Course Project & Proposal:
There are options for your course project. Any project chosen must be preceded by a brief (and approved) project proposal, clearly and concisely explaining (1) what you plan to do in terms of option and subject matter, (2) how it relates to American government/politics, and (3) why you are choosing to do that particular project. If you need to substantially change your project, you must submit a new project proposal.

If you engage in a group project, each student’s contribution should exceed the minimum requirements for a single project and each student should delineate their specific contributions to the group project.

Project proposals (typed) are due during the fifth week of the course (see course schedule). If you decide, for any reason at any time, to switch projects, you need to submit a new project proposal and get it approved.

The course project is worth approximately 1/4 (25%) of the course grade.

    Option 1: Community Service Learning Project
Community Service Learning. This is the preferred option for this course. Students may engage in a minimum of two hours per week this semester for a minimum of ten weeks toward a community service learning project (also known as experiential learning or community-based learning) related to American government/politics of the student’s choosing (10 weeks x 2 hours/week = 20 hours/semester).

You can join or start a group, do individual work, and/or work with others in or out of the class, engaging in political service, political advocacy, and/or political action, doing one or more activities with one or more groups of your choosing throughout this semester.

Students will maintain and submit a typed journal of their experiences, very briefly listing date, time, location, and activity, as well as discussing the political significance and your personal reflections about your political experiences. There should also be a final cumulative reflection on your project, summarizing your experience, for a total of 11 journal entries/reflections. These projects should rarely, if ever, conflict with class time.

Each week’s entry should be numbered and contain a minimum of 350 words typed with a word count on top (like the reflection papers).

For lots of ideas, check with its list of about 1200 (mostly) local organizations; also check,,, and

You first need to submit a brief typed proposal and get it approved (see above).

    Option 2: Academic Research Paper
Research. An original academic research paper on a relevant topic of your choosing (within certain constraints and after consultation with the instructor) may constitute the final project. This will give students the opportunity to explore in depth a facet of the subject matter that fits with their personal interests. Be sure to explain, not just assert, how the chosen topic illustrates something about American politics. Research papers are due earliest of the projects.

The text of the paper must be a minimum of 3000 words of text (not including cover page, abstract, references, and annotations) (with a word count on the cover page, typewritten, numbered, double-spaced, 1-inch margins, Times New Roman 12-point font or equivalent, and, preferably, double-sided pages), utilizing a minimum of ten outside sources (at least 5 books and at least 5 articles), in addition to citing at least one required reading from this course for a minimum total of 11 sources. Each of the 11 minimum sources must be annotated with a brief single-spaced summary of that source; additional sources can be annotated, but they do not have to be. There should also be an abstract, or one-paragraph author’s summary, of the paper at the beginning of the paper. Those are acceptable minimums (with a maximum word count of 4000 words of text), however more might be useful, while less will be penalized. Do not number any pages, such as a cover page, that precede the paper (the first page of your paper is page 1).

Whatever information you put on your cover page should not be repeated on page 1. Your paper should start at the very top of page 1. Although graphs, photos, etc. might be worthwhile, they are not text and therefore do not count toward the minimum length requirement.

All facts and ideas not your own (e.g. concepts, quotes, paraphrases, statistics, stories) must be properly cited with any academically-recognized citation method. The paper should be given a good title and wrapped with a cover page at the beginning and the annotated bibliography at the end. Plagiarism is unacceptable.

The paper can employ any social science methodology, any ideology, and any perspective. These are research papers and should not simply be book reports, literature reviews, personal reflections, or the like. Feel free to take a strong position. What is important, however, is how clearly you present the information, how you support and defend your argument(s), and how you incorporate your own analysis.

It is highly recommended that you start the paper relatively early: begin by thinking about and then choosing a topic, doing preliminary research, formulating some ideas, and making some notes. Remember, good writing (and a good grade!) often requires cycles of thinking, researching, outlining, writing, editing, and proofreading.

Your paper should have a thesis statement (or main argument) on the first page; you should also state here what your paper will cover. Correspondingly, your paper should end with a conclusion, one that ties the paper together and wraps up your main idea(s), bringing closure. Between the introduction and conclusion should be the story, e.g. support and defense of your arguments, evidence, examples, anecdotes, history, comparisons and contrasts, etc. Personal commentary and autobiography are only appropriate when accompanied by critical analysis and/or thoughtful synthesis, which can include linking it to the literature on your topic and/or placing it in a comparative or historical context.

Besides the substance of the paper, organization, grammar/spelling, and clarity are also important. Difficulties with writing can be brought to the writing center on campus and/or to others who can help you clarify your ideas and how you convey them. Some widely used and recommended books for help with writing are: Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style <>; Howard S. Becker’s Writing for Social Scientists; and various manuals of style. There are many other good sources for writing, both in the library and on the Web. Due during the third to last week of class (see course schedule below).

You first need to submit a typed proposal and get it approved (see above).

On your cover page, along with your name, title, and a word count, please prominently place and sign the following certification statement:

“I certify that this paper complies with academic integrity standards, does not contain plagiarized content, and exceeds the minimum length requirement.”

    Option 3: Infinity Option
Infinity. Students who would like to pursue other equivalent non-paper alternative projects should think of one and then can speak with me about this possibility. Option 3 projects should, at a minimum, be at least equivalent to Option 1 (20+ hours of community involvement and journal) or Option 2 (3000-word research paper with abstract and at least 11 annotated references) in terms of your time and effort put into the project. These projects are not a way to get out of doing work, but rather are an alternative way to get in. You first need to submit a typed proposal and get it approved (see above).

An Honors Program could involve doing a double project for this course (e.g., double length; two different projects). Sami Kudsi is the Honors Program Coordinator.

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