Research Paper

POLI 308 US Presidency

Paper Assignment



Due Date is listed on the syllabus

This is big and has very important information in it.  For that reason, I’ve created a Table of Contents (linked to sections below) for you to use to find information you’re looking for.  You should read this entire assignment, however.  I guarantee you will wind up with a better grade if you do.


The Assignment


Rough Drafts 



Citations and Bibliography

Citing Specific Information

Page Numbers

Numbering Endnotes or Footnotes

Introductory Paragraph



Nitpicks and Style Issue (or Helpful hints)

Late Papers



The Assignment

Hail to the Chief.  Due date on the syllabus.  Someone has been elected.  Why?  Examine the immediate post-election analysis and tell me why you think the winner won the race.  Of course, this is very early on, but there will be enough chatter out there in the media on the internet, so immediate post-election analyses will be more abundant that you might think.  Media saturation is the rule and everyone is ready not only to offer an opinion, but everyone wants to be the first to offer an opinion.  Your job is to decide which argument is the most plausible to you and state why.  There are many ways to do this.  You’ll choose one of the following for your paper. 

Topic A: National Issues: This approach assumes that presidential elections are national elections, won or lost based on a national debate over key issues.  Choose two issues that are discussed in pre- and post-election analysis (issues such as the economic growth, inequality, trade, terrorism, the character of the candidates, “values” – whatever that may mean, or anything else that you think was a crucial issue).  Summarize the analyses on each issues then make your assessment on the issues.  You can do this several ways.  You can summarize the analyses of the issues you see in the post-elections debates and then discuss why you think one is more accurate than the others or you can discuss each then blend them together to make a stronger argument or you can discuss all three arguments then explain why you think a fourth argument is more accurate in explaining the outcome.


Topic B: Key States: This approach assumes that presidential elections are not national elections decided by national issues.  A presidential election is really a composite of 51 separate elections in 50 states and the District of Columbia.  The outcome of the election is therefore a function of the results in the few key states or swing states where the election is competitive.  This is what determines the outcome of the Electoral College.  Your job is to choose two states from the list given below.  For each state you choose discuss why the state was won (or lost) in the 2016 elections.  You’ll find many arguments. For each state, discuss two arguments or analyses about why the outcome of the state went one way or another.  In the paper you’re assessing the arguments you see in the press and judging which argument or arguments make the most sense to you.  You can do this several ways.  You can summarize two arguments you see in the post-elections analyses and then discuss why you think one is more accurate than the other or you can discuss both then blend them together to make a stronger argument or you can discuss both arguments then explain why you think a third argument is more accurate in explaining the outcome.   Choose two states from this list: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, or Wisconsin. 


Topic C: Demographics: This perspective begins with the notion that winning a presidential election (and governing) requires a coalition.  The US is a diverse nation and victory means a candidate has been able to get a lot of diverse constituencies to all vote for that candidate, even if it seems at first glance that those different constituencies have different interests. For example, the New deal coalition that elected FDR four times (1932-1944) consisted of the following groups: Southern states, African-Americans, Union members, the Urban North (Northeast and Midwest), Immigrants, Farmers, and Socialist party voters.  The victorious Reagan Coalition (1980 and 1984) consisted of: Midwest small towns, Wealthiest Americans, Hawks on foreign policy, Blue Collar in North and Midwest (union and non-union), White Southerners, Evangelicals, and Yuppies (Young Urban Professionals).  Thinking along those lines, are there aspects of the current demographic trends in the US that influenced this election?  What was the coalition that won?  In terms of race, ethnicity, urban v. rural, college v. non-college educated demographics, regional demographics, what coalition won and how did the winner out that coalition together (or how did the loser fail to capture key demographics)?


Here are a few important pointers. 

First, the election is in the first week of November and your paper is due a month later.  That doesn’t mean you can’t start work on your paper until then.  There are polls coming out every few days and article after article on the election that are speculating on these exact issues.  You’ll want to choose which of the following you’re interested in as soon as possible and begin doing research on what people expect to happen.  This will give you a lot of context and a good foundation on how people think about these issues.  For example:

·         Topic A: Already people are speculating about what the key issues are and which issues supporters of Trump or Clinton are most likely to cite as important to them in various polls.  Does foreign policy favor one candidate over the other? We already know what the polls say.  Did that hold true for the election?

