Basic Facts

Length: 2500 words, not including bibliography, dbl-spaced, 12-pt font, 1-in. margins.

Prospectus Due: Friday, February 17 @ 5 pm: email to Prof. Nelson
Rough Draft Due: Friday, April 21 @ 5 pm: submit to
Final Draft Due: Thursday, May 18 @ 12 PM: submit to
Total Grade weight:  35 points

You have 2 options

See the User’s Guide to Political Science: “Writing a Class Research Paper”, “The Research Question”, and “Policy Paper”.

Option 1:  Research Paper.

You choose a question about global politics and seek to answer it.  For instance, you might want to answer the following question:  “Why did the United States choose to invade Iraq?”

A research paper, then, is focused on explanation.

Option 2:  Policy Paper.

You choose a question about the appropriate foreign policy for a country.  For instance, you might want to answer the following question:  “Should the United States cease all military involvement in Iraq?”

A policy paper, then, is focused on prescription.


Worth 2 points.

Due Friday, February 17 at 5 pm.

See User’s Guide to Political Science, “Research Proposal or Prospectus”

Length:  1 page


In your prospectus, you must do the following things:
1.  State the main research or policy question you plan to answer. The question must be the first sentence of your prospectus or the title.
2.  Briefly explain why it is important.
3.  Briefly summarize possible alternative answers to the question.
4.  List at least 4 sources that you plan to use from outside of class.

Rough Draft

Worth 3 Points

Due April 21 @ 5 pm

We will do peer editing.

General Paper Guidelines

The paper should address a question about global politics.
In writing the paper, you must do the following things:

  1. The question must be the first sentence of your paper or the title.
  2. Clearly articulate a central question.
  3. Clearly articulate your answer to the question.  These are argumentative papers.
  4. Explain the significance of the question.
  5. Support your answer.
  6. Evaluate alternative answers.
  7. Use at least 4 outside sources: 1 book, 1 academic article, 1 news article, 1 primary source (see note on sources below)
  8. Use at least 2 sources from class readings.
  9. Use concepts from the course.  For example:
    • balance of power
    • security dilemma
    • norms
    • compliance
    • vulnerability interdependence
  10. Bibliography (Does not count as part of your page count.)
    1. Alphabetical and formatted properly!
  11. Formatting: Include page numbers, use a title, and use headings to separate sections of the paper.


Your outside references can come from the following:

  • Books
  • Academic Journals (articles from political science or public policy journals are likely to be most relevant)
  • Newspapers (it is suggested that you stick to major national papers such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal)
  • Magazines (again, use major magazines, such as Newsweek or The Economist)
  • Primary sources: Government documents, for instance.

DO NOT use these sources:

  • Wikipedia
  • Web content which is not from one of the suggested published sources listed above

How to cite your sources


See: “User’s Guide to Political Science”

On Writing

All Essays: Some Writing Guidelines for Political Scientists

On Policy Papers. There is no “one way” to do it, but the following websites might prove useful:

More General Advice on Writing

Paper Structure

See User’s Guide to Political Science, “Outline and Structure”


My Grading Criteria