TO: Politics Students
FROM: Prof. Miller
RE: Proposals for Research Papers
The proposals for the research paper in my courses should be prepared in the following form, typed, double-spaced, with a title page. To emphasize the importance of the research and effort necessary for a satisfactory research paper proposal, the proposal is worth 20% of the final paper grade. For the senior seminar thesis, the proposal is worth one-third of the thesis grade, which amount also equals one-fifth of the final course grade.
1. A short statement of the issue/problem/question that you want to research; in other words, What do you want to find out? (30%)
For "research papers," the research--as opposed to the paper that is based upon the research--aims at the solution to some initial problem; it does not begin with a topic to be described. High school research papers are usually about topics; college research papers are about the solution to problems or issues that the student proposes to study. Proposals and research papers also do not begin with a point that you wish to prove or defend. Research that begins with an established conclusion or thesis leads to a brief or a polemic, not a scholarly research paper. In short, proposals propose a problem to be researched, not a point to be argued. The thesis, or research paper, the presents the answer (the "thesis") that you have formulated to the question and its rationale: it is an argument in support of your anwswer.
The research issue must be based on something you read and not simply conjured up as a bright idea. It can be a question based on a disagreement between scholars or statesmen, an analysis or evaluation of an argument based on explicit and well-grounded standards or criteria, or a study of the major writings of a political scholar or statesman. In all cases, you must start out wanting to know something, and that "something" must be significant. See Booth, Colomb, and Williams, The Craft of Research, for further explanation of research questions.
2. The documentary basis for the issue/problem/question stated above. (30%)
List the sources in proper Chicago-style bibliographic form.
The proposal must be based on several sources: for short (8-10 page) papers at least two sources, one of which is a book, scholarly article (an article with footnotes in a scholarly journal), or book chapter; the senior thesis should be based on at least six sources in addition to those that you used in your initial research for the 300-level course paper upon which the thesis is based. For constitutional law papers, you should read at least half a dozen cases on the general issue in which you are interested. Pay particular attention to the dissenting opinions as a source of conflicting views that your research aims to resolve.
The order in which you present #1 and #2 does not really matter: you may start with a reference to the readings that gave rise to the problem you wish to research, or you may first state the problem and then indicate the readings (cases) that brought it to your attention.
3. A preliminary answer to the question--an educated hunch or hypothesis--with a brief rationale. (20%)
This is a short--one paragraph--statement of what you, at the outset of the further research and writing process, think might be the answer to your question and why you think so. This must be a tentative hunch, subject to revision or rejection on the basis of your additional research. In Senior Thesis proposals, this hypothesis will probably be more certain because you have already completed most of the research for the first draft.
4. Listing of likely sources of information. (20%)
List here in proper bibliographic form (Chicago style again!) the names of articles, books, Congressional documents, or proposed interviews and other sources of data that you knoware presently available to you and that you have briefly reviewed but not necessarily read. This is to eliminate the problem of "no materials available at our library," an excuse of epidemic proportions and one that is rarely justified. At least half of your initial and your likely sources of information should be journal articles, but usually no more than one magazine or other non-scholarly source is permitted. For constitutional law papers, at least half a dozen additional cases and law review or other legal articles should be sufficient. The writing quality--punctuation, grammar, spelling, diction, etc.--will also count in the grading of the proposal.
For 300-level courses, the paper itself must reflect use of at least eight (8) sources, all referred to in footnotes and all available to me at the time I grade the paper. The paper should have at least 15 to 25 footnotes. Get out the Turabian (or the legal notation guidelines that I provide)! A first draft will be due about two-thirds into the semester and the final draft of the paper due about ten days before the end of the semester, both as noted on the syllabus. An oral account of your paper is due the last day of class.
For senior theses, the first draft should be thirty to forty pages long and the final draft should be twenty-five to thirty pages long--no longer! The first draft, due about mid-semester, reflects all of your research: the final draft, due about a month later, reflects your editing and selecting of material from the first draft and thus is naturally shorter. Typically, the paper should use at least fifteen (15) sources and have 50+ footnotes. You will offer an oral presentation and defense of the paper during the last two classes of the semester.