·         Topic B: what states are the key states for this election? Who won those states last election or the last five elections?  Will this year be the same or different and why?  People have been writing about these issues for at least a year and a half and all that information and thinking is relevant to your paper is it is Issue B.

·         Topic C: The discussion of demographics in 2016 is based on larger demographic trends that have been in the news for year. You’ll want to understand those trends and how they have played out in the past few elections.  For instance, you’ll probably become very familiar with statistics like trends in the white male vote for Republicans and how much a Republican needs to win white men by in order to win an election.  Those numbers already exist.  Did the Republican meet the target?


Second, the news networks will have exit polling that will be available very shortly after the election (as in days).  This exit polling will give you all the issue-specific aspects (Topic A), and state-by-state data (Topic B), and demographic data (Topic C). Then the week after the election, every news magazine and Internet site will be debating these issue.  You’ll have more info than you can handle.


Third, much of what you’ll be reading will be from magazines, newspapers, and websites.  It’s very important to know when you’re reading something that is slanted to the left or slanted to the right.  Not everything is partisan (leaning toward one party or the other), but a lot of it is.  There is more just plain old, non-partisan analysis than people think and that is, of course, the best to use.  More liberal analysis or more conservative analysis is very useful as long as you know that it has a perspective.  For instance, The Nation leans left. It’s a good magazine, but remember that it leans left.  The National Review is a good magazine, but remember that it leans to the right.  Also, newspapers like the New York Times, Washington Post, or Wall Street Journal are good traditional non-partisan newspapers.  They want to get the story right and you can trust their reporting.  They can get stories wrong, but it’s not because they have a bias, but because sometimes they get a story wrong.  Their editorial pages, however, do have a perspective (center-left for the Times and Post); center-right for the Journal. Remember that when you use any newspaper.  Good newspapers believe in what they call the separation of church and state, meaning the separation between the reporters covering events and the editorial pages of the paper, which is designed to state an opinion. 




You’ll need to choose the topic by the date indicated on the syllabus and I’ll need to approve it. If you have questions, talk to me as soon as possible.






Rough Drafts

            Up until the rough draft deadline indicated on the syllabus I will look at anything you’d like me to look at regarding the paper.  Anything from outlines, bibliographic sources, or even completed drafts can be turned in for comment up until that date.  I will go over what you have, mark it up, and if you like give you a hypothetical grade.  You can then make revisions based on my comments.




            Ask me!  If you have a question on where to find sources or if you need a specific source and you can’t find it, ask me.  This is what I do for a living.  I have everything!


1.      Here is a link to a list of the best news magazines that cover politics (weekly and monthly). That is a good place to start. 

  1. Journal articles and books may be useful as well.  They will give you some context.  For example, there are books on previous presidential elections which will examine the topics above for 2008 and 2012 or other elections and you’ll be able to see how these issues played out in the past.  That is important and useful context.  For scholarly journals start with google.scholar).

3.      Journals: Just about every Political Science and Public Policy journal will be a potential source for you.  We’re talking about several hundred.  The key for you is recognizing what is a scholarly refereed journal (articles written by scholars, reviewed by scholars, and fact-checked) vs. journalistic sources (good for what happened when, but not as concerned with balanced analysis and not concerned with theory at all). This link will take you to a list of refereed Political Science and Public Policy journals.  It is not exhaustive, but it’s a good place to start. 

Citations and Bibliography

Read this. Pay attention to it or face everlasting doom! Failure to pay attention to this will likely result in a grade of D.

The following is not just because I want to annoy you or because I like to have things done my way.  The following is because this is a class where you will do social science research and the rules of social science research are different from the rules of English composition or journalism.  Learning how to write for different audiences and in different styles is part of the university experience.

You must use an established format for citations and your bibliography.  You need to learn how to reference information properly, and how to write a bibliography with the correct and complete information before you leave VCU. This is easy to do, but more important than you think. Whether you go into academia or business you will be judged on the quality of your information, and that means people will want to know where you found your information. They will judge you at first, before they read your text, on your bibliography and citations. If you do it wrong while at VCU, you’ll get a deduction from your grade.  If you do this in graduate school or government or the business world, you will be asked to go home and not come back (as in “you’re fired”).

