The student Journal is the most substantial assignment in this class.  It will represent your on-going engagement with the core class curriculum.  The focus of the Journal should be on analysis, interpretation, and commentary.  It should consist of a series of short writings of varying lengths about the course material.  I refer to these short writings as entries.  The purpose of the journal is to provide you with the opportunity for frequent thoughtful and analytical commentary upon course-related material.

The advantages of the journal, to my mind, are that it breaks work down into regular and manageable chunks, and that it enables you to seize hold of the curriculum in a way which reflects your own interests and style.  It is fundamentally important that the Journal consist of your own ideas and thought.  Far better to have a somewhat shorter Journal in which you are putting forth strong effort to grab hold of the course material and articulate your own response to it than a longer Journal full of second-hand summaries.

I have provided you with two different options for the Journal. (1)  The Regular Journal; or (2) The Note-Taking/Journal Combo.  These are described in detail on the Assignment Page of my web-site.  You should familiarize yourself with these two models after you have read these Journal Instructions and then you should make a clear choice between the two options at the beginning of the course.

In order to give you a basic structure and to clearly communicate my expectations, I will specify certain mandated entries.  I will also suggest other strongly recommended entries.  You should return several times throughout the semester to the list of Recommended Journal Entries in the Assignments Section of the course web-site.  But while that list should provide the core structure for your Journal, you need not treat it as an everything-on-this-list-must-be-completed mandate.  You are encouraged to be imaginative in your own investigation and analysis of Eastern And Comparative Religions and to devote extra time to those parts of the course that you find to be most interesting.

It is important that you write regularly in your Journal.  The rhythms of the semester will be such that you will no doubt be able to devote more time to your Journal at some times than at others.  But I recommend that you try to write at least one entry every week on a regular basis.  You can always revise your entries before you submit the Journal.

The entries can vary in format, length, and quality.  Some entries may consist of one long paragraph while others may be a few pages in length.  Some entries may be based on just one or two brief sources while others may involve you integrating your thoughts on a much wider range of materials.  Do not hesitate to take risks and to express your own opinions.  Try, however, not to succumb to the temptation to write in an easy, stream-of-consciousness style.  There is no inherent tension between analytical rigour and personal insight.  Some entries may come quite easily to you while others may involve significant intermediate steps including note-taking, outlining, and revision.  I do want you to use the Journal as a place to analyze the course content and to deepen your own understanding.  This will involve being an active reader and writer, one who highlights themes and draws connections in a distinct way between topics.  However, it's fine to have a few entries that are much more summary in nature.

The Journal is an assignment designed to develop your critical writing skills.  It is also meant to encourage extra effort.  There are two ways to excel with the Journal.  One is through demonstrated focused analytical writing.  But another way is through showing me that you are going above and beyond in regards to how much you are learning in the course.  The point of the Journal is not to write as many entries as quickly as you can.  Concise writing is often not just more thoughtful but more time-consuming than verbose writing.  However, if your Journal naturally grows to have far more than the base-line number of entries and pages, that's wonderful, and that should have a positive impact on your grade.  Ask yourself as the semester proceeds how best to fit the Journal to your own learning style and how best to combine this assignment with your on-line Discussion Forum contributions.  It is fully appropriate to share some of what you have written in your Journal with your classmates as Discussion Forum contributions.  I encourage you to slow down and go more in-depth on topics of particular interest to you.  Try to make the assignment work for you rather than merely asking what I want of you as a student.

I want to emphasize that the Journal is designed as an on-going project rather than as an assignment to be completed in a concentrated burst of energy close to the due date.  You will submit your Journals-in-Progress to me through the Blackboard site not long Reading Break.  I want to check to ensure that you are making good progress on the assignment and that we share mutual understanding as to the nature of the assignment.  This check-in is ungraded but compulsory.  Failure to submit your Journal-In-Progress at this time may lead to a lowering of your Journal grade later in the semester.  You will then submit your entire semester-long Journal to me through the Blackboard site at the end of the semester.  The Journals will be graded then and will contribute 35% of your course grade.


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