- Course for Honors Thesis Students in Government
- Course Objectives
- Assignments, Grading and Assessment
- Policies: Class Protocol
- Disability-Related Accommodations
- Schedule of Assignments & Readings
- Week One. 6 September
- Week Two. 13 September
- Week Three. 20 September
- Week Four. 27 September
- Week Five. 4 October
- Week Six. 11 October
- Week Seven. 18 October
- Week Eight. 25 October
- Week Nine. 1 November
- Week Ten. 8 November
- Week Eleven. 15 November
- Week Twelve. 22 November
- Week Thirteen. 29 November
- Week Fourteen. 6 December
- Finals Week
Course for Honors Thesis Students in Government
This course provides selected seniors an opportunity to design, research, and write an honors thesis for the Government major. It provides a forum where students will receive regular, constructive feedback on their work from peers and faculty. One purpose of the course is to create a community of people going through the writing process together who will be a source of mutual support, help and feedback.
The course is intended to complement the substantive guidance of your primary thesis advisor. According to the Government department website:
During the fall semester, the usual function of thesis advising will be divided between the instructor of the Capstone Thesis Seminar and the actual thesis advisor. During this fall semester, the instructor will work closely with the student to develop the thesis literature review, methodology, and structure. The thesis advisor will act as a “consultant” during the fall semester meeting as needed to advise the student on these matters (likely 3-4 times in the fall). In the spring semester, the instructor’s role in the thesis would end. All of the thesis advising duties would revert to the thesis advisor (who would enroll the thesis student in the 410 tutorial).
The Course and the Website:
This course is embedded in a larger website that is currently titled: “User’s Guide to Political Science”. The entire website can be viewed as an extended course syllabus. You are strongly encouraged to browse and make use of the resources provided here.
By the end of this course, you will…
1. complete a full prospectus for your honors thesis project
2. complete a draft of one chapter of your thesis, significant progress towards a second chapter, and an annotated outline of the entire project
3. establish independent research skills in your field
4. improve analytical skills, conceptual clarity, critical reasoning, and constructive synthesis
Assignments, Grading and Assessment
There are no exams.
1. Classroom Engagement (20 pts)
This course requires not only attendance but also active participation. This entails doing the readings before class, thinking critically about them and the topics we are discussing. Active participation can significantly help your grade in the course, non-participation can significantly lower your grade, and non-attendance WILL significantly lower your grade. The specific components of this grade include:
- minor assignments (such as those due the first day of class)
- contributions in peer editing
- participation: class discussions, email, contributions to course website, indications that student is reading course readings
- each student must visit me at my office hours at least once BEFORE November.
2. Classroom Presentations (15 pts)
Each student will be required to make a formal 15 – minute presentation of their prospectus and current work to the class during the month of November (schedules subject to change).
3. Classroom Written Work (15 pts)
The following written assignments (in addition to the final assignment) will be required. Note that these all build on each other and much of this material should form the basis of your project chapters. A copy of all of these written assignments should be shared with and commented on by your advisor.
- Literature Review. Due October 6. 5 pts. Instructions are listed in the schedule below.
- Revised Prospectus or Portion of Introduction or Theory Chapter. Due October 20. 10 pts. Instructions are listed in the schedule below.
4. Draft of Chapter, Demonstration of Progress Towards Second Chapter, Annotated Outline (50 pts).
Due Friday, December 16 @ 5 pm.
There will likely be some overlap between this assignment and the earlier assignments. Much of the literature review and prospectus will likely become part of chapters in your finished project.
According to the government department website, this helps fulfill the primary purpose of the Capstone Thesis Seminar:
The Capstone Thesis Seminar will meet on a weekly basis during the fall semester of the senior year. Successful completion of this seminar will require one or two chapters of high quality which at a minimum contain the following:
* An articulation of the central question of the thesis
* A review of the literature that addresses that question
* A research design statement
* An articulation of the theory/argument of the thesis
* A detailed outline of the thesis
Students who fail to meet this minimum requirement, or who otherwise do not perform satisfactorily in the seminar, will no longer be eligible to pursue the Thesis Honors Track. They would, however, be allowed to pursue the Exam Honors Track.
Coursework will be weighted as follows:
1. Classroom engagement: 20 pts.
2. Presentation: 15 pts.
3. Written work: 15 pts.
4. Chapter Drafts + Annotated Outline: 50 pts.
Total: 100 pts.
The Grading Scale
I will be using the following grading scale in this course:
|70 – 73 C-
Note on Late Assignments:
Late assignments will be graded down 5 percent for each day late, to a maximum of 50% off the credit for the assignment. No matter how late an assignment is, it will always be worth submitting (you can always get up to 50% credit).
Policies: Class Protocol
- I reserve the right to make new rules and changes to the course.
- Class will start on time. If you are more than 10 minutes late you will be marked as absent.
- No talking during class, no reading material during class, and no inappropriate use of electronic equipment (cell phones, laptops, etc.) during class.
- Use of laptops in class is a privilege. I reserve the right to ban them at any time.