It does not matter to me what format you use, as long as you use an established standard format for the social sciences. You can use footnotes or endnotes or parenthetical references, but you must learn to do it correctly.  Here are web resources that will teach you to do this:

o   Easy Bib

o   Bibme

o   Purdue OWL (Online Writing Workshop)

o   Chicago Manual of Style Quick Guide

o   Endnotes (and footnote style). This is an article that I wrote which has endnotes that you can use as a template.  It also includes a bibliography that you can use as a template.  Endnote and footnote citation style are the same. The only difference is where you place them in the text.  Microsoft word allows you to choose endnotes or footnotes and to switch one to the other if you like.  Ask me if you have questions on how to do this.

o   Parenthetical References This is a link to an article I wrote which can be used as a template for citing using parenthetical references. Note in the citations that the author’s name and publication date is within the parentheses (and page numbers if available). You may have to sign in to get the article.

o   Also, you can use another way.  If you found the book or article on this page, you’ll see that underneath the small paragraph on the source is a link for “cite”.  Click on that and it will you give several already formatted citations.  You can do that even if you didn’t originally find the source on  Just go to the page and search for it there, then click the “cite” link. The properly formatted citation can be copied and pasted directly into you bibliography. Remember, however, that these are bibliographic formats.  Footnotes and endnotes are slightly different and have different page number rules that are discussed below.  That is very important.



Since I have instructed you to pay attention to notation and bibliographic style, and have provided you with a specific place to look for the proper styles, I will take points off of your paper if you do not do this in the correct manner. This is simple. If you do not do it correctly it means one or both of the following: 1) you are not taking the assignment seriously or are too lazy to do the paper correctly; and/or 2) you are doing the paper at the last minute. Both of these are good reasons why you will not get the grade you are able to earn.


Bibliography: The bibliography is all the sources you’ve used (List anything you found useful even if only confirmed information you found other places, even if you have not cited the source in the paper; you don’t realize how much you learned from sources even if you don’t reference specific information from them).  The bibliography is listed in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. There may be no author or you may bet info from a website. See the above resources for the rules on that.


Warning! What not to do.  I realize that in many cases instructors in ENGL 200 are telling you to include reference material in the text of the paper. However, this is exactly the wrong way to reference in social science.  What I mean is the following. 


Citing Information for Footnotes, Endnotes, or Parenthetical References

Footnotes, endnotes and parenthetical references are the three ways to cite information.  On formats, see the above links.  This section describes why and when you cite information. In doing research there are three basic types of things you must cite: quotes, specific information, and other people’s ideas.  Other people’s ideas are covered above under plagiarism.  See the section on quotes, but that shouldn’t be a big issue here.  This is a small paper and you should avoid quotes.  When I say specific information, what I refer to is any information which is not general knowledge.  For example, you would not need to use a citation if you state that Henry Kissinger was Richard Nixon’s National Security Adviser in Nixon’s first term (general knowledge).  But you would have to cite the fact that Kissinger met with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai on July 9, 1971 and any details of the meeting. Another example: you would not need to cite that Chinese economic reforms were first announced at the Third Plenum of the 11th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, but if you included information on why Hua Guofeng’s attempt to establish his own Mao-like authority had failed in part because his economic reform plan was not farsighted enough and why this failure allowed Deng to push his reform plan through the Central Committee, you’d need to cite the source (Schram 1984, 417) or use a footnote[1] or endnote[1]

Page numbers

If you are referring to specific information that you found on a specific page in a source (if the source has page numbers, unlike some web sources), you must include the page number where you found the information.  Let’s say you found information in a book that is 450 pages long. Citing the book and not the page number is not very helpful for anyone who thought that the information was interesting and wanted to learn more about it.  You’re forcing that person to scan through 450 pages of text to find the info. Instead, cite the page number and then the reader can just turn to that page number.  This is the established method of citation. This is true even for parenthetical references.  If you are citing the main point of an article or book or something as background information, you don’t need the page number, but if it is specific material it does need a page number.


