Guidelines for Writing Research Papers - University of lmosley/res for Writing Research Papers POLS…

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    Guidelines for Writing Research Papers POLS 435 Fall 2003

    Note: A statement of your research paper question, hypothesis and method (one page in length) is due in class on Wednesday, November 5. Any changes in topic after that time require the instructors approval. The final paper, twelve to fifteen double-spaced pages, is due by 5pm on Wednesday, December 3, at Decio 444. Papers must be turned in as hard copies; email attachments will not be accepted. You are responsible for all of the guidelines contained in this document. Please read it carefully. It will make for a better research paper for me to read, and a better grade for you. I. Research Question -Your paper should address a particular research question, using evidence from comparative case studies, quantitative indicators, current events, or some combination of these tools. -Formulating a research question often is the most challenging part of writing a good research paper. *A research question is different from a research topic. For example, dispute settlement in regional trade agreements and causes of international financial crises are research topics. They define a particular area of interest, but they dont attempt to answer a specific question.

    *A research question might be, What explains differences in the effectiveness and of dispute settlement procedures across different regional trade agreements? Or under what conditions do financial market crises spread to neighboring countries?

    -Defining your research question usually requires doing some research; for example, if you know you want to write something about OPEC, but dont know much about OPEC, youll have to learn a bit in order to formulate a research question. -After you define a research question, the next step is to formulate a hypothesis or set of hypotheses. What does what youve learned about IPE lead you to expect? What do you believe determines the effectiveness of dispute settlement within regional trade agreements? *For example, Dispute settlement in regional trade agreements is most effective when the members are economically and politically similar. Or dispute settlement is most effective when national courts and legislatures are involved in law-making, or dispute settlement is most effective when panel rulings are accompanied by sanctions. -After you establish your hypothesis, you can consider how best to evaluate it. What sorts of evidence will allow you to determine if your hypothesis is right or wrong?

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    *For example, I will compare the use of dispute settlement in NAFTA and the EU, with a focus on the role of national courts in each. These are suitable cases because, in the EU, national courts are heavily involved in the development and enforcement of EU law. In NAFTA, on the other hand, national courts play no role. *Your evidence could be quantitative (collecting data on independent and depending variables, and performing some sort of statistical analyses), or qualitative (choosing cases that will be good tests of your hypotheses, and tracing what happens in those cases), or a combination of the two. II. Sources -You are writing an academic paper and, ultimately, making an academic argument. Therefore, some of your sources also should be academic (that is, books or articles from academic journals). Papers that use only current news sources, or only current sources and academic items assigned for this class, will not receive the highest grades. -Dont be afraid to go into the stacks at Hesburgh and consult books; some of the best material in political science is in books, not in journal articles. (Just because its not out there in pdf form doesnt mean its not worth consulting). -There are many search engines you can use to locate academic articles and books. Many of these are found on the library page, These include EconLit, the Expanded Academic Index, and the Web of Science. Also, many journals are available electronically. Try, which indexes about a dozen economics journals and ten political science journals (although the last three or four years are not included). Or try the librarys list of electronic political science journal links. -A variety of intergovernmental organizations provide data and academic papers on issues related to international financial markets. Start with the course web page ( in order to locate these. A comprehensive listing of international agencies with web addresses is maintained at the University of Michigan: -Other sites provide collections of articles, or links to varieties of places. These include: (for Europe and European integration) (for Asian studies) (for international economic law links, including a section on international financial law) (for information on public finances from a sample of countries). (for a good listing and annotation of IPE-related sites on the Web).

  • 3 (A page on global financial issues, dealing with the Asian crisis as well as the Russian crisis of 1998, the contagion of crises, and the debate about reforming the international financial architectureand many other topics). Remember, theres a wealth of information on the Web. Its easy to get bogged down if you dont have a clear idea of what you want. Keep your searches narrowly defined. Finally, be careful about the veracity of your sources, especially those from the web: if youre looking for empirical evidence about a financial crisis, for instance, you may want to focus on academic articles, on the websites of intergovernmental organizations (e.g. the IMF), and on reputable financial publications (e.g. the Economist, the Financial Times). Youll probably want to steer clear of pro- or anti-globalization NGOs and think tanks, as they may give you more III. Organization -In order to make a persuasive argument, your writing must be clear, concise and directed. It is essential to outline papers before you begin writing, and usually even before you begin doing serious research. -In general, research papers contain five sections: an introduction, a section that establishes your research question and hypothesis (or hypotheses), a section that evaluates your hypothesis (using some sort of evidence), a section in which you consider counter-arguments and/or the external validity (see below) of your argument, and a conclusion. -The introduction and conclusion should occupy a relatively small part of your paper (as a rule of thumb, the total of introduction and conclusion should be no more than 15% of the total paper length). With a good introduction, which tells the reader where your paper will go, you can use a shorter conclusion, which tells the reader where your paper has gone. -The introduction should provide the reader with a map of where youll go in the paper: what your hypothesis is, what sorts of evidence youll use, what your main finding is. Writing a clear introduction is the first step in writing a good paper; you may find it best to write or at least revise -- the introduction after youve written the body of the paper. -State your hypothesis clearly. -If you are using case studies as evidence, discuss briefly why you selected those cases. Is it because they have different independent variables, or different outcomes? Is it because they are the main cases of a phenomenon? Or is it because writing about Fiji is a way to cope with South Bend winters? -When making your argument, make it clear how the facts you present fit with the argument. Dont assume that facts will speak for themselves; tell the reader (without being repetitive) why they matter. -External validity is about how well your argument applies to other cases or situations. That is, if all of your evidence is about Latin America, how well do your findings apply to Asia or Africa?

