Short Research Paper

POLS 2305

Spring 2019

Writing is a critical part of any major from political science to biology. In higher level courses, it is not uncommon for a term paper to make up nearly half of your final grade. To help prepare you for this, you will write a short (4-6 page) research project where you use writing to explore a contemporary political issue. This assignment is worth 20 points, broken up over two assignments, or two full letter grades. Since this paper can be the difference between an A and a C, do not take this assignment lightly. You should begin working on this project early and not put it off until the last minute (and yes, we can tell when you write the paper the night before). In your seminar class you will have time to work on this project and also receive help in terms of feedback and access to university support services. Please make use of these opportunities.

Due to the delay in the 2019 State of the Union address because of the government shutdown, we are instead moving to a list of relevant policy areas for this paper. Your seminar professors can give you more information about how you declare your topic.

The list of topics is below. You cannot go off of this list for your paper topic. Please note though, there is a lot of room within each of these topics.

• The conflict in Syria: Withdrawal of troops

• Healthcare: Reforming Obamacare/Medicare for All

• Border Security: A wall? Or something else?

• Immigration: DACA/Undocumented immigrants & pathways to citizenship

• Refuges: Asylum seekers & caravans

• LGBTQIA rights: The rescinding of the military’s transgender policy

• The Economy: Tax breaks or increased taxes on the very wealthy?

First, you will prepare an outline. This outline will tell us what your topic is, why it is worth studying, what your working thesis is, and provide a rough sketch of the paper you plan to write. While this pre-writing may seem silly, it will help you organize your thoughts and build a road map for the paper you will eventually write. Our feedback should be incorporated into the final paper. The outline is worth 5 points and due on February 28, 2019.

Please note, you must turn the assignment in in hard copy in your seminar class and upload it to Blackboard. If you only do one of those, it does not count as turned in.

The final paper is due March 28, 2019 and is worth 15 points, or a letter grade and a half. The paper should draw upon the feedback from your outline. For both assignments, you can find more detailed instructions on the associated handouts.

In writing your paper, you want to address the following questions:

1. What is the topic? (a) Why do we care about the topic?

2. What is the Trump administration’s position on this topic?

3. What do the Democrats say about the topic (probably personified through the Senate or House minority leadership)?

4. What is the Republicans’ position on this topic (probably personified through the Senate or House leadership)?

5. Compare and contrast the various positions you discuss above

6. Using that compare and contrast from above; include a brief bit about how this assignment has changed the way you think about the topic.

I want you to note that this is not an opinion essay. This is, after all, a political science course, emphasis on the second word. You need to objectively lay out what the issue is, what various actors think about it, and what implications that topic has, without engaging in partisan grandstanding. While it can be difficult to not grab the soapbox, it is critical to effective writing.

Your paper should follow your standard five section format (Introduction, three body sections, conclusion). This is like the five paragraph essay, but realize each section will likely need multiple paragraphs. To help you write your paper, each of the prompts has a rubric attached. Also, I encourage you to make use of the library and do not hesitate to ask for help from me or any of the librarians. While we are all very happy to help you, please realize we will be better able to help you early in the semester rather than two days before the paper is due.


Acceptable Newspapers

The New York Times

The Washington Post

The Wall Street Journal

The Dallas Morning News

The Houston Chronicle

Salt Lake Tribune

Boston Globe

LA Times

Chicago Tribune