Numbering Endnotes or Footnotes

You may use endnotes. You may use footnotes, but then the paper must be a bit longer since some of the page will be taken up by footnotes. In the social sciences, footnotes and endnotes are numbered consecutively.  The first note is number 1; the second is number 2, etc.  Microsoft Word will do this for you.  You can use a source more than once in your paper.  There are specific citation formats for the first citation and for the second citation.  You can also put more than one source in a specific note.  See my article for examples for all of this: Endnotes/Footnotes.  A short reference follows:

·         Footnotes and endnotes are numbered consecutively (1, 2, 3, 4…) (Please don’t use the natural sciences-style that merges the bibliography and citations.  This format lists the sources in a bibliography and numbers them, then cites information in the text by listing the number of the source used in the bibliography.  That format is for natural sciences and I have never seen it used in any Political Science journal.  Since this is Political Science, you should learn how Political Science works.

On Writing a Good Introductory Paragraph

This is the key to writing a good paper so I am providing detailed instruction on this. Political Science has a specific style of writing, especially when it comes to introductory paragraphs.  It mirrors the style of government memoranda.  In short, the introductory paragraph should summarize the paper and that includes giving the reader a summary of you conclusions.  If you don’t do this, even a great paper, becomes a grade of B. 

A good introductory paragraph should include the following:

In other words, the introduction should provide your reader with a "road map" that explains exactly what you will say during the paper. This is not as difficult as it sounds. Basically, what you need to do is write the outline you have for your paper in sentences in the first few paragraphs of the paper. Your opening paragraph (or couple of opening paragraphs) should also give the reader some reason to be interested in your topic and in your argument. Tell the reader why this subject is important. Here is an example of an opening paragraph: (I’ll use a topic that won’t overlap with anyone’s potential topic.)


This paper will analyze the origins, objectives, and doctrines of al-Qaeda (AQ).  AQ is currently the world’s largest and most active terrorist organization – global in activity, recruitment, and mission.  It is a curious mixture of 21st century technology and medieval ideology.  (That’s the topic.) Its origins date back to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 when militants from all over the Middle East and Asia came to Afghanistan to fight the “infidel” invaders.  Its goals are diverse, but call for the alteration of the political landscape of the Middle East and an end to US influence in that region. The doctrines are a mixture of radical Islamic ideas (indeed in many ways very un-Islamic) and Arab nationalism. (That’s how you will explain your issue—by discussing three sub-topics:  1) initial origins; 2) its goals; and 3) doctrines.)  Overall, the goals don’t sound very realistic, or very negotiable.  While AQ can launch terrorist activities around the world, its ability to actually control territory or capture a nation state is limited.  However, it may have the ability to harass, damage, and attack the targets for decades to come.  (Those are your conclusions.) 


You can use lots of topic headings and subheadings to correspond to the points on your "road map" -- they'll help you organize your thoughts, and they'll help your reader clearly identify where he is on the "road map." The above paper might have five main sections:

  1. Introduction:
  2. Origins of AQ
  3. Objectives
  4. Doctrines
  5. Conclusions (Analysis)


Here’s one that is specifically comparative:

This essay examines the levels of media freedoms in Indonesia and Malaysia.  For each nation, levels of government interference in print, television, and internet media are compared.  In particular, special attention will be given to the changes in news media freedom during the recent political transitions: from dictatorship to democracy in Indonesia since 1998 and from the leadership of Mahathir Mohammed to Abdullah Badawi then Najib Razak in Malaysia.  Both nations are experiencing more press freedom than they have in the past.  In particular, Indonesia’s courts are striking down governmental attempts to sue media centers for reports critical of the government.  In Malaysia, internet news is making attempts to censor the press nearly impossible.  However, after improvement in press freedoms under Prime Minister Abdullah, the government of Prime Minister Najib has implemented many policies that inhibit media freedoms.  At its most basic level, the difference between the two nation’s media environment is the difference between a nation becoming more democratic (Indonesia) and a nation still clinging to some authoritarian traditions (Malaysia).

