Blog Archives

A postgrad survival guide

Quite a few of you are either current, former, or even future postgrad students (Th.M. or Ph.D.). For those of you who have been down at least part of that road, what do wish wish would have been included in a “postgrad survival guide” that someone just handed to you before you started your program?

I was looking back over the posts that I’ve written in the last year in my Tips for the Th.M. series, and I ran across quite a few others that revolved around the idea of how to succeed/survive in a postgrad program. So, I’ve started to wonder if it would be worth supplementing those with some other posts on the subject and eventually compiling a free resource on how to survive your ThM/PhD program.

I’d love to hear what you think. What would you add/delete? Would something like this be useful?

Here’s what I have based on what I’ve already written, grouped into a few logical categories.

Part 1: Introductory Issues

  • Are you sure that you want a postgraduate program?
  • Is academic Bible/theology a waste of time?
  • Should pastors pursue postgraduate work?
  • How to choose a postgraduate program.
  • How do you apply to a postgraduate program?

Part 2: Surviving Your Classes

  • How to succeed in a postgrad seminar
  • How to read well

Part 3: Surviving the Research Process

  • Why you should use journal articles
  • How to use journal articles well
  • The danger of over-research-itis
  • Using Google Scholar in research

Part 4: Surviving the Writing Process

  • Constructing strong arguments
  • The importance of clear and concise writing
  • Writing research proposals
  • Understanding the research proposal process
  • Finding good thesis/dissertation topics
  • Picking a thesis/dissertation topic
  • How to tackle something the size of a thesis/dissertation
  • How to use quotations
  • Common errors in research writing
  • How to take criticism

Part 5: Surviving Your Oral Examination

  • Answering concisely
  • Saying “I don’t know”
  • Summarizing your research

Part 6: Surviving after You Graduate

  • Writing the perfect resume
  • Advice on applying for a teaching position
  • What to do when you don’t get a teaching position

Publishing opportunity for grad students?

Brian LePort JohnDave Medina commented earlier today on a good opportunity for grad students through Logos Bible Software.

Logos Bible Software has opened an invitation to graduate students to publish for the Lexham Bible Dictionary. There are already scholars who have agreed to contribute, but I suspect the lines are still open. From the ‘Participate’ page:

But, even though I think this might be a good opportunity, I have to admit that I’m also a little ambivalent to such “publishing endeavors.” If you just want to support a work that you think has legitimate value for the Christian community, great. We need good resources, and it takes good people willing to invest their time to put them together. So, by all means, participate if you want.

But, please don’t do it because you see it as “a great way to earn publication credits,” as the website apparently touts. I read resumes on a pretty regular basis and I have to admit that I skip over anything that has to do with publishing in a “dictionary.” Sure, it may make your publications list a little longer, but anyone who’s paying attention can tell if you’re padding your resume with publications like this. (By the way, book reviews can be viewed the same way.)

Again, I think it’s great to support a needed resource. So, if you want to “give back” to the community, please do. But, don’t do it just to make your resume look a little more impressive. It doesn’t.

Flotsam and jetsam (9/10)

Flotsam and jetsam (9/7)

Advice for applying to doctoral progams

For those of you interested in pursuing a doctoral degree eventually, Allen Yeh has offered some Advice for Applying for Grad School. I’d encourage you to take a look at it, but I would like to offer an alternate perspective on a couple of things.

First, I’d preface everything that Allen says by arguing that who you know is even more important than where you went to school. (I’ll be blogging on this again soon.) The name of your school is helpful if you’re having to cold sell yourself to a school. But, if you’ve networked effectively, your best job opportunities will come through the grapevine, where the name of your school is not as much of an issue. That doesn’t mean you can ignore this consideration, but it does mean you should pay attention to your networking opportunities now.

Second, much of what Allen says applies more to those who want to keep the possibility of teaching at a state school on the table. Let me be honest with you. If you are doing MA/MDiv/ThM work at a private Christian school, you are probably not going to be hired at a state school no matter where you do your doctoral work. There are a few exceptions to this, but that’s generally true. And, be honest with yourself, if you are the kind of person who is attracted to studying at a private Christian school, do you really want to teach at a state school? Do you want to operate in a context where your evangelical convictions will routinely be marginalized, your objectivity challenged, and your research plans questioned? If you are an evangelical, why not simply embrace that fact and teach at a school where you will be free to present and pursue your evangelical research? That doesn’t mean I think we should abandon the state schools. There are many evangelicals who are gifted and called to just that kind of environment. The question is, are you one of them? If not, don’t arrange your doctoral plans around the idea of keeping something on the table that maybe shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Third, Allen talks quite a bit about the academic superiority of the American Ph.D. over the British Ph.D. And basically he’s right. But, what he doesn’t take into account is the kind of work that a person may have done before their doctoral program. If you already have multiple degrees in your field, I would not hesitate for a second to encourage you toward a British program. You’ve probably had enough time already to get prepared in your field and you’re ready to work independently for a while. And, as Allen mentions, a British Ph.D. is not going to set you back at all with American seminaries. But, if you have not yet done enough coursework in your other programs, by all means go the American route.

Finally, his point about which subfield to specialize in is well worth considering. The statistics on applicants-per-position in New Testament and Systematic Theology are not good; Old Testament is not far behind. If those are your passions and you want to pursue those fields despite the odds, go for it. But, if you are open to pursuing a subfield of practical theology, that might set you up better for the future.