SEMESTER PROJECT: Defend a claim about a relevant political concept or phenomenon …

SEMESTER PROJECT: Defend a claim about a relevant political concept or phenomenon …

Political science end of semester project

Political science end of semester project

SEMESTER PROJECT: Defend a claim about a relevant political concept or phenomenon …

Defend a claim about a relevant political concept or phenomenon, and to connect each of the following cultural artifacts to a concept or set of related concepts addressed in either

  • An event
  • A film
  • A book or short story
  • A painting
  • A sculpture
  • A musical composition

Explanatory Essay Details

The explanatory essay must conform either to MLA format or the Chicago Manual of Style, and be of sufficient length to incorporate each of the examples listed. The article you and your team compose should be a unified article, in that the reader should not be able easily to tell where one author ends and another begins.

This Project must include the following:

• A single discernible thesis. This is the main idea of your project. This thesis must be either analytical or expository in nature. It may serve an argumentative or persuasive purpose. However, the essay must conform to the Universal Intellectual Standards outlined by the Foundation for Critical Thinking.

• An appropriate thesis. Your team must relate the above cultural artifacts to a theme or concept in this course. In Texas Government, this means a topic connected to any of the following:

  1. Political culture or Ideology in Texas
  2. TX Constitutional Principles
  3. TX Constitutional Provisions
  4. Themes of the TX Constitution
  5. Federalism
  6. State constitutions
  7. Local government
  8. Public Opinion in Texas
  9. Political Socialization
  10. Texas Interest Groups
  11. Political parties in Texas
  12. Campaigning in Texas
  13. Texas Elections
  14. The Texas Legislature
  15. The Texas Executive
  16. State bureaucracies
  17. The state court system
  18. Members of any State institution in Texas
  19. Texas Public Policy Critique
  20. Texas Public Policy Commentary

• All text connected to the thesis. Do not pad any essay with irrelevant information. While it appears on the surface to improve page length, irrelevant information does nothing to support your thesis.

• Evidence to support the thesis. There are five classes of evidence: Facts, Authority, Logic, Statistics, and Experience. Logic is required. Your project must make sense. At least two other forms of evidence should be included to balance your support. Your evidence must be specific, and it must be enough to support your thesis. You must consult primary and secondary sources to find it.

• Complete Citations. Academic writing contains two classes of source documentation:

In-text citation:

Parenthetical references, footnotes, or end-notes to the following: Direct quotations, indirect quotations, paraphrases, and summaries of referenced sources

End-of-Text citation: Bibliographies, Annotated Bibliographies, Reference Lists, or “Works Cited” pages

YOU MUST HAVE BOTH. Be as specific as possible when citing sources, especially if you use online sources.

Simply citing a URL is not a specific citation. Consult your style manual if you do not know how to document a specific source.

When to make an in-text citation:

Every single time you have to look something up to write it in your paper, you must cite it in the body of your paper.


• Credible sources. Do not trust a single source’s claim unless you can independently verify that claim. Also, certain sources should not be used in college level work. For the most part these sources are general reference sources such as dictionaries and encyclopedias.

DO NOT USE a dictionary, encyclopedia, textbook or other generic reference material as a credible source for this essay.

DO NOT USE any edition of the Opposing Viewpoints series, either. They are designed for middle school, not college.

• Balanced sources. Sources in politics frequently make biased claims in order to persuade or call to action. Do not fall into the trap of selective observation. If evidence exists to contradict a source’s claim, find it, use it, and cite it.

A critical annotated bibliography to be attached to your semester project. These are the standards for this assignment:

You must have at least five academic, scholarly sources for your project. You must annotate your end-of-text citations by answering each of the following questions about each source:

  • Purpose: What is the central aim of the source you are reading? What is the author trying to accomplish?
  • Questions: What question is the author raising? What question does the author address?
  • Information: What information or evidence is the author of the source using to support his/her claim?
  • Inferences/Conclusions: What conclusions does the author make? How did the author reach the conclusion he/she/makes? Is there another way to interpret the information or evidence?
  • Concepts: What is the main idea of the source? Please explain this idea.
  • Assumptions: What is the author taking for granted? What assumptions led the author to reach his/her conclusion?
  • Implications: What consequences result if one accepts the author’s position? What consequences result if one fails to accept the author’s position? What is the author implying?
  • Points of View: From what point of view is the author looking at the issue? What are the author’s biases? Is there another valid point of view one should consider?

Each annotation entry must be in paragraph form, not a bullet list. Your annotations must be clear, accurate, precise, and logical. You must include your annotations with your essay or presentation. Please see the example annotation below for reference. Do not merely substitute text from the example below.

The form of your answers to the above questions will likely differ from those in the example.

Machan, Tibor R. The Passion for Liberty. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, Inc., 2003.

Tibor Machan aims to defend the basic tenets of ideological libertarianism through the lens of axiological critique, and to answer criticism from conservative and liberal detractors. Drawing from sources in political thought such as John Locke, Adam Smith, Ayn Rand, and Robert Nozick, he concludes that libertarianism itself is most consistent with the principles of the American founding, and connects the concepts of individualism and personal liberty with the natural rights argument from the Declaration of Independence. Machan assumes that readers are generally familiar both with the natural rights argument and the competing theories of justice proffered by John Rawls and Robert Nozick. Accepting Machan’s position carries significant ethical consequences for citizens and government. A citizen who aligns himself with Machan would argue for a highly limited government, one which generally stays out of the
affairs of individual citizens, except when a manifest injury is claimed by one citizen against another. Machan further implies that the Rawlsian doctrine of “Justice as Fairness” not only fails to take into account the need for individual autonomy within a political community, but that Rawls’ theory of justice is, at its core, unjust from a natural rights point of view. Machan likely draws his hard-line libertarianism from a reaction to his personal experience as a subject
of the repressive communist regime of late 20th Century Hungary, where individual liberty was forcibly diminished for the sake of state-sponsored social and economic equality of condition.


