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 60% 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 Western Europe, broadly defined. 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 February 12
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 Western Europe. Historical topics are find as long as you can show them to have some relevance to understanding a Western European 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 Western European. (For example, a paper that compares, say, Brazil and France, 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 French ethnic populism, write a paper about ethnic populism generally, and consider comparing contemporary French populism with other variants such as in Germany, the U.S., and South Korea.  
  • 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 Spain and Greece respond differently to opportunities of foreign investment, or how do Britain and Australia 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 (i.e. non-normative) 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 February 23, March 1, and March 22.

A scholarly article has a hypothesis and evidence, and has been published in an academic journal. We will work on finding scholarly articles during a library session. 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
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 terrorist in France, find articles about insurgencies and terrorist groups generally; if you are really interested in corruption in Greece, find articles about corruption generally.)

Case study draft. 5%. Due April 10.

A complete case study of one of your observations. For one of the cases you will use in the term paper, explain how you observe the independent and dependent variable. The case study must include a specific description of the variables and an explanation of how you operationalize them. Your case study should discuss the direction of cause and effect and the way in which you account for lurking variables. Come talk with me if you aren’t sure how to do this. 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 April 19

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 early May

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 May 14

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.