PLSC 083 Lobbying the Federal Government


September 10, 2001


Some advice about how to write an excellent paper:


Title page: Title of paper, your name, date, class, my name.


Content: Start with a strong and clear thesis statement in the first sentence. Follow that up with a clear introductory paragraph explaining the questions you will address and how you will do it in this paper.


Next, review in greater detail the theoretical question you will explore. In this case, this should focus discussion on some particular element of Schattschneiderís theory of conflict expansion. In another paper, the theory might be different, but you would still have the first part of the paper explain the theoretical question in detail.


Now, describe your evidence. Be as specific as possible. Use lots of quotes, not vague and general references to ideas. Specificity and precision are always better than ambiguity, and they lend themselves less to inadvertent plagiarism, since youíll certainly cite things when you use direct quotes, but many fail to do so when they merely use general ideas. So get in the habit of being specific. In describing your evidence, be sure to introduce it in terms of the theoretical questions from the first part of the paper. Note that your point is to test or illustrate the theory, so any evidence you have about your case that doesnít relate to your theory should be deleted. Describe as much as you need to about your case to demonstrate that your theory either works or is disconfirmed by the evidence.


Next, write the conclusion, linking the evidence back to the theory and reaching your own conclusions. Do we need to rethink the theory? Does the theory provide a way to understand something that previously would have seemed incomprehensible? Does your study explain something important about politics generally?


Make sure you have a complete Bibliography. Include only those things you cite in the paper. If you read other things and want to list them, you have to work them into the body of the paper somehow. If you read things and they turned out to be of no use, then donít cite them.


Finally, go back and re-write your entire paper with an eye towards these things, after you have the argument and substance all set. One, is everything in the proper order, logically? Two, does each paragraph tell an important story, filling an important and logical place in the paper? (If not, delete.) Three, does each sentence make sense when read by itself? (If not, re-write it.) Four, are there spelling, grammar, or presentational problems. These just make you look unprofessional. Avoid them. Five, re-write sentences to avoid informal phrases, passive voice, etc. Six, are you careful about your citations? Did you cite everything, even general ideas that you used? Be sure you do this. Note that itís easier to do this if you take good notes and pay attention to cites while you are taking your notes, including page numbers. Last, give your paper to your roommate or someone else and ask them to read it through for style. Then fix any parts where they indicate it is confusing. Hand it in after all that and youíll do very well.