Thank You, Kate Turabian!

I didn’t make the honor roll very often in high school. I was too interested in girls and my souped-up VW Beetle. Yes, you read that correctly. I drove a souped-up VW Beetle. Since my dad raced dune buggies, he could make VW engines do things that were probably illegal. It was a very fast car. Did I mention it could float? I’ll save that story for another post. Anyway, I graduated high school a solid #99 in a class of 300. Not bad, but not that great either.

I experienced a genuine call to vocational ministry as a high school student, so I enrolled in Bible College and flunked out in the second year. Who needed school? I had the Holy Spirit, a call, a passion, and a lot of attitude. So I spent the next several years making a mess of ministry and a fool of myself. Ignorance isn’t bliss when it comes to ministry; it’s dangerous.

A patient mentor impressed upon me that a good education is as important to one’s calling as the calling itself. There are exceptions to be sure, but for the most part a minister should be as academically equipped as they are passionately engaged. So, I re-entered undergraduate school as a 25 year-old freshman.

I was fortunate to attend a school that emphasized writing as a means of engaging, interacting with, and demonstrating one’s understanding of the material being taught. We were often required to write in defense of views we did not espouse and we were always expected to accurately cite the sources from which our research was gathered. I quickly learned that I had a knack for communicating. I could speak well and put thoughts on paper in an effective way. I remembered the material I studied and recited it on exams. I was becoming a good student. However, my grotesque grammar, poor punctuation, and especially my citations (or lack thereof) landed me in the writing lab at the demand of a professor.  It was there I was introduced to Kate Turabian and the Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. It was the beginning of a tumultuous relationship.

The last thing I wanted to do when assigned a paper was to read a book on how to write papers. It would delay getting the paper done. Yet, the professors in their conspiracy required that I read the manual. I did everything I could to ignore and escape Kate, but her pursuit was relentless. So I gave in to Kate Turabian and her detailed, meticulous demands.

Kate helped me graduate Magna Cum Laude. Later she guided me through the increased expectations of Master’s level work. During this phase of education, Kate taught me the enormous importance of citations – get them right, credit your sources, leave a clear trail for readers to follow back to the place you found your information. She aided me in earning a Master’s from Fuller Theological Seminary.

When I began a doctoral program at George Fox University, Kate Turabian was once again by my side. The stakes were even higher now, since a dissertation was required to complete the program. Furthermore, the Lead Mentor of the program would be Leonard Sweet. My dissertation was recently defended and has now been archived. Along with the dissertation there have been hundreds of pages of material with thousands of citations. The sources for my writing have come from books, journals, websites, articles, podcasts, movies, dissertations, speeches, emails, and interviews. At each turn, Kate was there to guide me to the right form of citation.

Recently, there’s been a dust-up concerning allegations of plagiarism by a popular author and pastor. I don’t want it to be true. I want to believe that it was just a mistake or an oversight.

However, Kate Turabian and I have completed enough writing by now for me to understand the relationship between a writer and their sources. It is hard work to research, write, revise, cite, revise, correct, cite, revise, and finally produce a properly cited and formatted written work. Be it a book, article, dissertation, etc…

But it’s harder work to plagiarize. Plagiarism requires a deliberate effort to lift the work of another and claim it as your own. This is why I came to love Kate. She has literally 11 sections that explain in unmistakable detail what plagarism is (2.2.3, 7.9, 7.9.1, 7.9.2, 7.9.3, 7.9.4, 15.1, 15.2, 15.2.1, 15.2.2, 25.1). She makes her instructions on how to create citations so clear, so direct, and so practical that to fail to give proper credit would call for an arrogance, a negligence, or an ignorance that takes a whole lot of work.

My advice? Work smarter, get to know Kate Turabian, and make your own unique contribution to the conversation, or as Oscar Wilde put it, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

So, for all of your patience and all of your guidance; even when I hated you for it, I say thank you, Kate Turabian!

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