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Introduction to American Government

POSC 100: Introduction to American Government

Summer 2017: Haas

Writing Assignment: Due Thursday, Aug 3


The writing assignment is a 2-3 page paper (double spaced, 1” margins) that gives you the opportunity to apply what you are learning in class to real-world politics. Using print or online news sources, you will analyze a recent or ongoing news event in light of what you have learned about the core characteristics and challenges of democracy, the Constitution, federalism, civil liberties or civil rights.


Sources to consider for information on current events include The New York Times (www.nytimes.com), The Los Angeles Times (www.latimes.com), The Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com) , The Huffington Post (www.huffingtonpost.com), The Economist (www.economist.com), the BBC (www.bbc.com), or CNN (www.cnn.com). There are many other good sources out there; you may ask me if other sources you would like to use are appropriate.


You should briefly summarize the issue you are addressing, and then you should use one of the topics we’ve covered in class (the Constitution, federalism, etc) to analyze the issue. For example, how does the issue you address illustrate something about the Constitution, or federalism, or civil liberties, etc? How does understanding federalism, or whatever theme you choose, help us to understand the issue you have chosen? No more than half the paper should be used to summarize the issue. At least half should be used for actual analysis.


There are many current issues you could use for this paper. Just a few examples include the recent (and ongoing) debate over gun rights, or the decision by the Supreme Court to hear cases dealing with gerrymandering and voter id laws (You can do a google search to find out more about the cases the Court will hear this term).  The ongoing economic crisis can be linked to ideas of democracy (how much inequality can democracies tolerate?). State laws that conflict with federal (national) laws illustrate the tensions within federalism (for example, both Washington and Colorado have legalized marijuana, which contradicts federal drug laws; California and other states are pushing back against federal policy in areas like climate change and immigration). The Trump Administration has also taken a much harder line against a free press than previous predecessors (calling critical stories “fake news,” banning live audio and video from press conferences, etc.). There are many more issues out there to explore.


Your paper should respond to a specific article or op-ed (opinion or editorial) about the issue. Please do not simply address the issue in a general way.


All direct quotations from your article must be cited. You must include the citation (website, etc) for the source or sources you use for your paper.


A few things to keep in mind:

  • 2-3 pages is the minimum for this paper. 1 ½ pages does not equal 2 pages. I specify this page length because anything less than that will not provide you enough space both to summarize the issue and to analyze it. However, the paper may be longer if you wish. There is no maximum length to the paper.
  • The paper must address an issue in American politics.
  • The paper must be written in grammatically correct English. If you cannot catch all the grammatical or other language errors in your own writing, you should have someone else help proofread your paper. Papers with grammatical or other language and writing errors will lose points.
  • Please familiarize yourself with the rules surrounding plagiarism. This work must be your own. More than four words in a row from an outside source must be quoted and cited. It is your responsibility to understand this. Plagiarized work will result in an F in the course.


This paper is worth 25% of your grade and is due at the start of class on Thursday, Aug 4. You may email me your paper or hand in a copy in class. NO LATE PAPERS WILL BE ACCEPTED.


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