“From Topic to Thesis: A Guide to Theological Research.” A Review

Thanks to IVP for sending me a copy of this book to review! For those nerds like me who enjoy researching theology, this book is for you! Michael Kibbe, assistant professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute-Spokane, has written a very good and concise book on theological research methods. “The meat of this book is about showing the process of moving from topic (assignment) to thesis (argument).” (p. 43)

This book begins with a chapter that helps the researcher can go from a broad topic to the point that your project can be kept within a reasonable limit. He gives several keys to help this process go well. First, do not come into the project knowing what you want to argue. If you choose your argument before you write, you will be tempted to ignore what your research finds. Second, remember that research takes time, don’t rush it. Third, do not touch secondary sources yet. Spend time looking into primary sources and tertiary sources that can help you to see the big picture before getting lost in the details of the secondary sources and it makes sure that your focus remains on primary sources. Finally, spend time with tertiary sources so that you can get a precise introduction and overview of your topic.

The next step is gathering sources. This chapter gives keys to how to gather good sources in your topic. He argues that you should not spend too much time on any one source and nor to get distracted by all of the possible sources available. He helps the reader know what questions to ask of the secondary sources and gives examples of gathering sources for a couple different topics.

The third step is to understand the issues. In this step, it should be your goal to learn as much as you can from your sources about your chosen topic. Asking questions like “What arguments are being made? What are the reasons for and against those arguments?” (pg. 65)

Step four and five are to enter the discussion and establishing an argument. Step four may take several forms. “You may build on one specific argument that has been made. You may offer a brief summary of where the discussion is and suggest what direction it should take in the future.” (pg. 78) These four steps will lead directly into step five where you finalize what your argument will be and write your thesis statement.

Conclusion:

Kibbe has done an incredible job making the topic of theological research not only easy to understand but engaging and enjoyable. He closes his book with six appendices with helpful tips for each of these five steps such as research software like Zotero and how to navigate the ATLA religion database. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in researching and writing in the world of theology. Most books I have found on research are research for any topic. I love that Kibbe chose to focus on theological research specifically.

 

Readability: Easy

Quality rating: 5 stars

Recommended Reader: The Beginning Theologian.

Price: $10.20 (Amazon)

Pages: 153 pages

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