RST 3100 Franciscan Values, Social Justice, and Service
Information on Research Paper
This is a research, synthesis, and reflection project, designed to assist you in meeting the course objectives and in exploring the implications of Franciscan values for addressing the challenges of the contemporary world.
1) a. Choose one contemporary social justice issue that you are especially concerned about (e.g., poverty, racism, immigration, ecological destruction, etc.). Meet with the instructor to discuss your topic (if you are in the onsite section) or discuss it via email (if you are in an online section). Note: the topics of euthanasia and abortion are not appropriate for this assignment.
b. Do research in order to gather data and documentation on that problem, using solid and serious sources. This calls for you to investigate the seriousness of the problem IN TODAY’S WORLD, documenting its reality as a real-world issue that needs to be dealt with (data, statistics, case studies, etc.). Note that this does NOT mean focusing on past history. We need to look at the REALITY of the situation NOW. It also does NOT mean using opinion polls, surveys, newspaper articles or editorials as research: the assignment is to research the reality of the issue, not what people THINK about the issue. Blogs and social media are not acceptable sources of research; again, this assignment calls for gathering hard data and documentation on a problem, not information or discussion that just anyone can post on the Internet, regardless of their credentials. Note that anecdotal information (i.e., individual examples) is also not adequate documentation: individuals’ stories illustrate the problem, but do not provide data on its seriousness. You are expected to dig deep, to explore not only how many people are affected and in what ways, but also the underlying systemic injustices that are causing the problem. This last point is particularly significant: What makes something a social justice issue is not merely that it has a negative impact on human beings, but that social attitudes, policies, laws, or institutions themselves (rather than isolated individuals) cause the problem or the conditions that make it possible, or prevent something from effectively being done about it. In other words, analysis of a social justice issue needs to include not only THAT it is happening and how serious it is, but also WHY it is happening and why more is not being done about it. So a thorough analysis of the problem as a social justice issue needs to include attention to these underlying systemic factors and conditions.
2) a. Choose one of the Franciscan values discussed in this course that you see as being linked in a
particular way with the issue you have chosen (e.g., human dignity undermined by racism) – you
should also discuss this with the instructor. Do research, beyond the readings from the course, on
the meaning and implications of this value. The goal here is for you to demonstrate proficiency in
explaining the implications of this Franciscan value for engaging a real-life issue in the contemporary world (Academic Learning Goal 8.3). Although you are asked to do outside research on this value, do be very vigilant about sources and explanations that contradict its meaning as presented in this course! For example, some Internet definitions of “social justice” include the idea of the “equal distribution of wealth and privileges” – which is NOT what social justice means in Catholic Social Teaching. If you encounter such situations, you are encouraged to seek out alternate resources for your research. Alternatively, you could critically engage with the questionable source and discuss why/how it diverges from the meaning of the value as presented in this course. However, the first of these alternatives is the more desirable for this assignment. N.B., Outside research on the Franciscan values does NOT consist only in material obtained from the website of this or another Franciscan university; this may be used in ADDITION to other research.
b. In addition, do research to learn about what Christianity and at least one other world religion have to say about this value, and especially about your issue of concern. This might be especially noteworthy if leaders of these religions (e.g., pope, bishops, imams, ministers, theologians, religious leaders) have written or spoken out about the particular problem/issue you are dealing with, or if the sacred writings of these religions contain teachings or comments about it. However, quoting or citing the Scriptures or sacred writings is not adequate research and does not adequately fulfill this requirement. In other words, discussing what the Bible says is not what this assignment calls for. You need to do research on the current perspective of important spokesperson(s) of the tradition in question. This also means avoiding opinion polls/surveys or statements by fringe groups who disagree with the mainline perspectives of a religion. Consult the instructor if you have questions about particular sources.
3) Gathering up all that you have learned from all of this research, formulate a response. Some
questions to consider include: What do Franciscan values (as expressed in various religious traditions) bring to the table when it comes to the issue you are concerned with? What are some practical responses that could be made to this issue? (What could be done? What SHOULD be done?) What social justice changes need to be enacted? Has this research changed your own thinking in any way? How can you apply what you have learned to your future profession or career path? What is one form of change or service that can be enacted at the grass-roots level? Note that I want you to consider ways that REAL CHANGE could be enacted, and not merely an “Everyone should treat everyone else with respect” or “We all need to be more compassionate” response.
4) a. You are to synthesize, explain, and summarize all of the above in a research paper (1500-2000 words, excluding notes), due by the end of Module 11 of the course. Note that 1500 words is the MINIMUM requirement; a really thorough job on your topic may require more. (But avoid exceeding 2500 words.) The paper should include explaining your topic, synthesizing the research you have done, and reflecting upon what you have learned and upon possible responses to your issue (everything listed above). The paper should follow the proper format (double-spaced, left-aligned; in doc or docx format; etc. See further info below.)
b. In addition, you are to present your project to the class in a c. 10 minute presentation or (for the
online section) to post your presentation on Blackboard for review by your classmates. The
presentation MUST be in the form of a PowerPoint file and must be able to be opened by the
instructor and your classmates from within Blackboard. No links to an external website and no other file formats will be accepted.