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    Good arguments dont have to be fully valid externally (we cant explain everything with a single argument), but you should consider this question. -Considering counter-arguments demonstrates that you have thought about your argument and evidence. What factors other than those you identify might explain your findings? Could a different set of evidence be used to make a very different argument? If the counter-argument is strong, acknowledge that. Dont claim too much for your theories or evidence. IV. Formatting Note: Attached is a checklist for research papers. Use this checklist when preparing your paper, and staple it to the front of your paper. -Your paper must have a title page (with your paper title, name, course and date) and a list of references (a bibliography). -Papers must be double-spaced, with one- inch margins on all sides, and in twelve point font. -All pages of the paper, except the cover page, should be numbered on the top right-hand side. -Use long quotations sparingly. If you use them, any quotation that is more than two lines should be single-spaced and indented an additiona l half- inch on each side. No quotation marks are used for long quotations V. References -Avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism is grounds for a failing paper grade. Cite any and all sources you use, whether you quote from those sources, use ideas from those sources, or get details of current events from those sources (basically, respect the intellectual property rights of others). *Basic plagiarism rule: If you didnt write it, and you dont cite it, its plagiarism.

    If a phrase, sentence or paragraph doesnt reflect your own thinking and research, you MUST cite it. Material thats not yours includes anything copied and pasted from the web, from an electronic version of a journal article, from an old research paper in a file cabinet in your dorm. This applies not just to exact phrases and sentences, but to ideas as well.

    -Use parenthetical citations. For example, Financial market behavior is informationally efficient (Fama, 1970). Or Simmons (1994) argues that the propensity of governments to maintain their exchange rate commitments depends on domestic political variables. If you use a direct quote or a summary of a passage, give the page numbers as well, as in (Simmons, 1994, p. 360). -In your bibliography, give the full citations for all works, other than newspaper articles, cited parenthetically. News articles can be cited fully in the parenthetical citation, such as (New York Times, October 20, 1999, p. A2).

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    -The bibliography should be alphabetical, organized according to the authors last name. Citations should take the author, year, title, publication information format. For example,

    Doherty, Matt. 2001. I Miss the Golden Dome and the Old Well: Reflections on Life at Carolina and on Why Duke Will Always have the Superior Basketball Team (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press).

    McGraw, Muffet. 2001. Why Womens Basketball Deserves Respect, Review of Varsity Sports, vol. 80 (Winter), pp. 113-126.

    -Items from the Web (other than academic or news articles, which can be cited as above) should include the author (if available), title, web address, and date accessed. -Use footnotes or endnotes (your choice) only to add information that goes beyond citation, but would distract from the flow of the text (these likely will be rare; if you dont have any, thats OK too). VI. Editing -Spellcheck AND proofread your paper. Spellchecking is a good first step, but it cannot detect words that are properly spelled but incorrectly used. For example, be sure that its is used as it is while its is possessive. Relying on spellchecking and not proofreading can lead to embarrassing mistakes (Mosleys all-time favorite: the student whos paper repeatedly made references to trade surpluses and defecates. Oops). -Avoid passive voice. Rather than saying, The fall of the Bretton Woods system was caused by governments, say Governments caused the fall of the Bretton Woods system. -Reading your paper out loud is a good way to catch unclear writing; if it doesnt sound right to you, it probably wont sound right to others. Alternatively, ask a friend or roommate to read a draft of your paper; someone with a bit of distance from the paper often can give better feedback on style and clarity. Or, if you plan ahead, youll have time for consultations at Notre Dames writing center; they do traditional face-to-face consultations, as well as electronic consultations. For information, visit

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    Research Paper Checklist POLS 435

    _____ Title page, with name, paper title, course and date. _____ Introduction, briefly providing an overview of question, hypothesis, and evidence used. _____ Three main sections: establish hypothesis, evaluate hypothesis, consider counter- arguments and external validity of your argument. _____ Conclusion, briefly summarizing what your paper has done. _____ Double-spaced text, in twelve point font, with one- inch margins on all sides. _____ All pages except cover page numbered in top, right-hand corner. _____ If using long quotations (more than two lines), single-spaced and indented. _____ Cite any and all sources consulted. Consult academic as well as other sources.

    By checking this box, you affirm that all work in the paper is your own, and that all sources have been properly cited.

    _____ Parenthetical citations (cites in body of text, with authors name and year. If a direct quotation, also provide page number; if a newspaper article, provide only newspaper, date and page). _____ Bibliography, arranged alphabetically by authors last name, citing all sources other than

    newspaper articles. Include web addresses for web-based documents. _____ Spellcheck. _____ Proofread. _____ Avoid passive voice.