How to format your essay

The purpose of this section is make you aware of the expectations at Tyndale Seminary about the proper format to use in preparing your essays.


1. Research papers should use footnotes or endnotes with bibliography (or parenthetical citations with reference list).

a. Check your syllabus or with your professor about whether parenthetical citations or footnotes or endnotes are preferred for a given assignment (NB: the Turabian/Chicago style has all three models). Most professors strongly prefer that you use footnotes rather than endnotes.

2. There are two main purposes for footnotes/endnotes – “reference” and “content”

a. Footnotes/endnotes are required whenever you are drawing upon or quoting from other authors. Failure to acknowledge your sources constitutes plagiarism and is a very serious matter.

b. Footnotes/endnotes should be used to show the source of an idea, when that idea does not originate with yourself, even when you are putting the idea in your own words.

c. Footnotes/endnotes are not needed when an idea comes from you or when the information is common knowledge.

d. When in doubt, err on the side of caution by using a footnote/endnote.

e. You may use a single footnote/endnote to cover a number of factual claims, rather than using one for every sentence in a whole paragraph or section. (Such a practice is tedious). E.g., in a footnote/endnote, you might say: “In this paragraph, the biographical details about William Tyndale are drawn from David Daniell, William Tyndale: A Biography (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1994), 2-8.”

3. Reference footnotes provide documentation about where the information was obtained (Vyhmeister, 62-63).

a. Used “to indicate that there is authority behind the statements made, in order to strengthen the researcher’s assertions.”

b. Used “to help the scholar who is looking for information on the topic to easily find the material referred to.”

c. Used “to honestly admit intellectual indebtedness to another author.”

4. Content footnotes “provide information that could disrupt or unnecessarily complicate the text” (Vyhmeister, 63).

a. Used to “point out a contrast or discrepancy.” In this case, a footnote would be used to engage in a more detailed discussion than necessary, and would be an interesting digression from the argument.

b. Used to “give further explanation.”

c. Used to “indicate sources for further study.” For example: additional biblical citations with similar texts or ideas which the reader might consult.

d. Practical tip: “Since many readers do not read footnotes, the text should make sense without content footnotes” (Vyhmeister, p. 63).

5. Use proper format for footnotes/endnotes and bibliography.

Using SBL Style

The Biblical Studies department uses SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) citation format exclusively. (Library resources related to SBL style.)

SBL style is derived from Turabian/Chicago style, so you may also want to consult the following:

  • Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. Chicago Style for Students and Researchers, 7th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007). [Library Location: Reference; Call Number: PN 147 .T8 2007]
  • The Chicago Manual of Style Online

The SBL Handbook of Style contains all the information needed to properly cite

  • books of the Bible
  • various ancient sources (e.g., rabbinic works)
  • current theological journals.

It also explains

  • how to deal with words in foreign languages
  • how to transliterate from other languages. (i.e., represent Greek or Hebrew words in English)

The SBL Handbook of Style is aimed at a primary audience of “authors” who are submitting “manuscripts” for publication. However, the style and principles are applicable to student essays.

The SBL and Turabian style books are available for purchase in our bookstore, and are found in the Reference section of the Library.

You may also choose to employ citation software, e.g., as available with Word in Office 2007. While these programs save time, they vary in quality. Students must be able to review the citations for accuracy and completeness.

Zotero is a citation tool that can work as a plug-in with your Firefox browser as well as Word.

Disclaimer: Unofficial Academic Information
For official academic information such as degree requirements, course descriptions, prerequisites, and schedules, please refer to the Office of the Registrar website.