American Politics Examples

midterm sample prompt & PAPER FROM A POLS 021 COURSE

Prompt 1: “Amending the Constitution” was written as a take–home essay component of the first exam in a section of POLS 021. This type of essay is common in an introductory American Political Systems class: it requires detailed descriptions of specific events within the context of themes in American history. It does not require direct quotes or citations, as the material should mostly come from lecture and the course textbook. The prompt reads:

In the lectures and in the textbook, the process of amending the Constitution was discussed. When and why were certain amendments added to the Constitution?

This prompt is straightforward and chronologically–based, and the essay should respond accordingly. The writer should be able to explain the meaning of each constitutional amendment, as well as how it fits into historical trends in American government.

The recommended length of this paper was just 3–4 pages, which is common in an introductory course. Writers in upper–level American Political Systems courses should expect to write papers on more specific topics that require more descriptive analyses.

SAMPLE PAPER: Take–home midterm essay “Amending the Constitution”.

eSSAY Sample PROMPT with Paper Structure from pols 021 course

Prompt 2: It is common to depict the U.S. Supreme Court as an independent branch of the national government, fully separated from the other branches and so fully protected and insulated against what we tend to think of as “politics.” Argue that the U.S. Supreme Court is properly understood as connected to the other branches and as interacting with them, in different ways.1 Pay attention to Congress,2 explaining both institutional or practical connections,3 using examples from the cases we’ve read so far.4 (5-6 pages)

ANALYSIS OF THE PROMPT & THOUGHT PROCESS

1 Oh, yeah! I remember the professor had an entire lecture about this! I know that we discussed several different connections between the Supreme Court and the other branches of government. They’re connected in several ways! This will be my thesis.

2 The professor wants me to pay more attention to the legislative branch, Congress than to the executive branch, the President.

3 Ok, so they are clearly related in more than one way. Hmm. What does the professor mean by institutional connections? What does the professor mean by practical connections? I need to understand the difference so that I can fully demonstrate my knowledge of these two areas in my paper.

4 Looking at my notes and our readings, I see that the connections between the branches are really clear in the case of J, K, L, M and N. J and K are about connections to Congress, so I think I’ll use those, and L is about connections to both the Congress and the President, so I could use that one. M and N are only about connections to the President, and I’m supposed to focus on Congress so I don’t think I should use those.

SAMPLE PAPER STRUCTURE
  • Introduction: Background information on the Supreme Court, Congress and the President.
    • Sample thesis: The U.S. Supreme Court is properly understood as having institutional and practical connections to the other branches of government, particularly Congress, and as interacting with them in ways such as X and Y. This is clear in the cases of J, K, and L.
  • Body Section 1: Show how the Supreme Court is connected to Congress in institutional ways.
    • Topic sentence: The U.S. Supreme Court is connected to the other branches of government, particularly Congress, in institutional ways.
  • Body Section 2: Show how we can see the institutional connection in a particular court case and the examples of their interactions after that case.
    • Topic sentence: Based on the case of J, it is clear that the U.S. Supreme Court is connected to Congress in institutional ways. This is clear in their X interactions.
  • Body Section 3: Show how we can see the institutional connection in a particular court case and the examples of their interactions after that case.
    • Topic sentence: Based on the case of K, it is clear that the U.S. Supreme Court is connected to Congress in institutional ways. This is clear in their Y interactions.
  • Body Section 4: Show how the Supreme Court is connected to the President and Congress in practical ways.
    • Topic sentence: The U.S. Supreme Court is connected to the other branches of government, particularly Congress, in practical ways.
  • Body Section 5: Show how we can see the institutional connection in a particular court case and the examples of their interactions after that case.
    • Topic sentence: Based on the case of L, it is clear that the U.S. Supreme Court is connected to Congress in practical ways. This is clear in their X interactions.
  • Body Section 6: Show how we can see the institutional connection in a particular court case and the examples of their interactions after that case.
    • Topic sentence: Based on the case of L, it is clear that the U.S. Supreme Court is connected to the President in practical ways. This is clear in their Y interactions.
  • Conclusion:
    • Restate thesis: Using the cases of K, J and L, it is clear that the U.S. Supreme court is connected to the other branches of government, particularly Congress, in both practical and institutional ways. This is clear in their interactions with these branches in X and Y ways.
    • Consider implications—tie back to the larger

Additional Sample

Sample Paper: Essay written in an intermediate level POLS course.

