In keeping with the requirements of CMU’s Writing Intensive courses, a significant portion of the work in this class is focused on the production of short papers that critically engage various topics related to the study and practice of religion. The goals of WI work include:
· Use writing to learn course content
· Properly incorporate elements necessary to an academic paper
· Engage in the process of drafting, revising, and editing
· Select, analyze, and evaluate information
· Draw valid conclusions
Toward these ends, each student will carefully craft five two-to-three page papers. These papers correspond to each of the major modules of the course (the introductory material and the five religions covered) and are based on a question provided by the instructor and a special reading meant to prompt thinking. Papers will be graded based on the degree to which they meet the five goals stated above (see grading rubric below).
It is important to make a distinction between the acts of “learning to write” and “writing to learn.” Ultimately, this is not a composition class; rather, it focuses on the act of writing as a significant way to reflect more deeply about the subject matter of the course. The primary goal of these papers is to foster critical thinking about big religious themes that directly impact personal and social life.
However, because developing basic writing skills is a part of the WI program, these papers must fulfill a set of specific requirements. The topics for the papers were selected, in part, to help you succeed. In addition to the goals stated above, each paper must conform to a specific five-part structure:
· Introduction — Begin the paper with an opening paragraph that introduces the subject of the paper in an interesting way.
· Thesis Sentence — The introductory paragraph must end with a sentence that explicitly states the main point/goal of the paper. Each paper should try to make only one central point. Pick one position you want to defend and make that the sole focus of the paper. The thesis should clearly define this position. The thesis sentence should read something like: “This paper argues that . . .”, or, “This paper intends to show that . . .”
· Body — The body of the paper, the next five or six paragraphs, should be used to describe, support, and defend your thesis. Typically, each paragraph of the body raises a different argument and presents evidence to support it. It is important to also address counterarguments that a reader might use to challenge your thesis.
· Conclusion — End the paper with a closing paragraph that restates the thesis sentence, summarizes the arguments used throughout the body, and finishes in an interesting way.
· Sources/Citation/Bibliography — Students are also required to research at least two outside sources to gain a broader perspective on the topic of each paper. References to these sources should appear in the body of the paper, be offset with proper citation, and be listed in a bibliography at the end of the paper.
Additionally, each paper must be double-spaced, written in 12pt. type, be at least between two and three pages in length (though longer papers are acceptable), and begin with a title page that lists name, paper title, class, and date. (Do not repeat these on subsequent pages.) You will be expected to draw on material used during the module, including readings, lectures, and discussion, as well as any outside sources deemed useful to your argument. Proper citation (MLA, CMS, APA, etc.) of all sources of information and ideas is required.
If writing academic papers is new to you, here is a short list of tips for success:
· Be a “planner” not a “plunger” — Writers can often be divided into two types: plungers and planners. Plungers are those who start writing before they know what they are writing. Planners start writing only when they know what to write. Writing takes time, in preparation and in actually writing. Take the time necessary to do the research, organize thoughts, and outline the order of the paper before you start writing.
· Editing is part of the writing process — Good writing does not just happen in the first attempt. Too often students let their brain spill onto the page and then submit their masterpiece. However, the writing process is not linear. All work needs to be drafted, revised, and edited. One helpful strategy is to print out what you have written, wait or few hours or even a day, and then read it again with fresh eyes. Pay renewed attention to everything from the flow of the arguments and sentence structure to grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
· Writing is meant to be shared — Written work is obviously destined for a final audience, but it should also be read while in process. While self-editing is important, it is also true that “every editor needs an editor.” If you don’t know that something is weak or wrong, then obviously you can’t improve or fix it. Feedback shouldn’t just come from teachers but from peers, preferable before a grade is assigned. Let someone else see your work before turning it in. Inevitably they will identify errors that, once corrected, will improve the final product.
Requirements, Writing Tips, and Grading Rubric for Reflection Papers
CMU’s Academic Dishonesty Policy: Written or other work that a student submits must be the product of his/her own efforts. Plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty, including dishonesty involving computer technology, are prohibited and will result in a failing grade.