17.265 | Spring 2007 | Undergraduate

Public Opinion and American Democracy


Students were required to submit short, weekly papers responding to the assigned readings for the week. In addition, two longer papers were also required for the course. More details about these papers appear below.

Weekly Papers

These essays should try to engage a number of the week’s readings, by, for example, doing one or more of the following:

  • juxtaposing and commenting on alternative explanations or approaches to a substantive topic
  • criticizing the methodologies used and proposing other strategies of research
  • criticizing the conceptualization and/or measurement of a particular construct
  • analyzing the implications of a set of findings
  • suggesting new questions or hypotheses for research
  • developing similarities and contrasts with arguments or research found in the readings from previous weeks

More generally, these papers should contain an argument, not a summary or description of the readings. These papers should be distributed to instructors and class participants by 4:00 pm two days before the scheduled class meeting. I will comment on them and return them at the end of the class session. These essays will serve as the starting point for our discussion.

Short Paper

A short critique of media polls is due during Week 4.

Examples of media polls include those conducted by:

  • ABC News/Washington Post
  • AP/Ipsos
  • CBS News
  • CNN/USA Today/Gallup
  • NBC News/Wall Street Journal
  • FOX News/Opinion Dynamics
  • Newsweek
  • Time

Long Paper

A longer paper is due on the last scheduled day of class during Week 13. This paper should review and interpret relevant literature and/or propose a research project.