For both of your papers, you are to choose news articles reflecting a current U.S. political issue—something that has shown up in the news within the last couple of years.  If you have not yet started regularly scanning a major news source, START NOW.  This is the best way to see what’s in the news and thus pick your paper topics.  Keep in mind that the word “current” means that none of your articles should be from before 2016.  Also, since this is an American Government class, the articles should be focused squarely on U.S. politics and/or government.

Both papers are to summarize the chosen article(s) and then analyze their contant using concepts found in the readings or lectures.  If you have been keeping up with the readings, taking notes and digesting the concepts in both, you should be able to recognize when something from the class material is relevant to what’s showing up in the headlines.  I’ll be looking for understanding of the concepts, and correct application of them to your topic.  The focus here is on ANALYSIS—you should summarize the article(s), and then follow up with an explanation using ANALYTICAL CONCEPTS from the course.  Please see the list of suggested “analytical concepts” attached.

Your outside research for these assignments should consist solely of news articles and analyses (note:  NO BLOGS OR EDITORIALS; NO VIDEOS) found in appropriate news media.  The only acceptable news sources for these assignments are:

  • Wall Street Journal
  • New York Times
  • LA Times
  • Washington Post
  • Christian Science Monitor
  • Economist
  • Time
  • Newsweek
  • CNN
  • BBC
  • Al Jazeera
  • You may utilize either the hard copy (available in Morgan Library) or online versions of these.


Paper #1:

Your first paper is due September 26th.  At 50 points, it is a sort of miniature rehearsal for the second paper.  Paper #1 should be 1 to 2 pages in length (see format guidelines below).  It should summarize one article from one of the sources above (the summary should constitute about half of your paper), followed by an analysis using one or more explanatory concepts from the readings and/or lectures to date.

Paper #2:


Your second paper is due November 14th and is worth 100 points.  Paper #2 should be 4 to 5 pages in length.  It must summarize three articles, and then analyze the issues presented in those articles using concepts from the readings and/or lectures.  For this paper, you may use concepts from any of the readings throughout the term.  A good paper would have roughly half devoted to summarizing the problem as presented in the media, and roughly half devoted to the analysis.  Expand your horizons for the second paper:  do not do it on the same topic as the first.  Your articles may be on just one topic, or two or three.



Many of those who do badly on my writing assignments did not follow the instructions.  Here are some general format guidelines:

  • Papers should be printed out, double-spaced, margins no larger than 1” and font no larger than 12.
  • Points will be docked for papers that do not meet the length requirements.
  • Be thorough inciting your sources throughout the paper.   Citations may be in parentheses within the text, or as footnotes or endnotes.
  • When referring to a concept from the text, make sure you properlycite where you found it:  for example, “As Greenberg and Page (page 135) define…”
  • Please include areference page listing all of your sources in proper form.  I prefer Chicago style, but you may use a different format as long as you are consistent.  Points will be docked for sloppy or incomplete citations or references.  Note:  The page requirements do not include your reference page or an endnotes page.  .  Another note:  An endnotes page is not the same thing as a reference page!  See me if you have questions on this.
  • While I will not go through with a magnifying glass for poor spelling, grammar, etc., such things will be included under “overall quality” when I am assigning points.
  • At the bottom of your reference page, please place the following statement, followed by your signature in pen:  I pledge on my honor that I have not received or given any unauthorized assistance in this assignment.

Don’t plagiarize!  It will be easy to spot, given the design of this assignment; consequences will be severe.  Also, don’t procrastinate.  This assignment requires some following of current events, review of the text, and thoughtful analysis; thus, it cannot be successfully done overnight.

Please see me as early as possible if you have any questions or special problems.

See list of suggested analytical concepts below.

Suggested Analytical Concepts:  Paper 1

This assignment requires you to analyze the political issue(s) found in your article(s), using concepts from class or from the readings.  However, some students in the past have had trouble with this:  in essence, “What’s a concept?”  A common mistake is to use data from the course materials, rather than analytical concepts.  Summarizing an article that presents certain facts, and then citing similar facts presented in the book, is not analysis; it is just data followed by more data.  Analysis is more abstract:  it may explain the facts, or put them in a larger context, or help us to understand them.  Perhaps the best way to explain it is that if it’s something that you can take a picture of, it’s probably not an analytical concept.

Because I recognize this is not a particularly clear explanation, here is a list of “concepts” that may be used in your papers to analyze the articles you find.  It is not necessarily all-inclusive; you may come up with others from the course materials that I have overlooked, but please check with me first.

For paper #1:

  • The definitions of politics/concepts included
  • The definition of government
  • Collective/public goods
  • Any of the benchmarks or sub-benchmarks of democracy
  • Direct vs. indirect (representative) democracy
  • Models of representation:  trustee, delegate
  • Bounded uncertainty
  • Contingent consent
  • Any of the fallacies covered in course materials
  • Political culture, including any of the “core values” in American political culture
  • Political socialization
  • The dimensions of public opinion
  • Life cycles of social movements
  • Pluralism, hyperpluralism
  • The “inside game” and the “outside game” as presented in Greenberg and Page
  • Flaws in the pluralist heaven as presented in Greenberg and Page and/or class


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