17.20 | Fall 2020 | Undergraduate

Introduction to the American Political Process


Paper 1

This paper should be 1,000–1,500 words / 4–6 pages. The first draft is due during lecture 9 and is worth 5% of the course grade. The final draft is due during lecture 17 and is worth 20% of the course grade. 

For more information, see Paper 1 (PDF).

Student Example

Paper 1 example (PDF) (Courtesy of MIT student.)

Paper 2

This paper should be 1,000–1,500 words / 4–6 pages. The first draft is due for peer review during lecture 20.  The final draft is due (along with peer review comments) during lecture 24 and is worth 25% of the course grade.

For more information, see Paper 2 (PDF).

Student Example

“Dysfunction in Congress: Symptoms, Causes and Solutions.” (PDF) (Courtesy of Ronak Roy.)

Reading Responses

For six class sessions of your choice (starting with lecture 3: Representation and Responsiveness), you will write a short response paper (500 words / 1–2 pages) that analyzes an issue or event in the recent news through the lens of that session’s readings. Imagine you are a professional political scientist who has been called to comment on the story with your expert opinion, make an argument, and refer directly to the relevant research you’ve read for that class.

The short response papers are due before the start of class on the day to which you are responding, and are worth 15% of the course grade.

Oral Presentation

Each student is expected to prepare one oral presentation in their recitation section on a class of their choosing; ideally, a response paper should be written for that class. This should take about 12–15 minutes total, and should include a summary of the student’s response paper as well as a brief group discussion. Specifically, the presentation should:

  • Inform the group about an issue in the news or current political debate
  • Relate that issue to the relevant reading(s)
  • Offer an analysis of the issue through the lens of those readings
  • Lead the group in a brief discussion by asking one or two open-ended questions

You are welcome but by no means obligated to prepare slides or other materials if they would assist you in your presentation. A reasonable allocation of time is 2/3 presentation and 1/3 discussion, but this is not a strict rule. On days when you are not presenting, please help your colleagues by engaging with their questions. The presentations—both your own and your participation in others’—contribute to your recitation grade.

Recitation attendance and oral participation is worth 10% of the course grade.

Note: All examples appear courtesy of MIT students and may be anonymous by request.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2020
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Exams with Solutions
Written Assignments with Examples