

Finally, we will introduce "The Tree of Citations."

“All references may be true. But some are ‘truer’ than others.”—A former student of mine (who failed my course).
Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.—Ecclesiastes 12:12
“Is a blind peer-reviewer eligible for disability?”—a former professor I knew (before he resigned after winning a sizable liability suit against K-Mart).
Study to show thyself approved . . .”
a workman that needeth not to be ashamed . . .
“I am not an expert. I just seem to know more than most.”—Theodorus A. Hedges, D.Litt., D. Human Letters, Dipl., SME School for Advanced Honoraria Studies
. . . rightly dividing the word of truth.

And now the Tree.

1. Peer reviewed journal articles. 2. SME sources. 3. Literature (published works from the Great Books) and popular works. 4. Personal, subjective experience.

Here's to writing that is well-cited with sources that are taxonomically terrific. For more resources visit my Faculty Page for Student Helps.

We invite you to learn more about Erskine Theological Seminary. Visit: http://seminary.erskine.edu/
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