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Katie Falvo ’11

History, Secondary Education  |  York Haven, Pa.

“Shinto as a Medium for Political Evolution: The Syncretization of Foreign and Domestic Belief Systems in the Formation of the Japanese State”

Katie FalvoThe Paper:

In my essay, I look at the evolution of the Japanese political system. I argue that the unique combination of domestic and foreign belief systems that contributed to the stability of the Japanese Empire depended on the ability of the original indigenous Japanese beliefs, that is, Shinto, to incorporate other philosophic and cosmological ideas.

I became interested in this topic in the Modern East Asian History course I had with Dr. Wong. As we studied the political structure of the country, I became curious about its foundations. When I realized the study of political evolution is closely tied to religious and philosophical beliefs, I saw an interesting opportunity to explore how different ideologies form and maintain political stability.


The Sponsor: Kwok Wong, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of history

Dr. Wong directed me towards the best sources to begin my research, helped me make a timeline that suited my individual learning style as well as my topic and provided me with detailed feedback and suggestions for every draft I turned in. He really encouraged me to write this paper individually but was always available when I needed support.


The Process:

I began research with very expansive materials such as textbooks that briefly recapped the era I was trying to cover. From those sources, I gained knowledge of other primary and secondary source documents that allowed me to delve much more specifically into my topic. After reading many of these sources, I was able to choose a general direction and thesis. 

From there, the thesis guided my research, and as I learned more I was able to form an outline. As I read, I placed supporting quotes and primary source references within that outline. After this exoskeleton was complete, I wrote my paper around it.


The Reward:

This paper has taught me a great deal. I purposely chose a topic I knew little about, and I’ve gained a significant amount of factual knowledge. More importantly, I believe the project has helped me to become a better researcher. This process has taught me that a structured method of research is essential to a structured paper.

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