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Observation Paper (17%): 5-6 double-spaced pages (~1250-1800 words), 1-inch margins, 12-point, standard font.
Due by Friday, April 23 at 11:59pm on iCollege in the Observation Paper Drop Box.
For the purposes of this virtual-observation paper, given the Covid-19 situation, you will observe two (2) religious services virtually and online for places of worship outside of your own religious tradition. The goal here is to virtually view/experience religious services for two religious traditions with which you are not already familiar. After you describe your new experience and observations, you will then engage in a comparison and contrast exercise not only with your own preconceptions & your own faith, but also with the first religious center you visited earlier this term. So if you are Presbyterian, you should not simply observe a Lutheran and a Methodist religious service: these Christian faiths are different, but still too similar; the religious service in this case, should be something further afield outside of the umbrella of Christianity–for example, a Buddhist, an Islamic, or a Sikh religious service. (You are welcome to observe religions services for religions we will not be discussing in this class.)
Though normally the observations for this assignment are done in person, because of the COVID-19 public health situation, I ask that the observation of a religious service be done virtually & online for the sake of safety. (It should be fairly straightforward to find virtual worship services on the websites of existing places of worship, given the public health situation, but if you are having trouble locating one, please contact me.)
The goal of the assignment is to observe religious services for a religious traditions with which you are not already familiar. You will vividly detail and describe your virtual experiences, and compare and contrast your observations of each service with each other as well as with your preconceptions and your own religious faith/upbringing. So again, there are two parts here: first, describe your online viewing of each of the two places of worship you viewed and detailing the religious service you viewed; second, please compare and contrast the religious service you view online with (a.) the other religious service you viewed online, (b.) your preconceptions/expectations about these religions/religious services, and (c.) as well as with your own religious background (or non-religious background for that matter). The Comparison & Contrast Component
Either interspersed throughout the paper or at the end of the paper, you will also need to compare and contrast these two religious services you have observed online, as well as how they compare and contrast with the religious practices within your own religious tradition (if you have one). What is similar between the virtual experiences (and your own religious tradition, if any)? What is different about these two religious centers and religious services? In what ways? Be as specific and descriptive as you can, given the online medium: the more vivid and detailed a picture you can present your reader the better.
A Descriptive Paper, Not A Research Paper The paper is a descriptive paper, not a research paper: if you find yourself doing book, library, or internet research, you are doing this assignment wrong. You should also refrain from simply rehashing information about the religion, place of worship, and its practices that were provided to you (perhaps on their websites); rather, the paper should be based on your own observations and experiences. The point of the assignment is to use your paper to take your reader on a journey with you: show your reader what you observed and took in during your experience viewing these places of worship and religious services online in as much vivid detail as you can. I want to feel like I am seeing and hearing and observing what you saw, heard, and observed when I read your paper. Be as descriptive and detailed as you can: show me, don’t just tell me; the more particular details and anecdotes you can use to paint a picture of your experience, the better. How to Proceed When writing your paper, a good place to begin might be your preconceptions. What did you expect to see in the religious services given what you already might know or think about the religions in question, either from the course or from elsewhere? What were your assumptions about these religions going into the viewing? How did you envision them? You might want to read ahead about the religious traditions you are visiting, if we have not covered it in the course already.
Next, describe your experiences viewing the religious services you took in online in as much detail as you can. This includes stating the exact names of the places of worship you virtually experienced online as well as the dates and times of the services you viewed. Make your description as detailed as you can, and base it on your own viewership/experiences and not (largely) based what you may have read in the textbook or online. You may wish to rely on notes you take during your online viewings. Try to paint as vivid and accurate picture for your reader as you can. Here are some example questions to think about and potentially address: What is each place of worship like insofar as you can tell from the online viewership – the architecture, the interior, exterior spaces?
What do the religious practitioners do at their place of worship?
What is each religious service like? How is it ordered? Is there a formalized practice of worship? How is the time used?
What are the roles of women in particular?
Is their music/art/dancing? What sorts? Is it formally involved in ritual/worship, or does it have a relaxed, informal role?
