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simon fraser university - - political science department

This class is taught by Andrew Heard

Essay Topics for 15-1

The term paper should be about 3000 words (excluding bibliography & endnotes), or the equivalent of about 12 typed pages. The final paper is due in class or tutorial on March 26. Late essays will not be accepted except in serious mitigating circumstances.

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 (Links to an external site.) service by 11pm on March 26. The electronic and hard copies must match. Further information from SFU about the services is available here.

First you must create a Student Account with Turnitin (if you don't have one already) or Log In if you have an account. To create an account or log in with an existing account go to the top right corner of the page. To create a Turnitin account, you must enter your email address and personal choice of password. Once you have logged in to Turnitin, you then need to register for this specific course using the following ID and password:

  • Class ID: 9279528
  • Password: WMC3210 (use capital letters).

Remember that your essay is a scholarly examination of a particular topic. You should be striving for your best. There are four major components that form the basis of an excellent essay:

  • The paper has to be clearly organized. The introduction should be engaging and informative, awakening the reader's interest and providing a clear idea of the question to be analyzed. The sections of the paper should be logically organized, with clear transitions between them. The conclusion should provide a brief review of the paper's main points, as a base for the concluding remarks that tie paper together and put its findings into context.
  • A wide range of research should be evident in the essay. Good use should be made of the sources for direct quotations, relevant facts, and useful arguments. Some idea of the debate among the authors is needed. A MINIMUM of eight different sources should be referred to directly and substantively in your essay. Failure to meet this minimum will result in a failure for the assignment. Class textbooks, lecture notes, dictionaries and encyclopaedia references DO NOT count towards the minimum number of  research sources.
  • The essay should have a strong analytic framework. Description and argumentation are useful only to the extent that they support analysis. Some element of originality should be evident in the way in which the topic is studied.
  • Finally, articulate expression is need to convey your ideas informatively and convincingly. Grammar, punctuation, and word choice all contribute to an excellent essay. 

For helpful hints on essay writing and citation formats, consult the SFU Library's Writing and Style Guides information, or the Political Science Department's Essay Writing Guidelines.

You are encouraged to include material from electronic sources such as government publications or academic journal articles found through the SFU library's website. However, you should avoid using information from encyclopaedias - both electronic and book format.

Students are reminded that all work done for POL-221 must be original for this class. 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. If you are repeating this course you may not submit any part of your original essay for this term's work.

If you begin work on your essay early enough, you can take advantage of two services SFU has to help students with essay writing. You can have one-on-one, face-to-face tutorial sessions at the Student Learning Commons. You can find out more at:   As well, you can submit an electronic version of your draft essay for helpful feedback from a tutor at the online service (Links to an external site.) - SFU subscribes to this service, so it is free to students.


Chose one of the following topics and answer the questions posed: 

1) Discuss the nature and importance of judicial independence. In examining this topic analyze what aspects of independence are necessary to achieve judicial impartiality and what aspects may be part of broader issues of the judiciary's desire for greater institutional autonomy.

2) Critically analyze the functions of Parliament and how effectively they may - and should - be performed within the context of Canada's parliamentary system of government. what reforms would you suggest as practical means to foster a more effective Parliament.

3) What are the powers and limitations on the Prime Minister? Do they lead to "Prime Ministerial Government"?

4) Discuss how the nature of Canadian federalism has changed since Confederation through judicial interpretation, political practice, and constitutional amendment. What in you view can and should be changed in our federal structures and division of powers to ensure Canada's survival?

5) Examine the importance of financial arrangements between the federal and provincial governments to the working of Canadian federalism, or to an area of public policy (i.e. health care, or education).

6) Examine individual ministerial responsibility to reveal the differences between theory and practice. Is there any real substance left to the doctrine individual ministerial responsibility?

7) Review critically one or more proposals to reform the Senate. (i.e. Triple E) In your discussions try to identify what failings in the current institutional arrangements are hoped to be ameliorated by Senate reform? Would Senate reform in fact have the desired effects, or are there other consequences or concerns which outweigh the benefits?

8) Many have argued that party discipline is too strong in Canadian politics. Examine why it exists and the range of issues which must be accounted for in order to substantially relax party discipline.

9) Examine the legal and conventional powers of the Governor General? What justification can be given for the personal prerogative powers of the Governor General?

10) Examine the issues involved and the merits of Canada abolishing its ties to the British monarchy. You may draw material and ideas from the current debate in Australia over becoming a republic.

11) Analyze different models for aboriginal self-government for their suitability and desirability. In this topic you should recognize the variety of arrangements possible to implement self-government and their different strengths and weaknesses.

12) Examine some of the positive and negative effects of the Charter of Rights on the Canadian political system. Has it provided a new avenue for disadvantaged group to change public policy? Has it eroded the role of parliament? Does it strengthen or weaken democracy?

N.B. Other topics may only be approved by Prof. 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
For information and tips on essay writing, consult the Department's Essay Guide.