Guidelines For The Mts Synthesis Essay


Guidelines for the M.T.S. Synthesis Essay
The capstone integrative document of the Master of Theological Studies Program at PSR is the M.T.S.
Synthesis Essay. The essay is used as a learning tool, to assist you in integrating the various aspects of
your theological education prior to graduation, and as an assessment tool, as evidence of the extent to
which you have achieved the goals of the degree program, and the extent to which PSR has met the
goals it has set out for teaching and learning in the M.T.S. program.
Your Synthesis Essay should in some significant part reflect the goals of the program. In your essay you
should be prepared to:
1) Engage in theological reflection, analysis, and critical thinking about a contemporary issue
related to your Area of Interest.
2) Draw upon at least 2 areas of theological study (bible, history, theology, or ethics). You will be
integrating and bringing these areas into creative and critical inter-play with one another
3) Demonstrate knowledge and competency in your area of interest
4) Show evidence of your understanding of the importance of social location by explaining how
differing contexts impact one’s understanding of the text, issue, or topic under discussion.
While it is not as long as an M.A. thesis, and does not involve the sort of original scholarly research
characteristic of an M.A. thesis, the M.T.S. Synthesis Essay is nonetheless a piece of academic writing.
While personal reflection may be relevant in situating the source of your interest in the topic, or the
contextual factors that shape the way you ask it, the essay is designed to be an academic exercise
using the standards of argument and publicly accessible reasoning that characterize a typical research
paper. While it should meet the design requirements discussed below, the essay may build on a
research paper you have written or are writing for a course in your degree program.
The Synthesis Essay is 10-15 pages long, and prepared in consultation with your advisor. In the essay
you will identify a problem, issue, or topic related to your Area of Interest. The issue/problem should
be described clearly and set in its context (social, religious, etc.). The essay should then address this
issue by drawing on two of the foundational disciplines (Biblical Studies, Historical Studies, Theology,
and Ethics) studied in the program. Usually the Area of Interest is quite broad (i.e. Religion and
Psychology; Feminism and Religion, Religious Pluralism; Social Justice; Religion and the Arts). The
issue, problem, or topic identified in the synthesis essay must necessarily be much narrower than the
Area of Interest, so that you may successfully address it within the recommended 10-15 pages.
So for example, a student interested in ecological justice might focus the essay on the relationship of
eco-feminism to the Christian faith in a way that makes appropriate use of religious and theological
resources. Such a student might wish to draw on her exposure to Biblical Studies, exploring biblical
themes that support or contribute negatively to an ethic of environmental justice. In this case, the
student is demonstrating that she has acquired exegetical, historical-critical, and hermeneutical skills
appropriate for someone who has obtained a degree in theological studies. Further, she might draw
on her exposure to the discipline of theology, identifying eco-feminist strands in a work or works of
Christian feminist theology. In so doing, she is demonstrating both critical theological and contextual
reflection skills and also actual theological knowledge of thinkers and texts encountered as part of her
theological education.
The above example is only illustrative, as there is considerable freedom in the design and content of
the essay; the M.T.S. Synthesis Essay is intended to give you an opportunity to integrate creatively your
theological education by bringing this education to bear on a question that has motivated your
theological education or engaged you throughout your exploration of your particular area of interest.
At the same time you will be demonstrating newly acquired standard critical skills and knowledge from
at least two theological disciplines. You may find it helpful to consult with your advisor and perhaps
other faculty members as you prepare your essay.


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