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86-304 -- Psychology of Religion
Spring, 1998

Dr. Susan H. McFadden
Clow Faculty #22

Course objectives: In this course, you will learn about how psychologists study religious phenomena using quantitative and qualitative approaches to research. This course will give you the opportunity to learn about the psychology of religion by emphasizing both breadth and depth. In the first half of the course, you should learn about the wide range of topics studied by psychologists of religion. In the second half of the course, you will study one particular topic—religious coping—in depth.

Class meetings: This class meets T-Th, 1:20-2:50, Clow 43.

Office hours:

It is usually best to try to make an appointment, even for office hours because often many students are trying to see me then. If these hours are not convenient, please see me about making an appointment for another time. Messages can be left with the department secretary, Connie Bowman, whose number is 424-2300. Or, contact me via e-mail: mcfadden. In an emergency, you can call me at home: 920-739-8695.


Academic dishonesty: Although my "default position" is to trust students, I cannot ignore the accumulating research evidence that a high percentage of college students cheat in various ways on exams and assignments. The University's policies on academic dishonesty are clearly indicated in the student handbook. I will follow them in any cases that occur in my class. Please understand that plagiarism is cheating. It occurs any time an individual uses another person’s words or ideas without citing the author. Changing just a few words and not citing the author is also plagiarism.

Course requirements:

1. Class attendance and reading assignments: This course will emphasize class discussion so if you are not here, you obviously cannot participate. The quality of the discussion will depend on your preparation for each class. Therefore, be sure that you read the assignments as they are listed in this syllabus before coming to each class. We will discuss my attendance policy on the first day of class.

2. WebBoard participation (10% of the final grade): Early in the semester, the class will meet in the Radford computer lab. During part of that class, you will learn how to participate in a discussion group on the Web. You will have another opportunity to participate in March. The quality and quantity of your postings to the discussion will determine your grade.

3. Internet paper (5% of the final grade): You will be given a number of Internet sites to explore and will be encouraged to follow links that interest you. These must relate in some way to the psychology of religion. You will write a one page paper in which you describe and evaluate a selected site in terms of the quality of the information offered. Give all Internet addresses in APA style. Remember, copying information from the Internet is still plagiarism!

3. Term project (20% of the final grade): You will write a major paper this semester on a topic related to the psychology of religion. It should be approximately 10-15 pages long, word processed, APA style. This project can involve observations, interviews, surveys, or experiments. APA policies regarding the ethical treatment of research participants will be followed. All students will obtain signed informed consent statements from their participants. If interviews are conducted, confidentiality will be maintained through the use of pseudonyms in the written paper. Depending upon the scope of the project, you may decide to collaborate with one or two students in the class. In most cases of collaborative work, I would expect a longer paper.

I will work with you in designing the project. If you decide to do a project that involves a review of the literature on a topic of interest to you (e.g., prayer, mysticism, conversion, religious authoritarianism, religion and social behavior, ETC.), then the paper you write must include your own original analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of the information you present. In other words, this is not to be a simple "termpaper" in which you merely regurgitate information.

Another option for the term project is the writing of your spiritual autobiography. Students in the past who have selected this option have found it to be an enormously challenging and rewarding undertaking. The autobiography you write must not only be the story of your own religious and spiritual journey, but it must be grounded in reflection upon what psychologists of religion have learned about the various issues you have personally experienced.

Dr. Pargament has told me that he asks his students to interview persons of their own faith tradition and persons of another faith tradition about religious coping. He reports that his students learn a lot from doing this and you’re welcome to select this as a project, too. The research questions from his "Project on Religion and Coping" are contained in several of his published papers and you are welcome to use and adapt them for your project.

Descriptions of term projects are due on February 24. These should be about a page long, word processed. For all projects except the spiritual autobiography, include a bibliography of works you will be consulting. Include your e-mail address.

4. In-class essays (5 at 5% each): This semester, you will write 5 in-class essays in response to a question I pose to you. You will have 30 minutes to write the essay.

5. Exams (2 at 20% each): There will be an in-class midterm exam (open book and open notes) and a take-home final. Any evidence of plagiarism will result in a grade of F on the exam. You will begin preparing for the final exam on the first day of class when you start to collect examples of religious coping from your own experience, your observations of others, and from the media. The final exam will ask you to analyze these examples in terms of the conceptual framework presented in Pargament’s book.


NOTE # 1: Chapter assignments for Feb. 3-March 12 are from Paloutzian. Assignments from Apr. 2-May 12 are from Pargament.

NOTE #2: On Feb. 19 we will begin discussing religion in childhood. If you know any children whose parents would permit this, please ask them to draw you a picture of God and tell you about it. Then bring the pictures to class.

Feb. 3 Introduction to the psychological study of religion

Feb. 5 The history of the psychology of religion, ch. 1-2

Feb. 10 In-class essay on ch. 1-2; Discussion of term projects

Feb. 12 Meet at the Radford Computer Lab

Feb. 17 The philosophy of science and the study of religion, ch. 3

Feb. 19 In-class essay on ch. 3; Religious development in children, ch. 4

Feb. 24 More about religious development in children, ch. 4; Term project descriptions are due.

Feb. 26 Religion and adolescents, ch. 5 Mar. 3 In-class essay on ch. 5 (focus on adolescence & young adulthood); Religion in adulthood, ch. 5

Mar. 5 Religious conversion, ch. 6

Mar. 10 Religious experiences, ch. 7

Mar. 12 Religious orientation and behavior, ch. 8

Mar. 16-20 spring break

Mar. 24, 26 see WebBoard assignment.

Mar. 31 Midterm exam

Apr. 2 Defining religion and coping, ch. 1-2

Apr. 7 In-class essay (Ch. 1-2); Religious means and ends, ch. 3

NOTE: For the next two classes, bring your notes on your observations of religious coping that you’re collecting in preparation for the final.

Apr. 9 What is coping? Ch. 4

Apr. 14 The flow of coping, ch. 5

Apr. 16 In-class essay (Ch. 4-5); Turning toward religion, ch. 6

Apr. 21 Turning away from religion, ch. 6

Apr. 23 Influences on religious coping, ch. 7

Apr. 28 Holding on, ch. 8

Apr. 30 Letting go, ch. 9

May 5 Term projects due! No reading assignment for the class.

May 7 Outcomes of religious coping, ch. 10

May 12 Failures of religious coping, ch. 11

May 14 Take-home final exam due

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