Ahmadiyya Muslims

Guidelines for the Term Paper

1. The purpose of writing exercises in general is to get you to think, you cannot have clear and convincing thinking if you cannot clearly and convincingly articulate it. Good writing is a skill (I know this because English was not my first language), it can be learned and improved with exercise. So if essay writing is not your strength start early. I am here to help you, run your topics, arguments etc. by me. I am always happy to hear from your and what you are thinking process (about your essays or otherwise).

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2. Choose a relevant topic to the topic of this course for your essays, this could be anything form Quran and Sunnah and issues related to Islam, Muslims and Muslim communities, films, TV series, Youtube and Youtubers and the so-called “influencers” or other social media and news, or analyzing / critiquing comics, and politics. Our class readings, especially the second half the course, should give you good direction as to the choice of your topic. For example, if you write about marriage, Saadia Toor’s reading is a good example to follow. Lets say your topic is “Muslims and Divorce: A Critical Analysis.” You begin by explaining what the Quran says about Divorce, what we find in the example of the Prophet. Just as we do in class readings. You must incorporate the class readings whatever your topic may be, you can address the problem of interpretation, sexism of certain concepts / practices, how it is relevant to the questions of gender and race and class, or how non-Islamic / secular laws, practices (for example Ontario Family Courts or inheritance or divorce laws of Canada) are much better / beneficial / responsive to certain issues than Islamic law; you may even want to interview some people who have gone through divorce or cases of islamophobia for example.

A few thing I suggest you avoid (just a suggestion based on what has not worked in previous courses): if you are a male student don’t write “women in Islam” or “Hijab” essays.

This is not a research essay. You can analyze, or problematize an issue/practice/concept, argue for a certain point, compare and contrast, or deconstruct an issue, examining it from various angels, just as we do in class. You want to show that you are able to think through issues critically, that no issue / concept / interpretation / practice etc. is ever simplistically black and white.

I will be using the Explanation of Grades, pasted below and in your syllabus, for evaluating your papers.

For example, by now you know a statement like: “Islam improved the situation of women,” or “with Islam the issues of racism are eliminated,” are too simplistic to be accurate, there is more to these stories. Or simply stating that abortion is forbidden, or forbidden after a certain point in pregnancy, is too simplistic.

It is ok to speak as first person singular in the essay, but remember you are writing persuasively. I used to say imagine you are trying to convince a university educated person about your thesis/argument, that did not work very well, now I say: you are writing for me, someone who has spent the past 30 years of his life in full time studying, reading writing, thinking about Islam and Muslims. So do not simply state your opinion, present convincing arguments, show you have looked at all angles of your arguments and are able to see that maybe the best of arguments too may have their shortcomings.

The essay needs the usual: a good title that tells the reader what to expect and entices her to read on, a good intro and thesis statement, a good body which develops your thesis and good conclusion, followed by bibliography. You can use any style of citation that you like.

3. You need about 5-8 sources, or more if you need. Any topic you choose start with encyclopaedias, The Encyclopaedia of the Quran or The Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd edition) are excellent place to start. They always have suggestions for further reading that you can follow up on. You can find them in the folder “Extra Resources for Essays” on OWL, or Western Library.
4. Consult “Writing Guide” below (on OWL). Use class readings.
5. No hard copy of your essays needed,, submit a digital copy on OWL on the due date, which is last day of our class, 11:59 PM on March 31 (which happens to be my birthday also ? ) under “Assignment.” Late penalties apply.
6. You must use class material where necessary.
7. Avoid relying on websites, you must use scholarly books and articles (if our library system carries it, it’s most likely scholarly). Check with me if you are not sure. Youtube videos and websites are usually not good sources, unless your topic requires studying them. You can analyze them if that is your topic. I will explain this more in class.
8. Check out 10 Commandments of essay writing, by Prof. Mary Suydan,
9. also see her 20 Rules
10. Term paper should be submitted typed, double spaced, 1 inch margin on either side. This paper must represent your own work. The provisions of the University’s Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters are in effect.

Tips for Essay Writing (taken from Prof. J. Geen’s Course):
1) Writing a good essay is hard, so help yourself out right from the start: make sure the
specific topic of the paper is absolutely clear.
2) Learn to read your own writing as if you didn’t write it. Apply the same critical scrutiny
to your own work as you would to the work of others. Pretend your first draft had been
handed to you by someone else who was looking for your criticisms, and be a harsh
critic. The question is NOT whether or not your essay is clear to you, but whether or not
it will be clear to an outside reader.
3) Do not be easily satisfied! Ask yourself: Does the order in which I address various topics
make sense? Could the organization and flow be improved? Does each paragraph flow
into the next, or do I need some segue sentences to smooth out the flow? Does this
sentence say exactly what I wish it to say, or does it rely on the reader to ‘sort of get the
4) Be clear and concise! Ask yourself: Am I as clear as I could be? Is there any possibility hat the reader might misunderstand? Could this sentence be taken in two different ways, only one of which is correct? Have I taken ten sentences to state what could have been clearly and concisely stated in five sentences? Is there needless repetition? If I have already covered a point clearly and concisely, why am I bringing it up again? Virtually every essay draft, regardless of who wrote it, will require serious editing.
5) Proof-read your essay for typos and grammatical errors, and proof-read it slowly and
carefully. If you read it over quickly, you will miss errors; your eye will see ‘what you
intended’ rather than what is actually on the page. A typo here and there happens to
everyone, but one per page (to say nothing of five or six per page) is not acceptable. Do
not merely rely upon ‘spell-check,’ because it will not catch the incorrect use of ‘there’
for ‘their,’ and so on.

