Religion Final Paper Guidelines
4-6 pages, Double-spaced Due Friday, May 20th by 11:59pm
Option One: Choose one philosophical issue you would like to discuss. Examples: free will, the self, punishment, the afterlife, the soul, faith, morality, identity, etc.
Choose one or two different religions, and examine their beliefs on your topic. You can either choose one religion and really get into a detailed analysis of where they stand on your issue and why, or you can choose two religions and do some sort of compare and contrast between the two. I would not recommend discussing more than two religions. I would much rather have you spend a lot of time talking in-depth about one or two than to only write a few sentences about a bunch of them. You could also choose two different denominations of the same religion if you wanted to (for example: Catholicism and Mormonism are both versions of Christianity, but their viewpoints on all these things may be very different).
Choose something you are interested in exploring, thinking about, and talking about. And keep in mind you can analyze/criticize a belief in a respectful and professional manner. Your paper shouldn’t read like an onslaught against the religion you’ve chosen (though you are allowed to disagree and be critical if you’d like).
Option Two: Choose a topic/religion that was discussed briefly in your book that you would like to learn more about. This will be more like a research paper than the other options. A lot of the religions from the Primal Beliefs, Ancient/Classical Beliefs, and Modern Religions chapters would be good to choose since your book only devotes about a page to them, and there is a lot more to learn!
Choose one religion you want to learn more about. If you do this, I would recommend focusing on one of their beliefs (like how they view the creation of the world, their rituals, the afterlife, etc.). I would much rather have you get into a detailed discussion about one of these aspects of a religion than to try and cram in everything they believe and do. I wouldn’t recommend trying to do a research paper on more than one religion, since you will not be able to get into much detail in 4-6 pages. Make sure you use reputable sources if you choose this option. There is more information about sources and citation below.
Option Three: If you have thought of something related to one or more of the religions we have discussed (or even a religion/denomination not dealt with in the book) that you think would be interesting to explore further, here is your opportunity. I strongly recommend checking with me before you begin working on this option so that I can express any concerns I may have about your topic and to give you some helpful advice. You can compare a few different religions in a specific way, discuss historical/political influences on a religious shift/belief, the role of women/minorities/disadvantaged in religion, talk about the body count most religions tend to have, etc. What you DON’T want to do here is just rehash something you have already written for a quiz answer, though there are ways you can expand on some of those questions/topics. The goal of this paper is to go above and beyond what we have been focusing on in class.
General for all three options:
The goal for this assignment is to do your own thinking about religion. This paper should not just be a generic summary of the topic, a rehashing of a chapter in the textbook or class discussion, etc. You can certainly choose a topic we have discussed (or that is talked about in the book), but you need to go above and beyond that in your analysis of it. Choose something you think would be interesting, not something you think would be easy.
You CAN include your opinions, but this should not be the main focus of your paper (this isn’t a journal entry, blog, rant, social media post, or an opportunity to witness/convert). You can write from your point of view and say, “I think….” or “I believe…” That being said, please keep in mind this is a college paper and should be written and edited with that in mind.
I encourage you NOT to use many sources other than your textbook (unless you choose option 2 or are unaware of where a religion stands on your issue). If you do, make sure you are careful and find reputable websites (or books if you are old school). Keep in mind that one Buddhist website does not speak for all Buddhists, etc. If you are focusing on just one denomination or interpretation, make sure you tell me that’s what you are doing to avoid overgeneralizing.
Stay away from Wikipedia; it is not a credible source for a college paper. If you do use sources, you will need a bibliography/works cited page, and make sure you cite throughout the paper to avoid plagiarism. Remember any instance of plagiarism results in failing this entire course, without the possibility for making up the assignment. If you are just using your book, you will need to cite it throughout your paper but you do not need a bibliography. Depending on your topic, it might be a good idea to use the sacred text of that religion (you can probably find most of them at the library or online—just make sure it is legit). You can use whatever citation method you are comfortable with (APA, MLA, Chicago style, etc.) as long as you are consistent.
I think 4-6 pages is the amount of time it should take you to do everything I am asking you to do, but content is more important than meeting specific page requirements. Please do not change font, spacing, or margins to make your paper appear longer or shorter than it actually is. If you can provide a detailed and well thought-out discussion in slightly less than 4 pages (or slightly more than 6), I would rather take it as is.
Make sure that you PROOFREAD your paper before printing it out to correct any spelling, grammar, punctuation, and citation errors. There are writing tutors that can help with this, so please utilize that resource if you are not confident in your writing abilities.
Feel free to email me any time before that if you have questions.
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