DR. GOECKEL                                                                                                                                             SUNY GENESEO

Choosing a Topic

    Paper topics may reflect any one of several approaches. The paper may focus on a case study or a comparison of two or more cases. Usually these are demarcated by a time frame and geographic dimension. Some factor distinguishes the case, making it useful for drawing broader generalizations. Of course, single case studies may have unique elements which limit their applicability.

    Alternatively one might focus on a particular issue of a functional nature. The paper would seek to describe and explain the outcomes on this issue, indicating the significance for the broader concerns of the course.

    Finally one might analyze an institution and its role and internal dynamics. In this case the role of various actors in this institution and the institution's role in political conflict would be studied.

    Make sure the topic you choose is do-able in terms of breadth and source material. Optimally it should interest you, as well as be theoretically interesting. Keep in mind that disproving a view or hypothesis is as valid as proving one.

    Students must secure approval from the instructor for the topic. The proposal must be attached to the final paper. Credit will not be given for papers submitted without attached approved proposals.

    Any change in topic must be explicitly approved by the professor and accompanied by a revised proposal and outline.

Paper Proposal

The paper proposal must address five issues.

1. What case/issue/institution do you plan to investigate?

2. What larger topic in the course is this part of?

3. How is the study of this case/issue/institution significant to the broader concerns of the course? Think in terms of theories and concepts introduced in the course. Indicate three ways it is significant.

4. Given your background in the course thus far, what do you expect to find? What hypotheses do you wish to test?

5. Indicate five sources (other than books/articles required in the course; other than Websites) (Check indexes in Library, including on-line Indexes.)


    Start by perusing your textbook(s), which often has a bibliography of additional readings at the end of the chapter or the book. Also the footnotes in relevant sections may provide useful sources. Check the card catalog under key words of your topic. If an author appears to be a specialist, check in the author index for other related writings by him.

    Use the periodical indexes (hardcover and CD-Rom) to find journal articles, certain books and U.S. government documents. These indexes include the Public Affairs Information Service Index, Social Science Index, International Political Science Abstracts, American Statistical Index, Monthly Catalog (US Docs), and Index to U.S. Government Periodicals. On-line searches (e.g., Carl UnCover; Columbia International Affairs Online, Social Science Abstracts, Historical Abstracts, etc.) may also be useful. Also: ABC-Pol Sci; Institute for Scientific Information Citation.

    If Milne does not have an indexed journal or book, order it through the Interlibrary Loan desk (near Reference Desk). Allow sufficient time for fulfillment of the request. Alternatively, use the larger university libraries near home over break.

    Sources providing public opinion data include Public Opinion Quarterly, Public Opinion, and Gallup Opinion Index. Sources of international statistics include UN Statistical Yearbook; Economic and Social Indicators; Department of Commerce Survey of Current Business; IMF Main Economic Indicators; IMF Country Survey; World Handbook of Political and Social Indicators, ed. Charles Taylor and David Jodice.

Research Strategy

    First, read a source which provides a general overview. If a case study, read a brief, neutral, historical account of events for an overview of the case. Other sources for historical chronology: Keesing'sContemporary Archives, Current History (end of each issue), Foreign Affairs (America and the World issue), and New York Times. Weekly newsmagazines, such as Time, Newsweek, and US News and World Report, are acceptable for background only at this stage; they are not scholarly sources and may not be used for citation purposes. Do not use them in the final draft! Another source for overview background reading: International Encyclopedia of Social Science.

    Seek out varying perspectives/interpretations of the case/issue. Read abstracts of journal articles or introduction/conclusion of books to find author's basic argument.

    Seek out additional evidence needed to weigh the various interpretation/perspectives. This may involve relevant statistical evidence, public opinion data, memoirs of decision makers, government documents, among others.

Structure and Organization
Introduction: Several paragraphs indicating the research topic and your approach to the problem. It is crucial that you indicate the significance of topic (see Proposal). Why should the reader read past page 1? Indicate briefly where you intend to take the reader, including a general conclusion. You may get creative and use an anecdote, but not at the expense of indicating the general significance. Discuss nature and extent of the problem, if a policy issue
Body: Provide a brief historical overview of case/institution/issue. If change has occurred, highlight this. Give analysis of case/institution/issue, including explanation of the changes and development. Evaluate which factors are more important, which are less important, which are general contextual factors, and which case-specific. Indicate limitations of your explanation.
Conclusion: Summarize findings, highlighting again the significance for the broader concerns of course. Indicate the limitations of your findings as well.

