TERM PAPER GUIDELINES
POLITICAL SCIENCE 1119
Your paper should squarely address one of the topics set out in the list of approved term paper topics. See the document entitled “Term Paper Topics.” The paper should be 8-10 pages in length (about 1600-2000 words) using a 12-pt font size.
The following are some guidelines to assist you in researching and writing the paper.
I. ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL PAPER
Your paper will be evaluated both as a work of research and piece of composition. It will be graded (out of 30 marks) according to the following criteria:
A) Organization (10/30)
(1) The paper should open with an introduction which contains a concise statement of the thesis (argument) of the paper. Examples of thesis statements:
“Canada’s decentralized federal system reflects the economic and cultural realities of the country.”
“The Liberal Party is a pragmatic rather than an ideological party. Its electoral success, until recently at least, can be explained primarily by its ability to adapt its policies periodically to satisfy the demands of a broad cross-section of Canadian voters.”
(2) After developing the argument through a connected series of points, close the paper with a conclusion which sums up the main points and relates them to the thesis of the paper.
B) Clarity (5/30)
Present your points clearly and logically. Write the paper as if it were directed to a general, reasonably well-educated audience. Accordingly, be sure to define key terms (such “asymmetrical federalism” or “parliamentary sovereignty”). As the paper should be written in your own words, direct quotations should be used sparingly and only to advance or clarify your argument.
C) Evidence (10/30)
Support your points with research and with rational, balanced arguments. As the essay topics deal with issues that are open to a range of plausible interpretations, be sure to acknowledge important viewpoints which run contrary to your own. Briefly evaluate them before moving on to your next point.
D) Style (5/30)
Pay attention to grammar, spelling, and punctuation and be sure to provide references for all quotations and research sources used. Sources must be cited with footnotes or endnotes (sometimes called “the Chicago style”) and must be listed in a separate bibliography. Do not use the MLA or APA citation format.
For details on avoiding plagiarism and on the correct use of footnotes or endnotes, see Guidelines for Academic Essays (Dept. of History, Latin, and Political Science: 2004) and Library’s concise guide to the Chicago Style of citation.
For guidance on correct citation, a more comprehensive source is The Chicago Manual of Style. 17th Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017. It is available at the Reference Desk.
II. CONDUCTING RESEARCH
For those students with little or no recent experience in writing a research paper, the following is a suggested series of steps.
1) Choose a topic from the list of approved term paper topics.
2) Conduct brief research on the topic. For a preliminary list of sources, refer to the bibliographic references in the textbook and in relevant supplementary readings. Then search the library catalogue for additional materials.
3) Write a thesis statement.
4) Make an outline of the points you intend to make.
5) Start writing. You may need to conduct further research on specific points as you write your first draft.
6) Keep accurate notes of all library sources used so that you may compile a complete list of references. Avoid plagiarism! If in doubt, consult the Library tutorial entitled Avoiding Plagiarism. It explains what plagiarism is and how you can avoid committing it. See also How Not to Plagiarize, a guide produced by the Department of History, Latin, and Political Science.
7) Use at least four (4) different sources, citing appropriate passages from them through the use of footnotes or endnotes.
8) Revise and re-write your paper at least once.
9) Proof-read your final draft to avoid spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. In addition to using the spell-check function on your computer, you may wish to ask someone to proof-read the paper.
10) Keep a back-up file of your paper in case the one on your hard drive mysteriously disappears!
III. LIBRARY RESOURCES
Library Orientation: Online Tutorials
The Langara Library provides helpful tutorials on such topics as conducting research and evaluating web resources.
A growing number of full-text books are now available online. Such e-books can be accessed through the College Library site at http://site.ebrary.com/lib/langara/home.action. In the past, students had to request inter-library loans to obtain books not contained in the College’s own collection.
This service allows students to borrow library materials from other libraries. Unfortunately, the service is not available this term for physical books owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, digital materials may be obtained by submitting an ILL request.
