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PS420/520: Final Paper - Grad Students Only


Grad Students Only!!!

Graduate students must complete a research paper of 25 double-spaced pages developing a causal argument that engages research questions germane to the field of international organization. The readings for the course lay out a large set of theoretical and empirical research questions that currently engage the research community. The paper must answer a CAUSAL question. Papers that are historical narratives or are interesting, but non-causal descriptions of problems will not be acceptable. The notion of what I mean by a causal paper will become clear during the course of the term but I would be happy to discuss it with any of you during office hours. Your topic must be framed in terms of a theoretical statement that is not related to any specific international organization as well as an empirical statement that directly links this broader theoretical statement to the empirical case or cases that you will be studying. That is, you should provide a clear causal question that could refer to a large number of international organizations as well as the specific version of that question that applies to your particular cases. You can begin identifying compelling theoretical questions by reading through the books for the course and reading the references cited in those books.You need to identify:

  • A research question that is important to the international organizations research community,
  • Cases of an international organization that exhibit variation (over time or across cases) in the independent variable identified in that research question,
  • A source of information on variation in the dependent variable identified in that research question.
  • Without all of these elements, you cannot successfully complete this research paper!!!

The main goal is to engage yourself in rigorous causal analysis, making the strongest possible argument you can regarding that aspect of the operation of international organizations that you have chosen to study. You should, at a minimum, show that some factors (independent variables) can be excluded as the cause of the change in the dependent variable. Bare minimum requirements are as follows (see final checklist for more on this):

  • Make sure to read and follow the instructions contained in the other memos on the website on "Structuring your paper" and "Checklist for writing a good paper,"
  • Conduct original research directly addressing a theoretical question and its empirical application to a specific case,
  • Include AT LEAST 10 CITATIONS (for formatting, see my notes here) beyond those articles and books on the course syllabus,
  • Format professionally with proper use of in-text citations,
  • Create a full bibliography of those articles referenced,
  • Include a title page with ID number (not name),
  • Spell-check and insert page numbers, etc.

Papers will be graded based on the degree to which they develop a clear and well-structured argument. See my handout on how to write a professional paper before proceeding. I will discuss paper topics and ideas frequently during the course of the term. If you have any questions regarding your paper, I strongly encourage you to come to my office hours to discuss your questions and clarify the assignment and any problems you may encounter.

A WORD ON THEORY: You are not expected to develop your own theory for this paper. Rather, you are expected to summarize theoretical arguments already made by other scholars and test those theories through your empirical research. The theoretical section of your paper should clarify your dependent variable first and then have separate sections on the major independent variables that scholars have pointed to as important determinants of change in that dependent variable. If you divide the theoretical literature review into a DV section, and then some 3-7 or so IV sections, that sets you up well for the empirical sections to follow in which you evaluate which of these IVs really explain the variation in the DV you observe. Doing this gives your research an excellent chance of identifying factors that are alleged to make a difference but which really didn’t have much influence in the case or cases you are looking at. That, therefore, leaves a relatively few IVs as the likely "culprits" for the variation you observe. Eliminating some of the IVs that theorists think are important in general by showing they are NOT important in the case you are looking at allows you to help policy makers focus their limited attention and resources on the IVs that are really the source of the problem in that area.