Essential beginner’s guide to theological research writing

 From Topic to Thesis: A Guide to Theological Research
Author: Michael Kibbe
Publisher: IVP Academic (
Pages: 152 

Robin Phillips writes Unpragmatic Thoughts. His writing and research are impressive. How does he do it? 

This, in part, led me to From Topic to Thesis, a guide to writing theological papers. Though written for academics, the concepts have a wider application. 

An introductory treatise like this may not be revelatory for the experienced, but I was surprised by how much l learned. It’s not every day that I can read a book and gain so many new insights. 

If someone had asked me to distinguish between tertiary, secondary and primary sources, they might have seen a blank expression on my face before I admitted my ignorance. 

I had no idea that bibliography software existed and using some other method is next to forbidden. 

The definition of a scholarly is narrower than I imagined. This type of source is indispensable for this kind of research. 

Writing a theological paper or essay can be daunting. This book simplifies the process, moving from topic (assignment) to thesis (argument). Is that Mavis Staples I hear singing, “I’ll take you there”? Author Michael Kibbe takes us there, to a completed work. He covers everything readers need to know from start to finish. He does it all with a brevity of words and a highly readable style. 

He uses a couple of examples from his own studies to show development through various stages. More importantly, he encourages readers to take the outlined steps as they read. One will be hard-pressed to find a better companion. 

This slim volume belongs on the shelves of every Bible College and seminary. It will help banish a little of the fear and trembling that comes with course work. Even for those who are not students, it will be useful for doing the kind of research that my friend Robin does for his thought-provoking essays. 

His methods would no doubt go beyond the scope here, which only covers the essentials for the specific purpose of writing papers. Think of this as foundational. The appendices cite many additional resources useful in this endeavor. 

It’s a textbook for beginners or a refresher for those getting back to the basics. 

Michael Dalton