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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

How to Write an Research Paper out of Common Household Catholic References

Well, I've made a decision, with regard to my returning to school.

I'm going to apply, and I'm going to take it step by step. There's actually an informational meeting about the degree I'm seeking on September 27th, although I have to wonder why they're having it so late in the game when the deadline for Spring admission is November 1. However, I hope to go. Maybe I'll have my app in by then, or maybe not but I still think it might be worth attending.

I downloaded and printed an application off today for the Master of Arts in Catholic Studies, and read the requirements. I've been ten years out of college and they want me to provide three references by a professor. I doubt any of my profs would remember me, especially after 10 years of other students, most likely far more interesting than I. However, I did have many wonderful chats with the Brother who is currently the President of my University...perhaps he would remember me and be willing to spare a kind word to help a future teacher along? In any case, UST is willing to make allowances for those such as myself who have been out for many years, so my reference search is going to happen closer to home.

I have to also turn in an essay, 700 words or less, regarding the reasons I care to pursue this degree. I guess my conversion story will be too long?

Then I have to submit a 10-12 page "writing sample" which displays research, critical thought, and writing ability. I considered the summeries of investigations at work, with the names removed, however even those are too short although they otherwise meet the criteria in a real-world legalistic sort of way. (Lots of quoting state statutes and such). I'm sure that for this purpose I'd be able to submit an old college paper, but I don't think I have any that long...I'll have to see. The likely result here is that I'll have to write a research paper.

Any ideas for topics I should research? I have a growing Catholic library and know lots of solid online sources, although I would like to keep this project simple. If possible, I'd like to put to use the things around my house...perhaps a summary of how we got the Bible and the different translations available to both Catholics and Protestants? A dissertation on Luther and his "sola scripture, sola fide" nonsense? Oh, wait...we're not to the doctoral dissertation yet...I'm just applying for admission to a program which might lead to a Master's degree.

Ultimately, I have decided that this might be a test of faith to me. I have come to realize that when we are walking around in our homes, offices, shopping malls...what have you, we first recognize our surroundings. Then we look for the doorways leading to certain goals we might have in those given surroundings. After we identify the doorway, we approach it but it never opens until our hands are on the knobs, or pushing where it says "push", or pulling where it says "pull". Only then do we walk through the doorway, and sometimes we have to dodge people rushing out, or bail out of the way of people stampeding to get through the same door.

The reality is that life is like this...God isn't going to open the door until we are standing in front of it reaching for the knob. I think Grad School is the same way. I have recognized my surroundings as being...confining, and I am looking for a way out. God knows where it is but I need to spend more time doing something other than spinning my wheels. So now I recognize the doorway and the only way to approach it is to filling out the application. This is my door. Maybe it leads to a closet, and speaking as someone who has wandered into these proverbial closets, I'm kind of sick of the experience. As it is, I think I'm stuck in a walk-in closet. Maybe UST is the doorway to something else I have not considered. Maybe it's what God wants me to do.

But I will never get anywhere without taking the risk. After all...if I don't take the steps, I'll never enter. And what about financial aid? Nothing. I'm going to have to trust here. One thing at a time. Fill out the app. Get accepted. Then worry about payment, and quite honestly, God is the guy with the checkbook and if he wants me there, he'll pull it out and write out the funds to UST in my name. He's done it before for me and for others I know...why not now? And if not, then I'll have lost nothing.

Even the time I have to spend on a research paper will be time well spent...after all, I'll be learning something! Yay!

I do ask you all for continued prayers, and tonight I leave you with one of my favorite yet least-followed sayings:

Pray, Hope, Don't worry. ~ St. Pio


RobKPhD said...

Prayers? You got it! And the Padre Pio quote is on the money! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks! The only way this will happen is through prayer because I have no other currency.

You know what's really funny...a couple weeks ago a line from Shakespeare (Julius Caesar, I think) continued to pop into my head: "I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition with o'erleaps itself and falls on another."

I think that sums up my situation perfectly...I tend to worry too much and get in my own way. God must be rubbing his head in frustration over me!

God bless you!

~ Adoro

Unknown said...

Possible research topics:

A contemporary social or theological issue that was changed by Vatican II might be in order. There should be lots of books and articles available for research.

I don't expect that they expect to see a major thesis quality paper here. That's what you'll be going to school to learn.

They want to see if you can write well, including style, spelling and punctuation, and if you can do quality research with proper documentation, etc.

That would include setting up a thesis for your argument and then properly proving or disproving it, covering all the points, even to the point of referencing items that need further research.

