To give a clear definition of a religion essay, we must start by defining the concept of an essay. An essay can be understood as a short piece of writing, where the author presents his or her own argument. A religion essay, therefore, is a short piece of writing, where the student demonstrates the understanding of the course material, as well as close reading skills, comparison, analysis, persuasion, clarity, conciseness, and exposition. Writing religion essays generally take place within a secular academic environment, instead of within a faith-oriented setting. In most cases, the student will be required to develop concepts and ideas, besides being clear in their direction.
Writing for religious studies takes place within a secular, academic environment, rather than a faith-oriented community. This form of writing describes, interprets, compares, and explains religion, with an emphasis on cross-cultural, historically oriented, and systematic perspectives. When writing a religion essay, it helps to keep in mind that religious studies is an interdisciplinary field, and this affects the writing process.
While the interdisciplinary nature of religious studies makes the discipline interesting, it also makes writing religion essays quite challenging. Instructors expect students to use different methods and theories, borrowed from other fields. At the same time, religious studies remains a unique discipline, with its own writing conventions. Here are some essay writing tips to get you started:
- Start by thinking about the topic and generating questions
It is easy to assume that a good essay means that the writer knows everything about the topic. In actual sense, most good religion essays start with creating an honest question, or a set of connected questions. When you begin to think about your assignment topic, consider finding a good question upon which to base your analysis. When have found a good question, you cannot lack material to write in your essay, in response to it.
There are some cases where a question may be assigned to you. However, even with such a directive assignment, you will still need to interpret the question and create your own ones as you read the prompt.
- Choose between freewriting and outlining
Understanding the essay topic and question is a good place to start your writing but is only the start. You still have to generate content for your religion essay. Different writers prefer different techniques for creating content, including idea journals, index cards, and freewriting. No one method is better than the other, and students should pick whatever works for them.
Freewriting implies ignoring the critical voice within you that tells you to be more cautious. Just sit down and write any idea that comes to your head, whether it makes sense or not. Freewriting is great for overcoming writer’s block. However, this type of approach often means that you need to do a lot of editing to refine your work in response to the prompt.
Outlining, on the other hand, involves creating a plan or map of the different sections of the essay, which you can then build on through research. For academic purposes, outlining is often preferred as it ensures that all aspects of the essay question are covered and that the writing is coherent.
- Make sure to include a strong thesis
A crucial element of a good religion essay is a well-formatted thesis statement. Writing an essay without a thesis is akin to a mammal without a spine. Your thesis must be arguable, original and interesting. Here originality implies that the thesis statement must be your own formulation since your thesis is a synthesized response to the essay question. To be original, it is important for your thesis to be arguable. In other words, there must be enough evidence to support your thesis. Connected to the concept of being arguable, your thesis also needs to be falsifiable. Check whether there is evidence that would disapprove it. The thesis statement often comes at the end of the introductory paragraph.
- Use authoritative evidence to support your arguments
Another important consideration when writing good religion essays is to support all your points with strong evidence. A strong thesis demonstrates that you have a claim worth arguing. However, proving that claim demands strong and consistent use of evidence. You must interpret the sources to make them relevant to the claims you make. Using evidence also requires that you consistently and accurately cite all the sources.
- Make good use of topic sentences and signposts
It helps the quality of your religion essay to write in a way that sentences and paragraphs can support the ideas you intend to convey. A good strategy is to use topic sentences to open paragraphs. The topic sentence serves the same function in the paragraph as the thesis statement does for the essay. It announces the general point you intend to make in the paragraph. Make sure that each paragraph has an identifiable topic sentence at the beginning.
- Conclude by highlighting the key points
At this point, you have put a lot of effort into writing your religion essay, and you may be going past the assigned number of words. However, you must not forget to include a tentative conclusion, in which you synthesize the entire argument, highlighting the main points. Avoid the temptation to summarize the entire paper merely. You should also avoid introducing new ideas in the conclusion section.
- Always proofread and edit your draft
Proofreading is an integral aspect of essay writing. As you write the initial draft, not much focus is given to grammar and spelling. The focus of the initial draft ought to be on making your points and supporting them. However, once you are done, it is critical to painstakingly go through the text, making sure that the writing conforms to grammar, spelling, and formatting requirements at your level. In fact, it is preferable to take a break before returning to proofread. You could also ask a friend or a family member to help with proofreading, as they are likely to notice some errors you do not see.
This article is aimed at improving student’s understanding of religion essay writing. Strategies for improving student writing are discussed. Hopefully, this article should help you become familiar and comfortable with writing religion essays.