What sorts of texts or scriptures are used, if any?
What sorts of practices or rituals are performed? What objects are involved in rituals? Who performs them?
Can you tell the difference between what is considered sacred (or taboo) and what is treated as ordinary (or everyday)? Were there any overt elements of religious doctrine/belief system, religious ethics/morals, and religious experience/emotions that you observed?
After you describe your new experience and observations, you will then engage in a comparison and contrast exercise—not only between the two religious services you viewed online (what is similar? what was different?)—but also both with (1) your own preconceptions about the religious tradition you visited, and also (2) with your own religious tradition/religious faith (if any) and your experiences therein. (1) In making your description (or afterwards) address the question of how the religious service you observed met or challenged your expectations from what you’ve already learned (if anything (yet)!) from the course or from your own preconceptions. What did you see that was expected? What was unexpected? How did your experience live up to or challenge your expectations? Describe the ways in which it was like what you thought it would be and describe the ways in which it was quite different from your expectations. What did you learn that was new from this experience? Feel free to draw on concepts we have learned about religion in general (Module/ Chapter 1) and from the specific religion you are observing, in order to enhance your discussion and make it more specific; still, don’t get bogged down in technical exposition of background detail on the religion—it is not the point of the paper to rehash what you know from class or research about the religious faith in question. (2) Next, you should also discuss how this religious service compares to or contrasts with the religious services/experiences in your own religious tradition or faith (if you have one or grew up with one/several). What is similar? What is different? In what ways? Be as specific and descriptive as you can: the more vivid and detailed a picture you can present your reader the better.
Contact information for most religious centers can be found online as well as on the The Pluralism Project Website, which provides a list of Atlanta area (or other metro) Religious Centers. If you rely on materials from somewhere else, whether assigned readings or elsewhere (e.g. online or distributed materials from the religious facility you visit), you must cite your sources at the points in your paper where you use them. There is no shame whatsoever in drawing upon someone else’s ideas provided you give her or him proper credit. Academics and professionals regularly draw upon each other’s’ work, but they use citations when they do so. You must cite even when you paraphrase rather than directly quote: if the idea, even if not the exact words, came from someone else, you must provide a citation. Don’t “borrow” an idea or a quote without attribution.
I do not require a specific citation style or format, but the content of your citation should enable the reader to easily find where you derived the material.
Citations should occur at the points in your paper where you are utilizing or drawing upon the material you are citing. Regardless of whether you are directly quoting or paraphrasing, and regardless of whether you are using footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical citations, if you got the idea from someone else, cite it where you use it. When in doubt, attribute.
Merely having a Works Cited page at the end of your paper is not sufficient attribution for works your quoted from or drew upon in your paper. It is not enough to put a works cited page at the end if you did not note the places in your paper where you cited that material (whether parenthetically, with footnotes, or endnotes). A Works Cited page is just a general list of references; it is not a replacement for specific citations of works you draw upon at the points you use them in your essay.
In papers for my students, I personally do not care how you do your citations, stylistically. It can be a footnote, endnote, parenthetical citation, etc., and it does not have to follow any particular rulebook of citation format (MLA, Chicago, etc.). Note: this lenience may not apply for other professors! As a matter of what substantively goes into your citation, your citations should provide enough detail that your reader can readily find where you got the material you are referencing or drawing upon. Again, I, personally, do not really care how you achieve this, though others may. For instance, if you just list a last name and a page number in a footnote/endnote/parenthetical, and then have a Works Cited at the end to spell out what these names refer to, that’s fine. Or, e.g., if you have a scheme where your first footnote lists the whole reference, and then subsequent citations of that work use an abbreviation to reference back to that original citation, that’s fine too. As long as your citations make it easy enough for the reader to find where you got the material (down to the relevant page in the work you are citing—though, not if a website), that should suffice.
The rule is, when in doubt, attribute: always cite your sources. It is always better to err on the side of over-citing than under-citing. If you do not cite your sources, then this constitutes plagiarism, which I am bound by College and University policy to treat as a disciplinary matter not just a grading matter.

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