Research paper assignment Friday, December 16: Your research paper is due by e-mail by noon, on the last day of final examinations.
As we have discussed at various points, one of your assignments this term is to write a paper that involves outside research. Reflecting the fact that we are quickly approaching the end of the term, successfully completing this assignment will require you to write a paper that is at least 2500 words in length, rather than the considerably longer essay outlined in your original syllabus.
The syllabus states that the research paper will make up 20 percent of your final course grade. However, if the grade on the analytical paper you submitted earlier in the term turns out to be higher than the grade you receive on this assignment, the analytical essay’s contribution to your final course grade will be adjusted upwards by 5 percent (to 15 percent) and the research paper’s impact on it will be reduced by 5 percent (to 15 percent).
Before beginning your paper, you should review the handouts on the course website addressing citation requirements and the grading criteria that will be used to assess your research and writing. Your paper's citations and bibliography should carefully follow one three formats most used in the social sciences: University of Chicago, the APA, or the APSA. For your convenience, my website provides a handout with many formatting examples using the APSA style as well as a chapter from a political science writing manual with examples of APSA citation. Your paper should be double-spaced, have numbered pages, use standard page margins and fonts, include page-specific and properly formatted, page-specific citation. The title section at the start of the essay should list the paper's word count. Without exception, instances of plagiarism will be reported and punished according to university policy.
Options and Requirements: You have two options for what kind of research paper you will write.
Option 1: Analyzing the cause of a specific war. If you are keenly interested in the origins of specific conflicts not covered in our class or have not yet mastered the skills required to use SPSS to manipulate a survey dataset, you will want to write an analytical essay that examines the causes of an interstate conflict that occurred in the 20th century or more recently. Specifically, your research and writing should focus on a war that we have not closely analyzed in class and incorporate research drawn from a minimum of five peer-reviewed journal articles or press-published books. Your essay should systematically explore and compare the degree to which individual-, social-, or international-level factors can best explain the outbreak of the conflict. Several models of this kind of essay can be found in Greg Cashman and Leonard Robinson’s book. While your paper will not be anywhere near as detailed as these authors’ chapters, you should follow their lead in developing a systematic, focused, and nuanced argument that carefully considers the role of each level of causality for the conflict you have selected.
Option 2: A research paper using original data analysis.If you feel comfortable with basic social science research methods and are confident that you can independently use SPSS to complete a series of tasks covered in our workshop unit (you are welcome to consult your instructor for additional guidance), you may want to fulfill this assignment’s requirement with a paper that focuses on an original analysis of survey data that you will download from the Pew organization’s website. This type of research paper will need to focus on public opinion as it relates to either war (broadly defined to include terrorism or similarly related topics) or its resolution. You do not need to focus on the same types of variables that we addressed in our workshop unit, and your paper’s analysis should go well beyond the preliminary research conducted for that assignment. If you choose to write a research paper that relies heavily on your own survey data analysis, you may limit your outside research to as few as three peer-reviewed journal articles or press-published books.
If you are not sure what war-related topic you would like to explore in your paper, you may want to start your research by using Pew’s “Question search” page: http://www.people-press.org/question-search/ (set the “Topic:” menu to “war” and hit the search button). You also are welcome to explore Pew’s more specialized datasets (e.g., their surveys focusing on Latinos, veterans, or international samples) if you can locate interesting and appropriate variables.
Normally, this type of research paper follows the organizational model you saw in the research article (by Paul Lieberman) that we read during our workshop unit:
An introductory section explains why the research question is important and how major concepts related to the question have previously been studied.
The next section describes the specific data and survey questions that are considered by the study as well as what relationships the author initially expected to find among the key independent and dependent variables,
The next section presents a data-driven analysis (and perhaps even a chart or two) to describe whether the data is consistent with what the author expected to find.
The concluding section summarizes the study’s main findings and links them back to previous research on the topic.