Term paper

Timeline and criteria of component assignments for the term paper, including the paper itself, reviews of other peoples' papers, and the class presentation. Turn in the assignments by emailing them to me. Unless otherwise specified, assignments are due at midnight at the end of the day. The topic paragraph, summary of two scholarly books, complete draft, and final draft are specific course requirements – failure to complete any of the four will result in failure of the course.

  • Topic paragraph. 5%. Due September 18.
    • The can be about any political issue. Historical topics are fine as long as you can show them to have some relevance to understanding politics today. Your scope may be as wide or narrow as you wish, from a topic that considers the politics of a whole country or region down to a topic about one village or discrete issue, or anything in between.
    • The paragraph will include at least two parts:
      • A brief description of some issue or aspect of politics.
      • A single specific question about the issue, with a question mark.
    • Email your topic to me before the start of class on September 18th.
  • Topic overview. 5%. Due October 2. 
    • At least 3 pages summarizing the history and background of the paper topic.
    • Does not need to be formally sourced.
    • Include the question, the relevant history of the issue, and at least some overview of possible answers.
  • Book review. 5%. Due October 18.
    • Scholarly books are books with a thesis, typically written by a scholar, published by an academic press.
    • Given the time it takes for books to be delivered through the WLRC, you must request at least three or four books during our time in the library on October 2 so that there is enough time for them to arrive and for you to vet them and read through them.
    • Your summary of the book should be at least three pages long.
    • The book summary must include a clear statement of each of the following:
      • The question. What is the puzzle the book is supposed to be addressing?
      • The thesis. What is the author's answer to that question?
      • The evidence. What specific items does the author point to in order to demonstrate that the thesis is correct? This is the longest section of the summary, since hopefully the author will have more than one piece of evidence.
      • The implications. What does the author think we can take away from this book?
  • Bibliographic outline. 10%. Due October 28 25.
    • Paragraph-long summaries and highlights of at least 10 sources related to the research topic, including at least 2 scholarly books and 3 scholarly articles.
    • Scholarly books are books with a thesis, typically written by a scholar, published by an academic press. One of them can be the one from the Oct 18th assignment.
    • Scholarly articles are written in academic journals. See the library guide or me if you have questions about what counts.
    • Each paragraph-long summary must include a clear statement of each of the following:
      • The question. What is the puzzle the book is supposed to be addressing?
      • The thesis. What is the author's answer to that question?
      • The evidence. What is the one most important piece of evidence the author uses to demonstrate that the thesis is correct? Or, if it is a scholarly article, what kind of evidence does the author present? (For example, does the article trace the history of a small number of cases, does it perform an experiment? Is it a survey? Etc.)
  • Term paper draft. 20%. Due November 8.
    • At least 4000 words, using at least 10 sources. Papers include a thesis statement, facts and logic that support the thesis, and a reference section. You must cite at least 10 sources related to the research topic, including at least 2 scholarly books and 3 scholarly articles. Depending on the topic and who presents it, an event you attend in DC can count as a source. Papers will be evaluated based on the criteria below, under "peer reviews."
  • Peer Reviews. 5% each. Due November 12 19 and November 19 25. 
    • Two reviews (5% each) of other student drafts. I will assign papers to review on or shortly after November 8. 
    • You may write up to 2 additional high-quality reviews, for up to 3% in extra credit points each, by contacting me no later than November 26; these additional reviews are due no later than December 6.
    • The format for a review is the same as the format for the book summary but also includes a set of suggestions on each point. That is: 
      • The question. What is the puzzle the paper is supposed to be addressing? Is it stated clearly? Could it be stated better?
      • The thesis. What is the author's answer to that question? Does it make sense given the evidence presented, or could the thesis be restated or narrowed?
      • The evidence. What specific items does the author point to in order to demonstrate that the thesis is correct? Do any of these pieces of evidence not actually support the thesis? Are there missing pieces - claims that need evidence, or other pieces of evidence that would, in principle, help prove the thesis but that the author may not have thought to look for?
      • The implications. What does the author think we can take away from this paper? Do those conclusions actually follow from the logic and evidence?
    • Be nice, but be firm. Other students will benefit most of you clearly tell them where their logic is unclear or misguided, and if you give them specific suggestions. Do not waste time telling people about grammatical errors or formatting issues. Focus on thesis, logic, and evidence.
  • Class Presentation. 5%. December 11 between 9 and 11:30 a.m.  
    • A 10-minute oral presentation, using slides and a formal outline, on the topic of your final paper.
    • Presentations must include a thesis statement and some of the key evidence. 
    • They do not need to follow the same format as the paper, and do not need to use all of the evidence.
    • Be ready for questions.
  • Final draft. 25%. Due December 16. 
    • At least 4000 words, using at least 10 sources.  
    • See assignment for "draft." I will evaluate the papers using the same basic criteria but with a higher standard of quality.