The Final Hurdle

This Saturday marked the final colloquium for the 2018-2019 Ramonat Seminar. I was so excited to share my research with my family, peers, panelists, and instructors.

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 12.08.15 AMMy final presentation reflected a timeline that I established in my paper. My slides showed photos of articles from before and after Humanae Vitae’s release. My main argument here was that the majority of student opinion remained the same over time; that students wanted change in birth control doctrine in the Church. My research illustrated how both men and women at DePaul, Loyola and Mundelein were local representations of Vatican and universal debates among Catholics.  My analysis of student reporting led me to conclusions about how students interacted with Church doctrine on campus with Jesuit and non-Jesuit faculty. I was glad to answer questions from the crowd and engage with people who were interested to learn more about my topic. At the end of the afternoon, I felt so thankful for the honorary mention from the judges.

This past year was such a wonderful experience for me. I gained many insights on Chicago Catholicism and Chicago politics in general. This blog shows a large amount of the work and various topics involved in this class that I can now look back at in my future ahead. I intend on revisiting this paper later in my academic career so that I can build from the work I accomplished this year. Looking back on the Open House and Saint Sabina trips, I learned so much more about the city I live in and the Catholic population as a scholarly topic. Last, I am grateful to Dr. Shermer and Ruby for their guidance throughout this year. This class made me a much stronger writer, a more confident speaker, and a more engaged member of the Loyola community. 

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Revisions, Revisions, Revisions…

The revising process was (and continues to be) slow and steady. While the semester comes to a close and Easter break approaches, it was not always easy to find long periods of time to revise as much as I would have liked to. Instead, I found smaller increments of time over the last week to rearrange my ideas and address the comments from my peers and instructors.

As of now, I am trying to work from general ideas to more specific conclusions throughout my project. It is quite difficult to do this because, throughout the first draft, I would often lead-in with a sentence about the schools themselves. The peer review and instructor feedback helped me to realize that I should begin with a general idea and then work my way inward.  I am also frustrated with revising my thesis and introduction to match with my conclusion. I am not yet at the point where I can switch them and have a cohesive paper, so there is still more work ahead for my narrative.

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A bird’s eye view of me editing and referring to comments from previous drafts.

 

After adding a large portion of my revisions, it admittedly felt great to observe all of the progress that I made since when the first draft was due. I found myself omitting certain paragraphs to make room for more pertinent ideas. In addition, I reframed many of my introductory sentences to be less wordy. This topic sentence exercise allowed me to better break up my ideas and unpack more interpretations from the students and scholars of the time. My main goal is for my project to reflect a fluid and concise story from the 1960s to today.

Professor Shermer told us many times that editing and revising takes up more time than writing the paper itself. I can now attest to this fact. Likewise, I learn how each draft comes with even more revisions. This whole process opened my eyes to the importance of knowing your own writing style and your areas of improvement. Revising a twenty-page paper is no small task, but my detail-oriented work ethic is ready for the challenges ahead.

Feedback and Peer Reviews

I was delighted to receive feedback on my first draft. All of the notes and edits provided me with the guidance that I needed going forward. Especially with a paper of this length, it is difficult to reread your own work at the same level as someone with fresh eyes on the paper. It is equally difficult to recruit friends who are even willing to read over twenty pages of academic writing. I did not even register most of my mistakes as I was writing, so constructive feedback helped me identify my weaknesses and strengths.

Dr. Shermer and Ruby gave me great comments about reorganizing and omitting certain paragraphs. After leaving my draft alone for a few days and reading their comments, it felt nice to go back to it and know what I needed to do for the final draft. I am currently working on restructuring my paper so that it starts with more general ideas and then goes into more specific arguments. I also reread each of my topic sentences and finetuned them to make them less redundant and more concise.

Another great resource came from my Ramonat peer, Kristin, who kindly reviewed an edited version of my first draft last week. When we met, we first discussed the content and intentions of our papers. Then, we traded papers, and read each other’s papers aloud. It felt weird hearing her orate my project, but it also gave it a breath of fresh life. I read my own words in certain tones in my head as I write, and her interpretation sounded much different. I could also recognize my own errors and the room for improvement in certain areas. Reading Kristin’s paper was likewise interesting because her paper takes place in the 1920s with Catholic women. I think that our papers connected really well with one another, telling how women interacted with the Church over time. Below you can watch a video of me reading her paper to her.

 

As this semester winds down, the clock is ticking to finish and touch-up the details of my paper. My plan in the weeks ahead is to continue with the process of reorganization and write a few more paragraphs to better establish the introduction and conclusion. Afterward, I will ensure that the paper flows together and actually addresses my thesis. I will then switch my introduction and conclusion, which is a recommendation from our classes on editing and revisions. Last, my process will include looking back at all of the comments from my peers and instructors to see if I have properly answered their suggestions. I intend to get a few more versions in before the final draft so that it is in good shape. With only two weeks left, I hope that I can meet these goals and build from the ideas in my first draft.

