REL 1300 Summer B 2017
TERM PAPER GUIDELINES
During this course you will be required to write a researched-based Term Paper on the religion to which you belong, and a comparison and contrast of that religion to another religion we study in this course (of your choice).
Headings, style, and bibliography should follow standard MLA format. Font should be Times New Roman, 12 pt. and double-spaced with no additional spacing between paragraphs or sentences. Margins should be at 1”. The total completed Term Paper should be, at minimum, 4 pages in length. Length of paper does not include title pages, headings, and bibliography.
A research analysis of the religion or religious philosophy which you now believe and a comparison/contrast of that religion with another religion we study in this course (your choice). If you are NOT a practicing member of a religious group or congregation, this section should compare and contrast the religious philosophy in which you were born and/or raised (the religion which has been most prominent or influential in your life). You should describe the major doctrines and worldviews of the religions and how these concepts are practiced. Think deeply about foundational beliefs and differences; do not dwell on the superficial. Examine their central doctrines and demonstrate how they are similar or different. You must use authoritative sources when detailing the official doctrinal stances.
Additionally, you may discuss to what extent you agree or disagree with these doctrines (not to exceed more than one-half (½) page in total).
Be sure to consider the major foundational aspects of a religion. Discuss the practices only when they are in the context of the beliefs that form them. Critically analyze what the religions say about:
-Reality: the universe, both physical and spiritual
-Ultimate Reality (and its reverse)
-Paths to Ultimate Reality
These concepts should easily dovetail into other doctrines for discussion.
Do not focus on one aspect only; religions are complex and all doctrines interrelate with one another. Be sure to give a balanced presentation of the various aspects of your religion.
Four (4) pages minimum are required for this section. A minimum of five (5) references . You will need to do independent research to determine the official stances of your religion.
Caution ! While you may ask the advice or opinion of a local religious leader, he/she may not speak for, or with the authority of, the entire religion. Thus, you will need to use published works. This person may likely be able to point you in the direction of good material about the religion. Libraries are also fantastic.
SOME COMMON MISTAKES
1. Assumptions . Be sure that what you state is accurate. It is all too easy to take for granted what you have heard or read, but you must take care to ascertain the legitimacy of everything you write in your paper.
2. Stereotypes . Your personal experience is valuable, but you must be careful not to generalize the opinions, beliefs or character of every person of a particular faith. The individuals with whom you have interacted do not necessarily represent the entire opinion of those in that faith, and may not reflect the official religious doctrines of the religion at all.
3. Respect . The object of this paper is to help you think about what you believe and compare/contrast it against other faiths to which you do not adhere. By definition this should challenge you and will cause you to think about alternative religious concepts that you do not believe are true. In all of this, however, you must always strive to be objective and respectful in your writing. You may critique other beliefs with logical arguments, but you should never attack individuals for their faith.
4. Depth . Be sure to think about the major aspects of religious doctrine in these papers. All too often students focus on the superficial aspects and neglect the core issues. Think deeply about how the religion(s) define the nature of reality, divinity, morality, humanity, Ultimate Reality, the afterlife, paths to transcendence, etc. You may discuss the values, ethics, and practices, because these also have significance; be sure, though, to explain the foundations for these things. For example, if two religions consider murder immoral, discuss why they believe so and if the basis for this value is similar or different in each case.
5. References . FAIR WARNING: If you do not use scholarly sources (books and academic journal articles only) for your bibliographic entries, I will take points off of your paper up to and including 100%. Websites are subjective and should not be used. The same is true for blogs, popular videos, and social media. You may quote opinions and web/newspaper articles as examples of world events or public opinion/expression, but not as facts about the entirety of a religious belief. Academic/scholarly books and journals attempt to present the facts with little no bias. Websites, news organization, etc. are extremely prone to opinion, stereotypes, and bias. You must strive to look for objective presentation. This is good exercise in discerning what is credible and what is junk. A helpful hint is to look for the MLA bibliographic information. If you cannot find the author’s name, publisher, location printed, and copyright date, then DO NOT use it as a reference.