1) Unjustifiably sweeping generalizations:
“Since the beginning of time, mankind has worshipped one God or another.”
2) Unnecessarily jargony and awkward wording:
“Taoism religionists perennially embrace the notion of the idea surrounding the
motivation for desireful actions which can otherwise hamper qualities of pacified mindful
thoughts for living.” (What??)
3) Run-on sentences:
“The Bhagavadgita which is a text of Hinduism and the Tao Te Ching which is a text of
Taoism talk about action and inaction respectively as paths by which the followers can
work towards a more peaceful life which will then make society more harmonious and
also allow them to achieve liberation from samsara the cycle of death and rebirth at least
in Hinduism or in the case of Taoism harmony with the Tao which is for Taoists the
ultimate goal in life.”
4) Incomplete sentences:
“The Bhagavadgita promotes action as a path to liberation. Whereas Taoism aims at
harmony with the Tao through inaction.”
“Hindus believe in an eternal soul. Although that is not true for Buddhists.”
5) Unclear antecedent:
“Krishna tells Arjuna that he is a warrior and must fight.” (To whom does the ‘he’ refer?)
6) Shifting from singular to plural:
“If an individual (sing.) practices meditation then they (pl.) will have a more peaceful life
and their (pl.) mind will be calmer.”
7) Incorrect choice of words:
there for their; there for they’re; your for you’re; hear for here; lead for led
8) Colloquialisms (though the odd one may be refreshing):
“It’s sort a like …; or some such thing or other …; I’m not all that nuts about Confucius;
the Buddha rocks, man, seriously!”

Explanation of Grades

Percentage Grade Grade Definitions

90 – 100 A+ Outstanding The report shows sparkling originality and exhibits a high degree of
critical analysis of the topic. Sophisticated synthesis and analysis of the theoretical and conceptual dimensions of the topic are demonstrated. Mastery of complex material and ideas is immediately evident. The topic is treated with sensitivity and subtlety of thought. The quality of the writing and background research is exemplary.

80 – 89 A Excellent Strong evidence of original thinking; good organization,
insightful analysis of the fact and capacity to synthesize; superior grasp of subject matter with sound critical evaluations. The report shows originality and exhibits a high degree of critical analysis of the topic; it gets to the heart of the matter with comments and/or questions. It is clearly focused and logically organized. The quality of writing makes the report immediately understandable. Mastery of complex material and ideas is demonstrated. The report is of appropriate length, while preserving the priorities and emphasis of the material, so that the result is meaningful, not simplistic.

(There are substantial differences between A and B grade. You may reproduce the facts, show some analytical grasp, and still get a B or B+. Please read the descriptions for an A and a B carefully)

75 – 79 B+ Very Good Evidence of grasp of subject matter, some evidence of critical
capacity and analytic ability; reasonable understanding of relevant issues; evidence of familiarity with the literature. The report shows above average analysis, critical thinking and independent thought. Claims are supported by ample evidence and the components of the topic are well-researched and presented. The topic is addressed in reasonable depth and/or breadth and covers material appropriate to the course. The analysis is organized around focal points and the argument is easily followed. The report demonstrates an above average ability to write in an intelligible style and to condense material meaningfully and with a concern for priorities of that material.

70-74 B Good The report shows an attempt at analysis and critical thinking. Claims
are supported by reasonable evidence. The topic is addressed in some depth and/or breadth, with references to the appropriate literature and course material. The analysis is organized around focal points. The report is generally well written and well argued

60- 69 C Competent Student who is profiting from their university experience;
understanding of the subject matter; ability to develop solutions to simple problems in the material. The report demonstrates adequate comprehension of the topic. The report is on topic and is a reasonable summary of material covered in the course, but goes no further. Facts are stated accurately; the quality of writing is sufficiently intelligible with enough elaboration and enough connections made between ideas to permit a reader to understand the point of the report.

50 – 59 D+ Marginal Some evidence of familiarity with subject matter and some
evidence that critical and analytic skills have been developed. The report shows less than adequate comprehension of the topic and of the material covered by the course. The report is a less than adequate summary of sources and/or is considerably off-topic. Facts are stated inaccurately or ambiguously; the writing style is difficult to follow; there is insufficient elaboration to permit reader’s comprehension of relations among ideas; little judgment is shown in selecting detail for inclusion in the report.

0 . 49 F Inadequate Little evidence of even superficial understanding of subject
matter; weakness in critical and analytical skills, with limited or irrelevant use of literature. The report demonstrates a failure to comprehend the topic. The material is disorganized and unintelligible. The report clearly does not meet the minimal requirements of the assignment.
Also consult: http://www.kings.uwo.ca/philosophy_religious_studies/grading_policies/

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