The effect divorce has on children

The Topic: The effect divorce has on children. (Don’t forget to bring it back around to what church and pastors should)

You select the topic. Find something you are interested in. Maybe you wrote a reflection paper you want to develop further? The topic should relate to the themes of the course and take on an issue that has theological importance. It is legitimate to use the social sciences, history, and some input from personal experience, but the paper is for a theology class. It should develop a theological angle. This could also mean a pastoral angle. (For instance, if you wanted to explore the effect of divorce on children, you would use resources from the social sciences. Yet you should also bring the discussion back around to how these studies impact what pastors or church agencies should do to work with families.)

Methodological Points:

The paper should have an introduction where it is clear why the topic is important, and what the paper will accomplish or show. The thesis should be clear and readily identifiable. It should not just state a topic; it should tell the reader what point you are going to be arguing.

The body of the paper is normally where controversies and key issues are taken up, and where the author’s ideas are in dialogue with his/her research sources.

Papers may be argumentative. Yet each side should be given a fair hearing. Someone who differs with you should be able to recognize that their own perspective has been heard and understood, even if you have argued that it is wrong.

On the other hand, a paper does not necessarily have to be argumentative or controversial; it may be informative. In this sort of paper you should make it clear why it is worth studying and discussing today. Why should church and society look at the topic? You should still have a strong thesis that claims why the topic should be taken up.

The conclusion should sum up the trajectory of the argument(s) that support the thesis and come to a meaningful conclusion.

The use of first person (“I” statements) may be appropriate, especially in the introduction and conclusion, as part of the author’s discussion of the importance or context for taking up the topic at hand. It is less likely that these would be appropriate in the body of the paper. A paper may certainly be written without use of first person.


Material that has been researched and that you use in writing should be sufficiently referenced. Quotes are always given citations, but information and ideas that you take from your sources should be specifically cited too.

The paper should include a minimum of seven (7) sourcesAt least one of these must be from sources that are not available on the internet. (Normally, theology papers will be researched in books and journals. Many of these are available in both print and electronic formats. At least one source in your paper should show you can access print format material.) The Bible may be used, but it is not counted among the seven. Textbooks assigned for the course may be used, but may not be counted among the seven.

The internet may be used with the following restrictions: In your annotated bibliography, you must give a justification for any sources that come from the web , explaining why they are legitimate research sources. I suggest strongly that you used a tool such as “Google Scholar” ( to identify sources that are suitable. Data bases from Pius Library are also reliable.

It is much more likely that a source will be solid if it is from an “.edu” rather than “.com” or “.net” site. A university or scholarly source, or a site that is an official website for a legitimate organization is a good indication of a solid resource. To see how well connected a source is to established scholarship, look to see what sorts of references are used by authors on a potential site.

Encyclopedias and general reference works (including Wikipedia) might be a good place to start exploring or brainstorming for many topics, but they may not be used among the seven sourcesWikipedia should not be cited at all as a source in your paper. It might be useful for general information. It might lead to other websites. It is, however, not subject to scholarly peer review in the same way that books or journals are, and is therefore not a good reference for a research paper.

Resources used in your paper should represent the current state of development and argumentation in contemporary research. Your argument and sources should be current and reflect a fair, balanced selection of perspectives on your topic. Any representation of a doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church or any other church or organization should be current and accurate. (For instance, the topic of interfaith marriage looks very different in literature from the 1950’s than in sources after the Second Vatican Council, and especially in material from the last decade or so. Topics such as the role of women in the church, in vitro fertilization, stem cell research, etc. are rapidly developing in the literature. Your paper should reflect the current debates and stances of the church and other organizations.) If your topic has been covered in the course, your paper should also reflect a solid understanding of the class material and texts. (This does not necessarily imply agreement, but understanding.

Citing References

References are intended for the reader to find and use your source.

Sources can be cited in any standard style; Turabian, Chicago, APA, etc. Traditionally, theology papers use superscripts that reference notes at the bottom of the page (footnotes) or at the end of the paper (end notes). Notes citing printed material, whatever style is chosen, should include specific page number(s), and should not merely cite an entire article or book; the reader should be able to follow your citation to locate quotes or other materials in their original context.

References to web sources should be specific and precise. They should allow the reader to return to the site. They should also include the date the website was accessed.

Works Cited Page(s)

An annotated works cited page (or pages) should be included at the end of the paper. This addition should be labeled “Works Cited” or “Bibliography” and should start on new pages (it should not begin on the last page of the paper’s text). This section is in addition to the assigned length of the paper (additional material to the 7-8 pages). Please note that this is a very important part of your research paper. It will take extra time and effort to do this section well. This part of the assignment will also add depth and legitimacy to the research you are doing as part of the course.

An example of an annotation for a book:

Hewlett, Sylvia Ann. Creating A Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children. New

York: Talk Miramax Books, 2002. Covers issues that challenge working women in

their quest for relationships and parenting. Topics include the personal costs of pursuing

a career, issues related to fertility, workplace strategies, personal and government

possibilities for making personal life and career more within reach. Sobering

information on how the break through generation has had to choose career or

family. Good link to related literature.

* All citations to internet resources should include a brief assessment of why each source is legitimate and suitable for a research paper.

An example of an annotation and assessment for an internet source: Accessed January 10, 2008.

This is a comprehensive introduction to the basic questions raised in religious

studies, including issues that are central to all religions as well misconceptions

about the study of religions. A short but reliable list of general texts and websites

is given. Sections for different major world religions introduce print material and

links to specific websites also.

In the “About This Site” section the following statement is made: “This website is sponsored and developed by the American Academy of Religion, and was funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. Founded in 1909, the Academy is the world’s largest association of academics who research or teach topics related to religion.” This site is reliable because of the organization that sponsors it, and the quality of references it draws on. They are balanced and represent many points of view.

Online Resources:

SLU Pius XII Library

ATLA Religion Database

Catholic Periodical and Literature Index

Google Scholar:

Google Scholar Help:

Chicago Manual of Style:

Introduction to APA Style (American Psychological Association):

What goes without saying

The paper should be typed, double spaced, with normal (one inch) margins, in 12 pt. type. Careful proofreading should eliminate any errors in grammar and spelling. The length of the text is given with the specific course assignment. Plagiarism in any form is unacceptable.


Start early.

Ask for help. Brainstorm topics with a friend, someone in the course, the instructor.

Create a clear thesis . To develop your thesis, you might consider writing three or four versions of it (maybe over a day or two, early on in the process). Then look at them later to see which is the clearest.

Write a short summary of your main points. Write a one page version of your idea. (If you time it right, you might a reflection paper version of your paper topic!) Then ask: what arguments, facts, and logic support your thesis? What would an opponent disagree with? What would they say? What arguments would they pose? What would you say to answer them? This line of questions can help you create an outline of your paper.

Next consider: what resources support your view? What supports your opponents view (or the questions of someone wondering why you are bringing up the topic)?

Make an outline of key points to be covered, and organize the key elements to be included.

Determine what areas of the argument and information need research and referencing.

Write a rough draft early enough to allow time for it to “sit.”

Polish your own work.

Have a friend read the paper for clarity, mistakes, sense, and effectiveness.

Exercise the option of turning the paper in early, as noted on the syllabus.

Watch out for “spell check typos”; you may have written “nose” instead of “knows” but the computer will never “no” …

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