University of Wisconsin–Madison

Individual and Group Research Papers on Social Identities



A Note for Other Instructors about This Assignment:

This political science course about measuring identities is structured around an original research paper. The primary goal of the assignment is for students to write a research paper related to social identities using original data that they have collected using one or more methods. The course is structured to teach students about different methods for data collection (interviews, surveys, and content analysis), in the context of empirical and theoretical readings on social identities. Students also write three structured paper proposals which use methods during the course, so that by the time they get to the final paper they have already “practiced” those methods.

Recently I began allowing students to choose whether to work individually or in groups. In a course taught in spring 2018, 1/3 chose to work individually and 2/3 in groups. Students expressed interest in topics and interest in working in groups, and then I matched students and had them talk in class and decide whether or not to work together. This process led to much greater satisfaction for students who worked in groups because they chose both that option and the people with whom they worked. The group papers accomplished more in the sense that students working in groups collected more data and their papers were more ambitious, but some of the individual papers were also very well done, and hence I don’t think the difference in quality between students working individual or in groups was very clear. The group work, however, does greatly lessen the commenting and grading burden for the professor.

The Assignment for Students:

Final Paper, Plans, and Presentation

The final paper for this course will require original data collection and research on a topic related to social identities, based on the measurement techniques discussed and practiced in the course, including one of the three methods (content analysis, survey, and interviews) and UW-Madison library resources.

Paper plan 1: Identity Topic, due Feb 12, 11:00 am (1% of the final grade)

• Include your name, the date, and a descriptive title;

• Length: 1/2 to 1 single-spaced page;

• Include the following three numbered sections:

1. Paragraph describing the type of identity or identities you are interested. Students should choose one or two of the types of identity covered in course readings (e.g. gender, race, national identity, etc.) and specify the place, time period, or other contextual details you are interested in (e.g. Hispanic identity in the contemporary US; transgender identity on the UW-Madison campus, national identity in Canada, gender and race among immigrants in Madison).

2. Paragraph describing why you are interested in this topic, and what you hope to learn by studying it.

3. Indicate whether or not you are interested in working in a group, and if so, to what extent you are open to changing or amending your topic.

Paper plan 2: Research Question & Methods, due March 19th, 11:00 am (3% of the final grade)

• Include your name, the date, and a descriptive title;

• Length: 1 to 2 single-spaced pages;

• Include the following five numbered sections:

1. A clear research question related to measurement of social identities e.g. How often to state legislators discuss race or ethnicity on their websites? How diverse is the UW campus? Which identity, race or gender, is more important for foreign students on campus? Does having a strong ethnic identity make people less patriotic? How to minority students view majority students, and vice versa? In some cases the question will require clarification, e.g. what is meant by “diversity” or which “identity groups” are being considered.

2. Provide a definition of identity in your research question, based on course readings or other sources.

3. Discuss some preliminary hypotheses (answers to the question). These should be numbered and take the form of possible answers to your research question. They should be based on course readings or other published literature that you are aware of, but it’s fine to be speculative at this point.

4. Describe which methodology (content analysis, survey, or interviews), based on the course readings and measurement exercises, that you plan to use.

5. Describe the main type of data sources that you plan to use (which digitized texts or what people you plan to survey or interview)


Paper plan 3: Annotated Bibliography and Data Collection Plan, due April 9th, 11:00 am (3% of the final grade)

• Include your name, the date, and a descriptive title;

• Length: 1 to 2 single-spaced pages, plus Plan 2 attached, and revised if necessary;

 • This plan has 2 parts; an annotated bibliography, and a data collection plan:

For the annotated bibliography:

1. Based on hypotheses developed and revised from Plan 2, find 6 academic sources, i.e. journal articles or books found in the UW-Madison library system that support your hypotheses. Note: Other web-based sources or course readings can be used in the paper in addition to these from the library, but you still must find 6 from the UW library system;

2. Write out the research question and each hypothesis and those will serve as a section headings, then under each, list a full citation (MLA) of a library source;

3. Under each source, write 2-3 sentences explaining how it supports the research question or hypothesis.

For the data collection plan:

1. Describe either the texts that you will use in the paper (if doing content analysis) or the pool of respondents or interviewees and timeline for collecting responses for a survey or interviews.

Grading rubric for the three Paper Plans:

1. The structure for each Plan noted above is followed and includes all elements;

2. Each element demonstrates thoughtful effort;

3. No typos or errors;

4. Correct citation of sources;

5. Turned in on time; late papers will be marked down one grade if not posted by 11:00 am on due date, two grades down if not posted within 2 days.


