Research Project

Research Project (60% of total grade).

As a class you will be divided into several groups  I will group you according to general subjects, based on your individual research projects.  Examples of grouping may include: “China in Africa”, or “the International Dimensions of Development in Africa”. Each group will undertake a different large-scale research project.   You will be graded both for your individual effort and for the group’s effort.  The final result of each project should resemble a book with at least 2 general parts:

  • Your individual research papers. This will be the bulk of the printed manuscript
  • One or two chapters written collectively that summarize and react to your individual research papers. This could take a variety of forms including one or both of the following:
    • An Introduction to the book
    • A Conclusion to the book
  • Optional:  You could additionally include a brief Executive Summary for the project.

Part One:  Individual Requirements for the Research Paper (40%)

Length: 20 – 25 pages, double-spaced, 12-point font, 1-inch margins.
Research Description Due: Friday January 29
Annotated Bibliography: Tuesday February 9 16
Narrative Description of Project: Thursday March 4
Rough Draft Due: beginning April 15 OR 1 DAY prior to group presentation
Final Draft is Due as Part of Entire Group Project: Thursday, May 13 @ 5 pm

A. Research Description Directions (2%)

You will prepare a one-page description of your proposed research question.  The question should be substantively interesting and relevant.  Moreover, it should be a question that can be answered using evidence, given the time and resource constraints of the course.  You should be prepared to discuss your question during the class session.

1.    1 to 1½  pages.
2.    Include the following information:

a.    State the main research or policy question you plan to answer.
b.    Briefly explain why it is important.
c.    Briefly summarize possible alternative answers to the question.
d.    List 2 sources you might use

3.    Email the research description to the professor.
4.    Due FRIDAY, January 29

B. Annotated Bibliography Directions (2%)

You will prepare a 2-3 page annotated bibliography listing sources relevant to the research you will conduct to answer your research question.  Some of these sources will be academic articles; others may be policy reports, quantitative data sets, or interviews you plan to conduct.  The bibliography is due to me before class, and you should be ready to talk about the sources you have identified and the types of information you are finding during the seminar.

1.    2 – 3 pages
2.    See information below on proper research sources and source requirements for the project.
3.    Email the annotated bibliography to the professor.
4.    Due TUESDAY, February
9 16

C. Narrative Description of Project Directions (3%)

You will prepare a 3 – 5 page narrative description of the evidence you have gathered.  This should include a clear specification of the dependent variable you wish to explain.  It should highlight what is puzzling about the evidence you observe and what data supports your claim.  A strong narrative description will conclude with some thoughts about the factors that might explain the patterns you have found.

1.    3 – 5 pages.
2.    Define dependent variable/outcome/phenomenon of interest.
3.    Discuss evidence and possible explanations.
4.    Email the narrative description to the professor.
5.    Due THURSDAY, March 4

D. Rough Draft Directions (3%)

1.  Email the professor one copy.
2.  Due 1 DAY prior to group presentations at end of semester.
3.  OR, you can turn in as early as April 15. I will only fully comment on ONE draft, however.


Option 1:  Research Paper.
You choose a question related to the course and seek to answer it.  For instance, you might want to answer the following question:  “Why did the United States fail to intervene during the Rwandan genocide?”

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 send troops to stop the violence in Darfur?”

A policy paper, then, is focused on prescription.

Option 3: Something Creative. But you need to talk to me about it soon!

General Paper Guidelines

The paper should address a question about Africa in world politics.

In writing the paper, you must do the following things:
o    Clearly articulate a central question.
o    Clearly articulate your answer to the question.  These are argumentative papers.
o    Explain the significance of the question.
o    Support your answer.
o    Evaluate alternative answers.
o    Use at least 8 outside sources (see note on sources below)
o    Use at least 1 source from class readings.
o    Use concepts from the course.  For example: patrimonialism, norms, liberal peace theory
o    Include a reference section (Does not count as part of your page count.)

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

DO NOT use these sources:
1.    Wikipedia
2.    Web content which is not from one of the suggested published sources listed above

If you have a question about a source, just ask!

How to cite your sources:
You must use in-text parenthetical citations according to the author-date system described by the Chicago Manual of Style. Directions on citations can be found here:

Part Two: Group Project (20%)

Due Dates

Group Rough Draft: Due 1 DAY prior to group presentation
Group Presentation:  Date varies; during last weeks of class.
Group Final Draft:  May 13 @ 5 pm
Assessment of Group Effort Due: May 14 @ 5 pm

A. Written Work: Introduction OR Conclusion (10%)

1.  10 pages minimum
2.  Grade includes completion of a rough draft.
3.  Should include the following information, at a minimum:

  • Statement of why the overall project/issue is important
  • Very brief (paragraph or less) summaries of the individual chapters
  • Discussion of how the individual chapters relate to each other that may include:
    • Statements of key overall findings
    • Analysis of similarities and differences among the chapters
    • Suggestion for possible future directions for research.

B. Group Presentation (10%)

  1. Will last at least 40 MINUTES.
  2. Purposes:
    1. Practice at public speaking
    2. Chance to get feedback from classmates before finalizing final draft of the project
    3. Chance for us to learn from each other

C. Assessment of Group Effort Directions (part of group project grade)

1.    1 – 2 pages
2.    Assess own contribution to the group effort
3.    Assess the contributions of other group members
4.    React to your group’s overall project and presentation.
5.    Email this assessment to the professor
6.    Due May 14 @ 5 pm

Part Three:  Other General Information


The Criteria I Use In Grading Papers

Note on Late Assignments:

Late papers will be graded down 5 points for each day late, to a maximum of 50% credit for the assignment.  No matter how late a paper is, it will always be worth submitting (you will always have an opportunity to get at least 50% credit).

Part 4: Advice

On Writing

My personal website has some good advide posted:

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

This is a social science paper. One very rough outline of how you might structure a paper is as follows:

I. Introduction: briefly state your research/policy question and answer
II. Describe the significance of your topic; provide any necessary background
III. Support your answer
IV. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of at least one alternative answer.
V. Conclude. Summarize all your arguments and tell us why this is significant.

But remember, this isn’t the only way to do things. Ask for help if you need it!

Other Resources: Link to my wiki

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