Poli 388:

Sammy Basu


Democracy and Nazism

Term paper (40% of grade)



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Nazi University Students on their way to a book burning. Happy, Happy!


Poli 388 Instructions for term paper:


(1) you must articulate a clear and specific research question about Weimar or Nazi Germany (or both) that is puzzling, counterintuitive or controversial and hence open to competing theories/approaches/answers (conveyed in the secondary scholarly literature), so that your task is to argue for the optimal interpretive or explanatory answer, and


(2) you must use primary source material (i.e. salient material that dates from 1914-1946), as the ‘text’ or ‘data’ or case study through which to test the rival theories and argue for the optimal answer.  This ‘textual’ material can take many media forms: books, articles, speeches, memoirs, autobiography, interview transcripts, film, paintings, posters, architecture, and so on.


( 3) you are not limited to the texts or topics covered in the course, and in fact if you do choose to work on a topic addressed in the course, at least 75% of the paper content should go beyond the course handling of it.  Similarly, since this is not a course about contemporary American politics, while I would encourage you to consider the lessons for contemporary politics (in your conclusion), no more than 10% of the paper should be devoted to non-German historical material).


Final Paper Format:


1.    ‘Catchy Title: explanatory subtitle’

2.     Abstract: 100 word summary in which you specify the research question(s), how you go about answering the question(s), and the nature of your answer/solution.

3.     Keywords: ten searchable words (can include proper names)

You should update regularly both 1 and 2 and 3 as you work on your paper because doing so forces you to be crystal clear about your intentions/targets/questions.

4.     Outline/Table of contents: identify introduction, parts, headings, subheadings, conclusion.  For papers of this length it is crucial that you be self-conscious about the organization of the paper and its parts.  Think of it as the skeleton and the writing of the (body of the) paper itself as the flesh that fills out around the bones.


5.    Body of the paper


a.      Introduction: open with a hook – interesting quote, example, statistic, and then proceed to explain to the reader what the larger issues at stake are.  Crucially, you must demonstrate that there is an interpretive/ethical/practical controversy.  Intro is a bit more playful than the abstract but must include a clear statement of the research question.

b.     Body of the paper – its parts, headings etc must match the outline.  It is also a good idea, especially between parts, to provide one or two transitional sentences: e.g., ‘Having considered x, and established that Y is usually the case, we can turn to consider the problem of A.’  Inasmuch as you must be engaging with informational, illustrative, supportive, and critical sources, and drawing upon them in researching, you must provide in-text (or in-footnote) citations using the APA format.  I would recommend using in-text reference method citations but also footnotes to contain larger digressive discussions or multiple citations.  By the end of the body, certain theories/approaches/answers will have been proven implausible/dubious/unsuitable in favor of what you are defending.

c.      Conclusion: Briefly summarize what you have accomplished in the paper: i.e. restate your question and the route you took to get to your answer.  It is also entirely appropriate to reflect on the limits of the validity of your research, or to put it positively, on what else might be done, based on your work, in a fuller or continued examination of your question.  Finally, consider lessons for contemporary politics.


6.    References

Alphabetically listed, single-spaced (not part of PP total) according to APA.


7.    Paper Format

20-25 pp (or 5000-7500 words) double-spaced.


8.    Final Presentation: make use of an information technology or new media format to bolster the oral presentation of the arguments of your paper.

a.      Ahead

    1. Google docs
    2. Prezi
    3. 280 slides
    4. Voicethread
    5. Wix


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open: proposal (meet with Prof. Basu by appointment)

10/30: first draft (9am, loaded to WISE)

11/18: second draft (9am, loaded to WISE)

11/25, 11/27, 12/2, 12/4: presentations (to be scheduled)

12/9: final draft, (9am, loaded to WISE, no extensions)



Sources of Primary source material


Plan on referring to Roth and Haffner if relevant.

Plan too to search Mein Kampf and/or Hitler’s speeches – both on WISE

These don’t count as your primary source material though.


Use advanced search option on search engines

such as




to specify the dates for material: 1914-1946.


Calvin College Nazi Propaganda



German History Documents Initiative - Weimar



German History Documents Initiative - Nazi Germany



German Propaganda Archive






Internet Archive



Museum of Jewish Heritage



Other online archives



Surviving Auschwitz



Yale Law School Avalon Project



Other sources







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