POLS 499




Research Topics

Main theme: Political stability and democratization (Regime shift, cabinet stability, ruling party stability, leadership stability, electoral volatility, civil war, uprising, riots, protests, terrorism, etc.)

Causal factors: Political institutions (Presidentialism, parliamentarism, electoral rules, party systems), veto players, corruption, foreign aid, economy, etc.


*If you are conducting a qualitative study, the number of countries or cases you study will be small. If you are conducting a quantitative study, you are more likely to study a large number of countries. You can also focus on one country or a region and examine a relationship at the individual or sub-national level. You can also study a particular region, such as Western Europe, Africa, Latin America.



No exams! Let's focus on your research paper and presentation at the end of the semester.


Preparation for Discussion:

Students will be asked to summarize articles in class. (I expect everyone to talk about the assigned article for about 5 to 10 minutes.) We will then discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the article. Please think about how you will criticize the author's arguments before we meet.


Grading Rubrics for Discussion:

Attendance  50 points

Active Participation +20 points

Good comprehension +10 points

Discussion of strengths  +10 points

Criticizing the arguments of the articles effectively + 1 to 10 points


*Pay attention to the following:

Qualitative or quantitative?

Is the study more descriptive or analitical?

How many cases are analyzed?

Is the study conducted systematically?

What are the units?

What is the dependent variable?

What are the causal factors?

Deductive or inductive?

What kinds of data are used?

How is the literature review done?

How the theory is developed

Organization (e.g. Do they use more space for the theory section?)

How are sources used in the text?

How many sources are used?

How direct quotes are used



Prep for Research Paper

Grading Rubrics for Final Paper and Paper Assignments

*Submit a power point file or word file to the content area of Blackboard. (All group members should submit the same file. I will write my comments to the first submitted file. Also submit a power point file to the discussion area.

*Make sure that each student in your group is involved in every phase of research.


The purpose of your study is clearly stated.

Research question (or empirical puzzle) is clearly stated.

Your argument is clearly stated.

Is your study significant? 

Literature review (Do not just report previous studies. Try to show that your study is different from the previous studies.

e.g.Your study is quantitative (qualitative), while the previous studies are qualitative (quantitative).

Your study focuses on Africa, while the previous studies focuse on Latin America

Your study introduces a new indicator/measurement.

Your study introduces a new method.

Your interpretation of an event is different from others.

No body studied the topic.

The previous studies treat cultural or historical factors as causal factors, but your study looks at political or economic factors.

No previous studies used rational choice theories to explain the political/economic/social outcomes.

No previous studies examined the effects of a particular leader (or institutions) on the political/economic/social outcomes.


(Use of sources)



Deductive argument

e.g. Rational choice, cost benefit analysis, collective action problems, strategy, public and private goods, balance of power, tit for tat, etc.

Is your argument based on political, economic, historical, or cultural factors?

Pay attention to the units you are studying. (You do not have to state this in your presentation file, especially if you are conducting a qualitative study, but you should pay attentiont. If you are conducting a quantitative study, make sure to state this in the methods section.)

(Use of sources)


How the cases are chosen

Whether or not the procedure of case selection is defended effectively

Are you following a particular research design.

For a qualitative study: The most similar systems design or most different systems design (Przeworski and Teune 1970)

                        Example: Skocpol

           For a quantitative study: See the web pages for POLS210.

(Use of sources)

Results/Case studies

Do the results support your theory and hypotheses?

For a quantitative study: See the web pages for POLS210

                        Example: Regression results

The use of sources

Quality of writing



Any interesting policy implications?

Future studies?

Make sure to attach your bibliography.


Final Research Paper

See the section for prep above.

Students often do not have enough academic references. Try to do the best you can to strengthen your statements using academic sources.

Students often write background too much.Be careful with inserting too many direct quotes. The use of direct quotes is usually effective in the case study section of a qualitative paper. (I often see students using them to just make their paper longer.)

Quality of writing

Is the paper interesting and convincing?

*Bring a hard copy of the final paper to the Department. Also submit it to the content area of Blackboard.


Citing References

Please follow the APSR format by referring to the most recent issue of the APSR. You may also consult the Chicago Manual of Style.

Click the following to find an article written in the APSA format: The American Political Science Review. http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html


How to Avoid Plagialism


*Any papers or assignments with plagiarism will receive the grade of 0.



Oral presentation-15 minutes

Question and answer-10 minutes

*Please do not read when you present.


Abstract (Research proposal)

One page