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How to Destroy Your Research Paper in One Simple Step

I don’t normally repost articles. But as we’re working through our Back to School Series, I thought this topic was worth visiting again. I still see too many students destroying their own research papers with this one simple mistake.

I’ve made quite a few changes to the original version, so here’s an updated description of how you too can destroy your research paper from the very beginning.


writing research paper

Some words should never find their way into research papers. Wikipedia is pretty high on that last (though I do think you can and should use Wikipedia for research). So is anything that is not technically a word (IMHO). Fortunately, though I’ve heard from others who’ve experienced the terror of encountering these in papers, I have not yet experienced them myself. That’s a good thing.

But there is one mistake I run across all too frequently, one that I’d like to see disappear forever: papers that begin with something like the following:

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The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Really Bad Gift

I have received some awful presents over the years. That’s particularly frustrating since I’m a very easy person to buy gifts for. It’s quite simple: just get me books. If you don’t know which ones, ask. If you don’t want to ask, grab a gift card. If a gift card is too complicated, slip some money in a napkin with “Book” written on it. It can even be a used napkin, I don’t care.

But no, people want to get creative. They try to come up with something unique and inspiring. So instead of a good book, I end up with another gadget or gizmo, along with an opportunity to practice my admittedly rusty etiquette, smiling awkwardly and trying not to let on that I really just want to go back to my office and finish reading the book I bought myself for my birthday.

Unless you’re my daughter and your gift is some amazing thing you made out of clay with your very own hands, skip the creativity and buy me a book.

So yes, I’ve gotten some frustrating gifts over the years. But I never expected one of them to come from God.

theology of sleep

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Flotsam and jetsam (9/4)

Think my wife will let me get one for the kitchen?

Think my wife will let me get one for the kitchen?

Good Reads

  • Eight Areas Where Many Ministers Are Unprepared for Ministry: My email inbox is full of tragic examples. They entered into vocational ministry with hope and healthy idealism. They had been prepared well in the study of the Bible, theology, Church history, and other classical disciplines. They were bright, eager, and ready to change the world in God’s power. And they failed. (Thom Rainer)
  • Please Stop Complaining About How Busy You Are: So much of this is about out-doing each other. To say that “I’m busier than you are” means I’m more important, or that my time is more valuable, or that I am “winning” at some never-finished rat race to Inbox Zero…..What you’re trying to say with these responses is: I’m busier, more in-demand, more successful. (Harvard Business Review)
  • Recovering Confession: I don’t hear much talk about confession these days. There was a time when any good book on Christian piety dealt with it. Confession used to occupy an important place in the liturgy of corporate worship. But outside of a general admission that we are sinners, or the specific confession of the one “big sin” in our life, confession seems to have become something largely forgotten. (Joe Thorn)

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Disagreeing with Bill Watterson….Comic Style

Last week, I posted some critical comments about a comic strip depicting a speech Bill Watterson made on the importance of pursuing your dreams and refusing to get trapped by modern definitions of “success” (see “Success, Significance, and the Subtle Power of Culture.“) Apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought that comic conveyed some subtle messages worthy of critique. Here’s another–and somewhat snarkier and more jaded–response to the same comic strip. Disagreeing-with-Bill-Watterson-in-the-Style-of-Bill-Watterson

Flotsam and jetsam (9/2)

romeo and juliet

Good Reads

  • The Gender Wage Gap Lie: The point here is not that there is no wage inequality. But by focusing our outrage into a tidy, misleading statistic we’ve missed the actual challenges. (Slate)
  • A bivocational minister warns against bivocational ministry: I am bi-vocational. I love it. I feel called to it. I know what people say in support of it. I know that many of our African American and immigrant pastors have been bi-vocational for a long time. But I want to raise a red flag against the model as a path to our vital future, for the following reasons. (The Christian Century)

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Top Posts for August

top5-200x200As always, here are the top five posts for the last month. Unsurprisingly, several of them come from the Back to School series we launched earlier in the month. But we managed to slip in a random posts of Dr. Seuss quotes and a look at an interesting video on the incarnation.


