Writing a thesis in Religious Studies gives Religion majors a great opportunity to conduct an original and thoughtful research on the topic they have chosen and test their analytical and interpretive skills. Writing this culminating academic assignment in students’ scholarly career is rather challenging so in this article, we give you general guidelines that will support you at the beginning of the writing process. Besides, we will provide you with a short list of winning thesis topics in Religious Studies. If you struggle with writing any other college project, at our website, you can also find full guides to all writing assignments out there.
Religious studies is an interdisciplinary field and due to this fact, studying religion is so interesting. But the interdisciplinary nature of this subject makes writing papers in it very challenging because students are expected to use a variety of methods and theories many of which are used in other fields of study. Nevertheless, this discipline has its own unique conventions of writing as well.
Writing a thesis as well as other papers in Religious Studies takes place not in a faith-oriented community but in an academic environment. The goal of your research project is not to support or argue against different supernatural religious concepts such as, for example, the idea of reincarnation because they are metaphysical and we can’t prove them with relevant evidence available to everyone. The goal of Religious Studies is to explore and interpret religion from the perspective that can be shared by people regardless of whether they believe in the existence of a god or are atheists.
You need to approach religious concepts without applying the religious perspective. Wondering how you can do that? Since Religious Studies is an interdisciplinary field, you can take advantage of numerous modes of investigation, including anthropological, sociological, cultural, historical, and literary. Using these approaches, you will be able to study religious phenomena (rituals and beliefs) in the context. Every religion was developed and exists in a specific context. When you explore the context of certain concepts and traditions, they can become more comprehensible.
This interdisciplinary approach is very important when you analyze evidence and make arguments. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t base your argument on your personal beliefs. Do your best to avoid bias when evaluating evidence and making your conclusions because you won’t be able to convince your readers who may have different beliefs and don’t share your assumptions.
An argument in academic writing can’t be based on faith or received the tradition. Your final paper in Religious Studies should present a reasoned argument which has no signs of your personal religious beliefs.
Choosing a good topic is a very important step in the thesis writing process. You should choose a topic you are interested in and consult with one of the members of the Religious Studies departmental faculty for additional suggestions. If they approve your choice, you need to develop a scholarly research question that relates to important issues, specifics or dynamics of religious practice in ancient or contemporary society. You can also explore several issues tied together and perform multidisciplinary study. Your research subjects may involve exploring rituals, texts, art, music, places, material objects, persons, and the like.
Have a look at this short list of topic ideas for your thesis in Religious Studies.
When you have chosen a wide subject area, you should read appropriate primary and secondary sources (or/and conduct field research) and create an interesting and arguable thesis statement that will communicate your original idea or synthesize your research. Your thesis statement should show some specific insight. For example, your thesis statement may look like this:
‘Sartre believes that God’s non-existence has no impact on morality because human essence can be the basis for morality even without any God.’
Your next step is to determine what methods will be the most appropriate for doing research and presenting the findings. Then you should think about the structure of your thesis and create an outline with the structure that best supports your argument. To understand this, you should always take into account your research question.
You should follow the traditional structure of multi-chapter presentation of research evidence and original analysis that supports a strong thesis statement. Your final paper may include the following sections: abstract, introduction, literature review, methods, findings, discussion, conclusions. Consider using both primary and secondary sources to draw evidence for your thesis. Now let’s discuss how to write each part of your thesis in detail.
The abstract should be no longer than 350 words. This part of your thesis is written last but we discuss it first to help you see how your final project should be structured. A good abstract provides an overview of your paper, is concise and readable. Your task here is to explain why your thesis is significant. You need to tell what you did in your thesis in religious studies. You should name your methods and present key results.
The introduction should be longer than the abstract. This part provides the background information to your topic and tells about the previous research in this area. You may tell about the gap in the existing knowledge and explain how your project fills this gap. You need to state your thesis statement or research question and can include here an outline of the next chapters.
The literature review may be a part of the introduction or you may write a separate section. You need to summarize everything you have ever read about your subject and evaluate the previous research on your topic. You should tell what gap in the existing knowledge you are making an attempt to fill.
The methods section provides an overview of different methods that you used to investigate your subject, gather evidence, and analyze the results. Your goal in this chapter is to provide all the necessary information so that your readers will be able to assess your results and replicate your research. Besides, you need to explain your limitations and validity. You should limit your citations to sources where your readers could find complete descriptions of procedures.
Findings present an outline of all the information that you have gathered to answer your research question. You need to include the results of your research and give quick comments on your results. Sometimes, this section is combined with discussion and includes generalized comments. Use subheadings to break this chapter into logical segments.
The discussion section summarizes the key results and tells about the most important patterns in your findings. You need to comment on your results and explain what these findings mean. If you found something unexpected, you need to provide an explanation. You need to interpret your results in relation to your research question. You should avoid making broad generalizations if you can’t back them with solid evidence. This section can include a lot of references to similar works that provide the background information necessary for the interpretation of your findings.
The conclusion is a very important section where you emphasize that the objectives of your research were achieved. You should summarize your insights, speak about the limitations, and make a suggestion about further research.
Actually, since we use computers for creating papers and other documents, we understand revision as a constant process. When we change words, delete sentences, cut and paste, we are revising. But revision is also a specific step in the writing process which requires that you should re-think the entire paper or its chapters and rewrite them. Although revising may take a lot of time, it helps improve the quality of your papers and enhances your writing skills.
During revision, you should make an effort to see your thesis in religious studies from different angles and different perspectives. Revision means making big changes in your thesis paper to improve flow, development, and focus.
You may want to make a large-scale revision. You should look at the entire thesis to find places that need improvement. You might need to define some terms, add some evidence or add a new point to your argument. You may need to restructure your thesis or rewrite the most important chapters if you decide that the new structure will be more efficient than the previous one.
A small-scale revision happens when you see that some part of your thesis doesn’t work. Maybe the part where you present the background information in your introduction needs rewriting or you notice that some part of your argument is not strong enough. When you discover a problem, you should focus on a specific part of your thesis and revise it. When you finish revising a certain section, you should reconsider the entire thesis paper to ensure that the changes you have made work well in the context of the whole paper.
Sometimes, students confuse revising and editing while these are different processes. When you revise, you fix big problems in the text and when you edit, you deal with minor problems that you can easily fix by deleting a word or a sentence, by cutting and pasting a paragraph, etc. You should edit your thesis in Religious Studies with your readers in mind and make sure that your paper is readable, clear, and interesting.
Before you start the editing process, you should be sure that you are using a consistent style when writing and formatting your thesis. You should consider issues with the language (grammar and spelling), consistency (in using terms, abbreviation, citation/referencing style, and tense), and logical progression of ideas. You should also make sure that your chapters and paragraphs are concise. Try to be as direct and succinct as possible.
You can critique the following typical aspects of writing:
For example, when editing for consistency, you should review such elements like consistent use of either numbering or bullet points for lists, consistent formatting of headings and sub-headings, consistency in numbering diagrams, tables, appendices, etc.
Proofreading is the last step in the editing process when you are looking for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors, for example, mixing up singular and plural, misplaced or missing apostrophes, duplication of words, faulty abbreviations, too much space between two words, etc. When proofreading, it’s better to take a structured approach and focus on specific potential problems instead of trying to notice all types of problems at once. During your final check, you should also pay attention to referencing format and make sure it is accurate. You should proofread thoroughly and systematically and pay attention to the slightest detail.
We have discussed the key steps in writing a thesis in Religious Studies. We hope our easy step-by-step writing guide will help you write a powerful thesis paper that will make a great impression on the committee.