Checking Our Baggage: Reflective Primary Text Analysis for Religious Studies

Submitted by Desirae Zingarelli-Sweet on August 9th, 2017
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Short Description: 

This assignment is designed to encourage students in introductory-level religious studies classes to check the assumptions they bring to the subject matter and to develop their critical inquiry skills in this area through close examination of primary text passages. The primary textual sources used may be contemporary or historical, depending on the course context.

The assignment consists of two sequenced exercises:
Part one. In-class writing exercise analyzing an unidentified passage (1-2 pages)
Part two. Reflection and expanded analysis of the identified passage using scholarly sources (3-4 pages)

Document includes student learning objectives, assignment description (for instructors), assignment instructions with checklist (for students), additional questions for reflection or discussion, and example primary source passages for use in the exercises.

Learning Outcomes: 

• Build critical analytical skills for religious studies by using existing knowledge to analyze a primary text, then by incorporating secondary information with closer reading.
• Reflect on the utility, limits, and origins of their first observations and assumptions to cultivate intellectual humility and begin to develop an awareness of their own cultural and religious positionality.
• Find and use secondary/tertiary scholarly sources to contextualize their reading of the primary text, deepen their analysis, and learn to value their use when interpreting primary texts in religious studies.
• Begin to place religious expressions, traditions, dynamics and power structures in the context of historical, cultural, social, political, and/or economic phenomena.

Individual or Group: 
Additional Instructor Resources (e.g. in-class activities, worksheets, scaffolding applications, supplemental modules, further readings, etc.): 

In-class primary source analysis only (Part I): great for library instruction sessions

Suggested Citation: 
Zingarelli-Sweet, Desirae. "Checking Our Baggage: Reflective Primary Text Analysis for Religious Studies." CORA (Community of Online Research Assignments), 2017.