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POSC 121 Supporting Materials
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Paper Guidelines

TIPS ON STYLE AND ORGANIZATION

Assume that your grammar, style, and sentence structure will be evaluated. Good ideas are of little value if the reader cannot follow your argument.

Remember that all writing has an argumentative edge; your commentary should try to convince the reader of something.

When you write something, tell the reader why it is there. Make explicit the connections you want the reader to make.

Avoid fancy language and quotations which may conceal rather than reveal your argument. When giving a quotation, be sure to introduce it, and to clearly explain how it fits in with your argument.

Your commentary should have a clear thesis which is stated in the first paragraph. One option is to underline your thesis so that the reader easily can locate it. This thesis should provide a subtle blueprint for your commentary. Clearly state what you are going to argue; the reader never should have to guess at what your paper is about.

Do not raise issues in your paper which are not in your thesis statement. By the same token, do not raise a major point in your introduction and fail to discuss it in the rest of the paper.

Each paragraph must have a clear topic sentence which unites the sentences in the paragraph, and links the paragraph to the paper's overall thesis.

TIPS ON CLARITY AND ACCURACY IN WRITING

Use and define important terms correctly.

Be sure that you present a writer's ideas or information accurately and in the proper context.

Avoid vagueness. "The state was weak." In what way? Why?

Do not take arguments for granted. Avoid using terms like "obviously," "of course," and "naturally."

Proof-read to avoid using an incorrect word: eg., their/they're/there, and to/too/two will not be caught by your spell-check. Similarly, spell-check will not catch some editing errors.

Remember plural-singular agreement: "The Democratic Party recently held its convention." "Members of the Democratic Party recently held their convention.

Like his, her, or my, the possessive "its" does not have an apostrophe. "It's" is a contraction of "it is."

Avoid run-on sentences. "The party was great, however, I didn't feel so good the next day." (Use a period or semicolon before "however.")

Avoid sentence fragments. "The Republicans and Democrats control the government. Which makes it very difficult for independents to exercise political power." (Connect the clauses: eg., "The Republicans and Democrats control the government; as a result, it is very difficult for independents to exercise political power.") Avoid beginning a sentence with "That," "Which," "But," or "So."

Avoid contractions. Scholarly papers should not use contractions like "don't, "can't," "shouldn't." Spell out both words.

Avoid use of the first-person ("I"). Rather than saying, "I believe that this argument is flawed," say, "This argument is flawed."

Introduce and explain all quotes. Do not insert a quotation without identifying the author of the quote, and explaining how this quote relates to the paragraph within which it is written. For example: In explaining why factions are dangerous, Madison argues that they are "united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community" (Federalist #10, p. A-19).

A BRIEF WORD ON KARMA

Avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism involves taking someone else's work (as in copying out of a book that you think the reader has not read) and presenting it as your own. When you use a quotation, or paraphrase an idea that is not entirely your own, you must cite your source Plagiarism is a serious offense and will result in an "F" for the course.  Be sure to cite all references to any outside material, even if you are not directly quoting the source material.  Citations must include the author in addition to information that will enable the reader to find the referenced material.

It is essential that you write the papers in your own words. When asked to write about the readings, it is tempting to answer the question by copying the answer straight out of the reading. Example: you would like to explain what Dye means by pluralism so you do so by copying Dye's paragraph. Or, you change a few words here and there but basically lift out the explanation. Wrong. Papers need to be written in your own words. You may use a very limited amount of quotes which are properly attributed in the end notes. If you use the idea of another author, that too must be referenced. Using either the exact words of another author without quotes or using their ideas without referencing is both theft and bad karma. Don't do it. 

Remember, To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism-to steal from many is research.

All of your professors are computer literate and on-line. We are familiar with papers available to be downloaded form the internet and we also know how to access them by inputting some of the plagiarized paper, so don't even think about it. In addition, your paper should be an extension of what has been covered and assigned in this specific course with an application to a particular topic, so it is doubtful that any "paper for hire" would meet the requirements. Any paper, no matter how brilliant, that goes beyond the parameters of the assignment and extensively references authors not addressed in this course or specifically relevant to your topic will receive an immediate "F".

GRADING STANDARDS

An "A" paper will have the following attributes:

  1. Content: Paper integrates article with ideas from assigned readings and/or lectures. This integration is encapsulated in the paper's thesis, and fleshed out in the body of the paper.
  2. Organization: Paper has a clear thesis, and each paragraph has a clear topic sentence. Each topic sentence is clearly linked with the thesis, as well as with all sentences within that paragraph.
  3. Clarity: Paper has no grammatical, semantic, or syntactic errors.
  4. Critical thinking: Paper incorporates independent, critical thought on the part of the student. 

A "B" paper will have the following attributes:

  1. Content: Paper integrates article with ideas from assigned readings and/or lectures. This integration is encapsulated in the paper's thesis, and fleshed out in the body of the paper.
  2. Organization: Paper has a clear thesis, and each paragraph has a clear topic sentence. Each topic sentence is linked with the thesis, as well as with all sentences within that paragraph.
  3. Clarity: Paper has some minor grammatical, semantic, or syntactic errors.
  4. Critical thinking: Paper incorporates some independent, critical thought on the part of the student.

A "C" paper will have the following attributes:

  1. Content: Paper integrates article with ideas from assigned readings and/or lectures. This integration is encapsulated in the paper's thesis, and fleshed out in the body of the paper.
  2. Organization: Paper has a fairly clear thesis. Most paragraphs have a fairly clear topic sentence which relates to the thesis, as well as all sentences within that paragraph. Most paragraphs are clearly linked.
  3. Clarity: Paper has a number of grammatical, semantic, or syntactic errors, though most are not serious.
  4. Critical thinking: Paper incorporates little to no independent, critical thought on the part of the student.

A "D" paper will have one or more of the following attributes:

  1. Content: Paper does not explicitly integrate article with ideas from assigned readings and/or lectures.
  2. Organization: Paper does not have a clear thesis. Many topic sentences are not clear. Many paragraphs are not clearly linked.
  3. Clarity: Paper has a number of grammatical, semantic, or syntactic errors, some of which are serious.
  4. Critical thinking: Paper incorporates no independent, critical thought on the part of the student.

An "F" paper will have one or more of the following attributes:

  1. Content: Paper does not explicitly integrate article with ideas from assigned readings and/or lectures.
  2. Organization: Paper does not have a clear thesis. Most paragraphs do not have a fairly clear topic sentence. Paragraphs are not clearly linked.
  3. Clarity: Paper has many grammatical, semantic, or syntactic errors, many of which are serious.
  4. Critical thinking: Paper incorporates no independent, critical thought on the part of the student.
Last Updated: 11/14/2014
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