 

Finishing the First Draft

The process of writing the first draft was both challenging and invigorating.  My first strategy was to set goals for myself and follow my outline. However, early on, I realized that I was not necessarily writing the paper that I thought I was. Ideas–such as 1960s marriage ideals–sidetracked my anticipated progress. Surprisingly, I achieved the majority of my work later in the day than I usually do for research papers. Finally,  to edit and remind myself of where I was exactly going, I printed out my paper in a different font and reread it. This step really helped me see the gaps in my argumentation and where to add other primary sources.

I felt most satisfied when I was able to link previous points into the next paragraph because I could see a narrative unfolding. Sometimes a random idea would take me somewhere really valuable and unexpected. Other times, I would reread a paragraph and register that it was not at all pertinent to my thesis. It was hard to keep trudging forward during these moments of self-doubt, but I felt accomplished after turning in the draft, no matter the imperfections.

 

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Changes in scenery helped re-motivate me. (Taken at Hero Coffee in the Loop)

 

At the same time, I was frustrated because I found myself doing some last-minute research to build more complexity and credibility. I regret not taking more time over break to find more primary sources, but fortunately, the digital archives and Cudahy Library were available at my disposable. Additionally, I did not particularly enjoy doing last-second touch-ups and edits the day that the first draft was due, but I knew that sticking to my detail-oriented writing methods would be important to save myself from more work later on.

I am aware that there will be more struggles ahead before I turn in a final draft and present my ideas at the symposium. I mainly need to edit myself to better connect Humanae Vitae (1968) to Roe v. Wade (1973). Furthermore, there are areas where I need to stop combining two ideas into one so that my project is more concise. Last, I need to develop my concluding paragraphs so that the ending is less abrupt. Nonetheless,  I am confident with what I have so far, and I will fix these mistakes and more within the final weeks. I am also expecting to gain even more progress after completing the peer review exercise.

Through writing this first draft, I learned about the lengths that I can go and cannot go before needing to take a moment for myself. Simple things such as a change in scenery made a huge difference in how I wrote and approached different topics. After taking a few days off from writing, I am now in a great headspace to begin the process of editing and finish the last few pages.

The First Pages

These last few weeks, I worked on the introduction and debut pages of my research project on Humanae Vitae and Catholic students due in April. Beginning to write the first pages of my paper was both challenging and rewarding.  This project is unlike any coursework I have done before, so naturally, there has been a bit of a learning curve at times. With more work ahead of me, I feel energized to continue on and reflect on what I have accomplished.

A few of the difficulties that I encountered were mostly related to narrative-building and elaborating on my ideas. In class, we read an article by Meg Jacobs as a model to use for inspiration when seamlessly incorporating primary and secondary sources into our arguments. When I began writing about the college newspapers that I found through my research, I struggled to emulate Jacobs’ style. With primary documents being central to my work, I know that I will have to find a way to express and reinterpret all of these rich sources from the 1960s.

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Some of my fabulous sources from the Cudahy Library!

 

Another issue that occurred while I wrote the first paragraphs was sticking to the one-point rule. This rule essentially states that each paragraph should cover one topic that is relevant to the thesis. I tend to connect one idea to another, and I frequently found myself reviewing my work to separate one paragraph into two or three. I am improving on this since last semester, but I am still adjusting to this method. I am aware of my mistakes so far, and I embrace the challenges ahead in academic writing.

I admit that it was difficult to jump right into writing rather than going to class and discussing with others. However, I think that working individually helped me get to know my sources and be able to communicate that in my paper. Essentially, I noticed that my ideas evolved from research into my own thoughts, which felt fulfilling. Unlike a typical undergraduate paper, the seminar gave me an opportunity to find my own historical sources and reflect on them in my own way.

Furthermore, I gained so many positive and satisfying insights after turning in the first chunk of my paper. I think that all of my research has paid off because I now have many sources to draw from when I write. All of the time-consuming research from the past semester made it easier for me to synthesize my ideas into a historical perspective.

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A sample of Professor Winling’s Chicago Election Project, data from 1936.  (via Twitter)

Last Wednesday, class convened to see Professor Winling speak about his research on mapping Chicago politics. His presentation gave me some ideas to consider for when I present my research at the Symposium in April. Although I tend to stay away from data and numbers, Professor Winling’s research was irrefutable because of his historical in-depth analysis of voter data in Chicago. Since my research involves three different Catholic universities in Chicago, it may be a good idea to use a map and show how Rogers Park and Lincoln Park were politically different. In fact, I sourced census data from 1960 to show how racially diverse these neighborhoods were at the time. Drawing from Professor Winling’s presentation, I could incorporate maps and data into my own presentation to strengthen my argument and effectively demonstrate my research to my peers and others.

These past weeks were both exciting and stressful, but turning in the first pages gave me an encouraging feeling of relief. In addition, feedback from Ruby and Professor Shermer helps with the writing process because I can go back and change things as I am working on it instead of editing everything at the end. I intend to set more goals for myself to accomplish so that I can find a balance of writing and reviewing before I turn in the first draft next Monday.