You will then have a paper with subheadings such as this:

·         Introduction

·         Media freedom under Suharto in Indonesia

·         Media freedom under Mahathir in Malaysia

·         Media and the Democratic Transition in Indonesia

·         Media and the Post-Mahathir Governments

·         Conclusions: Media Freedom in Indonesian Democracy and Malaysian Soft Authoritarianism


As you make the points that support your argument, you'll probably be aware of the places in which your argument is controversial or in which a reasonable person might disagree with you. Preempt those controversies in your text. Point out what those opposing arguments might be, and why you think your point of view is more accurate or reasonable.



1.      Use quotes sparingly. I want your writing, not anyone else’s.  If there is a great quote from a direct participant in the event, a phrase, or word, that you think really adds to the paper then a quote may be appropriate here or there.  But if you have a paragraph-length quote in an eight page paper, that would be bad.  I’d be sad and after you see your grade, you’ll be sad too.

2.      Don’t quote general information that you found in a scholarly article and don’t quote the conclusions of other scholars.  Paraphrase the information or the idea in your own words and then cite the source.

3.      Do not give me a sentence in your paper that quotes that information directly from the source.  For example, don’t quote like this: “The United States included 20,000 troops.” It is basic factual information and does not need to be quoted, but it does need to be cited.  Even if it is an analyst’s opinion, it does not need to be quoted.  Just paraphrase it in your words and cite the source.

4.      Reserve quotes for direct participants: candidates and their staffers, or a voter.  The exact words matter in these cases.  In general though, go easy on quotes. 

5.      Too many quotes means that you’re just cutting and pasting, not writing.  A research paper is not a series of quotes rearranged the way you like.  It doesn’t teach you anything and your grade will suffer horribly, terribly, and painfully. 

6.      So, for example, if noted terrorist scholar Reed Richards says in his book that “Al-Qaeda probably only consists of 10,000 people worldwide.”  Do not give me a sentence in your paper that reads: Reed Richards says that “Al-Qaeda probably only consists of 10,000 people worldwide.”  Give me something that says: One scholar estimates that al-Qaeda only has 10,000 active members globally (Add the citation here which cites Richards’ book and the page number in it where the information is found). The full bibliographic information will be in the bibliography at the end of the paper.  Or if Ben Grimm concludes in his book that: “Al-Qaeda’s growth depends on economic reform in the Middle East.  Elimination of poverty is not the biggest problem. Rather it is the ability of the middle class to gain social and economic mobility.”  Don’t quote that, but say: Grimm’s conclusions suggest that economic reforms designed to allow the middle class to grow and prosper will be the key to battling al-Qaeda in the future (Add the endnote here which cites Grimm’s book and the page number in it where the information is found). 

7.      In a larger paper, but not in this one, sometimes quotes are useful.  A good quote is this: According to Osama bin-Laden, “for over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples” (Add the endnote here which cites Bin-Laden’s fatwa and the page number in it where the information is found or the internet URL).  This is an excerpt from the 1998 fatwa of OBL.  Bin-Laden is a participant, a historical figure.  His exact words are important.

8.      In any case: Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever cut and paste anything from a source into your document unless you place it in quotes and cite the source of the quote.  And generally in a paper that is under a few dozen papers, there is never a need to quote anything that is not an official source.  Why quote anything unless the exact works are crucial?  So quoting a President or Foreign Minister or a witness to an event is useful, but quoting a scholar or journalist is not. 


Plagiarism and Avoiding It (Or “How to Use Other People’s Ideas Legitimately”)

First, never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever cut and paste anything from a source into your document unless you place it in quotes and cite the source of the quote. And generally in a paper that is under a few dozen papers, there is never a need to quote anything that is not an official source.  Why quote anything unless the exact works are crucial.  So quoting a President or Foreign Minister or a witness to an event is useful, but quoting a scholar or journalist is not.  For the purposes of this paper, there is no reason to quote anyone. The paper is too short for quotes.

This is really not a fine line.  Did you write the sentence or not? Did you come up with the idea or not?  When in doubt, it’s relatively simple: never include something in your paper that you did not write unless it is quotes and then it also must be cited.  Anything that is not your idea must be cited. Plagiarism is a violation of the VCU Honor Code and I will not hesitate to charge someone with a violation if I catch plagiarism.  If you have questions about what is plagiarism, ask me or see VCU’s Writing Integrity Workshop. 

