Graduate Research Seminar

Step 1 for every ThM and PhD student @SBTS is Graduate Research Seminar (GRS), though “seminar” is a bit of a misnomer. It is a very helpful three-day class that introduces students to delightful things such as Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), elements of proper writing style, the seminary style manual, the vast electronic databases available to aid research, and the time-saving benefits of citation apps such as Zotero. I participated in this class just before the Fall semester officially began (August 10-12). The class also serves as an introduction to PhD studies @SBTS.

Dr. David Puckett introduced the doctoral program and led the discussion of writing style. In preparation for the class we read Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks, The Craft of Research, and The Oxford Guide to Library Research. One of Dr. Puckett’s most memorable quips: “There should be nothing interesting in your paper!” Of course, our papers should be interesting, but all “interesting” asides–information not directly relevant to one’s thesis–should be cut from the final draft.

Dr. Marsha Omanson pulled off the daunting task of effectively introducing the seminary manual of style with an engaging, even entertaining, delivery. She had us rolling. Somehow I’ve misplaced the scratch paper where I scribbled down her numerous quotables. If you were in the class and you remember any, please comment.

Daniel Patterson introduced the class to Zotero. I’ve been using this app for a year or so; it’s incredibly helpful. If you’re interested, Andy Naselli has written a article and created a video that introduces the program. Both are available here.

Paul Roberts, Director of Patron Services at the library, introduced LCSH’s and electronic databases for research. I wasn’t being (completely) sarcastic when I earlier referred to LCSH’s as delightful. Very helpful talk. Thanks, Paul.

In my opinion, this class should be required for incoming M.Div students, as well. I would have greatly benefited from it four years ago, instead of having to learn much of the content through trial and error. I think the many professors and Garrett Fellows who grade papers @SBTS would agree with this suggestion. Scratch the Written Communication pre-requisite, which is only required for some M.Div students, and do a full blown GRS requirement. This is one practical way to improve the quality of work produced at the M.Div level.

2 thoughts on “Graduate Research Seminar

  1. Glad the post was helpful, TJ. I have emailed you a copy of the syllabus. We had a few books to read and book reviews to write. The ones mentioned in the post have to be read by the first day of class, so if you have time you could go ahead and get started on this, assuming Dr. Puckett uses the same books. More on that in the email. Concerning other assignments, we had to construct field-specific boolean searches in particular databases. You’ll have to wait for Paul Roberts’ talk to do this. One last thing, the sooner you familiarize yourself with Zotero ( the better. Paul will introduce this software in class. He has written a little about it on the library webpage ( One note: Zotero 3.0 is out; he mentions 2.1.1. It can be downloaded as a standalone app now; it doesn’t have to live in Firefox. I’ve used the program for years and love it. By the way, it’s free. Let me know if you have any other questions. Glad to hear you will be studying at SBTS!

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