This section features instructions for the discussion paper, observation paper, and term paper.
Write one short paper on the readings for one of the weeks. Please choose one of the weeks during the first week of class.
This paper is due Tuesday morning, 10 a.m., of the week about which the paper is written. The paper should engage what you feel to be an interesting political question raised in the readings. The paper should be 3 to 4 pages long, double spaced, 12 points, 1 inch margins. Send the paper to me and to all other students in the class electronically. I will use these to open conversation about the week's topic. During your week I expect you to help lead discussion. The paper will be graded on your writing and analysis and your participation during that week.
Your paper should critically analyze the readings assigned for the week you have chosen. Your aim is to show that you have not only read the selections but have something thoughtful to say about them.
- Write something that is recognizably yours. You can integrate two or more of the arguments in the readings, showing how they are similar and different. Or you can dissect and criticize those arguments. When writing about readings that do not contain clear arguments, you can construct an argument of your own from the description in the reading. In any case, make it easy for the reader to understand where the evidence or arguments in the readings end and your analysis begins.
- Be sure to make your main point absolutely clear in the first paragraph of the paper. Underline or bold your thesis statement if that helps you. Choose one that can be summarized easily in one sentence. Use the first paragraph to lead up to your thesis statement. This paragraph is your chance to convey the payoff from your paper. It should explain why your thesis is interesting and why it makes sense.
- Think of the paper as a series of paragraphs that sequentially build your main point. Each paragraph should contribute a distinct sub-point. A reader should be able to read the topic sentence of each paragraph in sequence and understand the main argument of the paper. A smooth transition between one paragraph and the next rests on the first sentence of each paragraph. Make these sentences into elegant linchpins of your argument.
- Avoid unsubstantiated assertions of fact. When you make a claim, provide evidence to persuade your reader that your claim is true.
- Beware of unduly vague statements. For example, in a paper about race, avoid an introduction such as "race is an important problem in American politics." Instead, specify what makes race an interesting problem in light of that week's topic.
- When citing a reading, provide the author's last name in parentheses, including relevant page numbers for a specific fact or point. For example, to cite a point or a fact found in Foner's page 45: (Foner, 45). However you choose to cite the readings, remember that the most important rule is to do it, and the second most important rule is to do it consistently.
- Avoid awkward sentences. Choose your words carefully. Check your spelling and punctuation. You may consult any standard reference on grammar and language use (C. W. Strunk and E. B. White's Elements of Style, Diana Hacker's A Pocket Style Manual, or Joseph M. Williams' Style: Toward Clarity and Grace ).
- Use a size 12 Times New Roman font, double space, and leave one-inch margins. Number all pages, and staple faithfully. Please, no binders.
The paper should be 3 to 4 pages long and on a topic related to your term paper. Please submit your paper by the end of Week 7.
For those of you who writing on a particular race, I suggest that you pick a particular policy issue in that race, such as illegal immigration or Iraq. In the observation paper due next week, first write about the context of the race and the issue. Think about it as the part of the first sections of the term paper. Some of the questions you might want to address are as follows:
- Why is the issue of particular interest in your state or district?
- What is the strategy behind emphasizing the issue? Why does one or both think they benefit from having the issue on the agenda?
- If the seat is open, does the state or district usually vote Democrat or Republican? If there is an incumbent, why is he or she in trouble?
- What has happened in the polls over the last few months? (Providing a figure with the poll results you find in newspaper articles would be great!)
- If the policy issue on which you are focusing is less well known, provide some background on the policy.
- Most importantly, what did you learn and what did you find interesting while reading about this race?
In providing the context, try to connect your observations about the issue and the race to the class readings, such as Schattschneider's discussion of agenda control or issues of collective action. I would suggest reading about 10 sources, such as newspaper articles or web sites. Finally, I'm not expecting an argument for the observation paper, but as with all academic writing, it should well-organized.
When searching for articles about your race, I would suggest the following sources:
For those of you writing on another topic, I would suggest using the paper next week as a research proposal. You should be answering these questions:
- What hypotheses do you hope to test?
- What is the motivation for testing these hypotheses? That is, who cares?
- What data will you gather and examine?
- How will you analyze the data?
- What are the main alternative explanations for any findings? Can you address them?
- What conclusions do you hope to draw?
A 15-page research paper that builds off the observation paper on one of the topics distributed in class. I expect you to choose a topic and inform your TA by the end of Week #6. You will work in recitation on how to research and write your paper. You are required to submit a paper outline by end of Week #8 and a rough draft by the end of Week #10. We will give you comments on your draft so that you can rewrite the paper and turn it in by the end of Week #14.
For those writing on a particular race, successful papers in past years have explored the impact of a policy issue on a race and then the effect of the election outcome on that policy in the House or Senate. These papers tend to be exploratory and do not test a particular hypothesis. You might use the following layout for the paper: One section describes the role of the policy issue in the race, one section might give background on the policy, such as its current status in the House floor in the judiciary, another section might describe the election outcome's effect on the policy. For example, does the election outcome affect committee memberships in such a way as to change the policy? Since we will not be covering the House and Senate until November, you might want to hold off writing the last section until after you have submitted the draft.