Prof. Michael Marks
Office: Smullin 332
Office Tel. 503-370-6932
Home Page: http://www.willamette.edu/~mmarks
Office Hours: MWF: 8:00–9:00, 10:15–11:15, and by appointment
The purpose of this course is to provide a structured environment in which students will undertake an analytical research and writing project. The senior thesis represents the culmination of each student’s undergraduate education at Willamette University. As such, it should include the development of a clear, concise, coherent, and logical thesis argument, original research that goes beyond summaries of books and articles, analysis of competing claims, and a presentation format worthy of the student’s advanced knowledge of social science methodologies. Research and writing of the senior thesis is designed to prepare Politics majors for post-undergraduate careers, whether they are in graduate school, education, law, business, government, public service, or other professional activities.
Student Learning Outcomes
At the conclusion of this course students should be able to write an extended research paper on a topic of each student’s choosing analyzing some aspect of politics. In the research paper each student should effectively demonstrate the ability to:
1. Write well in terms of prose, grammar, and syntax.
2. Organize ideas in a logical progression of thoughts.
3. Answer an interesting “puzzle,” the answer to which is not readily obvious or apparent.
4. State a clear and cogent thesis.
5. Review and cite relevant scholarly literature on the fundamental theoretical questions involved.
6. Support the paper’s thesis with logical arguments
7. Present the paper’s thesis balanced with an assessment of counter-arguments and/or competing explanations.
8. Include in the paper adequate and relevant evidence.
9. Maintain the paper’s proper scope so that it is not too narrow or broad.
10. Adopt an appropriate tone of analysis (not partisanship).
Course OrganizationClass time and a regular classroom have been set aside for this course. However, we shall not necessarily meet as a group every week. In addition to semi-regular class meetings at the scheduled classroom hours, students will work closely with the instructor in development and completion of their senior theses. Students will be obligated to meet with the instructor on a regular basis to discuss their projects. Each student should come prepared for these meetings to present their work-in-progress including ongoing bibliographies, outlines, writing samples, etc. In turn, the instructor will provide both oral and written comments on student work, guidance on appropriate methodologies, and references to additional resource materials. Through this ongoing process of consultation, students will be expected to re-write drafts of their thesis until they have produced a quality piece of analysis.
Written and Oral AssignmentsIn addition to the final senior thesis, students will be asked to submit the following: A short preliminary overview of their proposed topic; a thesis prospectus (roughly 1500–3000 words) that outlines their research project along with an abstract (one-paragraph synopsis of the paper), literature review, and working bibliography; and official first, peer-editing, and second drafts of the paper.
GradingThe course grade will be determined on the basis of the following criteria:
Class Attendance and Participation
Given the collaborative nature of the senior thesis process, students are expected to participate in offering guidance and feedback to their peers. Therefore, students are expected to be prepared to discuss each other’s work in progress. Peer editing is a requirement of this writing-centered class. In addition, attendance at other students’ oral presentations is mandatory.
Electronic Devices in the Classroom
Laptop computers can assist in note taking and wireless Internet access on campus can aid in organized classroom exercises. However, laptop computers can also be a classroom distraction. Laptop computers are permitted in class for note taking purposes. Additionally, there may be occasions when the class as a whole may want to use the campus wireless network to look things up online. However, please refrain from checking e-mail, online chatting, websurfing, game playing, etc. during class. If you are observed doing so during class time, you will asked to no longer bring your laptop to class. Additionally, cell phones should be turned off prior to class.
Optional Course Texts
There are no assigned readings for this course aside from the materials students will collect in the course of their research. However, students might find one or more of the following writing and style manuals useful in preparing their theses. These books can be purchased from any online book retailer (e.g., Powell's, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.). The purpose of these books is to provide guidance to students regarding the standards, mechanics, and goals of writing in the social sciences in general, and politics in specific. Purchase of any of these books is optional.
Lisa A. Baglione, Writing a Research Paper in Political Science, second edition (Los Angeles: SAGE, 2012). ISBN: 978-1-6087-1991-4.
Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams, The Craft of Research (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995). ISBN: 0-226-06584-7.
Marianne Franklin, Understanding Research: Coping with the Quantitative–Qualitative Divide (London: Routledge, 2012). ISBN: 9780415490801.
Jose L. Galvan, Writing Literature Reviews, third edition (Glendale, CA: Pyrczak Publishing, 2006). ISBN: 1-884585-66-3.
Patricia Goodson, Becoming an Academic Writer: 50 Exercises for Paced, Productive, and Powerful Writing (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2012), ISBN: 9781452203867.
Janet Buttolph Johnson and H. T. Reynolds, Political Science Research Methods, seventh edition (Los Angeles: SAGE, 2012), ISBN: 978-1-60871-689-0.Joseph A. Maxwell, Qualitative Research Design: An Interactive Approach, third edition (Los Angeles: SAGE, 2013), ISBN: 978-1-4129-8119-4.
M. Ling Pan, Preparing Literature Reviews, second edition (Glendale, CA: Pyrczak Publishing, 2004). ISBN: 1-884585-56-6.
Philip H. Pollock, III, The Essentials of Political Analysis, fourth edition (Los Angeles: SAGE, 2012), ISBN: 978-1-6087- 1686-9.
Diana Ridley, The Literature Review: A Step-by-Step Guide for Students (second edition) (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2012), ISBN: 9781446201435.
Neil J. Salkind, 100 Questions (And Answers) About Research Methods (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2012), ISBN: 978-1-4129-9203-9.
Gregory M. Scott and Stephen M. Garrison, The Political Science Student Writer's Manual, (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1995). ISBN: 0-13-060634-0.
Thinking and Writing: A Guide for College Students (Brandywine Press, 1997). ISBN: 1-881-089-41-X.
Douglas Woodwell, Research Foundations: How Do We Know What We Know? (Los Angeles: SAGE, 2013), ISBN: 978-1-4833-0674-2.
Robert K. Yin, Case Study Research: Design and Methods, fifth edition (Los Angeles: SAGE, 2014), ISBN: 978-1-4522-4256-9.
Course Schedule (Subject to revision)DUE BY AUGUST 28 (CAN BE SUBMITTED ANY TIME DURING SUMMER BREAK): PRELIMINARY OVERVIEW OF THE PROPOSED TOPIC (consult with the instructor as necessary via e-mail, phone, or in person during Summer Break)