 

Researching, Note-Taking, and Academic Writing

These last few weeks, I have gathered a number of sources to look through for my paper on the Catholic Church and birth control in Chicago. Additionally, I found myself more focused on the debates surrounding Humanae Vitae, as it remains a divisive document among Catholics. Some theologians lauded the encyclical for its insights on human dignity and the Catholic family. Other scholars and parishioners were more apprehensive of birth control restrictions, viewing it as a personal choice. Furthermore, I am currently trying to flesh out whether or to what extent the Catholic church played a role in legislation leading up to Roe v. Wade. While my research questions in my last post are of course still relevant, I have naturally found other topics to look into. This blog will exhibit what I have been working on thus far, in addition to interpreting the structure of scholarly writing.

Primary Source

 

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The Skyscraper: November 16th, 1966

 

 One source that struck me when I looked through the digital archives for the Mundelein College newspaper, The Skyscraper, was an article about Planned Parenthood visiting campus. This article–published two years before Humanae Vitae–highlighted the future problems between contraceptives and Church doctrine. The article mentioned several common points that have been discussed in other documents; such as population control, economic stability, and the effectiveness of the rhythm method compared to the pill. I think that this article offered a straight-forward reporting of the session, and I plan to use it to set the scene for debate in my paper.

My Notes

Below I have attached a page of notes on the article.

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General Research Report

Although I have not met with any specialists in the field about this topic, I have sent emails to a few archivists of Catholic colleges in Chicago. Unfortunately, St. Xavier lost all of their copies of their student newspaper from the 1960s. Moreover, I intend to visit and sort through Wheaton College’s newspaper The Record later this month. This week, I will reach out to the Hank Center about finding an alumnus to speak to about birth control on Loyola’s campus.

Outlining Scholarly Articles

This week, the class was assigned to read and outline a scholarly journal article concerning the Office of Price Administration during World War II. Below is my outline, using Cornell Notes as a template.

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Reflecting on Academic Writing

Historian Meg Jacobs’ article helped me understand what the expectations are for my own work and how to properly structure a research paper of this length. The longest paper I have written at this point in my academic career was about 12 pages long.  I noted how Jacobs’ 30-page article clearly articulated the introduction, the thesis, the evidence to support her arguments, and the conclusion. Ensuring that each section is distinct from the next will be relevant once I start to write and structure my paper.

In order to write a paper similar to Jacobs’ article, I intend to follow the one-point rule. Each paragraph will explain and tease out one point. In previous research papers, I erroneously included as much information I could fit in one long paragraph. This article helped me recognize that breaking up evidence and sources will help me illustrate a story. Similar to a novel, Jacobs’ article painted a portrait using rising action, climax, and falling action. In closing, analyzing other scholarly work was beneficial because I feel more aware of the work ahead in order to present a compelling and organized paper.

 

Posing Research Questions

 

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Photo via Catholic Family News.

Last week, I shared a broad blueprint of my ideas for my final project. Essentially, my research topic involves young people’s reactions to Humanae Vitae in 1968. Feedback from my professor and peers led me to narrow down my topic within the metropolis of Chicago. Last semester, we learned about how Chicago was one of the main sites of social movements in 1968, especially seen through the events at the Democratic National Convention. Moreover, Chicago is an overwhelmingly Catholic city, built by Catholic charities and nuns. Due to the importance of local politics, I plan to focus on the diverse responses of Catholic students in Chicago. I believe that through the lens of Chicago and the Loyola community, I will reveal personal experiences that may relate to the larger discussion of birth control. This week, I constructed five research questions that I think will lead me to meaningful discoveries and arguments in my paper.

 

  1. What was the role of Chicagoan college students in the rejection or acceptance of Humanae Vitae? 
  2. How did responses differ between various Chicago universities? For instance, did DePaul students hold different perspectives than Loyola students?
  3. How did young minorities in Chicago (African American, Asian, Latinx) grapple with the terms of Humanae Vitae compared to Irish and white Catholics? Is there an intersectional or socioeconomic aspect to the topic of birth control that should be considered?
  4. Why were young women and men supportive or not supportive of Humanae Vitae? What is the evidence given against and for birth control restrictions?
  5. Finally, what is the significance of Humanae Vitae on the political dialogue in 1968 and today? Fifty years later, what are the legacies of Humanae Vitae on Chicago and United States politics?

As for sourcing my research, I intend to search through the Mundelein Women and Leadership Archives and the Loyola newspaper archives. Additionally, I would like to gain access to the newspaper archives from other Chicago universities, such as Benedictine University or Saint Xavier University to observe how students from other backgrounds may have reacted to Humanae Vitae. Analyzing the language used by Pope Paul VI in the encyclical itself may offer insights and inspiration for my project. I could also find an alumnus who lived through Chicago 1968 (perhaps a panel speaker from the Global ’68 Symposium) and interview him or her about the ramifications of Humanae Vitae on their life. I am aware that some of my questions, such as 2 and 5, might be better answered by secondary sources or other historians. Nevertheless, I look forward to determining how many conclusions I can make from primary documents and university newspapers.