But just because someone else has already written an idea that you agree with 100% doesn't mean you can't discuss it in your paper. Just point out whose idea it is; paraphrase it in your own words, cite the source of the idea, and expand upon it. Generally, that is how Political Science works. 90% of all Political Science articles and books do the following (I give you another example that is not topically relevant to the class):


There are various explanations for the Moscow coup in August 1991. Stan says the military instigated the overthrow (Stan 1994, 1-34). Kyle disagreed, saying the military prevented the coup from being successful (Kyle 1997, 17-29). Cartman says the coup failed because its leaders were inept (Cartman 2000, 307-332). However, all three authors understate the impact of public opinion; the coup really failed because of the Russian people's yearning for Democracy.


The article would then outline the theories of Stan, Kyle, and Cartman, criticize each one, and then develop the fourth theory. There is no problem as long as Stan, Kyle, and Cartman get credited with developing their theories, and the fourth theory is yours. If the fourth theory belongs to a fourth author (Kenny? Timmy? Professor Chaos?), the reader must be told that the fourth theory is Kenny's and your article will show why his theory is superior to the other three.  The point here is that you may find sources which have different opinions on an issue.  For example, one source may say that Hizbullah has ties to Syria and another may say it doesn’t.  You need to decide who’s right.  State that there are differences of opinions.  Cite the sources. Who says there are ties? Who says there aren’t? Then you can, if you want, suggest what you think based on your research.  Or you can simply say that a dispute exists and leave it at that.

If paraphrasing an idea: make sure to change the verb you use so it is different from the verb used in the source.  Make sure you change everything but the proper nouns. So let’s say, you’ve read this in your source: “The President phoned the Prime Minister immediately after he received the news.”  That may be the point you want to make in your paper, but you shouldn’t quote that and can’t copy it (or you’d be plagiarizing).  The only words you really can use here would be “President” and “Prime Minister.”  These are the proper nouns. So put it into your own words.  How about: “Once the President had been informed, he contacted the Prime Minister.” And then cite the source of the information.  That would not be a quote problem or a suspicion of plagiarism

And never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever cut and paste anything from a source into your document unless you place it in quotes and cite the source of the quote.  (He said it again! And in italics! Must mean something!) (And it’s in bold, and italics, and red; maybe I should pay attention to this.)

Nitpicks and Style Issues (Or Helpful Hints)

1.      Margins and Font Papers should be doubled-spaced with one-inch margins, and reasonable sized font (11 point). Shorter pages with wide margins and large print size font will be penalized.

2.      Subject and Verb Make sure you have a subject and verb in every sentence. (You would be surprised how many important journals and books allow non-sentence sentences). This is non-fiction, not fiction. So you need to observe the basic rules of grammar. A long sentence is not necessarily a better sentence -- each sentence should express only one thought. Don't be afraid to break up a long sentence into two or three shorter ones. It will usually flow better that way.

3.      Official Titles Provide someone’s title in the text the first time you mention them if they are an elected official (Tim Kaine, Governor of Virginia) or an appointed official (Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Paul Nitze).  Thereafter, you can refer to them as Kaine or Nitze. So for the first mention, you’d say: “National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger told his assistant to.…”  From that point on, you can simply say “Kissinger told his assistant to…” When you mention a senator or representative, say: Senator John Warner (R-VA) to introduce and after than you can just say Warner or Senator Warner.

4.      Keep a Copy Make a copy of the paper for yourself before you hand it in to me. There are two reasons for this. If you have a copy, you don't have to worry about me losing a copy. I have never lost anyone's paper, but just in case you should always make sure that you have a copy of your paper with you, in any class, not just this one.