A Prayer for Sunday (Gregory the Great)

pope gregory 1 gregory the greatFew people have influenced the church as much as Gregory the Great. Gregory, otherwise known as Pope Gregory I, led the church in the tumultuous time after the fall of the Roman Empire in the west, and in many ways he set the trajectory of the church throughout the Middle Ages. His theological writings, liturgical reforms, and leadership of the church all marked Gregory as a pivotal figure in the history of the church.

Although Gregory the Great died on March 12, 604, his feast is traditionally celebrated on September 3. So in honor of his amazing life and ministry, this Sunday’s prayer comes from him.

O Lord, You received affronts
without number from Your blasphemers,
yet each day You free captive souls
from the grip of the ancient enemy.

You did not avert Your face
from the spittle of perfidy,
yet You wash souls in saving waters.

You accepted Your scourging without murmur,
yet through your meditation
You deliver us from endless chastisements.

You endured ill-treatment of all kinds,
yet You want to give us a share
in the choirs of angels in glory everlasting.

You did not refuse to be crowned with thorns,
yet You save us from the wounds of sin.

In your thirst You accepted the bitterness of gall,
yet You prepare Yourself to fill us with eternal delights.

You kept silence under the derisive homage
rendered You by Your executioners,
yet You petition the Father for us
although You are his equal in Divinity.

You came to taste death,
yet You were the Life
and had come to bring it to the dead.


Saturday Morning Fun…Tony Stark Evaluates His Fellow Avengers

And I have to say that he pretty much nailed it. Captain America fails to impress with his ability “to throw his shield pretty hard.” And although Black Widow is my daughter’s favorite, her martial arts ability does seem rather inadequate in this context. But my personal favorite:

Nick Fury cons: “Do depth perception.”


avengers as allies

Success, Significance, and the Subtle Power of Culture

A comic strip that reproduces a 1990 speech by Bill Watterson, author of the rightfully popular Calvin and Hobbes cartoons, has been making the rounds over the last few days. I’ve seen it shared enthusiastically by Christians on several social media sites, which I can understand. On one level, it can be read as a clear critique of how our society defines “success” and the many ways we can get trapped by that vision, drawn into its soul-destroying way of life. The cartoon is worth reading for that warning alone. (Even though I’m going to critique the cartoon a bit later, please don’t let that keep you from reading it. It’s really worthwhile.)

life reflects values

But the cartoon carries subtler messages as well, ones that warrant more careful consideration.

I think the cartoon actually serves as an excellent example of how we receive messages from our culture every day, ideas that unconsciously shape how we view much of life. And, like many of the messages our culture sends, these can have  destructive consequences.

So I think it’s worth taking a few minutes and using this as a case study in analyzing subtle signals. The cartoon is fairly long, and it would be pretty distracting to post all of it before I make my comments. So instead I’m going to mix some excerpts in with my comments and post the entire cartoon below. If you haven’t read it yet–and you should–you may want to skip to the end and then (hopefully) come back for my reflections.

Let’s start with the good.

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flotsam and jetsam (8/30)

balloon hat

Good Reads

  • Haters Are Gonna Hate, Study Confirms: Haters really are going to hate. A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology corroborates the hip-hop and Internet truism that you just can’t win with some people. (No word yet on whether playas gonna play or ballers gonna ball, but we’ll probably find out soon. Researchers gonna research.) (Slate)
  • Exploring the Religious Prisoner’s Dilemma: America is a country with an extremely high regard for religion, which regard is matched only by her enthusiasm for mass incarceration. What, then, of the intersection between the two things, religion in prison? (Big Think)
  • Against Symbolic Killing: Just war-making requires clearly articulated and substantive goals. Launching cruise missiles or air strikes simply to “show resolve” or “send a message” cannot be justified. At the end of the day, these rationales authorize symbolic killing, which is fundamentally immoral. (First Thoughts)

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