Student FAQ for the Society for Pentecostal Studies

SPS Student CaucusWhile this is not an official FAQ of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (SPS), I offer it in response to a series of questions I was asked by a friend who is a student member wishing to submit a proposal for a paper to be presented at an SPS Annual Meeting. I have also offered a few of my own questions which I thought might be beneficial. I have been an active member of the Society since 2008 and helped to found the SPS Student Caucus in order to assist students in developing as scholars within the broad field of Pentecostal studies and as Pentecostal scholars. I believe my responses to his questions might prove helpful to others who might also be wondering similar things about writing and presenting research for SPS.

What is the standard length of a paper submitted to SPS?

There is no official standard length for papers. Some present papers of only 10 pages while others have submitted papers over 50 pages. The key is how much time your session will allow for presentation and questions afterward. Typically there is about 20-30 minutes for presentation and questions which means a paper of 15-20 pages is almost all that one has time to read in that timeframe. Longer papers are not discouraged, but that means much of the material will need to be summarized rather than shared outright.

Does the paper have to be completely written before you submit a proposal?

No. For student members it is better to have already written the paper (or much of the paper) prior to submission of the proposal since it can be difficult to meet the time demands of writing a paper after being approved. Proposals are submitted by the June deadline, approved by August-September then the paper is expected to be submitted in January. While this sounds like a lot of time it can slip away rather quickly in the midst of study and work. You also will need to be registered for the conference by November 1 to guarantee your submission (if it had been accepted) remains on the schedule and is not removed to make room for others who may be backups.

Does a paper have to fit the theme for SPS?

No. It is helpful to use the proposed theme for the upcoming meeting in order to offer something which is more likely to be approved, but members are welcomed to submit on any number of topics which may or may not have anything to do with the overall theme.

What should I include in my proposal abstract?

It can be as little as needed to state briefly and pointedly what you will do (or intend to do), how you might do it (methodology), what anticipated outcomes are (or might be) and why it matters. Some can say this all in a 150 words. Some the maximum. It is recommended to write it out elsewhere to copy and paste into the SPS proposal form when you are ready. There are plenty of members of SPS (myself included) who would be delighted to even take a look ahead of time to give any helpful comments on content, focus, etc. While not all of us are great at responding in quick order, many are.

What interest group do I submit my proposal to and what if there is more than one that might fit?

Feel free to submit it to any interest group you think best fits what you are doing in the intended paper. I’ve presented in numerous of our interest groups without being a member of them (I’ve always been in Biblical studies as my primary focus). You can always make a note in the submission form that you believe your proposal might fit another group and request if it is thought by the interest group chair to better fit elsewhere (for whatever reason) to forward it to them. You might also consider adding a notation that you are a student member as our Society looks to engender wide participation of student members. Also, consider submitting your paper for the Young Scholars Award (if you are a masters level student) or the Ithiel Clemmons Student Travel Award (if you are a racial/ethnic minority and/or woman).

Are all papers that are accepted also presented at the SPS conference?

That is the agreement made when submitting the proposal. If a student submits a proposal they are agreeing to write the paper, renew their membership, and attend the conference to present. The approval process is approving papers for presenting and the schedule of the conference is developed according to the papers approved.

How would I go about finding 2 respondents?

It isn’t necessary to have two respondents, but if you know people who are a part of SPS and might have some expertise or interest in your topic then they can be included. Most papers do not have respondents in my experience. I’ve only ever had one respondent and it was not even a person that I knew nor had I put their name down, but they were an expert in the field and their feedback was excellent.

I have done something similar for my thesis/dissertation, but I haven’t written a paper for a conference yet. Is this something I should wait on and try to attend SPS and see how it is done?

You are always welcome to attend an SPS conference to see how such things flow. Many other conferences function similarly so it isn’t necessary to attend SPS to see how an academic conference can be run. However, the spirituality and the comradery of SPS are unlike any conferences I have had the pleasure of sharing in or attending. I would personally say that presenting at SPS is an excellent opportunity for students beginning their engagements within the broader academic world as the members of SPS are primarily sympathetic and constructive. You would likely find that the feedback and engagement with your presented work will benefit its further development.

How would I join a special interest group?

You “join” a special interest group by attending that group’s meeting at the annual SPS meeting. It is as simple as saying you want to be a part of a particular group because you feel it intersects best with your reason for being a part of SPS. When filling in the interest group information online for your proposal simply select the group which seems to best fit the broad field of study being proposed. For instance, several years ago I wrote on an engagement between Post Modern and Pentecostal homiletics so I submitted the proposal to the “Practical Theology” interest group. My typically writes philosophical works and thus typically submits to the “Philosophy” interest group. Most years I propose something that is primarily exegetical (with theological orientation) and thus submit my proposals to the “Biblical Studies” interest group.

I trust these are helpful and would welcome any further questions that are felt to be pertinent particularly to student members of the Society.

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