- Diversity in discussion. Throughout the course of the semester, we will be addressing a variety of issues on which people will have strong and diverse opinions. It is critical that we respect one another’s thoughts, and address our comments at the ideas, not the person. Our class is not a forum for demeaning or threatening language
- Academic Integrity. Plagiarism and Cheating. Plagiarism and cheating will not be tolerated. I feel especially strongly about this when it comes to student writing. Please remember that the consequences for any kind of cheating or plagiarism can result in an “F” for the class and possibly other actions by the university.
- Wesleyan’s policies can be found online at: http://www.wesleyan.edu/studenthandbook/3_honorsystem.html
- If you have any questions about the appropriate way to use or cite a source, please do not hesitate to ask me before you hand in your paper.
It is the policy of Wesleyan University to provide reasonable accommodations to students with documented disabilities. Students, however, are responsible for registering with Disabilities Services, in addition to making requests known to me in a timely manner. If you require accommodations in this class, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible, so that appropriate arrangements can be made. The procedures for registering with Disabilities Services can be found at www.wesleyan.edu/deans/disability-students.html
Schedule of Assignments & Readings
Primary course readings are available via hyperlink. Please note that many, if not all, are only available to students via login.
All classes meet on Tuesday, from 1:10 – 4:00 pm in Allbritton 113.
Week One. 6 September
- Check out the basic resources available on the Registrar’s “Honors Program” website.
- Note, especially, the existence of the “Jellybean Papers”
- Note the Library Services that are available specifically for senior honors thesis writers.
- Sign-up for a Thesis Carrel
- Consider making use of the Writing Workshops and Writing Mentor Program.
Week Two. 13 September
The Research Question and Literature Review
Assignment 1: Skim through one of the following articles. Identify the research question. Where did you find the question stated? Jot down at least two reasons it was useful to frame the subject of the article as a question.
- Fowler, James H., Laura A. Baker, and Christopher T. Dawes. 2008.“Genetic Variation in Political Participation.” American Political Science Review 102(02): 233-248.
- Brown, Wendy. 1993. “Wounded Attachments.” Political Theory 21(3): 390-410.
Assignment 2: Skim one of the following honors theses from previous years. Answer the following questions about these theses:
- How long is it? What is the core question? How are the chapters organized? How is the introduction organized? What do you think are some of the hallmarks of a thesis that receives “high honors”? How do they place their work within the broader literature?
- “Russian Political Reactions to a Changing Climate: Environmental Cases in the Arctic and Siberian Hydrosphere.” (High Honors)
- By: Trammell, Elizabeth Nicole; Advisor: Peter Rutland; Field: Comparative Politics
- “Rethinking Repression: Exploring the Effectiveness of Counterterrorism in Spain.” (High Honors)
- By: Perkoski, Evan James; Advisor: Erica Chenoweth; Field: International Relations
- “Rationality and Self-Conflict.” (High Honors)
- By: Goldin, Jacob; Advisor: Donald J. Moon; Field: Political Theory
- “The Literature Review”
Week Three. 20 September
Literature Review and Concepts and Measurement
Assignment 1: Bring in eight copies of a literature review from a political science article you have read. Also bring one paragraph describing how the lit review is organized.
Assignment 2: Bring in one of your core concepts with a plan for measuring that concept. Measurement need not be “quantitative”. I expect you to write about a page for this assignment. Think about one of your core concepts and write down how you plan to measure it. The writing here doesn’t need to be fancy. Just get some of your initial ideas onto the paper.
Assignment 3: Bring in three annotated bibliography entries.
Everyone read “Concepts and Measurement” and “Annotated Bibliography”. Non-theorists read Adcock and Collier. Theorists read McNay. You are welcome, but not required, to read the other group’s selection as well.
- “Concepts & Measurement”
- “Annotated Bibliography”
- Adcock, Robert and David Collier. 2001. “Measurement Validity: A Shared Standard for Qualitative and Quantitative Research.” American Political Science Review, 95: 529-546.
- McNay, Lois. “Recognition as fact and norm: the method of critique.” in Leopold, David, and Marc Stears. 2008. Political theory: methods and approaches. Oxford University Press. [Wes only]
Week Four. 27 September
Assignment 1: Bring in three annotated bibliography entries.
- Campbell, Donald Thomas, and Julian C. Stanley. 1973. [Class Excerpts.] Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for research. Skokie, IL: Rand McNally
- Posner, Daniel N. 2004. “The Political Salience of Cultural Difference: Why Chewas and Tumbukas Are Allies in Zambia and Adversaries in Malawi.” The American Political Science Review 98(4): 529-545. Read especially pages 529 – 531.
Week Five. 4 October
Causal Inference and Approaches to Political Theory
Activity: Peer Editing
Assignment 1: Literature Review Due.
- Length: 6 page minimum
- Bring one copy to class and email one copy to professor
Everyone read King, Keohane and Verba and everyone read Freeden. Fearon is recommended for non-theorists and Petit is recommended for theorists, but read what you find interesting.
- King, Gary, Robert Owen Keohane, and Sidney Verba. 1994. Chapter 3. Designing social inquiry: scientific inference in qualitative research. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
- Fearon, James D. 1991. Counterfactuals and Hypothesis Testing in Political Science. World Politics. 43(2). 169 – 195.
