And then there were the writing assignments. What is the difference between an essay and a research paper? How do I review a book? What is the difference between a primary and secondary source? It was hard enough to wade through the lectures and the reading without having to figure everything else. And of course the internet was barely an entity for the public, so forget about Google!
But I recently received an email from a friend who had co-authored a book that provides students with just the kind of information they need to be successful. Margot Northey, Bradford A. Anderson and Joel N. Lohr have released Making Sense in Religious Studies: A Student's Guide to Research and Writing. Here is how Joel Lohr explained it to me.
In short, it's a guide to help undergraduate students find their way in the world of religious studies, theology, and university more generally. There are chapters on everything from writing essays, to book reviews, taking exams, giving presentations, documenting sources (and avoiding plagiarism), writing comparative and exegetical essays, short assignments, evaluating sources, learning languages, and so on. I was tired of answering questions like, What are you looking for in a book review? What is an exegetical paper? How should I prepare for the exam? What do you want in my presentation? What is a primary source, secondary source, good source? and so on. There is also a chapter on what Religious Studies is (and how it relates to theology in the university), as well as one on how to approach/succeed in university as a new student. I know of no other guide like it.