Writing a class research paper
Writing a research paper is one of the most important things you can do as a student. The skills involved–including writing, critical thinking, research strategies, time management–are all likely to be useful after college. This website is intended to facilitate your learning of these key skills. On this page, you can find advice for writing your first paper, a quick guide to the core steps in the research and writing process, and ideas of where to go for information on more advanced skills.
Advice for those writing their first Government paper
If this is your first time writing a research paper for a government class or if you’re generally shaky on the mechanics of it, just remember that you’re main priority should be on developing your ability to argue/compose your paper, exhibit a formidable level of critical thinking and inquiry, and acquire as well as sharpen your tools of analysis. Therefore, with this website you should:
- Become acquainted with the Writing section.
- Check out the Research Question, Formulating/Extraction Hypotheses, and Proposing Explanations sections to develop the appropriate mindset.
- Go through the Analyzing Quantitative Data and Statistics sections to gain at least a superficial knowledge on how to deal with quantitative data.
- Visit the Using the Library section, to further flesh out the next moves you can make with your research.
The Quick Guide
Use the table below to help get you started!
What type of question are you asking?
|Explanatory||Why did Obama win the Presidency in 2008? Why is Ghana a successful democracy?||Most of the website is geared towards helping students answer precisely these questions. Some good places to start:Formulating and Extracting Hypotheses, Causality|
|Descriptive||What is the nature of nationalism in Russia?||One of your main tasks will be to Collect Data.|
|Policy||What should be the United States’ Middle East policy? Should the United States support the creation of a World Environmental Organization?||Policy Papers|
|Political Theory||Is equality or freedom more important to democracy? What difference does it make in reading ancient political theory for contemporary purposes that it was written in the context of Greek city states or the Roman Empire rather than a system of large sovereign states?||Political Theory|
What types of answers to your question are worth evaluating?
What type of information will you use?
|Numbers and Statistics!||I want to understand trade and investment between China and Africa.||Analyzing Quantitative Data, Statistics|
|Historical Texts||I want to understand the emergence of the modern conservative movement in the United States.||Analyzing Qualitative Data, Using the Library|
|Personal Interviews||I want to understand how Wesleyan students form their political beliefs.||Analyzing Qualitative Data, Ethics,|
How many cases will you examine?
|A lot!||I want to look at patterns of variation in gun control legislation across all 50 states.||Sampling and Case Selection, Analyzing Quantitative Data, Statistics|
|A few||I want to compare democracy in Germany, France, and Italy.||Sampling and Case Selection, Comparative Method and Case Studies|
|One||I want to understand President Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq.||Sampling and Case Selection, Comparative Method and Case Studies|
|I don’t know||Sampling and Case Selection|
|4. 1 Write an Outline
4. 2 Write a Rough Draft. Make sure you are using the appropriate citations. (Follow any specific instructions your Professor provides.)
4.3 Seek Feedback on your Draft. Use our “Peer Editing Worksheet” to help you assess your work.
Turn it in! You are done!
Next steps for the more advanced research paper writers
If you have a decent amount of experience with writing political science research papers and wish to further refine your argumentative and analytical skills, you might want to consider investigating the nature of experimentation in general as well as identify and embellish analytical concepts that may be present in your paper but you were not aware of. As such, with this website you should
- Think more critically about how the knowledge you run into in your books is created. Therefore, you should check out the Experiments and Quasi-Experiments, Comparative Methods and Case Studies, and Concepts and Measurements sections.
- Head over to the Process-Tracing, Scenario-Building, Historical Analysis, and Counterfactuals
sections to introduce yourself to these slightly more advanced concepts.
Regardless of what you plan to do it is always important to be in touch with your primary advisor and/or course instructor. They may have advice or instructions that vary from those presented here. This website is meant to be used as a general guide, to supplement — not replace — what they provide.