Political Science at Huntingdon College
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PSC RESEARCH PROJECT ADVICE

by Jeremy Lewis.  Revised 14 Apr. '08.
  • Essays versus Papers
  • Paper advice
  • Proposals
  • APSA Citation Style
  • General indices.
  • Political Science journals
  • American Government
  • Alabama Politics
  • Congress & Presidency
  • Voters, Parties & Elections:
  • Public Admin. & Policy
  • Comparative Government
  • International Relations
  • Citation style illustrations
  • ePapers received
  • International research Links
  • PSC journals in library
  • US research links
  • Wise Words
  • What is PSC?


  • Note: consult Required page for definitive set of requirements for each level of course.

    Note: "Don't believe everything on the internet"
    Here's a good example of urban legends that you won't pass on if you do a little reality checking first.
    It came to me from a colleague, and I was suspicious of the data, googled, and found this:
     http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/tyler.asp
    Here's the infamous and frequently seen "Ollie North warned us about Osama Bin Laden" spoof email.
    I knew this didn't fit the facts of the Iran-contra affair hearings, which I watched faithfully
    -- but now I see Ollie North himself has disavowed the claims:
     http://www.snopes.com/rumors/north.asp
    Snopes runs a good rumor checking service.


    Guidance on Essays and Papers:


    Research projects:
    Try to prepare your paper early, because all late papers will be penalized.
    Get a sense in advance of the length of the paper.  For Dr. Lewis's classes, you may: Start your research as early as you can, even if you save the writing till near the deadline.
     
  • When you plan your research, consider whether you have nailed down in advance:
  • 400 level, Capstone papers especially, add these considerations:
  • When you have drafted your paper, consider the following:
  • I encourage you positively to seek help from others who proofread or offer ideas etc, but this help must be endnoted.


  • Proposals -- required only for 499 Capstones
    [Click here for APSA sample proposals for small research grants]
    A proposal of 1 to 2 pages tells the reader (and more importantly, yourself)
  • An outline of 1 page shows
  • A bibiography of 1 page shows


  • APSA citation style
    The American Political Science Association (APSA) has adopted an easy standard style with parenthetical references in the text, referring to citations in a list at the end of the paper.  This saves much repetitive typing.

    This is one of the easiest citation styles to use, and somewhat similar to the APA style found in psychology and to the MLA style used in the Huntingdon College Harbrace Handbook, but not identical.

    Sample in-text references:

    Use the APSA style (Fanshaw, 1928) found (Akert, 1931) in the American Political Science Review, or in the more readable journal PS: Political Science & Politics, both of which are found in the Library periodicals section.

    Citation Style illustrations (APSA)

    Sample for the References page at end of paper:

    Books:
    Fanshaw, Fred. 1928. Interdependence of the Principles of Knowledge. Boston: Maharishi University Press.

    Articles:
    Akert, Robin. 1931. "Some Considerations Upon the Usual Considerations." American Academic Review 58:18-268.

    As a guide, your paper should use at least half a dozen major sources of varied types (books, articles, perhaps government documents or congressional reports) and should avoid more than the occasional journalistic piece.

    In other words, if you only use Time magazine as a source, you won't write as fine a paper as you could with some academic theory and official materials.



    General Indices:

    For Indexes to journals, consider these (some are available in bound volumes; others on CD ROM; and don't forget online search.) These are found in library Reference areas, in hardcopy; increasingly, these are also found online.  Check Countess.Huntingdon.edu, the library's online collection.  (You'll need your library card number handy.)  With many online articles, a convenient way to save them in text form (without wasteful graphics) is to email them to yourself.  If copying and pasting, however, be sure to quote and cite properly.



    General Political Science journals:
  • Readable for undergrads:
  • Political Studies Quarterly
  • PS: Political Science and Politics
  • Polity (northeastern region, emphasizing history and theory)
  • Journal of Politics (southern region, emphasizing southern politics)
  • almost any journal in international relations or foreign policy
  • almost any journal in public administration
  • almost any journal in public policy
  • almost any journal in presidential studies
  • almost any British journal (many articles are on American politics)
  • most journals of comparative government
  • Excellent but less readable:
  • American Political Science Review (heavily statistical and theoretical)
  • American Review of Political Science (likewise)
  • Political Studies (British)
  • Western Political Quarterly
  • Some more specialized journals are listed in the sections below.



