Quick Tip – Bookmarks With Online Primary Sources


Just a quick tip if you happen to be doing on-line research within primary sources.  Two very common sources for any type of Biblical Studies are the Loeb Classical Library and the Perseus Digital Library.

Sometimes, tracking down a specific reference can be quite tedious.  This is the case with the online version of the Loeb Classical Library which doesn’t allow searches by reference number (i.e. Jewish Antiquities 1.219)

Bookmark It!

Once you find the reference and retrieve your information, you never know if you might need to use it again at some point in the future.  If so, your best bet is to bookmark the page (Ant. 1.219) and slip it under a folder for Research (i.e. Subfolder Josephus)

Who knows, unless you have a copy of the relevant pages (physically or PDF) you might have to return to the same reference several times in your research.  This is the case with a key text you have to exegete.

Happy researching.


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PhD Advice – Saving the WorldCat Link in Zotero


One of the more indispensable tools for writing any dissertation (masters or PhD) is the bibliography software, which I wrote about in a previous post.

The bibliography software ensures that EVERY piece of your bibliographic sources is perfectly captured and organized for use in your work.  This is not to mention the ability to sort, tag, search and capture notes in any number of extremely flexible ways for each record.

Saving the World Cat Link

In the short video at the end of this post, I take you through the task of cataloguing just one simple detail for your bibliographic records:  the World Cat link.

As you know, World Cat is a catalog of 72,000 libraries worldwide containing more than 300 million records.  There are number of ways I use World Cat:

1) Whenever I need to add a bibliographic source to my records, I track down the title in World Cat, I make sure I have the right version / year, then I use a handy extension in Chrome that automatically saves the information into Zotero.

2) Once you find a book in the catalog, you can type in a zip code in the “Find a Copy in the Library” section of World Cat.  World Cat will then list the libraries closest to your zip code where you can find this volume.  You can click on those links and go straight to each of these libraries’ catalogs to ensure the book you are looking for is not checked out.

3) If you access World Cat through a school library’s proxy, you can access the inter-library loan ability in World Cat.  If you find a book in a Texas library and you live in Vermont, you can have the book shipped to a library near you for pick up and use (free of charge).

There are many more possibilities.  For this reason, I found it useful to save the World Cat link to any book that I catalog in my bibliography software.   The video below explains this process:

Happy researching:

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Thesis topic – An example of using a socio-historical methodology


Greetings friends.  As you can see, my posts on my PhD sight have become fewer and fewer these past few months.  I’ve been super busy with classes here at the Biblical Seminary of Colombia, building up my bible resources site and trying to develop an online class for Udemy.com.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot.  I’m well into my third year of part-time writing for my dissertation in New Testament studies.

Methodology is key

Anyway, you may have heard me say in some of my other posts that very often the magic of a dissertation (at least in biblical studies) is in the methodology you choose to analyze a topic or a series of text.  In other words, original ideas are not hard to come by as long as you are willing to write with lesser used methodologies.

In Biblical Studies anything that has a socio-historical  or socio-rhetorical angle is usually uncharted territory.  Ben Witherington has been writing various commentaries from a socio-rhetorical viewpoint and I would encourage you to take a look at his work to see the approach he takes.

In my study of 1 Peter I’ve had the privilege of studying John’ Elliott’s “A Home For The Homeless”.  The subtitle gives us a clue into this methodology:  A Sociological Exegesis of 1 Peter, Its Situation and Strategy.

This is a work that in some places utilizes modern social theories as a lens into the social and religious situation of 1 Peter’s audience.  This would include the work of sociology to describe sect development and group cohesion and identity just to name a few.

All We Need Is An Example

I share this with you not because I want you to read the book, but rather, because sometimes all we need in generating an idea for a thesis is to see how someone else has tread the road already.

Elliott’s book and Witherington’s commentaries provide some new and interesting avenues to study old texts.  In the world of PhD dissertations, that counts as an original idea.

Happy researching.

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To make progress in thesis writing, ignore the footnotes


One of the tips I give in my Top 10 Dissertation Writing Tips has to do with the creation (or no creation) of footnotes during the writing phase.

In this post I wanted to expand on that idea.

Footnotes may be a potential time waster

In the early stages of my writing, I often found myself creating finished footnotes in my document.  I think this gave me a sense of accomplishment because my drafts had a semi-finished look to them.  In addition, the footnotes served to document the sources I was using. For me, once something was in a footnote, it meant that I had researched the source and had gotten the title, date, publisher and page number exactly right.

