Topic: Discuss the ethical significance of the four noble truths in the Buddhist tradition. In your response, pay special attention to the eight-fold path.
Research papers: Each research paper is to be no less than 6 pages (1,500 words) and no more than eight (8) pages in length (2,000 words), double-spaced, Times New Roman 12-point font, with standard one-inch margins on a topic of your choice.
In the writing of your paper, you must make use of at least four (4) academic sources. Proper bibliographic and footnoting format is likewise required. You may use either MLA, Chicago, or APA referencing style.
The following are guidelines to help you construct a technically sound, well-argued critical essay on the topic you select.
General rule of thumb for a religious studies paper: avoid “confessional” language
As an academic discipline in the humanities and social sciences, the study of religion adheres to a non-confessional approach when engaging with various traditions. In plain terms, this means that we do not privilege one tradition over another. A non-confessional approach is distinct from theology, in that it generally does not hold one’s personal beliefs or commitments to be relevant to their argument. While faith-claims and personal allegiances are important to individuals, the academic study of religion aims to examine the phenomenon of religion in a neutral fashion, drawing on various methods and theories that are common to the humanities and social science (i.e., sociological, anthropological, psychological, etc.).
Content and critical thinking:
It is crucial that your essay paper engage in what is commonly referred to as “critical thinking.” While there are different ways to interpret what these means, for the purposes of this course I will be looking for an analysis that goes beyond mere regurgitation of “fact” and shows an engagement with the nuances of a particular question. It is therefore crucial that in your analysis, that you clearly layout: 1) an understanding of the question in general; 2) how this relates to the worldview of the tradition in question; and 3) why or how this constitutes ethical behaviour. You will need to draw on at least 4 academic sources in support of you argument. For the sake of clarity, these steps are further elaborated upon below:
- You will want to begin your essay by clearly outlining the parameters of the question that you are attempting to answer. While this may seem redundant, it is imperative that you are clear to yourself and to your instructor/reader that you actually understand what it is that you are addressing and how you are going to proceed. Your textbook is a good place to start for this, though you will need to elaborate these points by using a variety of sources.
- *One of our main goals in this course is to gain a better understanding of how ethical practices relate to and are justified by the particular worldview in question. I cannot stress enough the importance of this point. To put it in concrete terms, when we talk of a particular religious practice we are not just speaking about preferences for a certain type of behaviour, but rather an ethical imperative that is informed by a particular view of the world. In marking your paper, I will be looking for a link to the appropriate worldview as part of my assessment. This connection constitutes an important aspect of what I mean by “critical thinking.”
- Related to step number two (above), I will be looking for an explanation and analysis of how the topic in question constitutes ethical behaviour. In your response I am not simply looking for a re-iteration or definition of “what” the question means (this will be covered in step one), but rather an engagement with how you understand a given ethical principle and its relation to the worldview of that particular tradition. In drawing on sources, you will want to use the ideas that other scholars have discussed on this question in order to further elaborate your point and to provide nuance to your answer.
Note: Your references must come from academic sources. While the internet can be a useful tool in trying to sort out certain ideas, it is less reliable than the library in providing you with “scholarly” information. Play it safe and stick to sources from the library. If you come across an internet link that you find useful, be sure to run it by me before using it. If you have any further questions about sourcing, please do not hesitate to write me for clarification.
How to write a thesis statement
Your thesis is an introductory statement that will clarify the question that you are looking to address, along with the key points or details of your argument and the method that you will employ. So, for example, if you were writing on the Christian notion of “love,” you might proceed as follows:
In this paper I wish to explore/address the Christian notion of love and how it pertains to Christian ethics more generally. By looking at the formative tradition, including the Gospels, and certain Letters of Paul, I will show how this notion of love is crucial to Christian ethical understanding. Moreover, in my response, I will show how this notion of love relates to the Christian worldview, and will be drawing on sources from thinkers X, Y, and Z in support of my argument. In my response I will pay close attention to the argument made by thinker X, who argues that the principles of charity and forgiveness are the cornerstone of Christian belief.
- Referencing (5%): You need at least 4 academic sources in addition to the Young and Van Voorst texts. While it will be useful to draw on these texts, they are only a starting point for your research. You may use either MLA, Chicago, or APA referencing style.
- Spelling and Grammar (10%): While 10% may seem high for spelling and grammar, I have an ulterior motive in mind. Student who pay close attention to spelling and grammar, going over their papers a number of times to look for mistakes, also pay attention to structure, content, and critical thinking. By reviewing your paper for grammar and spelling you will also be revising the substance of your argument.
- Structure and Content (60%): Here I will be looking for a well organized paper, which includes a thesis (introduction), body, and conclusion, and that covers the important criteria that I have listed above.
- Critical Thinking (25%): As mentioned above, you will also be marked on your ability to think critically by linking ethical behaviour to worldview, while drawing on 4 external sources in support of your argument.