Religious Studies 135: Christian Origins
The Research Paper (J.C.Treat, R.A.Kraft)

The purpose of the research paper is to involve the student as directly as possible in a concentrated investigation of some particular aspect of the course's subject-matter. Successful completion of the research paper will involve competence in the subject chosen (content, coverage), competence in using appropriate methods (assumptions, definitions, approach, consistency), and competence in writing (expression, clarity, organization).

Students are encouraged to communicate with the instructor by email, and may submit preliminary outlines, drafts, and finished papers in that mode. But because of problems with electronic viruses, the instructor will not accept "attachments," but requires "text only" format, which can be inserted into an email message in various ways (e.g. cut and paste). Note that "text only" format will lose special wordprocessing features such as italics, bold type, and underlining, and may lose or confuse footnotes and footnote references. Please keep this in mind as you prepare your work, and make appropriate adjustments (e.g. use endnotes and insert the numbers into the text in an explicit manner such as \n#/).

Format and Length

The paper should be typed or word-processed using the guidelines in Kate Turabian's Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. The body of the paper may contain between 1500 and 3000 words (approximately five to ten pages). These limits do not include notes and bibliography.

Due Date

The final draft of the research paper may be submitted as soon as it is ready. It is due on the last scheduled class period.

Subject of Research

The earlier you choose an area for research, the easier it will be to write a good paper. Choose something that ties in with work of interest to you: work previously done, or work connected with another course, or something new to you. (But do not hand in a paper you have already written for another course!) Beware of choosing subjects simply because you have "an ax to grind"; your task is to discover and describe, not to crusade. Before you settle on a topic, look into the availability of sources. When you have a topic, confirm your choice with the instructor.

The Preliminary Exploration

By the mid-term break you should submit a short preliminary exploration of your research paper's subject matter. This preview is informal but should be coherent. It may be of any length, but one page will be sufficient in most instances. This exploratory exercise should be primarily concerned with asking questions. All you need to know at this point is what your subject is and where you can go for information. Use this opportunity to collect your thoughts about possible approaches. Use it to express initial confusion, to record initial hypotheses and presuppositions, to wonder about how to proceed. It's okay not to know very much at this point. Your exploration will not be graded. The instructor will comment if you could be moving in a more useful direction.

Drafts and Revisions

Writing and rewriting, as appropriate, are viewed as an essential part of the educational process. Because it is impossible to become familiar with the conventions of a field without practice and because any piece of writing can be improved, students are encouraged to submit a preliminary draft of the research paper if they so desire, and to revise portions of the final paper if inadequacies are discovered.

Treat any preliminary draft as seriously as if it were the final submission. If the draft is not typed legibly or if it contains an inexcusable number of grammatical or spelling errors, that will make it difficult to give it the attention it deserves.


The Writing Center (414B Bennett Hall, 215 898-8525) is a valuable resource for Penn students. Students can come to the Center with a rough draft or preliminary ideas for completing an assignment, and are encouraged to visit regularly as they move through the stages of the writing process. Also, the Writing Lab is open to students who wish to use a Macintosh or IBM PC for revising; it has a library of style and proofreading programs.

Giving Credit, Footnotes, Bibliography

It is not necessary to provide source references for information that is considered "common knowledge" (e.g. the names normally given to the books of the New Testament). You should, however, acknowledge all special material quoted from or paraphrased from modern published works (including electronic publications). Failure to acknowledge the use of another person's published ideas (this can include oral "publication") constitutes plagiarism, and will not be tolerated. If you use material that was quoted by one of your sources without actually checking for yourself the original source used, you must acknowledge this situation (e.g. source X as cited by author Y). If you were able to go back to the original source for yourself, you do not need to give credit to the intermediate source.

References to the location of materials in ancient works should follow brief accepted conventions (e.g. Matt 2.20, Ign Rom 1.6) and can be inserted at the appropriate place in the text of the paper. More elaborate references and discussions should go into consecutively numbered footnotes. If you have used several modern sources in preparing the paper (even if you don't refer to them all in the paper), a bibliography is required (annotated bibliographies are preferable, where you comment briefly on the value of the work for your research). If you have used only a small number of works and they are all referred to in your footnotes, a bibliography would be superfluous.