• “Etc.” This is an abbreviation of “et cetera”, which means “and others”. It is non-specific and imprecise. Using “et cetera” betrays either profound laziness or else a general lack of knowledge about the subject area under scrutiny— usually it means both. May it never cross a single page bearing your name. Lose it.

• “How” questions answered with “because”. “How” asks for methods, manners, modes or processes, not causes. “Why” questions ask for causes. This lesson should have been learned by the 3rd Grade. If you are unable to make this distinction, maybe you should go back there.

• “Feels” instead of “thinks” or “believes”. Feeling, strictly speaking, denotes either the tactile sense or an emotional sentiment. It cannot denote anything related either to cognition or opinion. For example, the signers of the Declaration of Independence did not ‘feel’ that all men were created equal, they believed it. One can feel pain, pleasure, anger, sadness, or joy, but one can not feel that their rights are in danger. Feeling has nearly nothing to do with thought. Abandon this nonsensical usage and start actually thinking for once. We’re trying to work with ideas here, not emotions.

• “To a certain extent.” To what extent? Please specify exactly what extent a concept or behavior or other phenomenon is carried out. “To a certain extent”, when used without showing exactly what that extent is demonstrates sloppy, imprecise thinking, and is often used at best to hide the fact that you haven’t thoroughly explored the topic in question, and at worst to hide the fact that you don’t know what you’re even talking about.

• Equivocation: This is when a response does nothing but repeat the concept tested in the question, or when the response is equivalent to “it is so because it is so”. When you equivocate, you are saying exactly nothing, and your response will be treated accordingly.

• Unlabeled diagrams. Like “etc.,” an unlabeled diagram does not demonstrate any real knowledge of the topic addressed by the question. An unlabeled diagram suggests that while you remember the shape of an object, you do not know what that object represents. In fact, it demonstrates that you might not even be able to write at all.

• Incorrect spelling, usage, mechanics or grammar. It is my sincere hope that one day you wish to be taken seriously by people who do not know you. The primary method by which this is accomplished is through written communication. If you distract the reader with egregious spelling, questionable grammar, poor diction, or ill-used punctuation, you will guarantee that no one will take you seriously.



• Encyclopedia sources. Was the Semester Project assignment sheet not obvious enough for you? “DO NOT USE a dictionary, encyclopedia, textbook or other generic reference material as a credible source for this essay.” That means: No Britannica, No Americana, No Encarta, No Collier’s, No Wikipedia—None of That. Encyclopediae (And yes, that is the correct plural construction) are not college-level sources.

• The Opposing Viewpoints series. Also not college-level research material. I know they were nice to have way back in the 7th and 8th grade, but let’s get real, folks. The Opposing Viewpoints series is a collection of articles cobbled together from the real sources in order to familiarize middle school students with controversial issues. You are not a middle school student anymore, and you should no longer need that crutch. If you base your argument on Opposing Viewpoints sources, you will inevitably commit the logical fallacy of the Excluded Middle, as well as relying too much on some editor telling you how to think about a particular issue. The statements in OV might have been taken out of context. The editor might have purposely misrepresented positions that are not nearly as “opposed” as the surface treatment would suggest. Please think for yourself, and don’t take OV as an authoritative edition of any source. Go to the original source itself. If you decide to start with OV, just look at the sources from which they’re taken, and follow the trail to the original source.

• Textbooks. Textbooks, while generally written for college courses, are technically general reference texts, and (believe it or not) are written below the expected reading level of college-level research. Furthermore, textbooks (especially Survey Textbooks such as the one used for this course) are only capable of offering a surface treatment of the subject matter included therein. With a few exceptions, if you are relying on a textbook for your research into your topic, you’re not looking deeply enough.

• “Naked URL”. Naked URL is an ugly, ugly man. I don’t want to look at Naked URL. Seriously, though, a Naked URL is a URL which stands alone, without any reference to the Author of the Page, the Title of the Article itself, the Party or Publisher Responsible for the Article, the Date it was Posted, or the Date it was Accessed. You need all of these in a source documentation entry. Without this additional information, your reader will have no idea what this source is, and if the page is moved to another server, the reader will not be able to find it. All he’ll have to go on is a Dead Naked URL. Yuck.

• The Author’s Abstract. The assignment for the annotated bibliography calls for a critical description of each source, identifying the author’s Purpose in writing it, the Questions raised or addressed by the source, the Information or evidence the author uses, the Inferences or Conclusions he reaches, the unifying Concepts in the source, the author’s Assumptions, the Implications of either accepting or rejecting the author’s position, and the Point of View, the Angle, or the Biases the author maintains. An abstract written by the author presents a summary of the source, but does not necessarily include all of these points. Furthermore, simply copying the author’s work and passing it off as your own is a form of academic dishonesty known as Plagiarism. Take note: If you try this, you will fail the course.

• First Names. Unless you know the author personally, and are writing in an informal context, never under any circumstances use the author’s first name in your text. To do so in anything more formal than a personal letter or a relaxed conversation is actually an insult. We use first names in class because the class is intended to be a relaxed conversation. Whenever we engage with semi-formal or formal writing, we always defer to surnames.