Professor Turner
Gov 101

Research Paper Assignment

The purpose of this project is to critically analyze a current political issue using the principles and methods of political science. Your persuasiveness and corresponding grade is a function of the depth of your outside research on the issue in question, your understanding of the specific details and nuances, and your application of scholarly research to the issue.

1. Pick a current political issue either from the list of question below, from Debating Democracy, or from your own experience. You may select any current political issue as long as you clear it with me first.

2. 2. Review at least 3-5 scholarly books or articles in addition to those from the class reading list on this topic to understand what different scholars are arguing about. The recommended readings sections at the end of each chapter are useful.

3. Review at least 10-12 recent newspaper articles from the New York Times or Washington Post or 5-7 magazine articles on this topic to understand what is happening with this political issue (Lexis-Nexis searches are very useful here).

4. Theoretical Issues: The paper should be conceptualized around three general questions.
a. What is the basic problem or controversy surrounding the issue you have chosen to analyze? What is its current political status?
b. What is the state of the debate in the political science literature? What are different scholars arguing about?
c. What is your opinion of the issue — that is, on what side do you stand and why?

Due Dates DECEMBER 6

Late papers are not accepted.


Five Biggest Problems with Research Papers
1. There is no argument. “There are two views of media bias.” Argh! Tell me which view of the media is correct, which views are wrong and why.
2. The introductory paragraphs are a waste of time. More often than not, I finish the first paragraph and have no clue what the rest of the paper will be about or what the argument will be. Research papers are not a murder mystery; don’t bury the punch. You are trying to convince me that the media are biased, that campaign finance reform is necessary— don’t leave me guessing until the end of the paper.
3. Problematic writing. Take to heart the advice of William Zinsser:
a. "Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this as a consolation in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it's because it is hard. It's one of the hardest things that people do.”
b. “Look for clutter in your writing and prune it ruthlessly. Be grateful for everything you can throw away. Reexamine each sentence that you put on paper. Is every word doing new work? Are you hanging on to something useless just because you think it's beautiful?"
4. The lack of analysis. For example, “Pat Buchanan argues that America is in the midst of a culture war because of the prevalence of unwed childbirths.” Tell you’re your audience why this statement what this means and whether it is right or wrong.
5. Quotes are overused and under interpreted.
a. “There is very little balance among PACs . . . special interests do not balance each other out.” Why tell us this in a quote? You can write a similar sentence and then cite the idea. For example, Smith (1998) believes that PACs are not representative of all interests.
b. Use of direct quotes from readings should be limited to an expression of the author’s ideas. I.e. “One man’s read tape is another’s treasured procedural safeguard” (Kauffman 1977).
c. Quotes don’t speak for themselves; they need to be interpreted. If an idea is important enough to be quoted directly from the author, it is important enough for you to tell us why it is important.

Practical Details
• Paper Length 7-9 pages
• Word-Processing: You must use a computer. You must also use a good printer. I will not read any papers with unclear print. Caution: do not try to finish assignments immediately before class begins. The longer you wait to write your paper, the more likely it is you will have computer problems.
• Spacing: Double-spaced
• Margins: One inch
• Font: 12-point, Times Roman, black
• Page Numbers: use them, I subtract 1 point for papers without them.
• Title Page: Each paper should have a separate title page.
• Staples: use them, I do not accept unstapled papers.
• Footnotes or page references to all assertions which are not universally accepted as matters of fact are required. “Bill Clinton was elected in 1992” need not be footnoted; “Smith argues that limiting campaign spending is unconstitutional” should be.
• Use the “name-date” bibliographic form. Only the name of the author, the date of the publication, and page numbers will be included in the text, with no footnotes at the bottom of the page. For example: Program evaluation is inherently political (Williams and Evans 1969). The citation in the references at the end of paper will read: Williams, Walter and John Evans. 1969. “The Politics of Evaluation: The Case of Head Start.” The Annals 385 (September): 118-30.

Sample Paper Questions Please note that these are but a smattering of the potential range of topics.

What were the anti-federalists for?
Should the constitutional amendment process be changed?
Should there be a constitutional amendment to allow national referendas or recall elections like those in California?
Is America exceptional? That is, does America have distinctive set of politics and culture compared to Europe?
What is the American political culture and how does it influence public policy?
Should there be hate speech codes?
Should their be pornography codes?
Should their be affirmative action?
Do corporations have too much power?
What are the implications of gambling/gay marriage/welfare reform/acid rain for federalism?
Will devolving responsibility for welfare reform/education/transportation/environment (pick one) create laboratories of democracy or a race to the bottom?

Political Participation
How has public opinion evolved/responded in the “War on Terror and what does it say about the competence of the American public and how public opinion influences public policy?
Pick one or two policy issues and examine why or why not the policies reflect popular opinion.
Does public opinion play too much or too little a role in our democracy?
Is conservative talk radio influential?
Is the media biased?
Are Blogs changing how the political media operates?
How well do Americans understand political issues, such as health care?
How rational is American public opinion?
Why don’t Americans vote? Is voter turnout too low?
Has the Motor Voter Act been successful in increasing voter turnout?
Is there a crisis in civic engagement? Are Americans Bowling alone?
Are Generation Xers/the 13th Generation/you and your classmates less civically involved than other generations?
Is Americorps/Freedom Corps a good way to promote civic engagement among youth?
Should we have compulsory national service (http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2003/0303.glastris.html)
Are youth uninvolved in politics and if so why?
Will the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law will?
Should we have public funding of political campaigns? An analysis of Clean Money elections in Maine, Arizona, Nebraska, or other states?
An analysis of how an interest group (NRA, Sierra Club, etc) operates and how it tries to influence public policy.
An analysis of GE’s political strategy for fighting the dredging of the Hudson River. What do its actions suggest about the power of interest groups in American and the appropriate role of interest groups in a democracy?
How has Microsoft acted politically in response to the antitrust actions against it by the federal government? What do its actions suggest about the power of interest groups in American and the appropriate role of interest groups in a democracy?
What is the best voting technology in the wake of the Florida Fiasco of 2000?
Will the attempts to modernize state voting machines work?
Is there an emerging Democratic majority? An emerging republican majority? (Are Judis and Teixeira right?)
Why have military voters become overwhelmingly republican, and can it be changed (http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2003/0311.wallace-wells.html)
Why have African American voters become overwhelmingly democratic, and can it be changed?
Why have Latino voters become democratic, and can it be changed?
How important are environmental/religion/abortion/national security/etc issues in national elections?

