March 7, 2019


                                             CRITICAL RESEARCH PAPER GUIDELINES

Three critical research papers are required for this course. Combined they account for 75% of your grade. These papers are thesis driven and require research on your part beyond our course text and classroom work.  They are designed to get you to further develop skills in several areas – to do independent research; to enhance your critical thinking skills; to achieve a better knowledge base of Western political thought; to develop strong, evidence based, and coherent arguments in support of your thesis; to more objectively evaluate all sides of a research question, argument, or issue; and to develop writing skills and organization that effectively communicate your thesis and arguments.  The paper questions are directly related to the Western tradition of political philosophy.

General Format Information and Advice

 The length of the main body of your paper (not including the title page) should be 8 to 12 pages double spaced. The paper should include a title page, main body, citations, and worked cited (bibliography). The general structure of the paper should include an introductory paragraph (a descriptive account of the question to be answered; why is it relevant?); a clear thesis statement (your answer to the question; tell the reader what you are going to attempt to prove in this paper in summary form); the main body of the paper consisting of your arguments and evidence; and a conclusion.


You need to do independent research beyond our class book and consult other scholarly books and articles. A minimum of 4 sources (not including our required class text) must be consulted. Be sure to include as one of your reference sources our class textbook by Larry Arnhart. You will be allowed only one conventional Internet encyclopedia or website source for your paper.  A bibliography of Wikipedia sources is not acceptable as serious university level research.


Analyze all sides of the issue, including arguments that contradict your thesis. Your main focus should be on the rationality of ideas, theories, and evidence, not justifying your personal ideology. A creative writing style should be able to capture the reader’s attention in the first paragraph and keep it throughout the paper. Sloppy errors in spelling, grammar, and sentence structure will undermine the credibility of your paper. Proofread your papers. Proper citations and a separate bibliography (works cited page) are required. You are free to choose whatever citation style that suits you. Just be consistent.


Since well researched and well written papers are the key to success in this course (accounting for 75% of the overall grade), I would strongly recommend that you already complete the English component of your General  Education Objectives (especially Critical Reading and Writing) before taking this class.


Plagiarism (using another person’s ideas, written work, or internet website information, and claiming it as your own by not citing the source) will result in a failing grade. Academic dishonesty is an issue that many students do not take seriously. Please take it seriously.


Cutting and pasting information from internet websites is not serious research and writing. Do your own writing. I am looking for clear, concise arguments linked to the research you have done.  Anecdotal storytelling and ideological rhetoric (long rants) weaken your paper. Finally, turn your work in on time. Late papers will not be accepted without prior approval on my part (which requires a serious excuse). If I do grant a late paper extension, it will only be a one-time exemption for the entire semester.



  • Students will have the option of choosing for one of these papers a different political thinker from the mandatory group we will be reading and discussing in class. If you decide to choose this option you must discuss it with me beforehand.


Questions for the Second Critical Research Paper


  • Summarize the central concepts and principles of Machiavelli’s political teaching. What “advice” given by Machiavelli to the statesman in The Prince is still relevant to contemporary politics? What “advice” is not relevant at all to present day politics? Be specific with your examples and be sure to give reasons why your chosen examples of modern politics validate or do not validate Machiavelli’s key ideas or advice.


  • The political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan (1651) consists of 3 major steps in his logical argument – step 1 – the state of nature; step 2 – the covenant or social contract; step 3 – the creation of a sovereign state and definition of its authority and obligations. Which step (or steps) in his argument are the most convincing in your informed opinion and why? Which step (or steps) are the least convincing and why?


  • John Locke’s political philosophy of liberalism in his Second Treatise (1689) sought to improve upon Hobbes’s attempt to reconcile individual liberty and sovereign authority. Point out as many differences as you can find between Locke’s political theory and that of Hobbes. Choose one difference that you agree with Locke on and one difference you agree with Hobbes on and then explain why in much more detail.


  • Why was Locke confident that effective and legitimate government could be limited? What specific mechanisms in his model of government limit its power? Do you believe the way the world operates today that we can effectively function with a very limited government? Why or why not?


  • Compare the main features of Locke’s model of government with the model of government designed by the American Founding Fathers and written into the United States Constitution. Evaluate key similarities and differences between Locke and the U.S. Constitution. Finally, which aspects of the U.S. Constitution do you think are obsolete or do not work well in the 21st century world? Why?



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