Final Paper Presentations: Slides due May 2nd, 12:00 pm

This is an opportunity for you to share your work from the semester with your fellow students, and to develop presentation skills.

• Based on the number of papers, the amount of time will probably be 4-5 minutes

• Presentations should consist of 6 slides:

1. Title slide (your name, date & presentation title)

2. Research question

3. Hypotheses (possible explanations)

4. Evidence 1: Method description (how CA, Survey, or Interviews were done)

5. Evidence 2: Results

6. Conclusions

• Slides should use consistent style;

• You may add images or other relevant visual design elements.

Grading rubric final presentation & slides (3% of the final grade):

1. Contains 6 slides as noted above, turned in on time;

2. Text is adequate to convey points, but is not too wordy;

3. Visual images are relevant and helpful in conveying points;

4. Style is consistent on all slides; no typos;

5. Speaker addresses audience, makes eye contact and keeps audience engaged;

6. Presentation is within the time limit.


Final Paper, due May 7th, 9:45 am:

• Paper length should be approximately 15 double-spaced pages, excluding references and appendices; use 12-point font, 1-inch margins.

• Suggested minimum data collection:

a. Content Analysis: at least 2 long (30+ pages) documents (for comparison), or at least 20 short news articles

b. Survey: 10 questions, 50 responses

c. Interview: 1/2 hour long, 10 people

• Use MLA parenthetical citations; References in text should include author and year, and page number if appropriate. Journal and book titles in bibliography should be italicized. Annotations of sources is not necessary for the final paper bibliography.

• Include a title page with your name, date, and a descriptive title; use appropriate style for the title page.

• Paper should include the following sections, which should should be labeled with headings:

1. Introduction, stating the research question, a summary of the methods used to collect data, and a brief summary of the argument (2 pp.).

2. Theoretical section (2-3 pp.): should contain:

a. Definition of identity, based on course readings or other sources;

b. Summary of possible different explanations (these are the theories or hypotheses that might answer the question), based on academic sources or course readings.

3. Methods Section (1-2 pp.): Explain how you collected data:

a. For content analysis include a description of the texts (length, source, etc), and coding rules, description of dictionaries, or key words, etc.;

b. For a survey, describe the questions, the pool of respondents & how you recruited them, when the survey was conducted, how many responses you got, etc.;

c. For interviews, describe who you interviewed, how you found people, when you did the interviews, how long the interviews lasted, where they took place, etc.

4. Data section (5-6 pp.): Discuss your findings: You should use tables, figures, or a set of extended quotations to highlight key points. Discuss how the findings support (or do not support) each the hypotheses (answers to the question).

5. Conclusion (1-2 pp.).

6. Bibliography (not annotated, does not count toward page limit).

7. Appendix (does not count toward page limit); include interview or survey instrument, full texts (if not too long, otherwise just links to sources); extra tables or figures, etc.


Grading rubric for final papers (30% of the final grade):

1. Clear and well-motivated research question related to course content;

2. Clear definition of identity that is being studied;

3. Comprehensive discussion of explanations from existing literature;

4. Use of at least 6 academic sources, and citation of course readings where appropriate;

5. Clear discussion of methods used in paper;

6. Data collection meets minimum requirements;

7. Good analysis of evidence for different hypotheses based on collected data & findings;

8. Proper citation of sources;

9. Appendix contains required material;

10. Follows structure set out on syllabus, and includes title and sub-headings;

11. Good word choice and tone;

12. No typos or errors;

13. Within the page limit.


Group Work: Students may choose to work in groups of up to 4 students on the proposals, the final paper, and the presentation.

• If you are interested in working in a group, indicate that on proposal 1 as outlined above.


If you choose to work in a group:

• For the Paper Plans 2 and 3, add an additional section to discuss how work will be divided by each student

• At least two measurement techniques must be used on the final paper.

• The final paper length will be longer (by 5 pages per additional person, e.g. from 20, 25, or 30 pp); the additional pages will be in the data section (to discuss the additional data collection).

• Make sure the final paper is integrated, even though the paper has different section, and different people might do more work on one or another of them. Make sure all sections are connected; each group member should read the entire paper to make sure all sections are integrated.

• In a separate document for the final paper, each group member should turn in a one-half page description of their own individual contribution and evaluation of others’ contributions to the research paper.