This is the student manual for the course Sociology 727. Sociology 231 from Athabasca University is a prerequisite for taking this course. To register in this course, visit https://www.athabascau.ca/syllabi/soci/soci427.php
Greetings, My name is Dr. S. (Mike Sosteric) and I’d like to welcome you to Sociology 427, Readings in the Sociology of Religion and Human Spirituality. This is an advanced open reading course. That means that you the student get to study anything you want as long as you and I both agree in advance on the basic texts/readings for this course, and as long as it is related to the course subject, the Sociology of Religion and Spirituality. Of course, since this is an advanced course, and since you are expected to write a term paper and some blog posts for this course, you will be expected to read more than just the readings we select. However, the readings we select form the foundation and scaffolding within which you will conduct your research and writing.
To complete this course you must complete six blog posts worth 10% each, and a final paper worth 40%. The final paper is broken down into a) topic approval (p/f), paper proposal (30%) and final
Term Paper Assessment
There are several steps you need to complete in order to properly navigate the term paper requirement, and this course. Follow the steps below to properly complete your term paper project.
Step One; Select your Topic
One you have decided on a rubric for evaluation, the next step is to select a topic for study and research. The topic can be anything related to the Sociology of Human Spirituality (see graphic below). Broad topic suggestions include Goddess religions, New Age spirituality, Catholic Monasticism, spiritual experience, Maori spirituality, Buddhist perspectives on connection, and so on. If you don’t have a topic in mind, browse one of the following journals for possible topics of interest. I also keep an expanding bibliography of interesting and useful sources on the Sociology of Spirituality group page. In addition, , you can login to https://library.athabascau.ca/ and peruse the following journals for topic ideas.
- Journal of the American Academy of Religion
- Sociology of Religion
- Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing
- Faith and Philosophy
- International Journal of the Psychology of Religion
- International Journal of Transpersonal Studies
- Journal of Humanistic Psychology
- Journal of Transpersonal Psychology
- Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion
- Journal of Psychedelic Drugs
- Journal of Psychoactive Drugs
- Journal of Scientific Exploration
- Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis
- Psychedelic Review
When you have chosen a topic, pass it by me for approval.
Step Two – Select your Readings
Once your topic is approved, the next step it to come up with a reading list. I may be able to get you started here, but you’ll have to do some preliminary research to develop a list of readings. The best way to do this is to grab a book or two, or a journal article or two, and read that, making notes on the references used, and then writing down the ones that you think are relevant and that will expand your topic. Do this for as long as you need to come up with a reasonable reading list. For a 400 level course like this, you should be reading at least four or five monographs, and a dozen or so related articles, depending on how broad the topic you choose.
Step Three – Submit your Proposal
Following identification of the topic, and creation of the reading list, the student is expected to submit a preliminary proposal and outline of the paper. The proposal will outline the theoretical and/or empirical significance of the topic, the documentary sources of information to be consulted (i.e., library sources, newspaper, archives, etc.), a preliminary reading list, and a provisional outline of the final paper. The proposal should not exceed three pages in length (1200 words) and should only be submitted after the student’s topic has been approved, and the reading list developed.
Step Four – Do the Readings and Right your Paper
The major requirement for this course is the completion of a research paper or research report on the topic identified in the preliminary proposal. To proceed, students must have professor approval of their proposal. Empirical research reports generally follow a standard template. You can discover this template for yourself by consulting a handful of scholarly journals where you would find that empirical reports are generally written with abstract, introduction, methodology, data/report, discussion, and conclusion sections. Empirical papers generally conform to this time-tested formula.
The output structure for theoretical papers is much more fluid. In general, theory papers will have an introduction, main body, and conclusion. Writers who undertake theory projects are free to develop the material in a way that makes sense and that successfully communicates the theoretical ideas of the author.
When writing theory papers, do not give into the temptation to use high falutin language and overly complex sentence structures to convey otherwise simple (or even complex) concepts and ideas. The goal of theory is not to obscure your knowledge and ideas but to reveal them for consideration. Clarity of communication is a cardinal criterion for writing and evaluating theoretical contributions.
Blog Posts Assessment
The blog posts are designed to help you develop your ability to communicate your research, and the paper is designed to help you develop research and analytic skills. You may wonder why I encourage a rubric of six blog posts, but a part of scientific training is learning to communicate. Scholars have a responsibility and a duty to communicate their research and findings to the public that pays their salaries. Publishing in a scholarly journal doesn’t fulfill that duty. In fact, it undermines it. Most scholarly journals, of which there are thousands, are commercial and require expensive subscriptions to access, thereby forming a pay wall that regular citizens cannot pass through. What’s more, publishing in scholarly journals doesn’t train you to write well, it trains you to write obtuse jargon that only a few people in the world can understand. That’s fine as far as it goes. Scholarly journals do provide a useful service for the scholarly milieu. But scholarly journals are obtuse, closed to general public, exclusionary, and elitist by definition. Because of a scholar’s duty to report, other avenues of communication must be developed. Scholarly blogs and publications like The Conversation are a great place to start.
You can write your blog posts on any topic you like, so long as the topic is related to the main paper of the course in some fashion. You should write your blog posts as you do your readings, research, and write your paper. When you come across a sub topic of interest, write a short 1200 – 1600 words blog post. Submit your blog post to the instructor. Note, some blog postings may be posted to The Socjourn at http://www.sociology.org. When submitting your blog post please indicate whether or not you give permission to publish on The Socjourn Site.
Note, although this assignment suggests blog posts, you may also do videos. Video topics should follow the topic guidelines suggested for blog posts above.
Mike Sosteric (Dr. S.)