There was only one small problem with my fool-proof footnote method.

During my re-writes, I would often delete certain paragraphs and with it my footnotes.  Thus, whatever effort I had spent in getting my footnotes in place was promptly wasted.  This wasn’t so bad if a footnote contained only one reference to a single book.  Sometimes that footnote took up a quarter or half the page as I summarized an article or referenced several sources.

The end result was that I could never foretell whether a footnote was going to make the final cut and thus ANY time spent in creating them was potentially a huge time waster.

Footnotes kill your productivity

Perhaps more important than potentially wasting your time, the creation of a footnote always interrupted my flow of thought and my writing.  I could be making very good progress on a part of my thesis or a particular paragraph, and then BOOM, I would hit a footnote and take time to place it into my document.

The interruption was a few moments to several minutes.  Yet regardless of the time factor, I could not escape the fact that I had killed my writing momentum.

Document what you need and then move on

Thus, if you really want to make progress in your writing, what you must do is simply document the need for a footnote, jotting down the essential information, and then continue with you writing (Johnson, The Book of Acts, 39).

You can see a sample at the end of the last paragraph.  Here is another example, this time with only the author’s name and a note to self that I need to track down the page number (Wright, need page #).

Finally, you can have a footnote reminder, a kind of little message to yourself to prompt you for a full-scale footnote in the future (Footnote: Need to summarize Balch’s treatment of domestic codes in 1 Peter).


Rather than taking the time to create footnotes, your best bet to making progress in your writing is to jot down the essential elements you’ll need to create on in the future.

This allows you to document the important points you will need for the source, but without interrupting your flow or train of thought.

The result is the best of both worlds, speed combined with accuracy.

Happy researching!

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Summary and links to “Finding a Dissertation Topic” articles


Here at PhD Dissertation Tips and Advice, many of our most popular articles have to do with finding a research topic.  Thus, in this post I wanted to provide a single location for all of these articles along with a brief summary of each.

Generating Ideas for a Dissertation Topic in Biblical Studies

Provides 5 tips for generating ideas for research including: becoming an expert; reading outside of your field; keying in on novel methodology; comparing the Bible to contemporaneous texts and studying lesser researched texts.

The material for this post comes from Nijay Gupta’s book A Guidebook for Getting a PhD in Biblical Studies and Beyond.

Personal Ideas for Dissertation Topics

In my research, I occasionally run across potential dissertation topics that I think may be worth pursuing.  So far, I’ve written three posts to share these ideas:

Idea #1 – Is there a common set of ideas, patterns or concepts in the final exhortations of NT letters? How do these exhortations compare to the rhetoric of similar Greco-Roman literature.

I’ve attached a table that shows these similar NT exhortations ==> Exhortations in NT.

Idea #2 – Elders appear only in certain NT documents (Acts, 1 Tim, Titus, James, 1 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John and Revelation). Why is that? Is there a geographical connection tied to Ephesus? or one tied to the date of composition?

Idea #3 – How does Luke’s conception of leadership (Luke 24:13-30) compare to that of the Greco-Roman world? The dissertation would be socio-historical study similar to Clark’s Secular and Christian Leadership in Corinth.

A personal test case in finding a dissertation topic

This was a series of four posts showing my journey of finding my research topic.

A three-step method for finding a dissertation topic

This was the first series I did on this subject.  I wrote a series of three articles.  The first two approach this theme from a more philosophical or conceptual perspective.  The last post provides 5 tips for finding a dissertation topic.

  • Post # 1 – Choosing a dissertation topic is a flexible process.  You can and will likely change your topic as you discover more about your research question.
  • Post #2 – The question is king! Asking the right question is the beginning of a good dissertation topic.
  • Post #3 – 5 straight up tips for finding a dissertation topic including: read other dissertations; begin with your passion; do a quick literature review; become acquainted with different methodologies; ask for help from experts in your field.

Well, that’s about all for the summaries.  I hope you will find this post useful as you begin or continue your research.

Happy studies.

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Tracking Down Bibliographic Sources: Some Time-Saving Tips

Greetings fellow researchers:

As you know, tracking down library resources is an integral part of any dissertation writing process.  Though it may be a bit tedious at times, I have found the following tips useful in saving time (and errors):

#1 – Copy the title page of the book before you make copies of individual pages

Before you copy a section of pages from a resource, copy the title page first and then add the copies of sections or pages after that.  

