I. Course Objectives
This senior seminar in Political Science is the result of cooperative and collaborative effort by the eight political scientists. While different teams offer sections of this course, we have worked closely together to establish a writing enhanced course that will accomplish the following objectives in the areas of knowledge and skills:
Knowledge: students will…
$ understand and appreciate the development of the methods and approaches to the findings of the discipline of
$ read and analyze seminal readings in political science’s several subfields
$ review and integrate concepts central to the discipline
$ master literature that both addresses, and raises, research questions central to political scientists
$ analyze and synthesize political science's use of and contributions to other social sciences.
$ examine the role of political science in understanding human behavior and in solving social problems.
$ through one’s own research project, develop a deeper knowledge of a specific research question
Skills: through thoughtful completion of assignments, students will…
$ demonstrate proficiencies in various extemporaneous and formal speaking
$ develop collaborative and critical thinking skills.
$ become proficient in distilling and synthesizing several readings on a related topic
$ engage in a sustained commitment to a research project, demonstrating both an ability to work independently,
while simultaneously working under faculty tutelage,
$ develop one’s thinking about a problem by writing and revising a multi-stage paper that results in a polished,
Furthermore, this course has been designated as writing enhanced. To achieve this designation, we have demonstrated that this course meets the following criteria:
$ The course will emphasize writing as a means of achieving a deeper understanding of subject material.
$ Furthering the development of student writing skills will be a primary goal of the course.
$ The course will include writing assignments of a quantity and frequency appropriate to the designation writing
$ Most of the writing in the course will be public writing in a style appropriate to the level of the course and the
$ The course will foster the writers’ habits of rethinking and revising drafts, seeking external critiques of early
drafts, and editing drafts for mechanical errors as standard practices of good writing
$ Professors will provide quality commentary on their students’ writing; class sizes will be limited to facilitate this
$ By the end of the course, successful students will have produced high-quality writing appropriate for inclusion in
the student’s’ portfolio.
As a writing enhanced course, Senior Seminar has the following projected outcomes:
$ use writing as a mode of learning as well as a method of communicating what was learned.
$ be able to generate, organize, and communicate information and ideas fully, clearly, and cogently.
$ exhibit the ability to analyze, synthesize, evaluate, reflect and engage in other forms of critical thinking.
$ how audience awareness, i.e., the ability to adapt their writing to the needs of diverse readers with diverse
experiences, assumptions, and expectations.
$ appreciate the importance of good writing in their personal and professional lives.
The senior seminar course promotes these cognitive outcomes through two main types of writing assignments, which are described more fully below. The weekly papers synthesizing the readings and answering a question promote all five of the outcomes, as you will, on a regular basis, be writing for a different audience (including two or more professors, and your classmates), and distilling several readings into a tightly reasoned three page paper. Experience with our students allows us to conclude that this does become a habit useful for either the professional world, or for post-graduate education. The semester-long research design will also draw upon, and help to refine, these cognition skills.
$ engage in deep revision, closely examining and further developing the reasoning in the writing.
$ assess their own writing to uncover strengths and concerns, and be able to generate strategies for improvement.
$ solicit external critiques of their writing to guide revision as a regular habit of their writing process, copy-edit their
own work for mechanics, style, and coherence.
The requirement for deep revision comes in the semester long research design, which will be written, and rewritten, in specific stages. Prior to each stage, students are encouraged to consult with their faculty mentor, as this is the person who will be providing detailed feedback. As an ongoing project, we expect that students will revisit and revise earlier stages as you refine and develop your research topic. Both the weekly papers and the ongoing research project will require consultation with faculty, self-assessment of writing strengths and weaknesses, and copy-editing (yes, mechanics count!).
$ be able to write clear, coherent, and well-organized prose for a public audience.
$ demonstrate a command of syntax, style, and tone appropriate for the task.
$ exhibit a mastery of punctuation, usage, and formatting conventions.
Ideally, we see these Product outcomes being met by faithful attention on the part of the students and the faculty to the Cognition and the Process objectives, discussed above. You are about to receive a diploma from a highly selective public liberal arts and sciences university, and your work product should reflect that.
Arend, Lijphart, Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and performance in Thirty- Six Countries.
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999.
Course Packs for Pol 460: one from Parker and one from Quinn an occasional handout
The final grade will be based on cumulative point totals, with the points to be allocated in the following manner:
Weekly Reading Papers 200
preliminary papers 150
completed design 200
Oral Presentation of the Research Design 100
Research Design Discussant 50
Final Comprehensive Examination 200
for reading presentation 25
for all other (attendance, informed participation 75
Total Points: 1,000
A= 90% / 900; B=80% / 800; C=70% / 700; D= 60% / 600 (et cetera)
Borderline cases will be judged mostly on factors related to why the student is borderline: Missed assignments and attendance will not bode well for “the benefit of the doubt”.
