BRIT 75013 MTS Colloquium: Advanced Theological Research and Writing (syllabus)
3 semester hours, Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas
Fall 2016; Tuesdays, 1:00-3:30pm; Moore 114


Instructor: Charles Bellinger 817-257-7668

Prerequisites: MTS students should be in their next to last (or last) semester.

Course Description: This course is required for MTS students at Brite to prepare for writing their final project.

Course Objectives:
1. To ensure that students have advanced skills in bibliographic searching on a chosen topic.
2. To give students an opportunity to practice various aspects of composition, such as planning, drafting, offering and receiving feedback, and revising.
3. To introduce students to rhetorical theory.
4. To allow MTS students at Brite to lay a substantive foundation for their final projects.

Requirements and grading:
1. research bibliography (20%)
2. academic book review, 3-4 pages (10%)
3. several short papers, 2-3 pages (30%)
4. research paper outline with at least 15 pages of written text (40%)
5. speak with a faculty member about directing the final project

Attendance Policy: Attendance at all class meetings is expected. If you are unable to attend on a particular day, contact me.

Required Texts:
Barreto, Eric D. Writing Theologically: Foundations for Learning. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015. ISBN-13: 978-1451483406  $11

Booth, Wayne C. The Rhetoric of Rhetoric: The Quest for Effective Communication. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. ISBN-13: 978-1405112376  $24

There may be other assigned readings provided by the instructor.





reading assignments

writing assignments

1. Aug. 23


I. Introduction to course

Richard Weaver, "A Responsible Rhetoric"


2. Aug. 30


II. Choosing a topic
Typically, students choose a topic that is too broad. They need help in narrowing and focusing the scope of their project. On some occasions, however, students need to broaden an overly narrow topic. This aspect of the student's work will be revised as the semester progresses.

Writing Theologically, 1-58

1-2 page preliminary outline of project
[bring 4 copies]

3. Sept. 6


III. Advanced research
Students will use various databases to build up a large bibliography on a chosen topic relating to their research paper. Databases will include WorldCat, ATLA Religion Database, Academic Research Complete, JSTOR, and others as relevant. The Internet will also be surveyed as a possible source of relevant resources.


[optional RefWorks training: Wed., Sept. 28, or Thurs., Sept. 29, 10:00am-12:00pm, in Library Training Room 3202]

Writing Theologically, 59-102

revised outline
[bring 4 copies]

4. Sept. 13


bibliography development continued

Writing Theologically, 103-148


5. Sept. 20


IV. Drafting


2-3 pages draft
[bring 4 copies]

6. Sept. 27



2-3 pages draft
[bring 4 copies]

7. Oct. 4




2-3 pages draft
[bring 4 copies]

8. Oct. 11

 no class

Brite reading week



9. Oct. 18


V. Introduction to Rhetorical Theory


Rhetoric of Rhetoric, 1-83

2-3 page response paper
[bring 4 copies]

10. Oct. 25



Rhetoric of Rhetoric, 85-128

2-3 page response paper
[bring 4 copies]

11. Nov. 1



Rhetoric of Rhetoric, 129-172

2-3 page response paper
[bring 4 copies]

12. Nov. 8


VI. Academic book review
Students will write a review of a book that is related to their final project. Students will prepare for this task by reading a book related to their project and reviews of at least five other relevant books from theological journals.


academic book review, 3-4 pages
[bring 4 copies]

13. Nov. 15

 class ?

[we will decide later whether or not we need to meet this week]



14. Nov. 22

 no class

Thanksgiving week



15. Nov. 29


VII. Offering/Receiving feedback
Students will present drafts of their final project outline, with at least fifteen pages of preliminary prose text. They will read each other's work and offer feedback.


outline + 15 pages + bibliography

16. Dec. 6

 no class





This is an amplification of "II. Choosing a Topic" above. Students will produce an outline of their argument, in such a manner that the sub-genre of their essay will become apparent. By sub-genre, I mean that under the general genre of the expository essay, there are many sub-types. For example:

Essay Structures


literature review with constructive contribution

author A says this about topic Z, author B says this, author C says this; I think the discussion can be improved by considering this ...

interpretation critique

author H interprets author B in this way; the strengths and weaknesses of this interpretation are ...

interpretation of biblical passage

this biblical text has been read in these ways ...; I propose reading it in this way ...

historical study

this historical topic has not been written on very extensively (or very well); I will write on this topic arguing that ...

application of ideas

this theological idea can be applied to ecclesial settings in this way ...


author A argues in favor of idea N, author B argues against it; I think B is right for the following reasons ... ; I think both are missing the point ... ; this argument could be advanced by considering this ...

interreligious dialogue

this religion teaches K, this other religion teaches R; I see these similarities / openings for dialogue / etc.

social critique

this social practice is harmful; movement away from that harm can be made in the following ways ...

doctrinal revision

theological or ethical doctrine E can be reinterpreted from the perspective of feminist / womanist / black / asian / Whiteheadian, (etc.) thought.

etc., etc.


This list is suggestive; it could be elaborated until it consists of dozens. Students will complete this assignment by first setting out a "formal" structure, such as those just mentioned, before they get to the "content" of their actual argument. The outline will be fairly detailed, showing how the bibliographic resources drawn on will contribute to the development of the essay's argument. The assignment will include at least fifteen pages of written text in addition to the complete outline. Both the text and the outline will be subject to later revision.

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