5.      Back up WHEN YOU TYPE YOUR PAPER ON A COMPUTER MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A BACKUP DISK WITH THE PAPER ON IT. AS YOU TYPE THE PAPER SAVE THE FILE TO THE BACKUP DISK EVERY TEN MINUTES OR SO. Don’t just leave it on your hard drive and hope it will be safe.  A super safe way to deal with this is to use your own, already built-in cloud system.  Email the drafts of your paper to yourself and then you know it will be safe on the VCU system and you can access it from anywhere on the planet. Also, remember that if you type on the university computers be careful. Putting your paper on the hard drive in the computer lab is risky – they sweep the hard drives of files at night. Keep a backup copy for yourself. I have several backup copies of anything I write. You don't ever want to lose work because you didn't back it up.

6.      No Wikipedia Do not use Wikipedia or any other web-based encyclopedia.  It is unreliable and you should have stopped using encyclopedias for research in elementary school.

7.      Reliability of the Internet Be careful about internet sources.  Make sure the source is reliable.  Remember that anyone can post anything on the internet.  There aren’t necessarily any editors or fact checkers.  For example, there is a website that links me to the Kennedy assassination; I was two years old. Ask me if you have questions about this (internet sources, not if I was involved in the Kennedy assassination; I wasn’t).

8.      The use of “I”: Try to avoid using “I” in non-fiction.  Instead of “I will discuss three problems…” say “This essay addresses three problems…”

9.      The use of a semicolon: Semicolons connect two complete sentences that are related to each other.  For example: “I went to the pizzeria to get a pie; it was closed so I had Chinese food instead.”  You could also write them as two separate sentences if you wanted.  The following would be an incorrect use of a semicolon: “I had six very tasty pizzas last week; except for that crappy one from the big chain store.”  That should be a comma, not a semicolon.  The test is this:  If the two sentences you are connecting with a semicolon could stand alone as complete sentences then use a semicolon.  So it becomes obvious: “Except for that crappy one from the big chain store” is not a sentence.

10.  The use of “however”: This trips everyone up.  It’s a bit similar to semicolons.  “I went to the pizzeria; however, when I got there, it was closed.”  Notice the semicolon, not the comma.  That’s because “When I got there, it was closed” could be a complete sentence by itself.  Also, this sentence is like the use of a semicolon.  You are connecting two complete sentences.  In this case, you’re connecting two sentences that are related, but related in a very specific way.  The second sentence is adding the “however” to show a different expectation than the first sentence implies.  The first sentence implies you were going to eat pizza.  The second sentence says you didn’t.   On the other hand, look at this example: “I went to the pizzeria.  Upon arriving, however, I found out it was closed.”  The “however” is surrounded by commas.  That’s because “upon arriving” is not a sentence by itself.  Here’s another aspect of this.  “I went to the pizzeria, the one with the best pizza in the world.”  There is a comma there because “the one with the best pizza in the world” is not a sentence by itself. These are the non-fiction rules. In fiction, you can do anything you want.

11.  Some useful rules:

1.      Numbers under 100 should be written as out.  So you would not have this sentence.  “President Bush met with 3 advisers.”  It would be “President Bush met with three advisers.”

2.      When you have an acronym, such as NSDD-75 or UN.  First write out the name in full: National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 75, or United Nations (UN). After that first use of the term, use the acronym.

Late Papers

Papers are due at the beginning of class on the date indicated in the syllabus. After about 10 minutes of class has passed, your paper is one day late.  I will mark late papers down ONE GRADE for each day late. That means that an almost perfect paper -- one that I would give 98 points to -- becomes an 88 if one day late, 78 if two days late, etc,... all the way down to 8 points if nine days late, and zero points if ten days late. 

            Talk to me if you are having some medical, family personal problems. If there is a serious need to get an extension on the paper, I will give you an extension.  I do realize that there are more important things in life than this class and this assignment.  So if you run into a problem, talk to me. Computer problems do not count as a problem that warrants an extension.  If you are writing your paper at the last minute and you have a problem, the moral of the story is that you should not have been writing your paper at the last minute.  If you have some kind of computer problem, and you are not writing your paper at the last minute, let me know.  Maybe I can help.



[1] Stuart Schram. “Economics in Command? Ideology and Policy since the Third Plenum, 1979-1984.” The China Quarterly 99 (September 1984): 417.

[1] Stuart Schram. “Economics in Command? Ideology and Policy since the Third Plenum, 1979-1984.” The China Quarterly 99 (September 1984): 417.