Political Science 499: The POLS Capstone Seminar 


Spring 2016

T, Th, 1:45-3:30, in Ramstad 205.

Sid Olufs, X-153,  olufs@plu.edu

Office Hours:  M 12:30-1:30, T 9:30-12:30, W 3:30-4:30, plus by appointment.

    The course assignments page.     We sometimes use the course Sakai site. 


CATALOG DESCRIPTION: Intensive study into topics, concepts, issues and methods of inquiry in political science. Emphasis on student research, writing, and presentation. 


Seminar participants will write a senior paper following guidelines discussed in the class. We will meet as a class some of the time, work independently other times (with required individual readings and meetings with instructor), and then reconvene as a class to discuss the papers.

Meetings are scheduled for February 9, 11, 16, 18;  March 1, 3, 15, 17;  April 5, 7, 12; and all days in May (3, 5, 20,12, 17,19). 


The Department desires that students have the following knowledge, skills and abilities upon their completion of the major:

1.    You should be able to read at a level appropriate to the discipline.  You can demonstrate this by writing literature reviews, books reviews, diagramming arguments from readings, and answering questions about readings with reference to text evidence.

2.    You should be able to write at a level suitable for professional application.  You can demonstrate this by writing a paper, and by pursuing the writing process

*topic declaration and justification,

*concepts/approaches/methods (literature review section),

*diagramming arguments,

*successive drafts that critically respond .

3.    You should be able to speak to communicate your argument to a group.  You can demonstrate this by interaction in class, class presentation of results from diagramming arguments, writing book reviews, and by participating in classroom group assignments, such as answering questions about readings with reference to text evidence

4.    You should be able to think critically.  You can demonstrate this by writing papers, participating in classroom group assignments, such as evaluating a policy claim in the light of evidence, and by identifying in each the critical component.

5.    You should be able to think logically.  You can demonstrate this by diagramming arguments, writing policy papers, and presenting arguments to the class. 


Coursework will be evaluated according to these criteria.  Participation is required (10% of total, 3 missed classes result in deduction of the entire 10%), regular exercises and stages of papers will be turned in (50%, no late items accepted), and the paper shall be conceptually clear, well-written, and free of errors (40%). 


The methods course, POLS 301, is a prerequisite for this course.  If it is not required for you, you need to come into class the first day with a draft of your research design.  Contact Olufs now if this applies to you. 


Students should be prepared to do the following the first week of class. 

      Write abstracts of articles and book chapters.  Check your writing handbook for descriptions of abstracts. 

      Construct a research question. 

      Perform a literature search on your research question.  You need to develop distinctions between mass media, think tanks (and different types of think tanks), and various types of refereed or peer reviewed journals.

      Write a survey of the literature you have found, with citations for specific claims. 

      Be able to interpret tables and graphic displays of data. 

      Critically read and make editorial comments on papers.  General criteria for papers are described on the course web site.  Your writing handbook has many tips on this. 


The required text for the course is Booth, et.al., The Craft of Research, Third Edition 978-0226065663  Earlier editions are suitable as well.  It is brief and well written. 

For an example of a well-constructed piece of professional literature, please see Martin Gilens, Inequality and Democratic Responsiveness, Public Opinion Quarterly, 69 (Special Issue 2005) No. 5: 778-796.  Remember that political science borrows from many disciplines, including history, economics, philosophy, sociology, and psychology.  No one article will reflect the full range of work in the discipline. 


Your paper drafts will be returned with a variety of correction symbols.   The top of the assignments page has links to writing resources. 


Ever wonder what are the twenty most cited articles in political science?  This is one way of understanding the content of the discipline.  Here is a list for most cited articles the various Wiley journals, in the journal Perspectives on Politics, in other APSA journals,  in the journal Political Analysis, in International Political Science Review, in Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory,   in Social Politics, in  Contributions to Political Economy.... 


Other items, including emergency procedures and grade dispute policies, are found here.