1. Write using complete sentences. Your creative writing teacher may have thrilled to sentence fragments; I do not. If you cannot locate a subject (explicit or implied) and verb in a sentence, it is a fragment.  Avoid dangling modifiers.   2. Avoid overly long or short paragraphs. They should be no shorter than three sentences, nor longer than 2/3 page. Short paragraphs usually leave readers confused; long ones usually have too much detail, or several different ideas (see point 3).   3. Paragraphs are the building block of papers. They should have their own internal coherence and relation to the paper as a whole. Each paragraph should have only one thesis sentence, or main idea. Usually this is the first sentence, although it is possible to place it last.  All information in the paragraph should relate to and support this thesis sentence. This may take the form of elaboration or explanation of the thesis; it may entail providing an example which illustrates the point. All material extraneous to the point should be removed, either to a separate paragraph or from the paper entirely. Each paragraph should be logically linked to the paragraphs immediately preceding and following it. You should be able to read each thesis sentence of the entire paper in sequence and make sense of the argument. You may wish to try this after your first draft.   4. Transitions provide polish and smooth flow to your paper. These occur in the opening sentence (usually the thesis sentence), indicating the nature of the relation of that which follows to that which precedes the paragraph. Adverbs (or prepositional phrases) usually are used, for example, "despite this," "on the other hand" (indicating contrast) or "moreover," "in addition," (indicating extension of previous idea).  They may also indicate enumeration of items ("first," "second," "finally") or temporal distinctions in a chronology ("initially," "then"). Finally, references to previous material may fill this role (e.g. "These developments explain the political change.")   5. Avoid spelling and usage errors. Use a spellcheck word processing program if necessary. Particularly watch for homonyms. My list of worst offenses includes: their-they're-there; its-it's; capitol-capital; bloc-block; affect-effect. Learn the different meanings of these if you do not already know. Misspelled words which will particularly provoke my wrath include: Great Britain, comparative, independent, sovereignty, and implement. Proper names are capitalized (e.g., Western Europe, the East-West conflict); geographic orientations are not (e.g., western New York).

6. Do not over-employ direct quotes. Only use a direct quote if the exact wording of the idea is crucial to your argument or if it represents a policy pronouncement by a statesman, etc. Direct quotes longer than two lines should be indented and single-spaced.

  7. All ideas not your own must be cited in endnotes. You may be guilty of plagiarism without copying verbatim from a source. Information in the "public domain of knowledge'' need not be cited (e.g., John Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963). If the exposition in an entire paragraph is based solely on one or several sources, use one citation indicating that after the first sentence. If you use statistics, cite the source in the notes or with the table, if used.
Final Copy The final draft should include:

1. Title page: paper title, course, instructor, date.

2. Text: number pages

1" margins all-around, except 2" margin first page top

Citations in superscript, at end of sentence or quote.

3. End or Footnotes (Format see below).

4. Bibliography: See below.

Note:     Correct all "typos," by hand if necessary.  Keep a separate copy of paper (disk) for reasons of safety.

Format of Footnotes

Footnotes should take the form of endnotes. DO NOT PLACE THE NOTES IN THE TEXT ITSELF. Original location of articles and documents taken from the Internet should be used.

For books: 1Michael Bourdeaux, ed., The Politics of Religion in Russia and the New States of Eurasia (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1995)

For journals: 2Robert F. Goeckel, "Church-State Relations in the Post-Communist Era: The Case of East Germany," Problems of Post-Communism vol. 44, no. 1 (January-February 1997), pp. 35-48.

For newspapers: 3The New York Times, 17 January 1989. (If buried on page 73, indicate page number; if major story, not necessary).

For government documents: 4US Congress, Senate Housing Act of 1958, Hearing before a subcommittee of the Committee on Banking and Currency, U.S. Senate, 85:2, on Various Bills to Amend the Federal Housing Laws, May 14, 1958, p. 286.

For Websites: 5http://www.jhu.edu/~aicgsdoc/(name of document, author)

It is necessary to give the full citation on a work the first time it is cited only. Thereafter use the author's family name and page number; if more than one work by that author is cited, indicate the year of that particular publication in parentheses. For example, Bourdeaux, p. 14 and Goeckel (1997), p. 37, to refer to footnotes number one and two above.

Format of Bibliography

For books:

Bourdeaux, Michael, ed. The Politics of Religion in Russia and the New States of Eurasia. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1995. For articles: Goeckel, Robert F. "Church-State Relations in the Post-Communist Era: The Case of East Germany," Problems of Post-Communism vol. 44, no. 1 (January-February 1997).