Research Paper Requirement for the Class:
A Guide to Writing Your Paper
Term Paper. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the 2010 US Supreme Court
decision allowing unlimited spending by corporations in election campaigns, is widely regarded
as a negative for the future of democracy in the United States. For the term paper, your
assignment is to examine how money is increasingly playing a role in politics and to examine its
effects in Congress and the Presidency. You are to pay particular attention to the effect of Citizens
United and how this will affect the roles of interest group politics. Choose an interest group that is
trying to influence public policy and describe the actions of this interest group in terms of a current
political event (“current” means the event must have occurred or is occurring during this
semester). Your current event might be something about a particular environmental issue, an
education topic, or a defense policy, etc.
Once you have chosen an interest group and explored a relevant current event, you will then
need to examine what you have discovered in terms of the scholarly research on interest groups
in general. While researching the scholarly literature, you are not necessarily looking for
research about your particular interest group, or the specific current event that you were looking
at, but for what the research shows about interest groups in general. You might examine how
interest groups operate, how they interact with representatives, how they are funded, and how
they affect policies and policy changes, enactment of laws, and enforcement of laws, etc.
In political science, thesis sentences, like the question stems described below, are often the type
of questions that you see in the “Critical Thinking Questions” in the back of each chapter in your
textbook, as well as those you saw in the midterm. These are the types of questions that political
scientists examine and are the types of questions you’ll want to think about in relation to writing
your paper, tying your research to the current political event.
In writing your research paper, you will need to put the topic you choose into context of the
scholarly research on that topic. What does that mean? It means that you’ll need to research and
use scholarly journal articles in the social sciences and apply them to your topic. You may make
use of newspaper articles or information from websites in order to find the current political event
and the current information on your interest group, but then you must show evidence of your
understanding of the issues by including at least five credible, reliable references to the scholarly
research on the topic.
To clarify: I’m looking for a research paper in political science; in other words, using
information you find on your particular issue, put it into context of the scholarly information
written by political scientists and other experts. Commentary heard on Fox news or on AM radio
are NOT scholarly, nor are articles you find in Time or Newsweek. You’ll have to research the
scholarly journals for articles that present research information on your issue.
Your paper must be 7-10 double-space, typed pages using 10 or 12 font size.
Pay particular attention to sections III, IV, and IX below.
Choose your interest group and the topic to research on that group, and then:
Answer the follow questions for yourself before writing your thesis statement:
What is the point of my paper?
What do I want this paper to prove?
Can I tell the reader anything new or different?
To help you define a topic, write a research question about your topic by completing
one of the following question stems:
What is/was the role of . . . in . . .
What are/were the effects/results of . . .
Who/what influenced . . . to . . .
What are the competing sides . . .
How does/did . . . change . . .
Develop your preliminary thesis:
In starting your paper, change your research question into a statement that you’ll
support with your research.
Divide your paper into sections.
B. Introduce the aspect you’d like to further discuss and analyze along with the
integration of your research as well as textbook and in-class materials
Begin your search.
Find current newspaper articles about the issue you’ve chosen. You need to have at
least five credible, reliable sources other than the newspaper articles and textbook.
Think of key words or phrases to describe your topic and use them when you search for
Books: search the library’s online catalog
Articles: search Academic Search Premier for full-text articles (use your pipeline
username/password to search from home, or elsewhere)
Web: search the web for relevant discussion of the issues
Evaluate your sources
Select materials that are relevant to your topic. When searching, select journal articles or
books rather than popular magazines such as Time or Newsweek. When selecting web
sources, pay particular attention to where the information comes from; using criteria such
as: Who’s the author? What are their credentials? Who’s sponsoring the page? Is the
information reliable? Who’s the intended audience?
Take notes from research that address the topics in your outline; include where the
information came from. For books, include: author(s), title, publisher, place and date
of publication, page numbers to specific part of the book. For articles, include:
author(s) of article, title of article, title of journal, volume, date, and page numbers.
Summarize and paraphrase what you read or use direct quotes. For each, you must
provide a citation to the source of the idea.
Write an outline of your paper
Further develop your paper sections into an outline.
Identify major issues then list supporting ideas into subheadings.
Arrange your note cards by the main topics and subtopics in your outline.
Write a draft of your paper
Write the introduction: identify the subject of your paper, provide background
information, express the problem, and provide your thesis statement.
Write the body of the paper: state your major areas and explore each one.
Write the conclusion: reaffirms your thesis statement, discusses the issues, and
reaches a final judgment: your conclusion based on your research and your reasoning.
VIII. Assess your progress
Do you need more research in areas?
Do you need to focus your topic?
Cite your sources
You must give credit to material used from your sources.
Develop a bibliography – a list of books and articles used in your research.
Use the MLA style of citing works.
Full-text electronic article:
Author (Year published). Title of Article. Journal Title, Volume#
(Issue#), Page Numbers. Retrieved Date from URL.
Stratmann, Thomas (2006, July). Is Spending More Potent For or Against
a Proposition? Evidence from Ballot Measures. American Journal of
Political Science, 50(3), 788-801. Retrieved July 3, 2010 from Academic
Name of author or creator, if available. (Date/latest update). Title of
topic or article (if given). Name of any institution or
organization associated with the site. Retrieved Date from URL.
Corporate Spending May Reshape Politics: Supreme Court Decision Opens
the Door to Unconstrained Election Spending by Corporations That
can Keep Spending Quiet (2010). CBSNEWS Politics. Retrieved
August 22, 2010 from http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/01/22/
Finalize your paper
Format, revise, edit and proofread your final draft.
Joe Martorana, Political Science Dept.
Santa Barbara City College, 2010