Term paper

Turn in the assignments by emailing them to me. Unless otherwise specified, assignments are due at midnight at the end of the day. The term paper is worth 70% of the course grade, broken down into several parts. Term papers are at least 4000 words long (about 16 pages), and explore in depth a political issue involving one or more countries in Latin America. Components of the assignment are due in several steps, emailed to me. Assignments are due at midnight at the end of the specified day. In general, I mark papers down by 1 point for each day (or any fraction thereof) late, until about half the points are gone. Any paper may be turned in at any point in the semester for up to half-credit. For most assignments, any student who initially turned in the assignment on time may redo the assignment later for up to full credit with only a 1-point penalty (this does not apply to the “initial draft” and “final draft” assignments, which may not be made up).

Topic paragraph. 5%. Due September 20.
Your paper can be about any political issue on the broad theme of the course; at least 50% of the empirical content of your paper must involve politics within the region of Latin America. Historical topics are find as long as you can show them to have some relevance to understanding a Latin American society today. Your geographic scope may be as wide or narrow as you wish, from a topic that considers the region as a whole down to a topic about one city or village, or anything in between. If your paper makes use of comparisons to political systems outside the region, or international ties outside the region, that's okay as long as 50% or more of the empirical content is Latin America. (For example, a paper that compares, say, Brazil and South Korea, and gives equal emphasis to each, would be fine.)
Topics may be motivated in different ways. For example:
      • Particular countries. Take an issue of current importance in the region and explore its background, perhaps by analogy. For example, if you are interested in Venezuelan populism, write a paper about populism generally, and consider comparing contemporary Venezuelan populism with other variants such as in Argentina and Turkey.  
      • Particular issues. Take an issue of general relevance and of interest to you and explore how one or more political systems in (or out) of the region handle it. For example, compare environmental, privacy, gender equity, gay rights, or immigration-related laws or social movements in several different countries. 
      • The specific context of a country. Explore how a particular country (or city, or region) came to be the way it is by tracing the way it has dealt with one or more particular issues. For example, how did the political systems of Argentina and Chile respond differently to opportunities of foreign investment, or how do Brazil and Mexico differ in their policies toward labor unions?
The paragraph does not need to refer to specific sources, and does not need to go in to much background beyond what you would get from a basic Wikipedia article. It should be organized around an empirical question - that is, a question about how the world works as a practical matter (and not about how you think it ought to work, or what choices you think people should make). They should also get at cause and effect relationships in the world, as in “does x cause y?” or “does x have an effect?” or “what causes y?” In other words, the question must be empirical. Hint: questions end with a question mark.

Summaries of three scholarly, social scientific articles. 15%. Due October 4, 11, and 18 October 8, 15, and 22.

A scholarly article has a hypothesis and evidence, and has been published in an academic journal. I very strongly suggest that you check with me first to confirm that the articles you find are appropriate for this assignment, and to talk through ideas about what kinds of articles to look for.

In at least two pages per article describe, as precisely as possible, the following:
      • the research question
      • the hypothesis
      • the key independent variables
      • the dependent variable
      • the units of observation
      • the findings and conclusion
We will go through some examples in class. Your summary must include a complete citation.
Choose articles based on your research question, not based on what you think your case studies might be. (For example: if you are really interested in the Shining Path, find articles about insurgencies and terrorist groups generally; if you are really interested in corruption in Argentina, find articles about corruption generally.)

Literature review. 5%. Due November 4.

Discuss the various ways scholars have addressed your research question. Refer to at least 8 published, social science articles on your topic (those may include the 3 from the previous assignments). Check with me first to make sure that your articles count. The articles should connect to your hypothesis in some way, and do not need to be specifically about Latin America. Explain where scholars have answered questions in similar ways and where they have come up with different answers. When their answers are different, explain why they reached different conclusions (for example, did they use different kinds of evidence, or pose the question differently). Describe the ways scholars have defined and measured their independent and dependent variables, especially when they use the same variables that you do. At least some of the articles should have the same dependent variable as your term paper, and at least some of the articles should have the same major independent variable(s). This assignment is not an annotated bibliography, and it is not a compilation of article summaries. The focus of the review should be on comparisons of different studies. Your review must include complete citations. There is no specific required length, but I expect that the assignment, correctly completed, will be about 5 or 6 pages.

Hypothesis and case study draft. 5%. Due November 11.

A complete statement of your hypothesis and a complete case study of one of your observations. Describe your hypothesis, define your key variables, and explain how you operationalize them. For one of the cases you will use in the term paper, explain your observations of the independent and dependent variables. Minimum 3 pages, and at least 4 references on the content of the case (that is, at least 4 different sources that provide specific information that you used for evidence about the case; these do not need to be scholarly articles).

Initial draft. 15%. Due November 18

Term papers are at least 4000 words long (about 16 pages), and include a thesis statement, facts and logic that support the thesis, and a reference section. You must properly cite at least eight sources, at least four of which must be published academic social science articles. An event you attend in DC can count as one of your sources but cannot count as a published social science article (even if the speaker is a social scientist). Your paper must include, in this order:
  • explanation of previous research
  • research question
  • thesis statement
  • statement of hypothesis
  • at least two cases, each with complete descriptions of a dependent variable and at least one independent variable
  • comparison of cases
  • conclusion
Papers will be evaluated based on the the clarity of the question and thesis and based on the appropriate use of evidence, as well as on clarity of writing.

Class presentation. 5%. As assigned, in December

A 10-minute oral presentation, using slides and a formal outline, on the topic of your final paper, following an assigned format. 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. 20%. Due December 13

I will evaluate the papers using the same basic criteria as the initial draft but with a higher standard of quality. Papers must have a formal title, page numbers, and properly formatted citations. The final paper must be substantially revised from the draft, incorporating suggestions from feedback from the instructor and peers.