POLS 301—How to do well in the course.


The purpose of this course is to build knowledge, skills and abilities needed to critique, understand, and conduct research about politics.  The course plan, activities and readings are the framework for this—the learning comes from actually doing them. 


To do well in the class:

·       Show up.  A rule of thumb here—three misses cost a full letter grade.

·       Do all the readings, write all assigned notes (neat enough to be read by others) and bring them to class. 

·       Complete all stages of the assignments.  The course paper due on December 5, for example, is 30% of your course grade.  But half of that amount is derived from turning in the earlier stages (paper topic workshops, etc.). 


The conceptual material is the center of the course.  The means of communicating it to others must be done well.  In other words, this is a writing course, too.  Excellent papers have these characteristics:

·       Meet the formal requirements of the paper (number of pages, etc.)

·       Faithfully follow a recognized reference system

·       Establish a clear focus and thesis—ask what is worth saying.  This means you need to develop a critical perspective that enables you to organize the material and establish a relationship with your reader.  We will look at writing that does this—mimic the best of them as a way to examine and develop your own style.

·       Introduction is detailed, not overly general

·       Paragraphs present data, focus on clear arguments or interpretive claims. 

·       Argument is supported and developed by evidence, appropriately cited and integrated into text.  To check the structure of your arguments, use Stephen Toulmin’s approach to argumentation (see his Uses of Argument, Cambridge 1969). 

·       Writing is free of mechanical errors.  Use a writing manual.  Make it a habit. 



Parts of course grade:

·       Course Paper = 30%

·       Policy Paper = 10%

·       Final Essay = 10%

·       All other exercises, turned in notes = 50%