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PSC 3315 Fundamentals of International Politics: Choosing a Topic

Choosing a Topic

  • Review your assignment 
  • Pick a topic or concept from your class discussions or readings
  • Clear your paper topic idea with your professor
  • Schedule a research appointment with Sinai Wood

Research Help Available

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Helpful Worksheets

Focusing Your Research Paper (Eileen Bentsen's guide on managing a paper topic)

Look at the Topic Choice page and download the Topic Table worksheet found below.

Look at the Questions & Claims page and download the Questions & Claims worksheet found below.

Maybe you need to kickstart your research ideas, first...

Too Much or Not Enough?

Knowing how many questions or claims to make in a paper is always a bit tricky.  When you ask, you often get the reply "Enough to make your case convincing or to prove your point."  That's certainly true, but not always helpful.  Here are a couple of "rules of thumb" and explanations that might help you.

For shorter papers (10 - 12 pages) or papers in 1000 - 2000 level classes where you are just learning about the topic you'll want to have about 1 question per page of the paper to start with.

  1.  You won't answer all 10 questions, but until you do more research and reading, you won't know which of the questions are valid and which ones are dead ends, so having a few extra ones is good at this point  
  2. You'll eventually answer or address only 6 - 8 questions in the final paper - this leaves you room to discuss the pros and cons and come to some conclusion of your own on the debate  
  3. WHY?: each typed, double-spaced page has only about 250 words on it, so that's not really a lot of space to present the topic (your question or claim), introduce and do justice to the various sides of the argument, reach a conclusion, and transition to the next question or claim.  Sticking to one question per page keeps your thoughts focused yet allows you to develop your argument sufficiently.

For longer papers (15 - 30 pages) or most papers in a 3000 - 4000 level class you will want to have about 1 question or claim for every 3 pages.

  1. You are coming to the topic with some skills or knowledge already (from those 1000 - 2000 level classes) so the expectations have changed.
  2. You'll usually need to dig a little deeper into the scholarship and existing research on the topic (go further back to find older research, track down the development of a particular scholar's ideas on a topic, etc.).  This generally means gathering more information and incorporating it into your paper.  So, you'll need to demonstrate that work in your paper.
  3. For these longer papers, you will need to do a fair bit of reading before finalizing your thesis statement, so it really is good to start the work earlier than you would for a shorter paper.


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