Politics and Government 400

Senior Capstone

Spring, 2005

Research Paper

 Students are required to write a 20-25 page research paper on the topic of their choice, as long as it is somehow related to a theme in the course. This is a major research project that will bring together theory, method and require students to utilize research and writing skills.

Selecting a Topic

 The first and perhaps most important step in this process is for students to define a research question. You should look for a puzzle or debate that you want to contribute to. Keep in mind that your topic should take the form of a question you want to answer and that the question must be explanatory rather than prescriptive. In other words, the question, “what should the next president do about America’s security” is inappropriate for this paper. This is not a policy paper but rather an explanatory project.

In order to aid this task, pay attention to the topics we deal with weekly, and the readings themselves. What do the authors attempt to do? How do they set up their task? What is it they are trying to explain? Also take a look at leading journals within subfields of political science in order to get a sense of what kinds of topics people deal with and how they study them.


 There are three graded steps to this project. First, students are to give me a one-paragraph topic by February 15. I will respond to it and students will hand in a revised topic on February 22. An outline and annotated bibliography of at least 10 non-internet sources is due March 15. Completed drafts of final papers are due April 12th at noon.  The final paper is to be handed in (along with a copy of your draft with my comments) on May 3. All of these assignments will be submitted via the digital drop box on Blackboard.

 Students who miss any one deadline will be penalized one-third of one letter grade per day. The 50% grade on the paper is divided into the following:

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