This might be very boring for most people but some who were denied the opportunity to get a post-secondary education might find it an interesting perspective on what defines "scholarly" and "academic" work.
The question concerning the scholarship of the WTS has come up a few times. I was never a Theology or a Religious Studies student. I took one university Religion course and had to write a couple of papers. By no means would I call myself a Religious "scholar". The title of the course was "On Death and Dying".
In both college and university there are very specific guidelines regarding writing papers. All papers MUST follow those guidelines to be considered even remotely scholarly. Points are deducted for not following the guidelines. This is NOT unusual. All college and university courses require a set of guidelines that must be followed. Psychology has its own Publication Manual that all students must refer to. Even English courses have their own manual of guidelines for writing papers. And believe me the profs check to make sure you follow the guidelines. They even check out your references that must be written in a certain style.
I might be laboring the point but it is crucial to understand that scholarly writing is very precise. It isn't just something you throw together and hope to get a good grade. These courses are preparation for those who decide to continue on in the academic field.
I Googled "theology academic writing" I got "Results 11 - 20 of about 2,100,000 for theology academic writing" back. It's clearly not a small issue. All of the beginning hits are universities and colleges.
Claremont School of Theology states:
Writing is the primary tool of communication in academia. In most of your courses, your grade will be based primarily on the professor's evaluation of what you have written. Beyond the academy, writing is an essential tool of the professional world. The effectiveness of church bulletins, grant proposals, letters to the editor and a myriad of other writing tasks will to a large extent determine your effectiveness in the professional world whether as a pastor, political activist, teacher or wherever God may call you. Learning to write clearly is important [bold is mine]
It's that important. In my quote above I altered the text by making some words bold. Academic writing requires that I tell you what I have changed. The link above tells you where I got that quote from. It is one of the many I could have used. The others pretty much have the identical info. If I had deleted part of the quotation I have to show that by use of ". . . " and what is left out MUST NOT change the intended meaning of the quoted author.
The article continues:
The style guidelines used in the humanities generally and at Claremont specifically are found in The Chicago Manual or Kate Turabian's A Manual for Writers (usually referred to as just "Turabian"). Turabian is a must for all doctoral students, and some faculty require Turabian even for master's level students. Turabian has more details than Form and Style but is harder to use and takes some practice to get used to. While Turabian is clearly more thorough, both Turabian and Form and Style are summaries of Chicago; so if you follow either faithfully, you will not run into problems. And therein is the core of the issue: faithfully following a style sheet. Either book will give the details about what your papers should look like (margins, fonts, layout, etc.) and how to properly use and cite sources. All you have to do is look it up.
Pretty specific isn't it? Right down to "(margins, fonts, layout, etc.)". They leave nothing to the writers pleasure. If you want to be accepted as a scholar you follow the guidelines. If you look on the website is also goes into the nitty gritty of how to staple your paper.
But let's go further down into writing the actual paper. There are several types of papers required in theology classes. For our purposes (as a comparison to the work that the WTS publishes) I will only look at the Exegesis.
Exegesis is a technical form of writing in biblical studies. Generally speaking, exegesis is the disciplined examination of various aspects of a (usually biblical) text in order to determine the meaning of the text. Often each professor has specific guidelines for exegesis papers in terms of both content and outline, especially at the introductory level. In spite of the wide range of preferences and emphases in exegetical writing, there are some common characteristics in most exegesis papers. For example, exegesis papers do not always have a clearly stated thesis in the introduction. They tend to be organized by level of inquiry starting with textual issues, moving to literary and historical/cultural issues and ending with theological issues. Each paragraph or section of the exegesis paper looks at the given text (called a pericope) through a different lens. For example, one paragraph might examine the meaning of specific words in the pericope, the next might focus on a specific literary device (repetition, for example), the next might focus on a specific historical event that the pericope mentions. Each of these paragraphs (or sections in a longer paper) attempts to pull meaning from the pericope by examining it in a specific way or from a specific perspective. Rather than summary conclusions, exegesis papers tend to have conclusions which tie together the significant points of the essay to provide a somewhat unified meaning, interpretation or application of the pericope to a specific context. That context might be the context of the original author(s) or redactor(s), or some contemporary context.
Has anyone here ever read a WT article in any magazine that follows this? I know I haven't. Even looking in the WT books that attempt to analyze certain Bible books don't follow this kind of scholarly work.
Now you might say that the WT published books and literature are simplified so the average lay person can understand them. You might also believe that the "scholars" of the Governing Body (GB) do this work for the JWs so they don't have to. Sound nice of them doesn't it? How do you know if the y really are that nice, though? How would a person go about checking to verify what they have read in a WT book? That's what references are for. And believe me they have rules for this also. Plagiarism is a huge issue in academic writing. The article states:
Unintentional plagiarism is a serious matter in graduate school. Unintentional plagiarism most often occurs when a student loses his or her own voice. That is, instead of the student remaining in control of what he or she is saying with his or her own voice. The scenario goes something like this: the student finds a source with whom he or she agrees and, making a few changes in wording, basically follows the structure of the source material. Even if citations are used, this is a recipe for plagiarism.
The article has several examples of how to quote correctly and also what kinds of unintentional quotations are forbidden. Since the link above takes you to the page you can check this out for yourself.
When you do quote from another author's work (or even from previous work you may have published) there are precise format for the quote to make sure a person can actually look up the quotation if they want more information. In the article I wrote for my one Religion course I had to cite my references. You can see this on my website at Social Death: The Practice of Disfellowshipping Among Jehovah's Witnesses At the beginning of the paper I state:
In all known societies, social norms or rules are developed to define who is to be included in the group. Rules of behavior are accepted as legitimate by the members of the group. Pressure is placed on group members to conform to the norms of the group. This is the process of social control (Napier, 1981).
In that paragraph I paraphrase a comment from a book by Napier that was written in 1981. At the end of the paper I cite the reference:
Napier, R.W. & Gershenfeld, M.K. (1981). Groups: Theory and experience (2nd ed.). Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.
You now know where I got the quote from. Since I am referring to a process called "social control" you could search the index of Napier's book for "social control" and find the page and comment I cited. If I was quoting from an article in an academic journal I would add the page number(s).
The way the WTS treats true academic and scholarly works is illegal and unethical. It certainly isn't academic or scholarly.