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Guide to Research and Writing for the Academic Study of Religion

Thesis Statements

Those diverse points of view that signal controversy are expressed in scholarly literature as thesis statements. To put it simply, a thesis is the answer to a research question which you have arrived at by doing research. You will need a thesis statement for your paper. Once you have a thesis, you will then write your essay with the intention of clearly expressing and supporting that thesis in order to convince your audience of its validity.  You might consider and reject numerous judgments in one paper, but in the end it should be clear how you have answered the question you have posed.

Your answer should be clearly articulated in one concise thesis statement that appears in the introductory section of your essay.



The role of religion in public school systems is a subject of considerable debate and controversy in North America today. Scholarly and public opinion are divided on this issue, with some in favour and others against the curricular inclusion and implementation of religious studies in public classrooms. There are compelling arguments from all sides of the debate, and the issue has received an enormous amount of media attention in recent years.

Becoming familiar with both past and present literature on the subject will help you to develop your own research question and thesis statement on the basis of what you have read. Consider the following journal articles retrieved from ATLA  Religion Database:

Aberts. Wanda. 2017. "Reconstruction, Critical Accommodation or Business as Usual?: Challenges of Criticisms of he World Religions Paradigm to the Design of Teaching Programmes in the Study of Religions."  Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 29, no.4:443-458

Barnes, Philip L. 2000. “Ninian Smart and the Phenomenological Approach to Religious Education.”  Religion  30, no.4: 315-332.

Boyer, Ernst. 1992.  “Teaching Religion in the Public Schools and Elsewhere.”  Journal of the American Academy of Religion 60, no.3 :515-524.

Fraser, James W.   1999.  Between Church and State: Religion and Public Education in a Multicultural America. New York : St. Martin’s Press.

Gearon, Liam. 2013.  "The King James Bible and the Politics of Religious Education: The Secular State and Sacred Scripture."  Religious Education  108, no. 1 (Jan-Feb): 9-27.

Sweet, Lois. 1997.  God in the Classroom: the Controversial Issue of Religion in Canada's Schools. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart.

Thompson, Penny.  2003.  "Critical Confessionalism for Teaching Religion in Schools: A UK Case Study.” Journal of Christian Education 46, no. 2: 5-16.

Note: Although it is important to familiarize yourself with both scholarly and non-scholarly discussions on a particular issue, your paper should use secondary material only from academic sources (e.g. peer-reviewed journals).