University of Wisconsin–Madison

AN ANALYTICAL ESSAY PROJECT IN A POLITICAL SCIENCE COURSE

PROFESSOR JOHN ZUMBRUNNEN 

POLITICAL SCIENCE 566, CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN POLITICAL THOUGHT

The second individual project for PS 566 gives you another opportunity to analyze and evaluate course readings and bring them into contact with your own political thinking (working again on the “CREATE” learning objective for the course).

You will write an essay that responds to one of the following prompts:

1) Pick a significant political issue in the contemporary U.S. Explain the controversy surrounding this issue and take a stance on it, drawing on at least 1 thinker from the first half of PS 566 (i.e., before the first group presentations) and 2 thinkers from the second half of PS 566.

2) Identify a U.S. Presidential candidate for 2016 (this could be someone who is actually running or someone who we can realistically imagine running). Make an argument in support of this candidate. As you do so, analyze this candidate’s political views and explain how they fit into contemporary American political thought, drawing on at least 1 thinker from the first half of PS 566 (i.e., before the first group presentations) and 2 thinkers from the second half of PS 566.

Essays must be no longer than 1500 words. Please include a word count at the end of the document. Essays must be submitted to the “Individual Project 2” drop box on the course Learn@UW site by 4:00 p.m. on Monday, May 9.

Both Katelyn and I are happy to meet with you to talk about your ideas and arguments.

 

Statement of learning outcomes from course syllabus:

Students in PS 566 will:

KNOW key ideas and arguments in contemporary American political thought.

ANALYZE the relationship between contemporary American political thought and the American founding.

EVALUATE recent political rhetoric in the context of contemporary American political thought.

CREATE a rigorous account of their own political thinking in the context of key ideas and arguments in contemporary American political thought.

 

Some Hints on Writing Short Essays

1. NARROW YOUR FOCUS: The paper topics are, by design, quite broad and rather vague. This is to allow you to choose what you want to focus on and to take your paper in your own, unique direction. Be aware that you will not be able to talk about everything the topic might suggest in 1500 words.

2. ANSWER THE QUESTION: Having narrowed your focus, be sure that you are indeed still writing on the topic. Make sure that you take a clear stand on the issue at hand and that you state this directly near the beginning of your paper.

3. QUESTION YOUR ANSWER: Once you arrive at your answer, think about what someone on the other side of the issue might say in response to your claim. Clarify and complicate your answer to take such potential counterarguments into account.

4. SUPPORT YOUR THESIS: Having stated your position, make an argument to back it up. In doing so, draw on quotations from the relevant readings, citing them by work and page number (you should not use outside sources for these papers). Do not, however, rely solely on such quotations. Strike a balance between quotation or paraphrasing and your own interpretation and argument.

5. INTEGRATE YOUR ARGUMENT: Make sure your points flow smoothly one into the other as part of your overall argument. Check for smooth transitions between points. Do not allow your paper to become a string of unrelated or loosely connected ideas.

6. REVISE AND PROOFREAD: Remember that you must limit your essay to 1500 words. This means you will have to edit, cut and paste, decide what is most important and what can be left out. Use this process to strengthen your paper in terms of content and general readability. Do not simply begin writing and stop when you get to 1500 words!