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.
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.
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.|
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.
1. Title page: paper title, course, instructor, date.
2. Text: number pages
Citations in superscript, at end of sentence or quote.
4. Bibliography: See below.
Note: Correct all "typos," by hand if necessary. Keep a separate copy of paper (disk) for reasons of safety.
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