Term Paper

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 South Asia. 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 30.
    • 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 South Asian region (defined as India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka). Historical topics are find as long as you can show them to have some relevance to understanding a South Asian 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 South Asian.  
    • 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 Narendra Modi's brand of nationalism, write a paper about nationalism generally, and consider comparing contemporary Indian nationalism with nationalism in Germany, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the United States.  
      • Particular issues. Take an issue of general relevance 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 India and Bangladesh respond differently to opportunities of foreign investment, or how do India and Sri Lanka 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 a positive (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. See these or these questions as examples of appropriate questions in political science. The paragraph should end with a specific question. Hint: questions end with a question mark.
  • Summaries of three scholarly articles. 10%. Due October 10.
    • A scholarly article has a hypothesis and evidence, and has been published in an academic journal. We will work on finding scholarly articles during the library session on October 2. I very strongly suggest that you check with me first to confirm that the articles you find are academic.
    • In about two pages per article - about six pages altogether - 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
  • Summaries of two scholarly books. 10%. Due October 29.
    • A scholarly book has a hypothesis and evidence, and has been published by an academic publisher. A scholarly monograph is a book with a thesis, typically written by a scholar (or a small team of scholars), published by an academic press. Edited volumes – books in which each chapter is written by a different person or team – do not count. We will work on finding scholarly books during the library session on October 9. I very strongly suggest that you check with me first to confirm that the books you find are going to be useful for you. 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 so that there is enough time for them to arrive and for you to vet them and read through them. Your summaries should be along the same lines as the summaries of the articles (see above) but you should go into more depth discussing the evidence that the authors present.
  • Case study draft. 5%. Due November 19.
    • A complete case study of one of your observations. The case study must include a specific description of the variables and a discussion of how you operationalize them. It should reference at least three sources on the subject of the case study (these do not need to be scholarly books or articles). If applicable, your case study should discuss the direction of cause and effect and the way in which you account for lurking variables. This case study should end up being part of your term paper and a template for other cases in the paper.
  • Initial draft. 15%. Due November 30.
    • 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. The thesis must be a non-normative, falsifiable statement with one dependent variable and at least one independent variable. You must cite at least 10 sources related to the research topic, including at least 2 scholarly books and at least 5 scholarly articles. Other sources can be government documents, non-academic or popular reports, or content from an event you attend at a university, think tank, or government agency in DC. 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. I strongly suggest that students meet with me more than once while developing their papers. 
  • Final draft. 20%. Due December 20.
    • Same as above, but held to a higher standard. Final drafts should be substantially revised versions of the initial draft.
  • Class presentation, sometime between December 8 and the final day of class. 5%. 
    • 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.
      • POL 380, Presentation assignment


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