Political Theory Examples

a few Prompt samples from pols 041 course

Prompt 1: Locke insists numerous times upon the importance of “distinguishing exactly” the “business of civil government from that of religion.” Explain the distinction Locke draws – do you think he succeeds in his project of distinguishing them “exactly”? Why or why not? Locke insists numerous times upon the importance of “distinguishing exactly” the “business of civil government from that of religion.” Explain the distinction Locke draws – do you think he succeeds in his project of distinguishing them “exactly”? Why or why not?

Prompt 2: Explain DeMaistre’s critique of “writing.”

Prompt 3: Explain what his ideas about writing have to do with his ideas about politics.

Prompt 4: Why did Marx criticize those, like Bruno Bauer, who looked to the political realm and the extension of citizenship to all Germans as a remedy for inequality? What would Pateman respond?

Prompt 5: Why do advocates of capitalism believe that self-interest and the impersonal market can sustain efficiency, prosperity, and justice? Why do critics disagree with them?

Essay prompt With Sample Paper Structure from pols 041 course

Prompt 6: Can states permissibly deny entry to people who wish to become citizens? ¹ If so, on what basis can they legitimately exclude people, and what makes such exclusions legitimate? ² If not, consider and reject what you consider to be the strongest arguments for border control. Find at least two authors you disagree with on some important point, and carefully explain why their argument is mistaken. ³ (8-9 pages)

ANALYSIS OF THE PROMPT & THOUGHT PROCESS

¹ OK, so the professor wants me to discuss immigration. I think that states can limit immigration by denying entry to people. This is now my thesis.

² I think that states can deny entry to people based on X, Y and Z, which we discussed in class. These will be my proofs.

³ In class, we read authors Smith, Brown, Green and Johnson. I agree with Green and Johnson that states can deny entry to people, so I should use Smith and Brown as those that I disagree with. This will help me to fully answer the prompt.

SAMPLE PAPER STRUCTURE
  • Introduction: Background information on states and immigration.
    • Sample thesis: States can permissibly deny entry to people who wish to become citizens because of X, Y and Z. Smith, who argues L, and Brown, who argues K, are both mistaken because of X, Y and Z.
  • Body Section 1: Make point #1 on why states can permissibly deny entry.
    • Topic sentence: States can permissibly deny entry to people because of X.
  • Body Section 2: Make point #2 on why states can permissibly deny entry.
    • Topic sentence: States can permissibly deny entry to people because of Y.
  • Body Section 3: Make point #3 on why states can permissibly deny entry.
    • Topic sentence: States can permissibly deny entry to people because of Z.
  • Body Section 4: Show Smith’s argument in favor of immigration and use your previous points to explain why they are wrong.
    • Topic sentence: Smith argues L regarding immigration. His argument is persuasive, but he is wrong because of X and Y.
  • Body Section 5: Show Brown’s argument in favor of immigration and use your previous points to explain why they are wrong.
    • Topic sentence: Brown argues K regarding immigration. His argument is persuasive, but he is wrong because of X and Z.
  • Conclusion: : Restate thesis and discuss implications of closed borders vs. open borders. DO NOT DISCUSS ANY NEW INFORMATION.
    • Restate thesis: Through Smith and Brown argue in favor of open borders, states can permissibly deny entry to people because of X, Y and Z.
    • Consider implications of the thesis. Why does this matter?

Additional Sample

Sample Paper: The Right of the State to Rule

International Relations

Sample Prompts/Assignments from a POLS 051 Course

Prompt 1: Explain why there still exists a major controversy over universal human rights between Universalists and Relativists. Then, explain why nations commit to human rights treaties.

Prompt 2: Explain why autocratic regimes in developing countries are prone to trade protectionist policies whilst democratization in developing countries leads to trade liberalization.

Prompt 3: Describe the main principles governing trade liberalization under the GATT/WTO. Then, identify and describe the characteristics of the different types of Regional Trade Agreements being formed around the world today.

