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Essay Assignment: 10-2

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Essays should be about 10 double-spaced typed pages (2500 words) and are due in class in  Week 11.

All students must submit a hard copy as well as an electronic copy in order to receive credit for this assignment. An electronic copy must be submitted to the Turnitin.com service by 11pm on that same day.. The content of the electronic and hard copies must match. Further information from SFU about the services is available here.

Click here to go to Turnitin.com

If you have not already done so, you should sign up and create an account.  To do so, click on "New Users" at the top right of the Turnitin.com home page. You will also need to register for this class and will need  thew Class ID and password from the instructor.

A mark of  “O - ZERO” will be assessed for papers handed in late without approval from the professor.

The body of the essays should be about 10 double-spaced typed pages (2500 words).

Since this assignment is intended to introduce you to researching political topics, you must use 6 or more different sources as the base for your essay; note that six sources represent a MINIMUM.  These sources should be referred to directly and fairly frequently in your essay. Consult the tutorial reader on how to cite the material used.  Essays that do not refer directly to the minimum number of sources will receive an "F  -  FAIL".

Students may refer to the class text book and to the tutorial reader for their essay sources. You are encouraged to use online sources; however, only 3 online sources will normally count towards your minimum of 6 for the essay. Dictionary definitions and encyclopedia references DO NOT count as one of your research sources. Individual chapters in an edited text count as separate sources, as do journal articles.

You can find useful material on essay writing and research material on line. Have a read also of the  Guidelines for Citing Electronic Sources


Chose one of the following topics and answer the questions posed. You should make use of these questions as the starting point to define your essay topic and thesis statement:

1) Compare and contrast presidential and parliamentary systems of government for their key characteristics, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. This analysis should include discussions of how different the two systems are, as well as point to any commonalities. Draw some conclusion about which system is better on balance in your view, and justify your position. 

2) Democracy is a general concept for a governing process but can have quite different manifestations. Examine the different forms it make take. Is there a core to the concept? To what extent is the democratic principle inherently limited by the practical realities of any political system? Can the people always rule, vote freely, or have their views effectively translated into the composition of governments or public policy? This analysis should also mention the problem of majority rule and the issue of how minority interests may or may not justify limits on the will of the majority. 

3) Compare and contrast the ways in which one of the main ideologies (i.e. liberalism, socialism, conservatism, etc) has changed from its classical origins to the contemporary forms it takes. To what extent has this ideology transformed itself? Can one still call it (for example) conservatism? In examining these questions, you should be able to conclude whether there is a core of that school of thought which survives and gives it lasting meaning. 

4) Examine critically the idea that each nation or "people" has a right of self-determination to form a state of its own. What are the problems in defining the right or identifying who may claim it? What are the problems in exercising it? Do other groups who might be effected by the exercise of the right to self-determination have any say in what form self-determination should take? Examine what limits might be placed on the right and whether they are justifiable. 

5) Discuss what 'ideology' means and the different uses and abuses to which it may be put in a political system. To what extent can ideology serve as a blueprint for political action and to what extent does a ruler's ideology practically operate as a public justification for decisions reached for other, less-noble reasons? You should use examples extensively that illustrate the main points of your analysis. 

6) Examine what federalism can mean, and the reasons why it might be adopted as the basic structure of a state. What problems does federalism help accommodate, and what problems does federalism itself pose to a political system? Your discussions should draw on practical examples from one or more federal states. 

7) Political socialization is a very important process that creates and conveys the political culture of a society. Examine one of the agents of political socialization for the way in which is operates and the effects in may have in the country of your choice. 

8) Why do interest groups exist? What are their functions? What are the positive and negative effects of their operation? Analyze how they may complement or undermine political parties and the institutional channels for political decision-making?  Are they too powerful?

9) Compare the strengths and weaknesses of using a proportional representation electoral system rather than a single member plurality system. In answering this question you should discuss what an electoral system should be designed to achieve. Use examples. Also, your analysis should give some idea why a state might choose one form of electoral system over another. 

10) What are the different roles of violence in a political system, both in maintaining a particular political order and in bringing about political change? When is violence more likely to be resorted to and why might it succeed? Is it sometimes necessary? Your analysis should include discussions of the problems of the institutions in a political system, different ways the government authorities may resort to force, and the political culture of the communities. How do value judgments cloud discussions of the legitimacy of violence in a political system? 

11) What are the main roles that the United Nations plays in international politics? To what extent is it successful, and how should that success be gauged? Keep in mind that you should identify the main bodies of the UN and their legal powers (here you must choose which ones to discuss). Analyze the way in which the political context of the UN's operation effect the use of its powers. What can reasonably be expected? 

12) What are the different functions of political parties in different political systems? This answer should cover the roles of parties in a variety of political systems and discuss the positive and (if any) negative sides of the functions. Examine what factors relate to the effectiveness of parties. 

13) Examine the nature of terrorism and how it might be distinguished from other forms of political violence. What should a democratic society consider in trying to balance the rights and freedoms of its citizens against restrictions needed to contain terrorism and can a government go "too far" in fighting terrorism? In answering the second question you should draw from one or more countries' anti-terrorism measures for examples.

14) Examine what 'judicial review' is and its role in a democracy, What are the main controversies about this role of the courts? This analysis should include discussions of the need for limited government and who should decide those limits. What role should the accountability of decision- makers to the electorate play? 

15) Examine the impact of nationalism on the political system in a country of your choice. How does the group involved define itself and what are the end goals that nationalism is used to justify? Are there competing groups, each using nationalism to justify certain political goals? In these discussions, you should be aware that nationalism can have different manifestations and objectives. Also, there can be positive and negative aspects of nationalism and some comment on them (and on the problems of assessing them) may be in order. 

16) Examine the uses to which referendums may be put in a political system. What are the justifications for holding a referendum, and on what sorts of issues? This analysis should discuss the merits of direct and indirect forms of democracy. Also, consideration should be given to the practical requirements and consequences of holding a referendum on a complicated or divisive topic. 

17) Analyze the different types of 'representation' involved in a democracy. What are the problems in providing for representation? Can different forms of representation be realized at the same time, or is a choice required? What are the problems of accountability that are posed by relying on representatives?

18) Examine the concept of citizenship and whether it should or should not be possible for a person to hold citizenship in more than one country at the same time.

19) Any other topic approved by Professor Heard

Students are reminded that proper credit must be given to other authors' work. When another author's words are used they must be identified as quotations, by using quotation marks or indented quotations. The use of another author's particular ideas must also be credited in a note. All work submitted for this class must be the student's original work done for this class. 

Students are bound by the University's Code of Academic Honesty  and the Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Procedures

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simon fraser university - - political science department


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