Research and Writing

Political Science 540a/541b


Bryan Garsten and Nikolay Marinov
Fall 2006 (first eight weeks): Wednesday 3:30-5:20pm

Course Description and Requirements:

The objective of this year-long course is to provide a forum in which students propose, develop, and complete a research project that produces a journal-length paper of publishable quality. This is a required course for all second-year students in the political science program. In order to complete the course and receive credit for both semesters, students must turn in a final draft of the paper on May 15, 2007.

The course meets during the first half of the fall semester and the first half of the spring semester. During the fall semester, students will concentrate on developing a topic, designing the research, and preparing a preliminary draft of the paper. That draft must be turned in to the instructors on January 16, 2007. Students who do not turn in a preliminary draft by that date will not be able to take PLSC 542b.

During the second and third weeks of the fall semester, students will read and discuss a number of articles that represent various sub-fields and analytic approaches. The objective will be to consider how the authors frame their research, how they embed it in a literature, what kinds of evidence they deploy, and what kinds of inferences and conclusions they draw from their analysis. By the end of those two weeks, students will be expected to have made arrangements with a member of the faculty to advise their research. In consultation with the adviser, they will begin formulating the research topic and prepare a two-to-three page proposal that presents the research problem or question, locates it in some of the relevant literature, and describes the research the student plans to undertake.

In the following four weeks, the class will discuss the research proposals. Students should send a copy of the proposal to all members of the class and the instructors by the Monday Noon of the week in which their proposal is being considered. The discussion of each proposal will be started by a lead discussant who will speak for 5-10 minutes on the research design and the analytic and substantive issues raised by the proposal, after which the other members of the class and the instructors will offer their views. After all of the proposals have been discussed, students will continue their research, meeting regularly with the faculty adviser, conducting the research, and preparing the preliminary draft of the paper. All students must submit to the instructors a copy of the proposal that is signed by the faculty adviser, indicating that he or she approves the project as proposed, by November 16, 2006.

During the spring semester, the class will discuss the preliminary drafts. As in the fall, the discussion of each draft will be led by a discussant, after which the other students and the instructors will offer their views. The discussions will concentrate on the organization of the paper, the problem or question with which it is concerned, its presentation and interpretation of data and evidence, the

conclusions, inferences, interpretations, and generalizations it draws, and the clarity of the writing. On the basis of that discussion, and working with their faculty advisers, students will undertake whatever additional research or revision is deemed appropriate and complete the final draft of the paper. That draft must be submitted to the instructors by May 15, 2007.