Busy seminary students need quick, accessible introductions to various sub-disciplines within the study of Christian Theology. This page will introduce you to different genres of academic writing so that you can discern the best places to get started with your reading.
Special types of books
These types are distinct from monographs, a scholarly book about one particular subject.
Encyclopedias and Dictionaries
These titles offer short (usually 1-2 page) articles on various persons, topics, events, and concepts. They are arranged alphabetically, and provide concise introductions to important topics in a particular discipline, and a selected bibliography of the most important works for further study.
Handbooks and Companions
Handbooks and companions are anthologies of articles that summarize the history and current state of research in academic fields and sub-disciplines. The articles are written by top scholars to provide "quick and dirty" introductions to learners, as well as comprehensive bibliographies to aid in further research. Unlike encyclopedias and dictionaries, these works offer longer articles (often 20-25 pages) and are arranged thematically.
Commentaries provide introductions to and historical overviews of Biblical books and provide chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse comments on questions of historical context, theology, and interpretation. Commentaries on books may be stand-alone volumes, but are most often part of a series. Note the introductory material in a Bible commentary to discern the focus of a particular series. Some are more historical, some are more theological, and others are directed toward application in sermons.
Scholarly articles are the means by which scholars communicate shorter, more specific questions and answers to one another. Articles are typically 10-30 pages long, and are written (as are books) to contribute to scholarly discussion of specific questions. They are more focused than books, and the style of writing assumes familiarity with the discipline and particular issues addressed by the piece. These can be found using the library's Online Research Databases, such as EBSCO's ATLA and Philosophy & Religion services, and JSTOR (see the Finding Resources > Articles) tabs.