In other words, did you learn anything during your first four years of college?

Good luck, Adoro! You have my prayers, too.

Anonymous said...

Ray! Thanks!

I do know the HOW of writing the paper, and I still have a Writer's Handbook to remind me how to cite sources correctly within the work.

The issue is more on the topic...and whether I have enough references in my house and online (ie the Vatican documents, Catechism, etc) which can be used.

Cathy_of_Alex said...


My 2 cents:

References: How about your Priest? Any local religious that you may know? Do you do any regular volunteer work? Someone that you volunteer with may be able to give a reference. What about your current employer?

Don't underestimate the value of your pre-admission talk with the Brother. I did a similar thing with an English prof before I was admitted to College and she put in a good word for me with Admissions. I got in, even though I had some "questionable" grades in H.S.

700 words will fill-up fast. How about a paper on "why the RC church needs good, orthodox, catechesis" and your opinions and thoughts on that subject? Your blog has been full of such observations. Pepper your paper with scholarly proof as well as your personal opinion and why the degree will help. Watch your grammer, spelling and punctuation.

All during College, you will be graded on: your ability to present your opinions, think critically, and draw from published scholarship. You may as well prove that you can do it as early as possible.

If there is a way to get across, in the paper or in the application, what gifts YOU will bring to the University, Admission Depts. like to see that.

God does not want you to put yourself under undue financial hardship or stress so keep an eye on that debt load and make sure when you sign up for classes you leave yourself enough 'me' time.

I have a B.A. in English and a Minor in Theology. I have a Graduate Degree in Library Science. For 5 years, I volunteered in the college Reading/Writing Lab helping students write and read (including ESL students). I'm not giving you my bona fides to boast. I"m leading up to my offer to proof your paper before you send it in, if you like.

You have my personal email, drop me a line if you want to take me up on my offer.

I know you can do it!

Adoro said...

Thanks Cathy, and I will take you up on the proofing. I do not want to apply to Grad school with a substandard paper!

The 700 words will be very know'll be more a matter of keeping it UNDER!

The research paper, however...that's going to take some work. You do have a good idea, though, and I'll mull it over. I was also thinking today about feminism...the roots of feminism and tracing how it changed to what it is today and went from being good and just to immoral and degrading. But there I go again...complicating things. I tend to over-analyze things which often helps just as often as it hurts me. (That great weakness as great strength thing).

I already thought of asking my parish priest (at least one of them) for a reference and I'm sure they would be willing to help out. And the Brother who was promoted to College President...if he remembers me, he may be willing. But after 10 years he may not be comfortable in writing such a letter. And my Manager...I spoke with him today, and no problem.

UST does require 3 ref. letters from Professors, but their admissions app states they will make allowances. Before I approach all of my references I will want to clarify what they are looking for so that I choose the appropriate people.

Writing, grammar, etc. has always been a strength for me, although I admit I have sometimes gotten sloppy on my blog. It's usually typos, slips of the fingers that get me (I type fast and get ahead of myself). But I can always use another pair of eyes!

My BA degree is in Criminal Justice, minor in Spanish. I've also been certified, but in MN and as a Nationally Registered EMT, in Outdoor Emergency Care, and I've been trained through to the level of Haz Mat Specialist as well as the Firefighter 1 and 2 stuff. No certification there, though but I'll still order the transcripts from the schools--academics were NEVER a problem for me and in the stuff I just mentioned, I think I finished either 1 or 2 in the class.

I find that as I became an adult, I actually worked harder academically...either that, or the material was just easy.

Grad school will NOT be easy.

Financially will be a struggle and that's the crux of the entire thing. It's all up to God.

You know, I may also have to take some prereqs before I get accepted, anyway...since I didn't study Theology, I'm not sure my 6 college credits will count: A class in Morality (Natural Law), most of which I've forgotten, and a class called, "Fundamentalism and the Religious Right" which taught me very little that I can recall at all. I still have my research paper on Islamic Fundamentalism but it's not long enough to turn in as a writing sample and there's too much about that in the news, anyway.

Wow, am I long winded! My profs are gonna hate me!

Cathy_of_Alex said...

The profs will love you. Any class with you in it is guaranteed to have a lot of discussion! Profs don't like indifferent/silent classes.

Adoro said...


I tried to respond last night but it wouldn't let me! :-( Darn comment system.

Anyway, you are a doll and I fully intend to take advantage of your knowledge.

What's stopping you from applying with me? We would be a formidable dual of Catholic women!