I have sometimes come home from a long session of making multiple copies only to have no idea which sets belonged to which books.

NOTE: Save money and trees:  Some libraries allow you to scan and e-mail copies to yourself at no cost.

#2 – Make sure you are using the most recent edition of a book

Books go through major revisions and updates all of the time.  Ensure that you are using the most recent editions in your writing.

When searching through a catalog (I use Worldcat.org for my general searches), you can specify a sort by “Date (Newest First)” so the most recent editions are listed at the top.

NOTE: Regardless of which edition you use, you must remain consistent in your use of that edition.  Your bibliographic information and footnote pages will likely change between editions.  You don’t want to be quoting material and footnoting text from the same book, but different editions.

#3 – The tags on your bibliographic software are your best friends

Let’s face it.  Writing a dissertation requires that you keep track of multiple elements on multiple levels.  No system is fool-proof such that something doesn’t fall through the cracks.

But using “tags” on your bibliographic records provides you with tremendous flexibility.  Two of my favorite tags are:  1) Need to check out and 2) Requires action.

As I am collating my bibliographic data and think a resource may be useful, I immediately tag it with “Need to check out” tag.  When I arrive at the library I select that tag and have a ready list of books that I have to track down. (This allows you to batch your trips to the library or to the book stacks.)

My “requires action” tag (with accompanying notes or instructions) immediately reminds me why I have an interest in looking more closely at this resource.  Actual reminders include:

  1. Review Cadbury’s contribution to the Miletus Speech
  2. Compare literature review of this book to my own
  3. Verify the PDF file source

Other useful tags include: 1) Verified bibliography info (Sometimes, the automatically downloaded data does not come through very clean) and 2) Name of library (This can save you the hassle of repeatedly looking through a library’s card catalog.)

#4 – Save the call number in you bibliographic software

There should be a field in your bibliographic record to save the call number of a book or resource.  Do it!  Look it up, enter it in the field and save it.

Later on, you can create a report showing the book titles you need to track down and their call numbers (Zotero has this function.)  This task is even easier if you have tagged the books with “Need to check out” and search accordingly.

Well that about wraps up the tips on tracking down resources.

It’s not the most glamorous task we have to do as researchers, but at least we can try to minimize the pain and errors connected to it.

Happy researching!


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Tyndale House: Great Resources For Writing Biblical Studies Dissertations

Dear Fellow Scholars, Scholars in Training, and Wanne-Be Scholars:

I just wanted to pass along a great resource (The Tyndale House) for would be and current Biblical Studies dissertation writers.

The Tyndale House itself, is set within the buildings of Cambridge University and is a major Biblical Studies research center. Its world-class library contains specialist material on the language, history, culture and meaning of the Bible.

Continue reading

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Should You Get a PhD in Biblical Studies?


Greetings all.

I just finished reading Peter Enns’ insightful post on whether evangelicals should pursue a PhD in Biblical Studies.

I have to say, it’s a cold, hard dose of reality for anyone with idealistic (or overly spiritualized) academic dreams.

Among other topics, Enns briefly focuses on:

  1. The pitiful job market for biblical studies scholars (and its attendant low salaries)
  2. The need for going to a top-tier school (not an evangelical one)
  3. A certain doctrinal alienation that occurs for doctoral students that  separates them from 99% of the “educated Western Christian world.”

I’ve included a link to Enns’ post at the end of my article.  If you want my reaction and commentary, please continue reading.  Otherwise, jump down to read what Enns has to say.

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Annotated Bibliography: Why You Should Prepare One


I started using a type of annotated bibliography well before I even knew what they were.

In the early stages of research, I would often show up to a meeting with my adviser having e-mailed him a list of all of the works I had read for that time period.

Next to each work, I would often comment on the main argument of the article, book or resource and try to make some connection back to my thesis.  This allowed us to have a more fruitful discussion regarding the progress of my work.

Continue reading

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Free “Top 10 Dissertation Writing Tips” Report

Hello all!

This is just a quick post to let you know that I’ve gathered up some of my favorite writing tips into a small report: Top 10 Dissertation Writing Tips.

As I state in the introduction, one of the few things that counts when writing a dissertation is making progress.  These tips help you do just that.

They are all geared toward increasing your word count, so you can finally finish that blasted thesis!

There are no opt-ins or e-mails required to grab your copy.  My only request is that you share it freely if you find it useful.

Download – Top 10 Dissertation Writing Tips

Happy researching!

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