Choosing a Book or Dissertation Topic

John Turner recently had a fabulous post on “Publishing without Perishing” which is full of excellent suggestions on how to survive writing your first book or your dissertation. There’s much fodder there for discussion, but today I want to consider the issue of selecting a dissertation topic. Of course, my perspective is shaped by my [Read More...]

How to Start a Writing Group

My writing group just celebrated our 5th anniversary. Although our idea for the group was born during a faculty retreat, it took us a year before we hashed out a plan. We were all tenure-track and anxious about the promotion process. What we wanted was a support structure for both writing accountability and boosting publications. What [Read More...]

How to Write an Excellent Statement of Purpose for Graduate Applications

Fall is the time for students to put together their applications for graduate school. Many of these applications require an enigmatic-sounding “statement of purpose.” With due regard for differences between disciplines, here are the top three mistakes in statements of purpose by graduate applicants: 1) Failing to be specific enough. “I am interested in the [Read More...]

Publishing without Perishing

Several of my co-bloggers have commented on aspects of dissertation writing and academic publishing. Perhaps for some gifted individuals, books come forth with ease. For most of us, however, they are laborious endeavors, filled with stretches of angst and exhaustion. What follows are a few thoughts on how to minimize publishing stress and how to [Read More...]

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as Secular Hymnody

Abbey 1

In 1345, on a cold Tuesday night just before Easter, a miracle happened in Amsterdam. A dying man, given the Eucharist, vomited it right back out. His caregivers were amazed to see that it had reemerged from his mouth whole. They threw the host on a fire, perhaps thinking that this was the least sacrilegious [Read More...]

Professors and the New Public Sphere

I have been reading Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. This remarkable book came out in 2008 but had already pegged the significance of social media in uncanny ways. The cost of communicating quickly with large numbers of people has collapsed because of e-mail, blogs, and platforms like Twitter. This has [Read More...]

What Are The Most “Important” Topics in American History?

I recently spoke at the annual conference of the Association of Classical and Christian Schools, as part of a panel on “What in American history is most important for teachers to pass on to our students?” The audience was largely from private Christian schools, including administrators and history teachers. I found the exercise quite challenging [Read More...]

Should You Pursue a Ph.D.?

I routinely get questions from undergraduate and Master’s students, at Baylor and elsewhere, about applying to Ph.D. programs. Here is some of my standard advice. How do I choose a Ph.D. program? I had a wonderful experience in my graduate program at Notre Dame, especially because of the particular historian (George Marsden) with whom I worked. [Read More...]

Gordon Wood on Bernard Bailyn

When the great American historian Gordon Wood has a long-form essay on the equally-great Bernard Bailyn (at The Weekly Standard), one takes notice. Reviewing Bailyn’s latest book, Wood says “Although Bernard Bailyn is one of the most distinguished historians in the Western world, he is not as well known as he should be. He rarely appears [Read More...]

Religious History at the AHA

I wasn’t able to attend the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in New York City this year. But blogs and twitter have allowed me to track some of the conversation in the area of religious history, my area of research specialty. There were dozens and dozens of panels, but here are several that [Read More...]