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Paper # 2 for Introduction to Asian Religions The assignment for the second paper is the same as the first, but the thesis must be different. Students must write an entirely new paper—composing text completely different from the previous paper--but they are encouraged to use any applicable research or arguments from the first in the second paper. The topic may be the same, but the thesis/argument must be different. Students with weak theses or no theses in the first paper may re-work and re-write that thesis. Entirely new paper (no repeated sentences), entirely new thesis (different argument altogether), but same/similar topics (repeat as much prior research as possible). Students may abandon the topic from the first paper and write on a completely new topic.
Readings from the entire course must be used. Students are encouraged to incorporate material from the second part of the course into their topic and theoretical principles from the second part of the course into their thesis. A minimum of eight sources is required, four of which must be external to the course readings. Papers with no course readings will not be accepted. The length should not exceed THREE pages (750 words). Writing is difficult work that requires making difficult choices. Make every word count, every quote count, every source count. Long, indirect quotes are a disservice in this essay, use indirect
Students will write papers that (1) explore overlapping religious traditions, (2) compare/contrast some aspect of several religious traditions (students must use Kripal’s model for comparison), (3) explicate diversity within a single religious tradition, or (4) describe the multiple religious communities in a single locality. Any combination of the above methodologies may be used, or a new methodology may be used as long as it is historically informed and demonstrates change or diversity. Theological or purely philosophical papers will not be accepted, nor will book reports. Students must compose a thesis making a historical argument. Students are encouraged contact the professor to discuss topics, theses, and types of research materials. Discussion board assignments should be used to communicate with the professor and other students to refine paper topic, thesis, and sources.
Caveats: No student has ever written successfully about karma or reincarnation. Karma and reincarnation may be used in topic sentences, i.e. smaller arguments to prove the overall thesis, but neither of these ideas should be found in the thesis. Should students choose to write a comparative essay must follow Kripal’s model as follows: "There are at least four stages, then, implied in that single word "comparison": (1) the negotiation of sameness/difference in a set of observations; (2) the identification of patterns in that data set; (3) the construction of a classificatory scheme that organizes these patterns into some meaningful whole; and (4) a theory to explain the pattern one sees."
Students are encouraged to consider the geography of Asia to organize their research and writing, in order to focus their topic. Students can write papers on a specific region. For example, instead of ‘Jainism and Buddhism’ try ‘Religious Diversity in Gujarat: Jain, Hindu, and Muslim ritual sites.’ Another good topic is ‘Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism at the Bengal Frontier.’ Important temples make good paper topics: Jagannath at Puri, Somnath in Gujarat, Rama temples at Ayodhya, etc. ‘Exorcism in Tibetan and Chinese Buddhism.’ ‘The intersection of the state and dynasties on religions of China.’ ‘How the Thais adapted Buddhism to their culture.’ When writing on a region or specific location, a student can use geographic, historical, and ethnographic materials. Religion always takes place in a place and at a time; focusing on specifics of place and time will focus students’ papers on questions germane to the course. These are topics, not arguments, not theses.
Topics must be introduced properly in the first serious paragraph ( a hook made of catchy introductions with anecdotes or amusing facts is encouraged). The historical frame, the religion/religions that will be treated, major scriptures studied, and disciplines used (philosophy, history, anthropology, and so on) should all be clear on the first page, if not the first paragraph. The thesis is preferably the last sentence in the first paragraph, but it must be within the first two paragraphs.Outside research is required, but it need not be extensive; in-class readings should be used whenever possible. A minimum of eight sources must be used; course readings count as sources. Internet sources are not valid unless they are from an on-line academic source (use JSTOR, the YSU library website, and Academic.edu, but be sure that any article is written by a reputable scholar); be careful with Google Scholar, for it often presents more bad than good sources, presenting the reputable alongside the disreputable. Should a student use an on-line source, s/he should consult with professor to be sure that it is acceptable. Bibliography does not count toward the page total. Students should use the Encyclopedia of Religion (both 1995 and 2005 editions) as a first stop for research. All papers are to be written in 12-point font, double-spaced, with standard one-inch margins, and full MLA citations and bibliography. Papers must have titles. Consult Purdue’s OWL writing guide online for issues of style, grammar, and citation.
For review, key elements from Paper Assignment One are found below. When writing, regularly re-read the paper assignments to be sure the essay is in line with all the elements of the assignment.
Papers topics must be historical and demonstrate change or diversity. Students will write papers that (1) explore overlapping religious traditions, (2) compare/contrast some aspect of several religious traditions, (3) explicate diversity within a single religious tradition, or (4) describe the multiple religious communities in a single locality. Theological or purely philosophical papers will not be accepted. Papers must have a clear introduction, thesis, body, and conclusion. Students are encouraged to meet with the professor early to discuss topics, theses, and types of research materials.
Examples of good paper topics: the role of biographic narrative in Jainism and Buddhism, the role of historical figures in Sikhism and Islam, the diverse history of the Jagannath temple and its deities in Orissa, the interaction between religious communities in the Bengal delta, effects of urbanization on ascetic communities, the role of Jain critique in the Buddhist schisms, influence of Chinese or Greek cultures on Indian art. Examples of bad paper topics: Hinduism is idolatry, the life of the Buddha, the true essence of the philosophy of Guru Nanak, the history of Judaism in India, Tamil Nadu, Gelukpa persecution of Nyingma communities, why Nepal is the best place to go on vacation, X religion is the best religion in India.The topic must be accompanied with a clear, arguable summation of the point of your paper. A reasonable person should be able to formulate a counter-argument to your thesis. The paper is not a book report; it must advance an argument. Example of a good thesis: Jains, Hindus, and Buddhists all worship icons, but each group formulates the relationship between divinity and individual differently. Or, Buddhism spread rapidly during the Mauryan empire due to the close connections between monastic orders and trade guilds. Bad theses: Buddhism is very convincing; Islam is not indigenous to India; Ron Davidson explains that tantra is well-adapted to the medieval era.
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