Research Essay Instructions The essay length is 2,000-2,500 words excluding bibliography. A word count must be provided on the cover page. Students must use a minimum of four academic peer-reviewed sources (course readings do not count). Peer-reviewed sources include scholarly journal articles (e.g. American Political Science Review, Comparative Politics), books published by credible university publishers (e.g. Oxford, University of Toronto), or chapters in edited volumes (also published by a university press). You do not need to read an entire book to use it as a source. Each chapter in an edited volume counts as one source. Students are encouraged to go beyond four sources and to use online and other credible non-academic sources (e.g. policy briefs, government press releases). Choose one of the following topics and consider the questions posed. You should make use of these questions as the starting point to define your essay topic and thesis statement: 1. Do mainstream political parties in Canada formulate their party platform/general policies in line with particular ideologies? 2. Is country x more democratic than country y? Why? Why not? Choose two countries with a strong basis for comparison. 3. Should every nation have a state? Why? Why not? 4. What are the strengths and weaknesses of parliamentary and presidential systems? Should Canada switch to a presidential system? Should the US adopt a parliamentary system? 5. Should all large countries have federal systems of government? Why? Why not? 6. What are the issues with the first-past-the-post electoral system? Should Canada proceed with electoral system reform? Why? Why not? 7. Does the judiciary have too much power? Why? Why not? Students should exercise creativity in the process of researching and writing their paper, but here are some basic guidelines: Introduction • It should begin by very briefly establishing the context for the ‘puzzle’ or question. In short, you should quickly convince someone that your question and argument is interesting and relevant. For example: “Canada ranks low among liberal democracies in terms of female participation in politics despite having one of the most educated female populations in the word.” The interesting question, then, is: why are there so few women in the Parliament of Canada and what can we do about it? • Your thesis—a simple affirmation of what you plan to argue—should also form part of the introduction. For example, “Canada should adopt a mixed-member proportional representation electoral system to increase representation and maintain the direct link between citizens and their MPs.” Try to be precise and unambiguous; each word (concept) that does not have an immediately obvious meaning should be defined. In the previous example, it would be important to clarify what ‘representation’ means. Body • Every argument makes a claim that must be supported by effectively by some evidence. • Evidence in the social sciences can take the form of factual evidence and interpretive data. The first category includes data collected through methods where researcher judgement is limited. For example, “in a randomized poll of 1,000 Canadians, 75% identified ‘jobs’ as their biggest concern.” Interpretive data leaves more room for judgement and bias. For example, “in my 15 interviews with Liberal politicians, the theme of ‘national unity’ dominated the conversations.” You can still use this type of data, but make sure you consider the likelihood of bias and acknowledge it when necessary. • It is also very important to recognize counterarguments and not thus not overstate your conclusions. • Subheadings can be used to impose an organizational structure upon your paper. They break up the paper into more easily digested chunks, and convey the impression that you have paid attention to the structural form and coherency of your argument. It is essential, however, to provide some transition between the sections of your paper. Subheadings emphasize points of transition; they do not provide a substitute for transitions in the body of the text. Conclusion • The conclusion should not be very long. The most important part of the conclusion is a brief and precise restating of your argument. A conclusion can also make suggestions for future research or spell out the recommendations that flow from the argument. For example, “I have argued that PR systems are better for creating gender balance in national parliaments, but more work is required to differentiate between the effectiveness of specific variants of PR.” The essay must have the following structural elements and features: 1. Title: Ensure the title reflects the topic. You can be ‘clever’, but do not make the title too long or awkward. Use titles of peer-reviewed articles you read as examples. 2. Title page: Provide the following information: title of essay, your full name, student number, course code/tutorial section, date, name of teaching assistant. 3. Introduction: An explanation of what the essay will argue. It should include some context to highlight why the research question (your thesis is an answer to this question) is important. It should also, of course, state the research question (before the thesis). Also provide a road map for the reader to give them a good sense of how the paper will proceed. 4. Key terms (concepts) and definitions: This happens at different points throughout the paper. If you argue that “judicial intervention in politics undermines legitimacy,” it is important to define ‘legitimacy’ and give the reader a sense of the evidence you present that gives the concept meaning. 5. Logical organization and sequence: Use relatively short well-written paragraphs; a basic rule of thumb is that a new paragraph begins when the writer switches to a new point or idea. 6. In-text citation and bibliography: Refer to the guide (posted on Canvas) to citations using the APA system. Do your best to follow the APA in-text style, but the TAs will be flexible given that it can be hard to follow the guide meticulously.