Prompt 4: Using the theories of neorealism and power transition from the paradigm of realism and the theories of liberal institutionalism, complex interdependence, and democratic peace from the paradigm of liberalism, explain how states behave in the international arena post WWI. If you are going to argue that some events seem best explained by one theory and others by another, you must discuss the characteristics of a theory that makes it most applicable as an explanation for a major trend or event in the international arena.

Prompt 5: Using Mary Kaldor explain why intrastate wars (civil wars/new wars) are increasing today (account for the rise in intrastate wars by explaining how globalization has led to the decline of the nation-state, an increase in identity politics, and an increase in intrastate wars). Then using Mary Kaldor, identify and explain three differences between new and old wars.

Sample Prompt With Paper Structure from pols 051 course

Prompt 6: How would a realist versus a liberal analyze the Cold War era?1 A good answer will provide a clear thesis regarding how a realist and a liberal would analyze US-Soviet interactions2 as well as the general international atmosphere during the Cold War.3 (5-7 pages)

ANALYSIS OF THE PROMPT & THOUGHT PROCESS

1 That’s right! We’ve spent a lot of time talking about these two theories. I know that there are three phases of each of them! I also know that they are two different ways of explaining the international system, and that they would analyze the Cold War in very distinct ways. This will be my thesis.

2 Even though it’s not a part of the prompt, the professor indicated that I should demonstrate a thorough comprehension of the evolution of realism and liberalism. I know that each theory has three phases, so I should demonstrate each of the three phases in my essay!

3 The professor gave a whole lecture on the Cold War! I better start by looking at my notes.

SAMPLE PAPER STRUCTURE
  • Introduction: Background information on realism, liberalism and the Cold War era.
    • Sample thesis: A realist would see the Cold War as X. A liberal would see the Cold War era as Y.
  • Body Section 1: Explain how a realist would analyze the US-Soviet interactions, demonstrating any differences between the first, second and third phase of realism.
    • Topic sentence 1: The first phase realist would see the US-Soviet interactions during the Cold War as X.
    • Topic sentence 2: The second phase realist would see the US-Soviet interactions during the Cold War as X.
    • Topic sentence 3: The third phase realist would see the US-Soviet interactions during the Cold War as X.
  • Body Section 2: Explain how a realist would analyze the general international atmosphere, demonstrating any differences between the first, second and third phase of realism
    • Topic sentence 1: The first phase realist would see the general international atmosphere during the Cold War as X.
    • Topic sentence 2: The second phase realist would see the general international atmosphere during the Cold War as X.
    • Topic sentence 3: The third phase realist would see the general international atmosphere during the Cold War as X.
  • Body Section 3: Explain how a liberal would analyze the US-Soviet interactions, demonstrating any differences between the first, second and third phase of liberalism.
    • Topic sentence 1: The first phase liberal would see the US-Soviet interactions during the Cold War as Y.
    • Topic sentence 2: The second phase liberal would see the US-Soviet interactions during the Cold War as Y.
    • Topic sentence 3: The third phase liberal would see the US-Soviet interactions during the Cold War as Y.
  • Body Section 4: Explain how a liberal would analyze general international atmosphere, demonstrating any differences between the first, second and third phase of liberalism.
    • Topic sentence 1: The first phase liberal would see the general international atmosphere during the Cold War as Y.
    • Topic sentence 2: The second phase liberal would see the general international atmosphere during the Cold War as Y.
    • Topic sentence 3: The third phase liberal would see the general international atmosphere during the Cold War as Y.
  • Conclusion:
    • Restate thesis: A realist would argue that the Cold War can be analyzed as X manner. A liberal would argue that the Cold War era can be analyzed as Y.
    • Consider implications.

Comparative Politics Examples

Sample Prompts/Assignments from a POLS 071 Course

Prompt 1: Britain and Russia emerged from the medieval period with very different regimes. Whereas Britain became a limited constitutional monarchy (which subsequently became a democracy), Russia evolved into an absolutist monarchy (which was later toppled by a revolutionary movement). How can we explain their different trajectories? This essay should address that question. Specifically, I ask you to illuminate the variables or factors that help to account for the different patterns of regime development in these two countries.