A. Weekly Writing Assignments
Each week a writing assignment will be given specific to the topics and readings for the week. Generally these will be 3 page papers in which the student will be asked to identify, analyze, and integrate the main points raised in the readings, or to elaborate further on key issues or problems. The paper will be due at the beginning of class on the assigned class date, and no late papers will be accepted. Please pay attention to the specific prompt; different professors might ask different types of questions or expect different supporting material.
B. Research Design
Each student is required to write a 12-15 page (typed, double-spaced) research design on some topic relevant to the study of politics. This will be developed over the course of the semester, with close interaction with a faculty mentor. A research design is simply a systematic plan and outline for the conduct of a research project. In essence, it is a research project carried up to the point where data collection would normally begin. The real restriction is that these projects are to be analytic and quantitative in nature ("hypothesis testing"). Data collection and analysis will not be required, but you will be required to devise a project for which data could be collected and analyzed.
The final paper that you submit will be the result of careful thinking and careful writing and rewriting. We want to stress that there is an expectation that you will work closely with a faculty member in doing this. The design format embraced by your political science faculty is treated more fully at http://www2.truman.edu/polisci/design.htm. Below we list the three preliminary papers that students will submit.
C. Preliminary Assignments
To facilitate the development of an excellent research design, and to promote outcomes that help to make this a writing enhanced course, three preliminary assignments are due throughout the semester. These assignments will be done in consultation with a faculty member who will be assigned to oversee student progress. Naturally, all assignments are to be machine-produced according to conventional college level standards (1" margins, stapled, name/date in upper right or on cover page, pages numbered, and with a bibliography)
1. Preliminary Paper 1 will clearly state the nature of the problem to be studied and explain why it merits investigation (such as pointing to a dispute, or a vacuum in professional literature). Students will include a list of 8 to 10 sources, at least half of which are quantitative in nature (journal articles, usually).
2. Based upon these sources, and adding more sources that you uncover, Preliminary Paper 2 will review the literature relevant to the problem. It will explain and analyze the important theories and independent variables to be applied to the dependent variable in the study. Based upon this review, the paper will clearly state the hypotheses to be tested in this design.
3. Preliminary Paper 3 will address the methodology of the study. This should include the sample and data sources, as well as the conceptualization and operationalization of the variables used in the study.
As you progress from papers one through three, you will be revisiting the earlier papers and revising them where necessary to make them consistent with your developing thought about the nature of the problem under study, and to reflect what you are learning as you delve deeper into this research area. It is imperative that you give full attention to these papers, as your faculty mentor can most help you with detailed feedback if you are able to submit your best effort in a timely manner.
The due dates for these papers are as follows:
Paper 1- Thursday, 3 February
Paper 2- Tuesday 29 February
Paper 3- Thursday 23 March
Final Paper: Tuesday 25 April (for those presenting on or before April 20)
Tuesday 2 May (for those presenting April 25 and April 27)
D. Oral Presentation of the Research Design
The last three weeks of the course will be devoted to oral presentations of the research designs. The presentations will be timed, and last no longer than 10 minutes each, during which time the student will review the major aspects of the design and answer questions for the class. A classmate will serve as a discussant, providing you constructive criticism, and faculty have even been known to raise questions at this time. Based upon this feedback, you will have one last opportunity to revise the paper before submission.
As implied in the previous paragraph, each student will serve as the primary discussant for another design. Their role is to provide constructive criticisms and comments regarding the research design in question, and generally lead discussion of the design. Drafts of the design should be submitted at least one class period in advance of the presentation to the instructors and to the discussant.
E. Class Participation
Students must participate actively in order to receive a satisfactory grade in this course. Participation is based on the following activities:
1. Reading Synopsis: each student will be responsible for identifying 3-5 main points of the reading for one day.
You will be given as much as 15 minutes to stand before the class, and to justify the points that you have
identified in the handout that you have prepared and distributed
2. Discussant role
3. Attendance – absences will be noted and recorded.
4. General preparedness, as reflected in substantive contributions to class discussion, whether led by a faculty
member or by a fellow student (RD and synopsis).
5. Satisfactory Completion of the MFAT in political science
6. Submission of a well-prepared portfolio; this may include the research design that you construct for this
7. Participation in an exit interview.
8. Consultation with the faculty on short papers for the research design.
F. Final Comprehensive Exam
A comprehensive final exam will be given at the conclusion of the reading/discussion sessions, and will be administered over the course of two class periods.