Why are congressional elections uncompetitive?
Why do so few quality candidates run for Congress?
Do too many multi-millionaires run for Congress (especially the Senate, and why)?
Should the electoral college be abolished?
Is our system of nomination presidential candidates broken?

Are Faith based public policies a good idea? Is "Charitable Choice" Compatible With the First Amendment? Is it a Good Idea? Does it Work?
Is the Republican leadership of Congress taking over the lobbying community in DC (http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2003/0307.confessore.html)

How has President Bush attempted to shape public opinion regarding the war in Iraq?

Will devolving federal welfare programs to the state work?
What is the status of the Tenth Amendment today?
Should justices of the Supreme Court be guided by the original intention of those who wrote the Constitution?
Given that the next president will be able to appoint four supreme court justices, is it possible or desirable that the confirmation process be improved to avoid the partisan battles that have accompanied other appointments like Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas?
Is curtailing and restricting class action lawsuits and product liability laws a good idea?
Should the President have the line item veto?
Should president Clinton have been impeached?
Should the electoral college be abolished?
Has the War Powers Act been successful in checking the president’s control of the war making power?
Will Congress reform or improve Social Security or Medicare?
Should we privatize Social Security?
How and why did Congress pass NAFTA, the Brady Bill, the $87 billion foreign aid package to Iraq or any other piece of significant legislation?
Would term limits improve Congress?
How successful has Vice-President Gore’s plan to reinvent government been?
Is the IRS out of control?

Why did the Reform Party implode? Was it inevitable?
Should the Green Party run a presidential candidate in 2004?
Do PACs have a corrupting influence on the political process? Would limiting PAC contributions limit the influence of interest groups?
Is there a liberal bias in the media?
What does the Monica Lewis scandal reveal about the state of political reporting today?
Would allowing Social Security to invest funds in stocks improve the present system?
How should the 1996 welfare reform package be interpreted?
Is the Federal Reserve too powerful?
Is the flat tax a good idea?
What are the politics of GATT/NAFTA?
What do the various health care reform efforts during the Clinton Administration say about the ability of the government to address important societal issues?
Are school vouchers for education a good idea?

Are the arguments of the antifederalists and federalists relevant today?
Does the system of checks and balances and separation of power in the Constitution need to be modified?
Should there be a constitutional amendment to allow national referendas?
Will devolving federal welfare programs to the state work?
Should there be affirmative action?
Will devolving responsibility for welfare reform/education/transportation/environment (pick one) create laboratories of democracy or a race to the bottom?
Should justices of the Supreme Court be guided by the original intention of those who wrote the Constitution?
Given that the next president will be able to appoint four Supreme Court justices, is it possible or desirable that the confirmation process be improved to avoid the partisan battles that have accompanied other appointments like Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas?
Is curtailing and restricting class action lawsuits and product liability laws a good idea?
Is the tenth amendment dead or alive?
Should the President have the line item veto?
Should president Clinton have been impeached?
Should the Electoral College be abolished?
Has the War Powers Act been successful in checking the president’s control of the warmaking power?
How did Newt Gingrich change Congress and did he improve or worsen the decision-making capacity of the institution?
Will Congress reform or improve Social Security or Medicare?
How and why did Congress pass NAFTA, the Brady Bill, or any other piece of significant legislation?
Would term limits improve Congress?
How successful has Vice-President Gore’s plan to reinvent government been?
Is the IRS out of control?
Are the criticisms of American bureaucracy as inefficient fair? What are the sources of its inefficiencies?
Pick one or two policy issues and examine why or why not the policies reflect popular opinion.
Does public opinion play too much or too little a role in our democracy?
Would electronic voting improve democracy in America?
Are Generation Xers or Yers political slackers or innovators?
Is social capital in America declining and is it a problem?
Does negative campaigning hurt or help the political process?
What gun control measures would pass the second amendment test?
Does divided government improve or worsen the policy process?
Would the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform proposal improve our electoral system?
Do political parties improve or worsen the political process?
Does America need a third (or fourth) political party?
Why did the Reform Party implode? Was it inevitable?
Do PACs have a corrupting influence on the political process? Would limiting PAC contributions limit the influence of interest groups?
Do issue ads and independent expenditures improve or worsen the democratic process?
How has Microsoft acted politically in response to the antitrust actions against it by the federal government? What do its actions suggest about the power of interest groups in American and the appropriate role of interest groups in a democracy?
Is there a liberal bias in the media?
What does the Monica Lewinsky scandal reveal about the state of political reporting today?
Would allowing Social Security to invest funds in stocks improve the present system?
How should the 1996 welfare reform package be interpreted?
Is the Federal Reserve too powerful?
Is the flat tax a good idea?
What are the politics of GATT/NAFTA?
What do the various health care reform efforts during the Clinton Administration say about the ability of the government to address important societal issues?