Here is a breakdown of how the various elements of each part of this project will be assessed:
Paper : Please follow the assignment instructions carefully; failing to do so negatively impacts your grade. Following is a breakdown of how the research paper is assessed. See also the Research Paper Rubric posted in this folder on Blackboard. Note that the values are fluid and approximate – glaring shortcomings in an area may weigh down your grade disproportionately:
· Content: 60%:
· Factual Information/Material Substance: 20% Looking for good, solid information, data, documentation, including all of the points required to be researched (see above)
· Assimilation and Syntheses of Material: 20% and a solid engagement with the material, including the underlying systemic injustices that cause the problem, explained in your own words.
· Reflective response to “Franciscan Values” questions above: 20% Careful thinking about connections with and implications for Franciscan values and social justice.
· Quality of research (types of sources used; depth of investigation; etc.): 20% Minimum number required = 5. Quality is more important than quantity, but too few sources reflects not doing enough or going deep enough. Be very careful about Internet sources. Anyone can post almost anything on the Internet, whether it is accurate or not. In general, blogs and social media sites are not appropriate for scholarly research and will not be acceptable for this assignment. As already noted, polls and surveys are not acceptable. Newspaper articles can also be questionable; they usually provide anecdotal information, rather than deeply researched data and documentation. Look for solid information from reliable sources. The footnotes in the Groody article provide good examples of reliable sources.
· Organization: 5% At the very least, this means having a clear Introduction, a clearly and logically arranged Body of content, and a clear Conclusion.
· Quality of writing (correct grammar, sentence structure, spelling, punctuation, etc.): 5%
· Care in and accuracy of citations: 5% No one particular format is specified, but ONE must be used, and consistently. CMS is not required, although it is standard in Religious Studies. HOWEVER, if using books, include publication data in the entries in the reference list; for journal articles, include volume #; for websites, include complete URL, author and article title if given, and date accessed. Each individual piece of information must be cited in the body of the paper: at the minimum, this must include author’s last name and the specific page number on which that information is found (for books and journal articles) and the section number (for church or other official documents). Although APA may not require page numbers to be cited, their inclusion is strongly encouraged; when citing Catholic Church documents, the specific section number is required.
· Conformity to other assignment requirements: 5% This includes approval of topic and minimum required length. Points will be deducted for papers submitted in an incorrect format.
Late papers will be marked down one half grade for each day they are late; papers over one week late will not be accepted and will have a grade of 0.
Presentation : The presentation is intended to share the HIGHLIGHTS of your project with your classmates. It should present these highlights clearly in summary form on PowerPoint slides. In the onsite section, you will have a brief 5-10 time allowance to present your research to the class and to respond to questions. In the online section, you will be asked to post your slides on Blackboard, as well as to view and respond to your classmates’ slides.
Following is a breakdown of how the presentation is assessed; note that the values are approximate :
· Content: 60% (70% for online section) This includes the same elements as listed for the paper. Attention in preparing the presentation should be given to presenting the essential and substantial content in an informative way, without including either too much or too little detail. Note that merely pasting sections from your paper or large “chunks” of text is not appropriate. It is not acceptable to use the “Notes” area for presenting information. All content must be on the slides themselves. It is not necessary to include a voice or audio component for your presentation.
· Clarity/quality of slides/organization: 20% (30% for online section) This includes not only clarity of information, but also lack of grammatical or spelling errors, as well as clear organization. Slides should be attractive and appropriately formatted (e.g., the viewer should be able to see the content clearly and it should not bleed off the slide area), but they do not need to be over-the-top “glitzy.”
· Manner of presentation (preparation/preparedness, personal demeanor, effective communication with members of the class, etc.): 20% This includes not merely reading your slides, but using them mainly as an outline of what you explain extemporaneously to the class.
· Note that not being prepared to present on the date scheduled results in forfeiture of credit for the presentation component.
Some hints for good presentations: PROFESSIONAL DEMEANOR is important. Act like the expert, as if you are giving a professional lecture to your professional peers. How would you carry yourself if you were giving a presentation at your company where you work? (Hint: You would not slouch or mumble. You would SPEAK CLEARLY, so that everyone can hear and understand you. You would not race through what you have to say, but would speak at a moderate pace, neither too fast nor too slow.)
TEACH your subject matter. You have done research on your topic. The whole idea here is to share the knowledge you have gained. If you learned things you never knew before, remember that your classmates did not know them either! Make your points clear, straightforward, and easy to understand. And make sure you EXPLAIN them. When you use a new and unfamiliar term, you need to stop and explain what it means! Otherwise, the class will not be able to follow what you are saying. (This is important, as well, when writing your papers.) You also need to pronounce that word correctly. Part of preparing your presentation is doing research on the terms you have encountered and looking up how to pronounce them. If you mis-pronounce words, that tells me that you are not very familiar with them and that you have not prepared thoroughly for your presentation in advance. Make sure you explain each of your points as you go along – take your time to do a good job with this; otherwise, you will “lose” your audience. Do not rush through it or speak too quickly. Do not read your slides!!! And do not limit your presentation to only what is on your slides. The slides should be an outline only, for material you share verbally in much greater substance. Be prepared to answer questions! You might think about possible questions you might be asked, in advance. And if you are asked a question, do not respond with, “I don’t know the answer to that but I covered it in my paper”!!! The whole point here is for you to share the important content of your paper with the class. You should know your material in your paper so well that you can comfortably speak about anything in it.