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Research in the Social Sciences

A detailed guide on how to do research in the social sciences.

Abstracts

An abstract is a summary of your work. For most academic articles, you'll see one at the beginning. You may also need to have one at the start of your project. A good abstract contextualizes your work,  summarizes your methodology, states why your work is unique, and provides conclusions.

Abstract Examples

Mannard, J. G. (2017). “Our Dear Houses Are Here, There + Every Where”: The Convent Revolution in Antebellum America. American Catholic Studies, 128, 2, 1-27. 

This article proposes the concept of a “convent revolution” as a framework for integrating the experience of Roman Catholic sisterhoods into mainstream U.S. history. I argue that four major indicators point to the decades from 1830 to 1860 as the “takeoff” of the convent revolution: 1) American Catholic female religious communities and membership grew at unprecedented rates in this period. 2) Whereas in the years 1790 to 1830 over ninety percent of convent foundations were native in origin, nearly three quarters of new foundations made after 1830 were foreign in origin. 3) In these decades, religious sisterhoods both expanded existing educational works at record rates and introduced numerous new ministries in health and social services. 4) The American public registered heightened awareness of the presence of convents and nuns in their midst, resulting in both negative and positive consequences for the communities of women religious and the larger American Catholic community. These elements of the convent revolution offer striking evidence of not only the profound growth and change experienced by religious sisterhoods but also their substantial role in shaping the American Catholic Church and the larger society and culture in nineteenth-century America. 

 

Davis, E. C. (2019). The Disappearance of Mother Agnes Spencer: The Centralization Controversy and the Antebellum Catholic Church. American Catholic Studies, 130, 2, 31-52. 

Purpose 

Proposes the “centralization controversy” by looking at the case study of the Sisters of St. Joseph.  The “centralization controversy” argues that the leaders of the religious congregations and local bishops each competed for authority and jurisdiction over the local women religious.   

Scope 

Focuses on one case study, the Sisters of St. Joseph.  The Sisters of St. Joseph developed their American missions in 1836.  They expanded throughout the United States, forming a loose confederation of missions. In the 1840s, the Sisters of St. Joseph started to revise their government, trying to centralize authority in the superior of their original motherhouse in St. Louis, coming into conflict with the local bishops, who claimed authority over the houses in local dioceses.  This is particularly true for the diocese of Buffalo, where Bishop John Timon led the charge against the Sisters of St. Joseph.   

Methods 

Conducted primary research in local convent archives.  

Results 

The struggle between the Sisters of St. Joseph in Buffalo and Bishop Timon led to the dismissal of its first mother superior, Agnes Spencer, and the severing of the Buffalo community from the larger congregation.  

Value 

The centralization controversy points to a new method of understanding the institutionalization of the American Catholic Church, placing women religious at the center of this conversation.  

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