If your idea of online academic research is doing a Google search, or going straight to Wikipedia, think again! There are many more useful search engines and databases about which you should know. Consult a Reference Librarian for advice—or check the College Library website. For guidance, see the Library’s online tutorial, entitled “Can I Use This? Evaluating Your Resources.”
Please note that it is NOT acceptable to cite Wikipedia as a source!
A) Title page: Include on the title page the following information:
the title of the paper
the course name and number
the instructor’s name
B) The paper should be double-spaced and typed in 12-point type.
C) If using endnotes, place them on a separate page at the end of the paper, ahead of the Bibliography.
D) The Bibliography should be on a separate page, after the Endnotes page (if applicable).
E) Pages in the body of the paper should be numbered.
A FURTHER WORD ABOUT PLAGIARISM:
As you write your term paper, you should be cognizant of plagiarism and be sure to avoid it. While there are different forms of plagiarism, the common denominator is the passing off of a paper as original work of your own when in fact it has been appropriated from someone else. It is even considered plagiarism to submit for credit a paper that you previously submitted in another course.
To avoid plagiarism, the basic rule of thumb is to document, thoroughly and accurately, all of the sources from which you obtained your information and ideas. So as you do your research, make sure that you keep careful notes of all of your sources. If in doubt, consult the aforementioned document, How Not to Plagiarize.
Because plagiarism is a grave academic offence, instructors are bound to deal with it seriously. While the penalty will vary based on the nature and extent of the plagiarism, my policy is to deduct marks (at least 25 percentage points) where there is some degree of plagiarism and to assign a zero where it is pervasive. Instructors are also required to report cases of plagiarism to the office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity. That way the College can identify repeat offenders and mete out an appropriate penalty. Recidivists may receive a zero in the course or even face expulsion from the College.
The advent of the internet has increased the opportunities for term paper plagiarism. But it has also made available software that can readily detect such “net-propriation” of ideas. I have to say that I find it highly distasteful to check up on suspicious papers. But it is my duty to do so and I will not hesitate to deal firmly with proven cases of plagiarism.
So there you have it: consider the riot act to have been read, purely as a precautionary measure! If you have questions about any of the foregoing, please see me.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. May we cite the textbook or the supplementary readings?
A. Yes you may, provided you cite them like any other research source.
Q. May we cite lecture materials?
A. No. However, the lecture materials may well provide you with useful points to pursue in doing library research.
Q. Do the supplementary readings or the textbook count as part of the minimum of four sources that we are required to provide?
A. No. As this is a research paper, you are expected to do library research. So if you choose to cite assigned readings, they should be in addition to (not instead of) at least four sources you have gathered from your independent research efforts.
Q. May we cite Wikipedia articles as sources?
A. The answer is a resounding NO. That is not to say that many Wikipedia articles may not be useful as a starting point for your research. For example, many of them list pertinent materials in endnotes and bibliographies which you may then follow up on. But the articles themselves are not recognized as authoritative, so do not cite them as such.
Q. Is there a specific form of citation we must use?
A. Yes, as indicated earlier you are required to use the Footnote (or Endnote) format (a.k.a., the Chicago style). The most authoritative guide to its use is The Chicago Manual of Style. It is available at the Reference Desk of the Library. Or see the Library’s concise guide to the Chicago Style of citation. Also highly recommended is The Thomson-Nelson Guide to Research and Writing in Political Science by Charlton and Charlton. It contains some information on the Chicago style of citation.
Q. When citing our sources, do we only have to provide endnotes (or footnotes) for quotations?
A. You must certainly provide a citation for any quotations used. But you must also document any facts, ideas, or arguments derived from your research. Only in that way can you be sure to avoid committing plagiarism. If you are in doubt about the necessity to footnote a passage in your paper, I would advise you to provide the footnote. After all, when it comes to avoiding plagiarism, it is better to be safe than sorry!
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