Research Letter Assignment – POLS 2311 (Fall 2019)
General Instructions: Each student must write a 1-page letter about a current national policy issue.
Detailed Instructions: Your paper must be directed to anymember of the Texas delegation to the US Congress (2 US senators and 36 representatives) and should address a controversial national policy issue. I recommend that your paper begin with an introduction that clearly states 1) the bill/issue you are addressing, 2) the action you are urging the senator/representative to take, and 3) your reason for urging a particular action. Your letter must rely upon facts and ideas presented in class, your textbook, and at least five valid external sources (e.g., articles from national newspapers/news magazines). The purpose of this assignment is for each student to create a paper that is personal (your paper expresses your thoughts and feelings about the issue) and well researched (your paper relies upon concepts, facts, and arguments from valid sources to make a convincing case for or against your bill/issue). Things to consider:
- Of the national policy issues in the news, which are you most interested in? Can I narrow the issue to something very precise, rather than something very broad? (If yes, your task will be much easier.)
- What position do I believe a senator/representative should take on the bill/issue? What position do others (pundits, party leaders, the president, interest groups, etc.) think should be taken on the bill/issue? (For the latter, basing your argument on knowledgeable, informed people will help you be more informed and persuasive.)
To explore your bill/issue, you will benefit most from issue coverage in newspapers and news magazines. I recommend daily reading of both (e.g., the Washington Post, Time) and use of newspaper search tools through the UTA library, as well realclearpolitics.com and thehill.com. Academic journal articles are strongly encouraged, whereas television news stories are not. For academic articles visit UTA’slibrary’s site for political science at http://libguides.uta.edu/polisci/articles.
A properly formatted references page must be attached to your letter, though in-text citations (e.g., Boyea 2016) are not necessary. Please consult a college-level style manual if you are uncertain about the format (I use the Chicago Manual of Style, but UTA’s IDEAS Center and Writing Center can also provide advice).
Use of Websites: Many sites on the internet are venues for biased, uninformed view points (e.g., blogs). If you wish to use a non-newspaper website as a reference for your letter, you are required to 1) visit the IDEAS Center or Writing Center or consult a style manual to consult how to correctly cite the website; and 2) provide at least two lines of information (after the citation on the reference paper) that supply evidence about the legitimacy of the organization or person. Ask yourself, does this seem like a valid and informed source? (If no, then do not use.)
Due: Delivered in person on Tuesday, September 30th at the beginning of class. Hard copies only. Emailed letters will not be accepted. Late papers will receive a 30-point deduction.
Grade: Your grade will be evaluated according to the criteria below.
|_____||Minimum Criteria (50 points; otherwise 0 points if any of the following are not met)
• Letter must be single-spaced and typed and addressed properly to a member of the Texas congressional delegation; margins must be 1-inch, the font either Times New Roman or Calibri, and 10-12 point.
• The letter must be stapled, one-sided, and include a properly formatted reference page with at least 5 external sources.
• The letter must provide the student’s perspective on a current national policy issue.
|_____||General Content (0-20 points)
• The letter must clearly identify one bill/issue and what action should be taken.
• The letter must clearly articulate whysuch action should be taken and opposing viewpoints considered.
• Is the letter both personal and well researched?
|_____||Research/Sources (0-20 points)
• Does the reference page include 5 (or more) sources?
• Are the sources appropriately high in quality? (Or do they include TV sources and blog citations?)
• Is the proper citation format used in the attached reference page?
|_____||Style/Grammar Spelling/Etc. (0-10 points) • Is the letter logically organized?
• Is the letter nearly free of grammatical, spelling, usage and other errors?
• Is the letter respectful and courteous?