I mentioned on Monday that I had withdrawn from Ph.D studies at SBTS. It wasn’t actually official until today when I received the e-mail from the registrar, but everything on my end was done back at the beginning of December. Rather than fully explain what I’m planning to do long term when it comes to Ph.D studies, I thought I’d explain more about what I’m doing now short term.
Ever since I was at Dallas, Ph.D work has been the plan, but in a kind of abstract sense. I’ve had general aspirations, but no actual plans until my final year at Dallas when I first started an application to SBTS. When that remained unfinished, Ph.D work became a kind of “sometime, someday” sort of thing.
This of course all changed last fall when I re-applied to SBTS, took the entrance exams, and got accepted. Because of how quickly that process came together, I didn’t have time to really reflect on what I was getting into until this past summer. I think part of the outcome of doing that was realizing I ultimately wanted to do a theology Ph.D, and I explained last post where that led.
Because actually doing Ph.D work was now on my radar, I started doing some reading about it to look for guidance. Very helpfully, I was able to get several of the books that entering Ph.D students at SBTS are required to read:
- How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing
- Research Strategies: Finding Your Way Through the Information Fog, 5th Edition
- Quality Research Papers: For Students of Religion and Theology
The take-away from the first one is that you need to have set time to write in your schedule, which is part of what I’m doing right now. I’m still working through the second but am finding it very helpful and possibly something to use in a critical-thinking/creative problem solving class I’m helping put together. As for the latter, it’s just a good general overview that I had originally read at Dallas. I re-scanned the newest edition and you can read my thoughts on it here.
In addition, I am hoping to read the following two titles soon, which would also be required reading if I were starting SBTS
- “They Say / I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing (Third Edition)
- Stylish Academic Writing
The former I skimmed at Dallas. It is helpful as far as providing a framework for organizing your research in a paper format. The latter I’ve only heard good things about. I imagine that is similar to the recent book by Steven Pinker, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Persons Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. The chapters are a bit on the long side, but the insights into clear grammar and style are worth it.
Though not required at SBTS, I recently read this trio of books:
- Write It Up: Practical Strategies for Writing and Publishing Journal Articles
- Complete Your Dissertation or Thesis in Two Semesters or Less
- Is there a Doctor in the House?: An Insider’s Story and Advice on becoming a Bible Scholar
The first has some good general advice for submitting papers to journals but is mainly helpful if you’re writing psychology articles. The second is a good overview of the dissertation process, though I’m not sure how applicable it is for humanities Ph.D’s. The advice on choosing an adviser and topic I found particularly helpful.
The last book was particularly informative, even if it is geared more toward students looking to do a Ph.D in biblical studies rather than theology. A point that Witherington made that was helpful for me personally is that teaching the Bible really requires you to be a generalist while getting a Ph.D requires choosing a specialty. I latently realized that my dissertation topic doesn’t pin me down to a certain specialty for the rest of my teaching career. But it was helpful to have Witherington expound on it and explain that I didn’t have to lose my love for generality in order to pursue a career in teaching. In fact, I’ll probably need it if I want to teach theology well.
I have some titles that I’ll be working through, but I’ve found that generally, I’m looking at titles about researching and writing better since that’s the bulk of the dissertation. In addition, I’m looking at titles that give an overview of the process and then I’m putting together a general reading plan to nail down potential topics. I’ll have more to say about that Friday.
If you have any advice on this, I’d love to hear it. Anybody else preparing for Ph.D work or even in the middle of it? What did you find helpful?