Prompt 2: The table below indicates that countries of the Middle East and North Africa had very different experiences in the context of the Arab Spring. A handful, lying in the far right column, saw regimes overthrown in the face of massive popular protests. Yet many others, represented in the far left column, avoided major protests altogether. Still others, represented in the middle column, faced substantial protests, but authoritarian governments were able to stay in power. The purpose of this paper is to identify and discuss the factors that explain why many regimes were able to “survive” the Arab Spring. Specifically, this entails identifying the factors that characterized those regimes that, in contrast to those in the far right column, were able to persist in the face of substantial protests or avoided those protests altogether.

Moderate or No Protests Big Protests, No Overthrow Regime Overthrow
Saudi Arabia Syria Tunisia
Qatar Bahrain Egypt
Algeria Yemen
Morocco Libya (due to external factors)


Prompt 3: By nearly every measure, the United States has a weaker welfare state than most advanced industrial democracies, and we spend less on redistributive policies. As students of comparative politics, this presents a puzzle for us: Why is the United States so different in terms of how we deal with poverty and inequality? I suggest that you begin, after your introductory paragraph, with a brief overview of some of the key ways that the US is different. Thereafter you should offer an explanation for those differences. That explanation should give ample consideration to the cultural (sometimes described as “behavioral” or ideological) peculiarities of the US, our political institutions, and the kinds of socio-economic forces that have (and have not) operated in the US.

Sample Paper “The Comparatively Weak American Welfare System”

Sample Prompt with Paper Structure from pols 071 course

Prompt 4: Over the last decade, political scientists have come to see oil and mineral wealth as potentially “bad” for peace, development and democracy. 1 Review research addressing this issue. 2 In what ways are the deleterious effects of oil and mineral wealth apparent? 3 Why does oil and mineral wealth play this negative role? 4 Finally, are such resources “bad” in all instances? 5 (3-4 pages)

ANALYSIS OF THE PROMPT & THOUGHT PROCESS

1 OK! We just learned about this in class. I remember discussing these in relation to State R and State S. In both of these states, oil and mineral wealth has caused major problems, especially for their peace, development and democracy. This will be my thesis.

2 Sweet, the professor has provided me with some articles to read for this paper. I better get reading, because this research is going to help me support my paper.

3 The professor wants me to give specific examples about this in my paper.

4 The professor wants me to explain the reasons behind this in my paper.

5 Here, I’ll need to look at the counter evidence, as shown in State M! If we look there, we can see that the wealth gained from oil and mineral wealth actually helped them develop! Hmm…

SAMPLE PAPER STRUCTURE
  • Introduction: Background information on oil and mineral wealth and problems they cause for specific states.
    • Sample thesis: It has recently been argued that oil and mineral wealth are bad for peace, development and democracy.
  • Body Section 1: USING THE RESEARCH, demonstrate ways that oil and mineral wealth are bad for peace, as shown in State R. Explain why.
    • Topic sentence: Oil and mineral wealth are potentially bad for peace, as shown in State R, because of X.
  • Body Section 2: USING THE RESEARCH, demonstrate ways that oil and mineral wealth are bad for development, as shown in State S. Explain why.
    • Topic sentence: Oil and mineral wealth are potentially bad for development, as shown in State S, because of Y.
  • Body Section 3: USING THE RESEARCH, demonstrate ways that oil and mineral wealth are bad for democracy, also as shown in State S. Explain why.
    • Topic sentence: Oil and mineral wealth are potentially bad for democracy, as shown in State S, because of Z.
  • Body Section 4: USING THE RESEARCH, give specific examples of the positive role of oil and mineral wealth.
    • Topic sentence: Though oil and mineral wealth are potentially bad, there are examples of them having a positive role, such as in State M.
  • Conclusion: Restate potential good effects; show the problems oil and mineral wealth cause for peace, development and democracy and how these problems outweigh the good effects.
    • Restate thesis: Oil and mineral wealth can sometimes have good effects on states, but generally they are bad for peace, development and democracy.
    • Consider implications.