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Christian Theology at Georgetown College: Books for Research

This guide will assist research and reading for the Georgetown College theology curriculum.


The central focus of these papers will be the personalities who contributed to the formation of Christian Theology throughout history. Pick a saint, a heretic, a mystic, a theologian, or a nun, depending upon your interest. Prepare a short biography that describes who the subject is, his or her historical, cultural and ecclesiastical context, and provide an overview of his or her contribution to the Christian theological tradition.

Papers should evaluate and synthesize information from a variety of scholarly and academic sources (essays, monographs, journal articles, and commentaries where appropriate).

Use at least 5 scholarly sources.

The paper should be type-written, 5-7 pages long and in the third person.


Types of Resources

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. 

Bible Commentaries 

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 

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.


Choosing a Topic and Beginning to Research

Papers will focus on specific people or events in Christian history, and topics may be chosen in consultation with the instructor. These papers should meet the student’s interest, so it is not necessary to pick one from the provided list (see the full prompt via Moodle). Browse Telling the Stories That Matter, or a Subject-Area Encyclopedia for ideas. Biblical figures, even those unnamed in Scripture, are acceptable.

Consider topics, persons, and events that interest you: people you've just heard of, people you'd like to read more about, or historical phenomena you'd like to study more in-depth, such as monasticism, church councils, desert hermits, deaths of martyrs, or Marian apparitions. 

Theological controversies and disputations can be explored in the longer, final paper.

When you have selected a topic with your instructor's approval, it's best to start your research with dictionaries and subject-specific encyclopedias, fill in your background knowledge with companions, handbooks, and recommended texts (see the tabs under Historical Research Papers). Use specific books and articles that deal with your specific subject to access scholarly discussion about the subject. 


Featured Databases

Library Databases provide access to Scholarly/Peer Reviewed Articles. The most useful for theological studies will be: