Student Writing Guide
The standard writing and citation style manual used at Regent College is Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 9th ed. (2018). Turabian is a condensed version of the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. (2017). Unless otherwise directed by a professor, students at Regent College are expected to follow Turabian. Individual professors may ask students to substitute another citation style (e.g., SBL). If in doubt, check with your professor or TA.
Prewriting refers to the stages of the writing process prior to your first draft. This includes brainstorming, narrowing your topic, researching, considering your audience, and organizing your observations and notes. Keep in mind different strategies may work for you as you work towards formulating your thesis and a structure for your paper. You might consider colour coding your notes, mapping, or freewriting. Read more about possible approaches here.
When you are asked to write an essay or research paper you are expected to present a clear thesis statement (or position to defend) and then construct an argument in support of your thesis. A thesis statement summarizes the argument of the paper in a succinct, propositional sentence, and typically appears in the introductory paragraph of your paper. A thesis statement gives a guiding focus to your paper. Some characteristics of a good thesis statement include:
- It makes a definite and limited assertion that needs to be explained and supported by further discussion.
- It shows the emphasis and indicates the methodology of your argument.
- It shows awareness of difficulties and disagreements.
Constructing an outline before you write your paper can help you plot out how you will support your thesis. An outline will help:
- Demonstrate how the argument of the paper will proceed through to its conclusion.
- Ensure that each section and subsection of the paper does, in fact, support the thesis statement.
- Prevent you from following unnecessary rabbit trails.
Your thesis statement indicates your position; the body of the paper, based on your outline, shows a logical progression of claims that leads to your paper’s conclusion. While we've stated this succinctly here, keep in mind that articulating a clear thesis and envisioning a focused structure for your paper is the result of a process. For ideas on how to approach this process (it may not be linear), visit our Additional Resources tab or make an appointment with the Writing Centre.
The aim of graduate education is not only to help students understand subject matter discussed in class, but also to improve academic writing skills. Good writing skills help to improve precision and clarity of thought. The following guidelines are offered with these goals in mind:
Courtesy and respect
As outlined in the Academic Catalogue, Regent College is a Christian academic community that takes relationships seriously, seeking to understand and live these relationships in light of our Biblical and theological commitments. The College welcomes students as varied as the whole people of God and seeks to create an environment in which students feel safe to engage in courteous and respectful conversation in the pursuit of truth, as we seek to be formed and reformed by the Scriptures. Among the implications of these commitments are the following:
Gender neutral language
Recognizing that the English language continues to change, and that words like “man,” “men,” and “mankind,” once intended to be inclusive of both genders, are now experienced as painfully exclusive, it is a commitment of the Regent community to prayerfully pursue in all our speaking and writing such goals as the:
- Achievement of thoughtful awareness of both genders in our use of language;
- Use of illustrations using examples from both genders; and
- Avoidance of stereotypical representations of either gender.
In written work we encourage students to work towards bias-free language, as a mark of our love and respect for our neighbours and out of a desire that both genders should feel included in our discourse and neither should feel excluded by it (see Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed., 5.251ff).
All persons and views discussed in written or oral presentations should be fairly represented and assessed. It is all too easy in argument to set up “straw women and men” whose views and opinions, inadequately represented, are then easily dismissed. Do not caricature others' work. It is a matter of respect and integrity that we avoid this in our discourse.
As mentioned, the standard style guide used at Regent is Turabian, which is a text you should become familiar with and turn to for guidance when you have questions about how to cite different kinds of sources in footnotes and bibliographies; about when to use a semicolon, colon, or comma; about how different forms of puncation relate to one another when placed next to each other; and about the many other grammatical and stylistic issues that you should attend to when writing. Whether or not you appreciate the importance of taking care with style, please note that it is important. First, because your writing will be clearer, and clearer writing is better writing. Second, because it is a matter of courtesy to your reader to present your work in as clean and readable a manner as possible. And third, because your professors care about these things and they do affect your grade.
What follows are some brief notes and advice for writing at Regent.
Unless instructed otherwise, your title page should include the following information:
- Title of your paper.
- Your name and student number.
- Name of your instructor (correctly spelled!).
- Course number and title.
- Semester and year.
- Word count, including footnotes but excluding bibliography.
[See the Sample Title Page tab on the left-hand side for a visual aid.]
Appearance on page
- Pagination of your paper should begin with page 1 starting on the body of the paper, not the title page. Page numbers should be indicated in the header, in the top, right-hand corner.
- Papers should be double-spaced with one-inch margins on all sides; should use 12-point Times New Roman font; and should be left justified.
- While it may enhance the readability of lengthy papers to subdivide them into sections with headings, avoid dividing the paper into too many sections. Papers under 15 pages should not be divided by headings; use transitions within the paper itself.
- Unless instructed otherwise, use footnotes rather than endnotes. Footnotes should be numbered consecutively through the body of the paper.
- Word count includes footnotes but does not include the cover page or bibliography.
- Please stay within the word count parameters of your assignment. If you are given a word count range, for instance 2,000-2,500 words, stay within that range. If you are given a number such as 3,000, then a word count within a ten-percent range of that number is generally permissible (so 2,700 words at minimum or 3,300 words at maximum).
Some final advice
- Reading your paper out loud will often reveal where there are problems.
- Use the full words rather than contractions or elided forms. E.g., “do not” rather than “don’t, "is not” rather than "isn’t,” etc.
- Avoid split infinitives, which occur when one or more words is included between the infinitive marker “to” and the verb itself. E.g., “boldly to go” or “to go boldly” rather than “to boldly go,” etc.
- Do not confuse “its” (as in “its purpose”) with “it’s” (which is the contraction of “it is,” as in “it’s a fine day”).
- Ensure that possessives use apostrophes correctly. E.g., “the two sisters’ brother” and “my sister’s brother.”
- Proofread for missing or extraneous commas. (Review comma rules when in doubt.)
- Avoid the use of run-on sentences and incomplete sentences.
- Spelling is important! Use a spellchecker, but do not rely on it to catch everything. You will still need to read your paper carefully to catch the correct choice of, e.g., "compliments" or "complements."
- Attend carefully to the stated word limit.
Lunsford, Andrea A., Paul Kei Matsuda, Christine M. Tardy, and Lisa S. Ede. The St. Martin's Handbook. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2017.
Strunk, William, Jr., and E. B. White. Elements of Style. 4th ed. New York: Macmillan, 1999.
Truss, Lynne. Eats, Shoots and Leaves. New York: Gotham, 2006.
Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations Chicago Style for Students and Researchers. Revised by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, William T. Fitzgerald, and the University of Chicago Press Editorial Staff. 9th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018.
[TITLE (TWO LINES DOUBLE SPACED IF LONG)]
AN ESSAY IN [COURSE NUMBER]
PREPARED FOR [PROFESSOR’S NAME]
[STUDENT NAME] [STUDENT NUMBER]
Word Count: ____
Unless your professor specifies otherwise, use footnotes rather than endnotes or parenthetical citations. If your professor requests parenthetical citations, see Turabian Chapter 18.3 for formatting. (In the rare event that you are required to use endnotes, see Turabian 220.127.116.11.)
Footnotes are used for the following purposes:
- To indicate the exact source of quotations.
- To acknowledge dependence on or indebtedness to others for opinions or ideas.
- To acknowledge the authority (source) for a fact that the reader might be inclined to doubt.
- To provide information which, if included in the essay, would interrupt the flow of the argument.
A footnote appears at the end of a clause or sentence. The numbers should be superscripted in the body of your essay and should be numbered consecutively throughout your paper. Footnotes should be single spaced. The first line of each entry is indented. Leave a line of space in between footnote entries. Keep footnotes in the same font as your essay, at a font size between 10 and 12.
Note: The following Turabian formats must be followed exactly (including the order, commas, capitalization, italics, abbreviations).
If the source is found in electronic format and is also available in a print format (ie with all page numbers), then the citation format can be for a “print” source.
If an electronic version of the item is available and the electronic version does not include all the information expected in a normal citation (eg page numbers), then the electronic source should be named (eg ATLA Religion Database).
Footnote format is indicated by F (for footnote), and bibliography format is indicated by B. Note: For footnotes, after the first citation, use the short form thereafter. (See Turabian 16.4 or scroll to the bottom of this section for short form citations.)
Book with translator
Book with multiple authors
Book with an editor
F: 3. Donald K. McKim, ed., How Karl Barth Changed My Mind (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), ix.
B: McKim, Donald M., ed. How Karl Barth Changed My Mind. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986.
Book in a multi-volume series
F: 5. Augustine, Confessions I.4.
Articles in Journals, Magazines, or Periodicals [print]
F: 6. Gabriel Moran, “What is Revelation?” Theological Studies 25 (1964): 217-31.
B: Moran, Gabriel. “What is Revelation?” Theological Studies 25 (1964): 217-31.
Articles in Journals, Magazines, or Periodicals [electronic format]
Article (or chapter) in an edited work
Articles in an Encyclopedia or Dictionary
Internet or Web Source
After you have cited a source once in a footnote, you may use a shortened form for subsequent references. (Note: Previously, Ibid was acceptable for consecutive footnote citations to the same source. Now, however, Turabian discourages Ibid and encourages short forms instead.)
1. Moltmann, Crucified, 15. [If you are using more than one of Moltmann’s titles] OR
1. Moltmann, 15. [If this is the only Moltmann title you use in the paper.]
2. Augustine, Confessions, I.4.
7. Clouse, “Millennium.”
Include all sources you cited in your footnotes in your bibliography (with the exception of the dictionary). If you used a source extensively in your research but did not cite it in your paper, you may include it in your bibliography; however, it is preferable instead to cite the source in both your paper and your bibliography.
A bibliography should begin on a separate page at the end of your paper and should be arranged in alphabetical order by author’s last name.
For entries by the same author, alphabetize them by title, and after the first entry, indicate the author’s name with the ‘3-emdash.’ This is formed by putting three emdashes together (or six hyphens): ———. [option + shift + minus key on a Mac OR Ctrl + Alt + minus key for Windows]
Professors understand that you spend a great deal of time writing the paper, and that many students do not have English as a native language, but please give serious attention to writing in good [grammatically correct] English, and take the extra time to proofread your paper (or trade with a friend).
Reading your paper out loud will often indicate where there are problems.
For proofreading sentence-level grammatical correctness, try starting with the last sentence in your paper and working your way through your paper backwards. This will defamiliarize you enough with your writing that you can better see what is actually on the page rather than what you thought you said.
While your computer’s spellchecker is helpful, keep in mind that it will not catch everything. For instance, if you type, “You reap what you sew,” since “sew” is the correct spelling of the word meaning “to stitch,” a spellchecker will not alert you that the correct word in this case is “sow.” Conversely, sometimes a spellchecker will not recognize proper names or specialized words such as Johannine. In those cases, double check the spelling against your sources, then ignore the red squiggles.
In academic writing, spell out full words rather than use contractions (such as don’t, can’t, won’t).
To indicate when a noun is possessive, use an apostrophe and the letter ‘s.’ For instance, “Julian’s writings.” To form the possessive of a plural noun (ending in s), use only an apostrophe. For names that end in an s already, still use apostrophe + s, as in “Pseudo Dionysius’s apophatic theology.” For more, see CMOS 7.16-7.20.
Note: Possessive pronouns (hers, his, its) do not require an apostrophe. Do not confuse it’s (as in the contraction for it is) with its, the possessive pronoun.
Turabian uses the serial or Oxford comma. For instance, “Julian of Norwich, Catherine of Siena, Therese of Liseux, and Teresa of Avila are the four women deemed doctors of the Church.” (The final comma before “and” is the Oxford comma.)
See this handout for a helpful review of comma rules.
A run-on combines two sentences without the correct punctuation and/or conjunction.
Run-on: Library circulation workers have a lot of ground to cover be patient after you’ve rung the bell.
Correct: Library circulation workers have a lot of ground to cover, so be patient after you’ve rung the bell.
Library circulation workers have a lot of ground to cover. Be patient after you’ve rung the bell.
Placement of quotation marks
Put closing quotation marks after a comma or period, but before a colon or semicolon. (For more, see Turabian 18.104.22.168.)
“The heart is a vessel that cannot remain empty,” Catherine of Siena writes.
Heidegger claims that “the speech of genuine thinking is by nature poetic”; therefore, the poet must also be a thinker, and the thinker must accomplish “a thinking which has all the purity and thickness and solidity of poetry.”
Placement of footnote numbers
Closing quotation marks and footnotes go after all the punctuation.
Christ is “existence-communication”; his words cannot be isolated from his life.
Rowan Williams quotes Michael Leunig, “The word ‘God’ cannot be grasped scientifically, rationally or even theologically without it exploding. It can only be held lightly and poetically.”
Christ is the one who throws open “the riddle of the human person.”
A split infinitive happens when one (or more words) is included between the infinitive marker “to” and the verb itself.
For example, in the phrase “to boldly go where no one has gone before” is a split infinitive. The proper grammar would be either “boldly to go” or “to go boldly.