Topic paragraph

3 points.

Please email the assignment to me by the end of the day on September 15.

I very strongly advise meeting with me before you settle on a paper topic, to talk through your options.

This is the start of your research paper. What will your research paper be about? Specifically, what kind of question will it answer? The question can be about any political issue. Historical topics are fine as long as you can show them to have some relevance to understanding politics today. Your scope may be as wide or narrow as you wish, from a topic that considers the politics of a whole country or region down to a topic about one village or discrete issue, or anything in between. The topic ideas page has much more detail and some examples – you may use any of those questions or choose one of your own.

As you start the project, you should not necessarily be thinking about specific comparisons now. Instead, think about broad questions now. Later in the semester you will decide what kinds of specific comparisons make the most sense.

Topics may be motivated in different ways. Of the students in this class who had trouble finding a topic at first, the ones who eventually found success did so by thinking about particular issues that interest them. So, for example, maybe you are interested in environmental policy, privacy rights, gender equity, gay rights, or immigration (or whatever). Ask a question that applies generally to that issue. For example, “why are environmental movements more effective in some places than in others?” or “why do right-wing political parties embrace gay rights in some countries but not others?” You do not need to decide, now, which countries or states or cities or parties you are going to compare – all that matters now is the broad question.

The paragraph will include at least two parts:

  1. A brief description of some issue or aspect of politics. Explain the issue so that readers will understand why the question you pose is puzzling.
  2. A single specific question about the issue, ending with a question mark. The question should be about some sort of cause-and-effect relationship, as in “does x cause y?” or “does x have an effect?” or “what causes y?” In other words, the question must be empirical.


  • Your paragraph should end with a question mark.
  • Talk with me individually before you start this, and again before you turn it in.