Beginning Blogging in Biblical Studies: Suggestions
Among the collaborative projects I’m assigning my introductory students this fall is blogging. (They’ll also participate in a course wiki, and do in-class collaborative work). Blogging will be mandatory, and graded. Besides a rubric for the assignment, I also wish to give them suggestions about academic blogging: what makes blogging appropriate for biblical studies and for an introductory course in Hebrew Bible?
This is my first draft. What suggestions can you offer for improvement?
Suggestions for Beginning Blogging in Biblical Studies. There is overlap between these suggestions, and the divisions are somewhat artificial. But, for the student who is still trying to learn to keep her writing within the bounds of “biblical studies,” they offer some guidelines to help stay on track.
- Summary: Summarize some resource: a chapter from the textbook; a lecture or part of a lecture; a hypothesis concerning some topic. A summary should have balance: its proportions should reflect those of its source. A summary should have a neutral point of view: it is not a review or a critique. Reading your summary, the author of the source would agree that you depict her work accurately and in terms she recognizes as her own.
- Integration: Try to integrate some new piece of knowledge with concepts you already feel you control. For example, maybe you’ve just learned about the literary genre “saga,” and you want to integrate it into what you already know about form criticism. Often, you will modify what you already think you know in order to integrate new data.
- Synthesis: There are two or more things that you’ve learned separately, and you are trying to bring them into a single coherent picture. What does X have to do with Y? Or X and Y with Z? What does the Judean “royal theology” have to do with post-exilic messianic expectations, and what (if anything) do the two have to do with apocalyptic? What do the “complaint psalms” have to do with the “dissenting wisdom” of Ecclesiastes, and what (if anything) do the two have to do with hypothetical Israelite scribal schools? This sort of work might be tentative, provisional, even speculative, but it should be clear about its line of reasoning and where its warrants are grounded in concrete evidence.
- Assessment: Here, you assess a piece of work in light of our own norms and methods of critical inquiry as they take shape in our course over the term. Suppose you’ve read an outsider’s blog entry or seen a YouTube video, and that work makes claims about the Bible or about the Bible’s historical context. Would that work pass muster in our class? Why or why not? Could its conclusions be sustained with moderate revisions to its arguments, or is it hopelessly wrong in its factual accuracy or lines of reasoning? (Your assessment should include an element of summary, according to our canons for summary described above.)
- Reflection: Here, you bring some aspect of your recent learning into conversation with your own habitual worldview or ways of talking about things. Treat it very much like “integration” above. Keep a profession tone. Avoid stream of consciousness, spiritual autobiography, and inappropriate self-disclosure. This mode should not dominate your blogging, but in proportion it can resolve tensions, enhance collaboration, and spark fresh ideas for you and others.
O readers: What sorts of additions might you make to these suggestions? What revisions, whether for clarity or otherwise? What sorts of blogging would you like your introductory students to be able to do?