- “Political Theory Approaches” – Survey
Week Six. 11 October
Case Studies and Sampling
Assignment 1: Write about one page answering the question: Why are you studying what you are studying? This might take the form of explaining your case selection or your sampling procedure. It might also be a discussion of why your area of research is important. Either approach is fine.
- Patton, Michael Quinn. 1990. Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. [Wes only: 162 – 186.].
- Beginning at page 169 is an excellent discussion of case selection strategies.
- George, Alexander L. and Timothy McKeown. 1985. “Case Studies and Theories of Organizational Decision Making.” In Robert Coulam and Richard Smith, eds., Advances in Information Processing in Organizations.Greenwich, CT.: JAI Press. 43-68.
Week Seven. 18 October
Gathering and Using Qualitative Data
Activity: Mini-workshops by Government Department faculty
Assignment: Methodology Discussion. Write 1-2 pages about a method or methods that you will use in your thesis.
There is no assigned reading for the week. Instead, we will hear a series of faculty members from the Government Department tell us about various methods they use in their own research. Be ready to ask questions!
As a resource, here is a list of some methods frequently used in political science with readings to go along with them. Think of this as an easy way to learn (more) about the approach you plan to use in your thesis. Nothing required – read articles that you think will be most useful.
General Resources on the Use of Qualitative Data
- Patton, Michael Quinn. 1990. Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. [Wes only: Chapter 9, Enhancing the Quality and Credibility of Qualitative Analysis.]
On Process Tracing
- Bennett, Andrew and Alexander L. George. 1997. “Process Tracing in Case Study Research.” MacArthur Foundation Workshop on Case Study Methods. October 17 -19, 1997.
- Weisberg et al. “Chapter 4 Questionnaire Construction”
- Rubin, Herbert J., and Irene Rubin. 1995. “Chapter 6.” Qualitative interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE.
- Kvale, Steinar. 1996. Interviews: an introduction to qualitative research interviewing. Sage Publications. [Wes Only: Chapter 10]
- Recommended: If you are doing interview research you may want to look at the resources I am adding to our “Interview” website page.
On Archives and Historical Records
- Hazareesingh, Sudhir and Karma Nabulsi. “Using archival resources to theorize about politics.” in Leopold, David, and Marc Stears. 2008. Political theory: methods and approaches. Oxford University Press. [Wes only]
- Ian Lustick. “History, Historiography, and Political Science: Multiple Historical Records and the Problem of Selection Bias.” American Political Science Review (September 1996)
On Fieldwork and Observation
- Patton, Michael Quinn. 1990. Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. [Wes only: “Fieldwork Strategies”]
- Glasser, James M. 1996. “The Challenge of Campaign Watching: Seven Lessons of Participant-Observation Research.” PS: Political Science and Politics.
On Content Analysis
- Zhang and Wildemuth. “Qualitative Content Analysis.”
- Herrera et al. “Symposium: Discourse and Content Analysis.” Note: This is a collection of short articles. Some of the material is technical. Most useful might be the piece by Hardy et al. (starting on page 19) which discusses the similarities and differences between discourse and content analysis.
- An Example: Segal et al. 1995. “Ideological Values and the Votes of U.S. Supreme Court Justices Revisited.” The Journal of Politics.
- Denzin, Norman K. and Yvonna S. Lincoln. 2000. “Introduction: The Discipline and Practice of Qualitative Research.” Handbook of Qualitative Research.
- Note: This provides a nice overview of the range of approaches to qualitative research as well as the history of these approaches. If you are still trying to identify what approach your research falls under, this could be useful. Some of their categorizations are a bit forced. Concepts like “internal validity” are not solely used by positivists and historical analysis need not be Marxist (page 24). Nevertheless, this is a useful general guide.
- Useful Web Resources
Week Eight. 25 October
NO CLASS! FALL BREAK! HAPPY WRITING!!!
Week Nine. 1 November
Class canceled – Power outage.
Week Ten. 8 November
Activity: Peer Editing
Assignment 1: Revised prospectus (or Portion of Introduction or Theory Chapter) due. 15 pages.
Readings on Presentations:
Smith, David T. and Rob Salmond. 2011. “Verbal Sticks and Rhetorical Stones: Improving Conference Presentations in Political Science,” PS: Political Science & Politics, Volume 44, Issue 03, pp 583 – 588.
Salmond Rob and David T. Smith. 2011. “Cheating Death-by-PowerPoint: Effective Use of Visual Aids at Professional Conference,” PS: Political Science & Politics, Volume 44, Issue 03, pp 589 – 596.
Week Eleven. 15 November
6 Presentations; Directed Topics, Based on Student Projects
Week Twelve. 22 November
Week Thirteen. 29 November
Writing and Rhetoric
- “Writing and Rhetoric”
Week Fourteen. 6 December
Launching into the next phase of thesis writing. Pizza and discussion of thesis work over break.
DUE Friday, December 16 @ 5 pm: Draft Chapters + Annotated Outline