Writing a Political Science Research Paper
Today, we will be looking at how to write a political science research paper. As a political science student, you will undoubtedly come across term papers or research papers in all the courses you take. Your lecturers may decide to write a research paper as a continuous assessment test or as a part of the final requirement to pass the course. Besides giving your lecturers to review your knowledge about the course, it also lets you air your opinion on specific issues and address some basic concepts in the study of politics. In other words, a research paper lets you review and air your views about the concepts that serve as a premise for the work of a professional political scientist. Research papers allow you to ponder on questions like; what is democracy? What prompts people to vote for a particular party over the other? Do people participate in politics based on ideology? What prompts revolution? How do states implement their foreign policies on the international stage? What determines the foreign policies of a nation? And a host of other questions.
Like other disciplines, political science students tend to find it difficult to produce a research paper that satisfies the examiner. Given this, we have provided a simple guide on steps to take to write a good research paper. Indeed, your professors and institutions may have different styles of writing and ideologies; nevertheless, the steps we have discussed below are widely accepted in research writing.
Start at the Beginning
Two important questions should come to your mind when you are tasked with writing research; firstly, what does the research topic mean? What are the issues this topic wants me to focus on and address? What are the assumptions surrounding the topic for discussion? When giving you a research topic, your lecturer aims to go beyond what you have done in class and conduct external research to address the topic before you. So when you discover your research topic, try to spend quite a while to grasp the meaning of the topic and establish a clear idea of the concepts and issues the topic will address.
The second that should arise in your mind is on sources; where will I get sources to tackle the topic? What type of information is needed to support the position I take in this discussion?
Many students tend to jam pack research paper with almost all the information and knowledge they have acquired throughout the semester, believing this will put them in good stead with the lecturer and thus earn them more marks. However, the reality is quite different, dumping all the information you have in the paper doesn’t show your analytical skills. It will only show your lecturer that you attended all lectures, leaving your analytic skills in doubt.
Hence, to avoid this situation, consider the relevant information in addressing the issue raised in your research paper. Try to be selective and careful, make use of only materials and information to support the opinion you are trying to promote. The organization of your research paper logically and clearly goes a long way in earning you marks from your lecturers.
Organization is Everything
Many students make the mistake of commencing writing a research paper without having a plan on how to structure their thoughts; thus, they get stuck along the way. Some students even go as far as thinking their attempt to write something will show their lecturers their efforts. However, lecturers are not concerned about your efforts but your analysis. When they examine your paper, they found out that you have not the central theme of your paper.
To avoid making this mistake, when you are convinced that you understand the underlying meaning of the topic and you have identified the relevant information needed, create a rough draft on what structure your discussion will take. Below we have highlighted some few tips on what you should do:
Make an Outline
Create an outline to provide a structure for the paper. You can use a jotter, a board to mind map or whatever technique you find convenient to highlight what you want to say and the manner in which you will write it down; this process makes the writing simple.
Besides, having an outline makes you work and thoughts logical and structured. Suppose you were not able to finish the paper before the deadline. In that case, the lecturer can draw out a valid argument and thus score you well, however, if you just started writing in a disorganized way, it will be difficult for your paper to have a clear argument that can score you marks.
- Develop a research design: To answer your research question, you must have grasped what your research topic is all about. What particular information would be needed to address a particular issue raised by your research topic? Who are the actors involved? What internal or external events will probably affect the research topic? Where will you get the information you need to address the issue raised?
- Develop a thesis: One important thing many students overlook in writing a political science paper is overlooking the research thesis. However, the thesis serves as the basis for any research work; these are the assumptions that will likely be accepted or discarded when writing your research paper.
Keep it Simple
It is quite important to keep your writing as simple and clear as possible. Your paper should have an introductory paragraph, three substantive paragraphs discussing what your work is all about, your analysis and solutions to the issues raised and a concluding paragraph.
- Opening sentence and first paragraph: At this stage, you will introduce your audience to the issue you want to address in your paper. In essence, we mean that someone from another academic field should be able to say what your research is all about and how you intend to address questions raised from your introductory paragraph. Your introductory line should state the position you are taking on the paper. In contrast, other statements in the introductory paragraph should be written as a support system for your introduction and highlight the manner in which the following paragraphs will expand on the topic of the research paper.
- Body of the Essay: You can decide to have as many paragraphs as you want in the body of the work. However, each paragraph must be for a clear and unique point, and the point must be in support of the central idea of the paper. It is important to note that each paragraph should start with an introductory line on what concept will be espoused.
- Concluding Paragraph: You should round up what your research paper has discussed in one final paragraph. In this paragraph, try to freshen your audience’s mind with a subtle recap of what you have discussed, but avoid copying and pasting what you have written previously. Sign off on your paper with a concluding statement that airs your opinion and leaves your audience with a form of closure.
Your Opinion is More Than “Just Your Opinion”
A research paper is not just to air your opinion but to give your well-structured and informed opinion backed up with evidence and analysis. In political science, conceptual questions do not have a final answer; the purpose of your research is to address an issue and bring up a particular viewpoint. Here a few guidelines on how to write your analysis:
Make An Argument: Pick a position and back up your position with solid arguments. Just mentioning names and dates – or even using political science jargon – will not replace the position of taking a position to argue for.
Support Your Argument: Utilize relevant facts, concepts and other sources to support your position. This will show that you understand what you are talking about.
Be Creative: Your creativity bears an integral part of your writing process. The style you employ in your writing matters a lot. Some lecturers are even more concerned about how structured and well written your paper is than the ideas within the research paper.