    American Government:
    At introductory (200) level, a successful example of a topic is:
    How a bill became law.
    For an essay, take a law that interests you, and research how it was: Then ask, for a full term paper, questions found in the upper level congress section.

    You could also, for example:

    Many of these above are also suitable for upper-level papers.
    Recommended books on Alabama Politics:
    thanks to Larry McLemore '04, who was taking an MA in History at U.Alabama.

    Black & Black,  THE RISE OF SOUTHERN REPUBLICANS
    Bullock & Rozell,  THE NEW POLITICS OF THE OLD SOUTH
    Bruce Schulman,  FROM COTTON BELT TO SUN BELT
    Alexander Lamis,  SOUTHERN POLITICS IN THE 1990s
    V.O. Key, SOUTHERN POLITICS IN STATE AND NATION

    Larry writes,
    "Black and Black is a sequel to Key. Also both NEW POLITICS and SOUTH. POL. IN THE 1990s have
    chapters on each state in the Deep South and the Peripheral South. Bruce Schulman and Alexander Lamis are both good at blending southern politics and history. Schulman looks at economic development and federal policies' impact on the South from 1940-1980--very interesting. Lamis looks at each Southern states' politics in the 1990s and gives background and a projection for trends in a state-by-state analysis."



    Congress:

    At upper (300) level, you could take the same kind of project in 201 American Government, but in more depth (following the same questions but researching more carefully).

    For references on legislative history, consider:
  • Most articles on these topics are found in general political science journals.  However, some of the most readable, specialized journals are:


  • Voters, Parties & Elections:

    Generally, the most interesting papers compare at least two elections, two parties in two countries, or two historical time periods. But a paper on aspects of one election could very well succeed also. Here are some of the major questions in the literature, which would therefore give you plenty of sources from which to write (and they also give a good indication of the type of essay questions which you could answer at 200 level as an alternative to a research paper):


    Of course, many other topics are possible besides these.

    For references on the parties in Congress, consider:

    For contemporary comparative party material, refer to: For Indexes to journals, consider these

    Public Administration and Public Policy:
  • Some possible research paper topics:
  • Some of the best anthologies of theory in public administration -- excellent sources for opposing viewpoints -- are by these authors:
  • Some of the best, readable authors in public policy are:
  • Some of the best and most readable journals are:
  • Think Tank or public interest group reports are often valuable for public policy, provided you balance them from opposite viewpoints:


  • Comparative Government:
  • Consider comparing only two or three countries on one or two dimensions.  More than this will be overwhelming.
  • Consider the development of the European Union from 1951 to the present, and ask where it is headed in terms of membership, constitution, economics and policy.
  • Perhaps research the political development of one country or one group of countries.
  • Consider dividing up the work among co-authors who take one country each -- then it is important that you hash out conclusions together, so as to engage in true comparisons.
  • Comparing a country to the US is probably not as interesting as comparing to another foreign country at the same level of development.

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    Naturally you should explore the classic literature, nearly all of which is listed in bibliographies and references in the textbooks. A select, readable bibliography is available.

    For general comparative material, see the journals:

    For scholarly journals on British politics, consider these, all but one of which are highly readable, and which do contain general comparative articles: If you read French, try For contemporary comparative policy and politics material, refer to LEXIS/NEXIS:

    International Relations:

    You may try a topic in the theory of international relations or a case study of foreign policy decision making, such as the Cuban missile crisis 1962 or the Iran-contra affair 1984-86. (Both of these have plenty of sources). You could look at the development of NATO, the Warsaw Pact, the EC or the UN from 1945. You could compare military forces in the US and Western Europe. You might take a topic from a chapter of Rourke or Agenda 1996 and develop a spin-off as a paper. Of course, many other topics are possible besides these. Clear your topic, research design and bibliography with Dr. Lewis before the middle of the term.

    Naturally you should explore the classic literature, nearly all of which is listed in bibliographies and references in the textbooks.

    For scholarly journals on international politics, consider these:

    For contemporary comparative policy and politics material, possibly relevant to international politics, refer to some of the following: